Some of you may have seen my sewing machines in the background of my pictures. I use all-metal machines from yesteryear. Some people understand - and others are confused.
"How old are those sewing machines?"
"Do they really work?"
"Why don't you just by a new one?"
My sewing machines range in age from 50 to 80 years old. Yes, the really work. In fact, they work better than modern sewing machines. I don't buy a new one because it wouldn't be prudent, or even make any sort of sense to me. You know how the adage goes,
"They don't make 'em like they used to."
Keeping these domestic relics in use is so important. Never again will these machines be produced, and they need to be kept alive - which means they should be sewed with regularly.
Meet my Janome New Home.
She is from the 1960's, making her the youngest of my machines. If you buy a plushie from my Etsy store, this is the machine that I made it on.
This machine is simple - it straight stitches, zig zags, and has a compartment for pattern cams. There are no fancy stitches, so there's not much to go wrong. If there is a jam, I know none of the gears will break.
In newer machines, a lot of the internal machinery is made from plastic. Why? To make them lighter. To make them cheaper to produce. And perhaps most importantly, to create a future demand for new sewing machines.
Here are two examples of failed plastic gears. In this first example, you'll see that while the gear is present in its entirety, it has completely split. This could never happen with a metal gear.
This next picture shows the spokes of this plastic gear have all been broken off.
This is why I buy sewing machines that were made before the implementation of planned obsolescence. They are built to last. They'll sew right through the apocalypse.
I see so many people sewing with these new plastic things, and I just want to take them to Goodwill, pick up a $10 machine, oil it, and show them that they too can have a machine that will outlive their great grandchildren's great grandchildren.
And I do make regular trips to Goodwill to rescue old sewing machines. It's starting to become a problem, actually... I'm running out of places to put them.
I always take these old, neglected machines home with the intention of "fixing it up to sell," but I should just know better at this point. I get attached. Each one has it's own personality, and the colors they come in are just beautiful. It's like I get to have a garageful of classic cars - and it costs significantly less.
This next machine was actually my first.
It only does a straight stitch, but what a beast.
I see a lot of people looking for information on their old sewing machines by researching the badge name. And why wouldn't you? It's the most prominent marking on the machine. On this machine, the badge name is "Wizard". But that has nothing to do with the manufacturing of the machine. Here's the deal:
After WWII, a loophole in the American and European sewing machine design patents allowed them to be produced by factories in Japan. They were exported without any sort of identification on them, and were sold to department stores that would badge them with their own brand, in this case, "Wizard". Although these machines are considered "knock-offs", the Japanese engineering was far superior to the engineering of the American manufacturers, making these mid-century machines highly sought after.
This machine, the "Wizard", is actually a Singer in disguise. It's identical in every way to the old Singer models, cosmetically and mechanically. These disguised machines are sometimes referred to as "Japanese clones".
So how do I know if I have a Japanese clone?
It will be stamped with a J-A. These machines are where it's at. Most of these J-A machines were manufactured by Toyota or Koyo, although none of their parts will identify them as such.
I will mention that while my Janome is not an "off-brand" clone, it was still produced in Japan, and still offers the same flawless engineering you'll find in any of the Japanese machines from this era.
These machines are easy to repair on your own. The timing is easy to adjust, and the mechanics are simple and straightforward. I have no background in mechanics, and I figured everything out on my own.
Finding these old machines and getting them to work again is such a satisfying thing to do, and can be a great hobby even for those who don't sew.
This beauty is my newest thrift store find.
"Sunbeam" is most likely a Toyota machine. It does straight stitch, zig zag, and it has an automatic buttonhole and can facilitate a twin needle. It is much like the "dressmaker" models from this era.
This gorgeous French blue lady was so neglected. Her insides are all gunked up from conventional household oil, and her belts and tires are dry-rotted. She needs to be rewired, and have a few parts replaced, like the check spring for the tension assembly. But she runs so smoothly. I'm very excited to bring this machine back to life.
I got this machine for $8. Eight dollars! Comb your thrift stores, people. These gems are out there!
My number one rule for buying a sewing machine - if it doesn't break your back carrying it out to the car, you didn't buy the right machine.
Are there any other vintage sewing machine enthusiasts out there? Did I spark anyone's interest? Do you need help identifying or fixing your machine? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!