The saga begins…
A couple of years ago when we first started teaching people to sew, we got “bitten” by the vintage sewing machine bug. Uh oh! It was a bit of a detour from sewing lessons, but a lot of fun! We scanned listings of used sewing machines for sale on various websites, bid on various auction sites and started travelling near and far to look at used sewing machines.
We participated in vintage sewing machine Yahoo List discussions with other enthusiasts, many of whom were incredibly helpful since some of the machines (especially the Necchis from Italy) have very little documentation. Many of these folks are very knowledgeable. Some are even sewing machine technicians donating their time and knowledge to us “newbies”.
We ended up collecting a bunch of vintage sewing machines. This included several post WWII Italian Necchi (pron.: nek’ ee) sewing machines made in Pavia, Italy. Some were in cabinets, some were portables and some had been pulled out of their cabinets and sold “as is”.
The pictures below are, in order:
1. 1955 Necchi Supernova (pink and cream) in Windsor style cherry cabinet.
2. Necchi Lydia Mark 2 portable
3. Necchi 523 (pulled out of a cabinet).
We also collected several Singer sewing machines. Here are a couple of those sewing machines.
1. Mocha-colored Singer “301a” sewing machine from the 1950’s.
2. 1960s pale green/white Singer Featherweight.
We also acquired a two-toned green post-war Japanese machine and an antique Willcox and Gibbs for free! The Japanese machine, a Singer clone named “Fleetwood” was brought to us by a friend who saw it sitting out on a curb for trash pickup. I wouldn’t let it into the house until it was guaranteed 100% ant-free! It must have sat overnight outside and a couple of ants had fallen out of the trees and into the box. Enough to freak me out! My husband set it up just outside the garage, shooed away any ants, cleaned it up a bit, plugged it in and voila! It worked! See picture below.
Another friend stopped by one day with a 1938 Willcox and Gibbs he wanted to give us (see picture below). He just wanted someone to have it who would appreciate it! It’s an interesting machine because it was designed with no bobbin! None of these machines are incredibly valuable, but they are interesting machines nonetheless and pieces of sewing machine history.
What we discovered on our journey
1. This is a fun hobby, but it distracted us from our main mission of fostering creativity through teaching people to sew.
2. It’s a lot of work to unjam machines that have been “stuck” for years with congealed oil, felted lint and tangled threads. My husband got pretty good at it, but it took time away from his other hobbies: sewing (yes he sews!), fly tieing, fly rod building hobbies and fishing. To say nothing of the fact that he also has a full-time (paying) gig at work!
3. Some machines (especially with plastic parts) are virtually un-repairable.
4. The ones that can be repaired can wreak havoc on shoulders and backs!
5. Vintage machines are very cool and a lot of fun to sew with, but with the exception of the Singer Featherweight and some of the more “portable models” they weigh a ton and moving them around can be a chore. Now we understand why so many were built into tables. We acquired several of these and the tables are often beautiful examples of fine cabinetry. It’s also way better than having to lift them up onto a dining room table to sew!
6. You have to be careful about wanting to “rescue” older machines from the dump. They are wonderful sewing machines, but you can’t save them all or your house becomes the dump!
7. To be honest, if we ever buy a house that comes with a barn…we will probably start collecting them again! (Once a vintage sewing machine afficionado… always…). They are so interesting and they sew like a dream! We are just out of space for any more vintage machines at this location!