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Finding free machines

stillsuesew | Posted in General Discussion on

In the process of teaching Somali immigrant women to sew I have been looking for some machines that actually function fairly well to use with them. I put an ad on craigslist in Minneapolis and I have been given 5 machines so far. My best response has been to contact people selling machines that are older but still functioning, and asking if they would consider giving them to a good cause. Many people have grandma’s old machine sitting around that they had hoped to learn to use someday and they are glad to pass it on to someone who can use it. I have only one that I have been unable to get to work. Most just need a little cleaning and oiling and a new needle. I have passed these machines on to the ladies to keep as their own, rather than adding them to the rag tag collection we have in the classroom where they aren’t accessible except during our class time. But some prefer to sew just during the class when I can keep things working for them. Several are unable to thread a machine (esp. the needle) because they need glasses they cannot afford. And when something goes wrong they are usually unable to correct it. It’s a never ending challenge.
Along with the machines I have been given notions and thread, so each time I give someone a machine I give them a pair of scissors, some machine and hand needles, some pins and a seam ripper, and some thread. One lady only knows four words in English “Thank yooo, Sooosaan, Happy”
I’ll bet many of you know someone who doesn’t use the machine that is sitting in the attic. Maybe you could get it to someone who would use it!

Edited 9/7/2009 2:01 pm ET by stillsuesew


  1. Teaf5 | | #1

    You might also try to locate a freecycle group in your area.  It's an all-free exchange site hosted I think by Yahoo (you need to set up a free Yahoo email, but that's easy, too). 

    Then you can post a Wanted request, and people who have what you need email you, and you arrange a drop-off/pick-up point.  There is no cash or bartering allowed, and the results of my first use of it were wonderful.

    Some local newspapers will run Wanted ads for a small fee, and some fabric stores will post notice cards.  Good luck with your good work!

  2. SAAM | | #2

    You might also want to run an ad asking for people's old or unused magnifying glasses (the type you get off the rack in the drugstore). These would help your students see what they are doing, and I'm sure there are many people who have old glasses to donate.

  3. Ckbklady | | #3


    Teaf5 mentioned Freecycle - it's just http://www.freecycle.org. Maybe Yahoo sponsors the email aspect of it?

    I have a growing collection of functional vintage machines and troll Craigslist quite a bit. As I've browsed recently I've noticed a sharp uptick in the number of requests for free machines, but mostly by individuals for personal use.

    I felt guilty about my cool collection, so DH suggested I share them with those who need them. Now I "sign out" some of my machines through my Church to folks who need them for however long they do (with accoutrements, like you!). The world is positively bursting with machines - it's terrible to think there are folks who need a machine and don't have one.

    Three cheers for your kindness - and happy sewing!!


    :) Ckbklady


    PS - Email me offlist (click on my name above and hit "send email") and tell me a little about the machine you can't get up and running. I have a huge network of sewing machine experts at hand who may be able to help! :) C

  4. MaryinColorado | | #4

    The Lions Club helps those who cannot afford it and need help with vision issues.  They accept donations for used eye glasses so may be able to help your ladies.  Also I use needle threaders, there are often two on a card, inexpensive, and near the hand embroidery items but do work for machine needles too. 

    Sometimes Bernina provides machines for classes or for charity, perhaps other major corporations due too. 

    God bless you for your giving spirit, you are an inspiration to all of us as well as to the ladies receiving your gifts of your talent, time, and initiative!  Mary


  5. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #5

    Thank you for being so generous with your talents Stillsuesew. Cathy

  6. lou19 | | #6

    Fantastic story. Giving women something useful to improve lives for them and their famillies.

    Good luck with your project


    1. AAC | | #7

      Hi, late but worth noting.  I've bought some great older machines at the Goodwill store.  Some of them are really a better made product than the newer ones with all the plastic parts.  I picked up on a couple of years ago for $6.oo, it's a Singer/Merritt Model # 9616.  This machine shows that it was made in Italy, has a movable needle and zig-zags and makes a three step buttonhole.  It's heavy!  I bought it for a backup.

      Does anyone know how to operate this thing?  I can't find a manual for under $15 and I want to be able to get a free downloadable manual....I cheap, thrifty...whatever.  Just don't want to pay more for a manual than the machine.

      1. stillsuesew | | #8

        I have picked up two more machines this week. One was for sale at a garage sale for $25 and hadn't sold, so they gave it to me. It didn't have a bobbin case! But I happened to have an extra and it fit and I got it to work. This lady also gave me a box of hundreds of pre cut fabric squares that her mother had intended for piece work. It will be wonderful practice for straight seam sewing for my Somali ladies. The second had had someone mess with tensions and the pressure on the presser foot. It took some time but I have that working also. And someone else called me with another one last night. Another couple of weeks like this and all my Somali students will have their own machines.

  7. gailete | | #9

    After finally getting my sewing machines that I wanted/needed, I have a nice set up and decided that I don't need the one I picked up at a yard sale for $2 and had cleaned and repaired for $60! It  has some decorative stitches but since I'm used to computerized machines, I have trouble (and no patience) to get them figured out right, but it has a lovely straight stitch. I want to give it away to someone who really wants and will use a machine, but I wasn't sure how to find somebody. We don't have craigslist in our area. I will have to check on freecycle. Anyone else have suggestions on where to find someone who would be happy to get this machine? I too feel guilty having 2 working sewing machines (I use both) with another one just sitting collecting dust when someone else could use it.


    1. stillsuesew | | #10

      Do you have a homeless shelter or volunteer services in your area? Someone involved with that may know someone who would really use it. Or perhaps you could post it as available in a place like that. I like the idea of giving them away when I they are going to use it and would not otherwise have one available. I have been giving some thought to offering to teach one on one classes free of charge to such people and just supplying the machine for it. But I'm not too sure just where something like that might work.

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