Author Topic: Used sewing machine -- Update  (Read 664 times)

Trifele

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Used sewing machine -- Update
« on: September 13, 2020, 09:26:56 AM »
Hi all

We're looking to buy a used sewing machine for normal household tasks -- clothing repair, curtains, etc.  We don't need anything fancy or computerized.  On Craigslist I see a  large number of Singers for sale, and a few Brothers and other brands.  There are a lot of small tabletop Singers from the 50s , 60s, and 70s that the sellers say are still in good working condition.   We're good with an old machine -- very comfortable repairing/replacing parts/etc.

Does anyone have any experience with one of these older sewing machines?  Any particular brands or models I should look for?  Can you give me some pointers for specific things to look for when I go check out the machine?  Of course I'll check to see that mechanical parts are still available for them from the manufacturer. 

Thanks!

 
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 06:15:55 AM by Trifele »

Daley

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2020, 11:07:34 AM »
Old mechanical Berninas could be pretty bulletproof. I grew up with a 730 that I taught myself how to sew with, and it was very forgiving and robust.

More modern, however, I'd rather go with either a higher-end Brother or a Juki. I can't really recommend any specific models.

Peachtea

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2020, 11:25:26 AM »
I have a used sewing machine from my mother (who bought it for $20 at a rummage sale). Itís a late 1970s singer. The one thing to consider is they donít always work like new ones and so it can be frustrating looking at YouTube videos where what they say isnít applicable to your machine at all. I spent hours trying to figure out how replace an empty bobbin because it was actually opposite on my machine compared to all the singer YouTube videos I watched. I realized this after looking through the sewing machineís manual, which happened to come with it when my mom bought it. So maybe if itís a really old machine, try finding one with its original manual or one where the original manual is still available somewhere online for troubleshooting.

Iíve now somehow broke my machine and have no idea how to fix it. Since itís so old, YouTube and google searches doesnít help. My mom has since bought another somewhat newer rummage sale sewing machine, and is going to swap with me. My dad is mechanically handy with antique motors etc so he might be able to figure out how to fix it. If this next one doesnít work out, I might bite the bullet on a newer model to make learning easier.

For free, I have no regrets trying to learn sewing on old machine even if itís harder due to lack of video tutorials. But if I couldnít find a $20-40 machine, Iíd probably buy a small, really cheap new one so it would be easy to learn on and then upgrade to a higher used model later.

Spiffy

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2020, 12:40:28 PM »
For general sewing, probably anything will be fine. I use a student model Singer that my mom bought me in college (30 years ago!). It still works well. My mom has a high end Bernina and serger that I sometimes borrow if I need to do something fancy. Ask around before you buy something. Many friend and neighbors are willing to give you their old one once they no longer use it or upgrade to a new one. My old neighbor donated two to a church sewing group recently when she cleaned out the house after her parents died.

Trifele

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2020, 12:44:50 PM »
Thank you all!  This is really helpful. 

Catbert

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2020, 01:01:16 PM »
Just posting to add that you'll be much better off with a 50s/60s/70s era machine that you would be with a new machine at twice the price.  High-end new machines can be great if you need all the bells and whistles.  But cheap Chinese manufactured new machines are crap.

Imma

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2020, 01:45:30 PM »
I'd go with an older machine from a well known brand (Singer, Husqvarna, Bernina etc). They should be heavy. Don't worry about a manual, great if the machine comes with it but if it doesn't, they are all online. And any sewing machine repair shop can do basic maintenance/repairs on older machines.

I would look for a machine that comes with a zig zag stitch, which all machines have these days but not in the 50s. For basic domestic sewing a zig zag stitch is really useful.

I would certainly not get a cheap new machine. They are crap. All of them. You're going to hate sewing because of them. I have a 1950s Husqvarna that I paid Ä40 for and it's even better than my 1980s Bernina. Those older quality brand machines were built to need very little maintenance. The best place to find a machine are people who clear out their elderly parents' homes. Or ask an elderly neighbour or aunt (they can teach you how it works too!) . Machines built in era when appliances were supposed to last and people looked after their belongings carefully are the best.

mspym

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2020, 02:16:18 PM »
I have an all metal parts ex-school sewing class Bernina that I bought from the sewing machine repair guy that ised to do all the maintenance on these machines. The school had decided to replace them all with new machines so I got a model that had done a lot of miles but was still going strong and was in well-maintained condition for not very much money. Came with 6 feet, which would sell for as much as I paid for the machine. Downloaded the manual from the internet.

Dicey

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2020, 02:33:01 PM »
Another idea is to stop by a sewing machine repair shop and chat them up. They'll have suggestions and they may have repaired machines for sale at reasonable prices. I third all the suggestions to buy older machines, because they're more bulletproof by far.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2020, 03:22:27 PM »
I have an all metal parts ex-school sewing class Bernina that I bought from the sewing machine repair guy that ised to do all the maintenance on these machines. The school had decided to replace them all with new machines so I got a model that had done a lot of miles but was still going strong and was in well-maintained condition for not very much money. Came with 6 feet, which would sell for as much as I paid for the machine. Downloaded the manual from the internet.

A friend of mine just bought a school machine.  It is solid, in great shape, and has all the stitches she will ever need.

Trifele

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Re: Used sewing machine
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2020, 03:33:53 PM »
Machines built in era when appliances were supposed to last and people looked after their belongings carefully are the best.

Right on.

Thank you @Imma, @Catbert, @Dicey, @mspym and @RetiredAt63 for the additional comments.  Super helpful. 

Trifele

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2020, 06:32:36 AM »
I'm going to look at a machine today -- a Singer 301A, from the mid 50s.  Seller says it's in excellent condition and works perfectly.  It has the original zigzag attachment and the long bed.  Seller is asking $200, which seems like a fair price based on my online searches.  These machines were very popular, and it seems like parts are still fairly easy to get. 

Imma

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2020, 06:48:48 AM »
That's absolutely a classic model! Almost indestructable. I'm sure you'll find plenty of instruction videos on YouTube for it too.

Dicey

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2020, 06:50:20 AM »
That machine should be rock-solid. However, one slightly more modern features is the abilty to make the bed smaller/narrower, which makes it easier to do sleeves and pant legs. I may not be using the correct terminology, but you get the idea. On some machines part of the bed is removable, on others, it simply flips down.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2020, 08:22:55 AM »
There was also a buttonhole attachment for those machines.

PMG

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2020, 08:24:52 AM »
I'd recommend getting a zig zag built in if possible. I've never actually used the attachment, but from what I've seen they can be a bit finicky, more difficult and less effective. (Here's a video of setting one up and using it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns7JquqREuw&feature=share)  Doable, but if you can find one built in it should be a lot easier and you'll be less likely to break needles....

But good luck! I'm looking forward to seeing what you get and what projects you tackle!

geekette

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2020, 09:45:56 AM »
If you look for additional feet for the 301, make sure to get slant shank rather than the more common low shank feet.

I've never sewn on a 301, but the slant shank is supposed to make it easier to see your work as you go.

If you say shank too often, it starts to sound really weird in your head...

Trifele

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2020, 10:58:24 AM »
I bought it (for $170).  The pedal and power cord are replacement and not original.  It came with the original case and the zigzag attachment, but no extra needles, bobbins, buttonholer, or pressure feet.  It runs absolutely beautifully -- I love the sound.  What a beauty -- 65 years old and going strong.

I'll poke around on Ebay and online for any extras I need.  At the very least I'll need a needle or two I think.  Thanks everyone!

PMG

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2020, 11:28:12 AM »
Yay!! So exciting!

A replacement cord is probably a good thing! I have a Phaff from that era and the cord is pretty brittle and worn. 

What are you planning to sew? Just mending? I ask because I am a member of several sewing groups on Facebook and I find them, especially the Self Sewn Wardrobe hosted by Mallory Donahue (and accompanying sewing blog) to be the most welcoming places on social media.  Always really good content, global input, people posting photos of their projects, giving advice, and so body positive and so so full of knowledge. I highly recommend following a group to help answer all your questions! and of course post here!  There are a couple sewing threads... maybe in the gauntlet section?  There is one about sewing clothing and another about using up supplies, but I haven't seen activity in them really recently. 

RetiredAt63

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2020, 01:50:23 PM »
Yay!! So exciting!

A replacement cord is probably a good thing! I have a Phaff from that era and the cord is pretty brittle and worn. 

What are you planning to sew? Just mending? I ask because I am a member of several sewing groups on Facebook and I find them, especially the Self Sewn Wardrobe hosted by Mallory Donahue (and accompanying sewing blog) to be the most welcoming places on social media.  Always really good content, global input, people posting photos of their projects, giving advice, and so body positive and so so full of knowledge. I highly recommend following a group to help answer all your questions! and of course post here!  There are a couple sewing threads... maybe in the gauntlet section?  There is one about sewing clothing and another about using up supplies, but I haven't seen activity in them really recently.

I'm  taking my sewing machine and serger in for maintenance tomorrow.  I bought both in the late 80s and both power cords seem fine.

I would rather sew than have to shop for clothes right now.  Can you recommend some good sewing blogs?  Preferably for older women who don't worry about the latest fashions and don't have the figures they had at 20!

Trifele

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2020, 02:13:53 PM »
Yay!! So exciting!

A replacement cord is probably a good thing! I have a Phaff from that era and the cord is pretty brittle and worn. 

What are you planning to sew? Just mending? I ask because I am a member of several sewing groups on Facebook and I find them, especially the Self Sewn Wardrobe hosted by Mallory Donahue (and accompanying sewing blog) to be the most welcoming places on social media.  Always really good content, global input, people posting photos of their projects, giving advice, and so body positive and so so full of knowledge. I highly recommend following a group to help answer all your questions! and of course post here!  There are a couple sewing threads... maybe in the gauntlet section?  There is one about sewing clothing and another about using up supplies, but I haven't seen activity in them really recently.

Mending and also curtains!  I was getting ready to buy a bunch of curtains, wasn't finding anything I liked, and I thought "I can just make some."  I haven't used a sewing machine for a long time, but I'm sure I can re-learn.  DH sews a fair amount (clothes mending and also some of his DIY projects) so he is also excited to finally have a machine.  He's also happy that it's vintage. 

Thanks for the recommendations!  I will check those out.

PMG

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2020, 02:33:14 PM »
@RetiredAt63 I love talking sewing...

https://sewhere.com is by Zede and Mallory Donahue a mother/daughter team who host the Self Sew Wardrobe Facebook group I was talking about. (here: https://www.facebook.com/selfsewnwardrobe/) They have a free podcast and blog and various premium content.  They (and the Facebook group) definitely have content for a wide variety of ages and body types. They are kind of my go to and if I were looking for anything specific that group would know or could find it.

I like the smaller pattern makers and pdf printing, so those are the sources I share.  There are a lot of free pdf patterns out there.  Some are worth it. Some aren't.

I really like Closet Case patterns. They might be a little less size inclusive, but their patterns and how-tos are so thoroughly detailed and easy to understand, and they often do virtual sew-a-longs with new pattern releases.

Emerald Erin is the queen of bra making, though there are many other great sources. https://emeralderin.com

I also have followed random people and hashtags on instagram and get good updates there. hashtags: memade Selfsewn handmadewardrobe etc.  I also like to follow the hashtag for a pattern for a while before I make it (or even before I buy it) so that I can see it on a large variety of body types and see different stylings and learn from mistakes. For example, on Closet Case pattern's Sasha Trousers the models are all pretty slim and tall, but on instagram makers much closer my shape and size looked great in it so I knew it was worth trying.

eta: following a pattern hashtag can often work on big four and sometimes on vintage patterns as well. Chances are you can find someone else who's made it and has some comments.
---

Thanks for allowing me to hijack your threat a bit @Trifele. That machine should be awesome for curtains! I imagine it can handle fairly heavy fabric. Good luck!
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 02:44:10 PM by PMG »

Sibley

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #22 on: September 16, 2020, 03:02:03 PM »
I have the model just after it - the Slant-o-matic 403a. It's great. It needed a bit of TLC initially to get it in good working order, but since then has been just fine (as long as I do it right, if you put the needle in wrong it doesn't work right!). Everything I've seen is the 301 is also very good. It's got a lot of metal in it, so it doesn't wear out as quickly or break as much.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Used sewing machine -- Update
« Reply #23 on: September 16, 2020, 04:11:42 PM »
@RetiredAt63 I love talking sewing...

https://sewhere.com is by Zede and Mallory Donahue a mother/daughter team who host the Self Sew Wardrobe Facebook group I was talking about. (here: https://www.facebook.com/selfsewnwardrobe/) They have a free podcast and blog and various premium content.  They (and the Facebook group) definitely have content for a wide variety of ages and body types. They are kind of my go to and if I were looking for anything specific that group would know or could find it.

I like the smaller pattern makers and pdf printing, so those are the sources I share.  There are a lot of free pdf patterns out there.  Some are worth it. Some aren't.

I really like Closet Case patterns. They might be a little less size inclusive, but their patterns and how-tos are so thoroughly detailed and easy to understand, and they often do virtual sew-a-longs with new pattern releases.

Emerald Erin is the queen of bra making, though there are many other great sources. https://emeralderin.com

I also have followed random people and hashtags on instagram and get good updates there. hashtags: memade Selfsewn handmadewardrobe etc.  I also like to follow the hashtag for a pattern for a while before I make it (or even before I buy it) so that I can see it on a large variety of body types and see different stylings and learn from mistakes. For example, on Closet Case pattern's Sasha Trousers the models are all pretty slim and tall, but on instagram makers much closer my shape and size looked great in it so I knew it was worth trying.

eta: following a pattern hashtag can often work on big four and sometimes on vintage patterns as well. Chances are you can find someone else who's made it and has some comments.
---

Thanks for allowing me to hijack your threat a bit @Trifele. That machine should be awesome for curtains! I imagine it can handle fairly heavy fabric. Good luck!

Thanks.  I went through my patterns when I moved/downsized and got rid of most of them.  I haven't found any t-shirts I liked recently, 100% cotton seems to be out right now, and I still have my Kwik-Sew book with patterns.   My sewing has been neglected since I got into fibte stuff but it's time to restart.