Well, for a start, you might find it easier, cheaper, and less frustrating in the long run. Or you might be a sucker for a shiny black coat with gold twiddles on, or you may just like the idea of not throwing the old away just because the new exists..
I have used old machines all my life, and my regular machines – Singer Class 15 treadle, Bernina 730, and Singer 31k industrial, are all old enough to know how to do it for themselves. My only modern machine is an overlocker – after much experimentation and considerable amounts of swearing, I decided that old overlockers, while charming, are not practical beasties…
Scroll down the page for my machines for sale…
Updated with yet more further deep sighing, Tuesday 10th January 2017
Blooming things are breeding.. Puppies!
The world is full of old machines, but if you want to use one regularly you need to choose with a little care. If you plan to sew every day or every week its no good getting something splendid but which has no regular supply of needles, and if you plan to do more than the odd small job, you dont want a Long Bobbin machine (too much bobbin-winding and spares may not be easy to get..) (However, these are great for heavy work)
So, you come down to Singer, ideally, and Round Bobbin, absolutely, and the following models:- 15, 66, 99, 201, 185. All take the regular needles, regular feet, and round bobbins which are all still available. This is for a hand-cranked or treadle machine, of course. If you want a machine with a tail (electric) then the big solid mid-twentieth-century machines made by Singer, Jones, Frister and Rossman, Bernina and others may be just the job. If it gives you a hernia when you lift it, its probably going to last.
Now, dont think I dont like modern machines, I just think that the general selection available is no longer admirable. If you were buying a machine in, say, 1950, you would expect to go to a special shop, pay a lot of money, get some measure of after-sales service, and never have to throw it away. Now you can buy one for about two-pence-three-farthings in Aldi or Tesco (three-farthings in IKEA; dont go there), and you get precisely what you dont pay for. The bottom-end machines in all ranges are for people who buy them and put them in the cupboard. I teach regularly, and I now have a note on my Class lists that I do not allow toy machines in class. They are very cheap, sure, and lightweight, certainly, and they are not electrically safe or usable for sewing at all. Sad, really…
Sadder still, most of the bottom-end-of-the-range machines are only just functional, and none will sew anything as heavy as canvas, denim, or webbing…
So, where do I find a Machine?Start by asking your friends and relatives. Theres one in almost every attic still. Might be free, or very cheap.
Next, I would advertise in the local newsagents, local newspaper,Freecycleor work notice-board in your area. Machines are too heavy to post, and you want it nearby. My treadle came from an advert in the Post Office 40 years ago, and the chap delivered it for the (utterly paltry) price…
Then theres eBay. Look for local sellers. Look very carefully at the pictures. Does the machine have all the little plates that cover the bobbin? Is it clean? lit? the right way round? photographed somewhere clean? If not, dont bother to bid.
Does the seller say I know nothing about this machine? If they do, it may be broken, and they are covering their backs. Look at their feedback, and levels of literacy, and what else they sell…
I am always happy to give an opinion on eBay lots, providing you send me a link in good time. I dont guarantee the opinion, but I will tell you if something is obviously wrong with the machine. NEVER buy a lot without a picture!
And when you have bought your Dream Machine, do send a picture, and Ill sell you something nice to go with it…COLLECTION ONLY
HOWEVER, I do a lot of travelling in the year, so if you are on one of my routes I will deliver.. For 2018 I will be in Cumbria in March, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (April) Birmingham (August), Bristol (September), Lincolnshire, all sorts of other places while teaching, and lots of other places besides.. ASK!
All machines are serviced and replacement parts provided as needed (new belts, bobbin winder tyres etc….) I usually supply a couple of bobbins with shuttle machines and 6 or so with round-bobbin machines. All machines come with a useful collection of feet and needles etc. (according to the machine, this may be a bit minimal) and you can have an original attachment set provided at an extra cost if required, or a tailored set to suit your sewing practice can be made up for you..
I now have a few very special Antiques (but working, of course) – see below for a selection according to type…
SM282 Willcox and Gibbs Automatic Chain-stitch treadle
Lovely, tiny, heavy, working, with manual and needles
Complete, good decals, new belt, serviced, so delicious…
SM296 Singer 66 in brown fridge cabinet. Practical drop-in-bobbin machine which takes low shank feet and modern needles and bobbins, has all the requisite tools and is ready to go..
SM254 Jones Medium CS shuttle machine in a nice brown fridge cabinet
These are delightfully pretty, and fairly practical, taking modern needles
After the First World War, the word German was pretty dirty in France and the UK, as you might imagine, so machines did not sell with any kind of Germanic label..
This is most definitely a Vesta, as it has the badge (with the name scraped off) and has been rebadged as a Cleveland..
Came with a French manual, which I have found a reasonable substitute for, as it is a pretty good copy of a Jones Spool, which in turn is a re-imagined Wheeler and Wilson 9..
Stunning cabinet-work, and curly veneer…
Tools, and the Case.. Pretty, pretty
SM110 Singer 31k Treadle. Scruffy but eminently usable. Actually mine, but Im short of room and time and I can only sew on one or two at once
Restored by me and used regularly, so run-in pretty well…
and the table – honorable scarring filled with black to preserve the history.. Smooth, though
200 (Reduced (again) to make it go away…)
Lots of machines in preparation at the moment, watch this space…
SM209 Willcox and Gibbs Automatic chain-stitch machine in nice case. Manual, needles, serviced…
SM302 Willcox and Gibbs Glass Tension (early type) with scruffy box, manual, serviced, needles..
SM292 Willcox and Gibbs Automatic chain-stitch machine in good case. Manual, needles, serviced…
SM310 Silver Jones Deluxe (15 type) in card-lid case. Heavy and solid, also pretty…
SM305 Late-model Singer 99 with reverse and Crocodile case, very shiny…
SM298 Singer 201 in Grasscloth case, very good
SM195 Jones D53a – wonderfully square shuttle machine of extreme weightiness and solidity
SM311 Singer 185 in Grasscloth case, with built-in extension table. Nice solid machine which has been out with me a couple of times to demo, so, nicely-behaved
These are a 99 in a more modern shape, but with all the solid charm of the black machines
SM313 Singer 99 with reverse, in domed case
SM297 Jones CB (15 class) with drop-feed and reverse.
Heavy, practical, with a fantastic lizard case
SM300 Singer 99k with grasscloth case and built-in extension table, plus all the usual fripperies
SM238 Harris CB (15 type) in card-lid case. Very solid and practical, with reverse…
SM289 Slighty Goth 99k, early type, with blackside plates and wheel and nice refurbished domed case
Note – I could change the plates out on this for the curly engraved type; add 5
Working, uses available needles. From 1880, and archetypal in its way
Selling this on behalf of the Quilters Guild
SM258 Wheeler and Wilson 9 – early round-bobbin machine with serious pedigree and charm
Needles are still available for this machine, and I have a few different feet
SM281 Blue Baby with drop-feed, reverse, and No Name
SM116 Jones 35 shuttle machine in wooden case – has reverse…
This one came to me with a poor base and a big red bow in its hair.. I have replaced both, and refurbished a little.. Nice solid machine
SM120 Vickers VS Modele De Luxe with lovely Art Nouveau decals. Takes modern needles and is easy to use.. Remarkably like a Frister and Rossmann of similar age…
Portable is relative, of course.. All (mostly) heavy…
SM236 Viking 12 Straight-stitch machine with green Godzilla finish and nice leather-look suitcase
Nice quiet, fast machine with great charm, extension table, original tool tin and booklet. Rewired
This was mine, but I can no longer carry it about for teaching, so Im happy to pass it along – its a great machine and has been well-cared-for, and comes with tools, bobbins, needles, and a small selection of feet of your choice
SM189 Cresta 3/4 size copy of a Singer 15.. Whats not to like? Very heavy, practical, quite delightful.. Im almost tempted to keep this one
SM154 Frister and Rossmann VS in luscious cream.. Made after 1946 (see detail below) and fully restored..
SM102 Singer 185 in delightful brown, electric with tools, good box, extension table, and retro charmingness..
COLLECTION ONLY name=machinesintables>
Interesting or Incomplete, not guaranteed
SM284 Heinrich Grossman Dresdenia B hat machine – Chain stitcher without motivation, on base (probably not original). Not the original foot, but it seems to fit. A curio of great charm. Sorry, no case
Sometimes I have donatables – local collection only, free machines with minimal work (checked only to see if they stitch) -EMAILme to ask, please
4, The Raveningham Centre, Beccles Road, Raveningham, Norfolk, NR14 6NU. United Kingdom
From outside the UK dial:- 0044 1508 548137
Im open 11 till 5 every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays