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Vintage Sewing Machines Were Built to Last a Lifetime

These all-metal mechanical classics just don't quit.

Aug 02, 2018
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When I started sewing, one of my first sewing friends had a passion for vintage sewing machines. It was he who introduced me to the virtues of sewing on older machines. The majority were all-metal, fully mechanical (as opposed to computerized), and weighed more—sometimes much more—than 20 pounds. Most were straight-stitch machines, designed before the introduction of the now-ubiquitous zigzag. They were also easy to maintain: regular oiling with sewing machine oil, a little de-linting, and they were good to go. The virtues of vintage I purchased my first vintage sewing machine, an early 1980s all-metal Kenmore, on eBay. It would be the first of dozens of machines I’ve bought, and sold, since then. If there is one shared virtue of these vintage machines, it is that they were built to last generations.  This was due to the materials used in their construction, the simplicity of their mechanics (i.e., no motherboards to fry) and, perhaps most importantly, the values of the era in which they were created, before the concept of “planned obsolescence.” In the first half of the 20th century, when home sewing machines became common, a sewing machine was a big investment. Sewing was a woman’s contribution to…

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  1. Delica August 10th

    Great article. As much as I cannot imagine living without a computer, I have never purchased a computerized sewing machine. My old mechanical sewing machines have served me quite well for many years with very minimal maintenance. Everyone in our family learned to sew on our mother's Singer and one of my sister's actually still uses it even though she has a variety of computerized machines.

  2. Caryl61 August 10th

    Love, love, love my vintage machines! I am so fortunate to have my Mother’s Singer Featherweight, which I learned to sew on as a young girl. I do own a modern machine for the extras it offers, but find I rarely use it and prefer my VSM’s instead!

  3. User avater erinallan August 10th

    I learned to sew on my Mother’s Singer 99K from 1953. It ismy favorite machine I’ll never part with it.

  4. JanNZ August 9th

    I have a Singer 66 treadle, a Singer 401k electrical and a Bernina 1120 from the '80s. Each one in my opinion delivers far superior results to modern machines at a fraction of the cost. Plus the treadle especially is so much fun to use!! I had it sitting as an ornament for four years before I used it - Duh!! Perfect for denim and coat fabrics. More people should look seriously at vintage machines, they sew brilliantly.

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