Brother. 1950s. Her name is Pattie. My sister bought this machine for me at a yard sale in Florida. She had it serviced and rewired. She also refinished the desk it came in! It runs like a tank. Simple straight stitch machine, the needle position doesn't change, and it has reverse, of course. I LOVE IT!
Sears Kenmore. 1970s. Almost identical to the sewing machine on which I learned to sew that my mother still uses. It was her engagement present from my grandmother in 1979. My model is a few years older and it my favorite machine that I own! I bought it for only $30 at a local thrift store, wood cabinet and all.
Riccar Mighty. 1960s-1970s. Bought at a local Goodwill. I had it serviced and rewired. This machine is special because it has a retractable cord, unheard of for this era of machine, and the instructions are all in Japanese! For sale for $250. Email me for details and inquiries.
Things to look for when buying a sewing machine at a thrift store:
- Overall appearance, is it well maintained. How was it treated in it's former life? Are all the buttons in tact and moving?
- Power. Does it turn on when it's plugged in? Rewiring a sewing machine is extra $ when you take it to get serviced.
- Foot pedal. Does the foot pedal engage the sewing machine.
- Bobbin winder. Does it spin when engaged?
- Belt and needle movement. The machine will most definitely need to be serviced, but my rule of thumb (and I'm no expert) is if turning the balance wheel, the big wheel on the side, it moves freely, then it's ok. Not sure how precise this is but it's worked for me.
- Are all the parts there? Extra accessories are always a bonus! I once found a sewing machine with it original accessories box and all the attachments.
- Is the presser foot there? A lot of times I find machines at the thrift store that do not have anything on the vertical shaft where the presser foot would be. This also costs extra money when getting it serviced.
- Is the bobbin case there and in working order? This will have to be replaced if it's not present. And sometimes the one your vintage machine comes with isn't working. Take it out. Hopefully it has a threaded bobbin inside; pull on the thread. It should have a little bit of tension. If it does not, tighten that small screw. Still no tension? Bobbin case is probably going to need to be replaced. Make sure the bobbin doesn't fall out with the end lever is opened.
- Not all of these are "yay" or "nae" deciding factors but should play a part in your decision to invest in a vintage machine. Because it is old, you never know how much work it will need and sometimes it isn't worth it. Stick to manufacturers you know.
- Carry a smart phone? Google the sewing machine AT the thrift store.
- Call your repair guy from the thrift store with the make and model of the machine! I called Branum's when I was at Goodwill to be sure they could service this machine I had never heard of before.
- And happy thrifting!
What to do when you get a thrifted sewing machine:
- Oil and clean it regularly! This is the most important of all.
- Take it to your local sewing repair shop, I take all my machines to Branum's. It costs about $60 to have the machine serviced. If you think this is too much, consider the price of the thrifted machine, and the price of a NEW machine that will most likely not be as good as this one. This wins every time. Sometimes with an old machine, wires will have to be replaced. You can learn how to do this on your own, or pay a bit more, on top of the servicing fee, and you sewing repairman can do it.
- Find out as much as you can about your machine. Operate it how it supposed to be used. Be gentle. Use an external bobbin winder instead of always making them ON the machine. These cost less than $20 at a craft store and are much faster than a machine.
- Very important: get a manual if possible. Google the Manufacturer; they may have the PDF available for download. Or you can visit a site like this and buy a manual.
- Get a simple sewing machine repair kit if you machine did not come with one. They are very cheap at Joann's or a sewing machine shop. You will need a brush, oil, small screwdriver, and a few other things. It important to keep your machine oiled and clear of lint from your thread.
- Also, a little hint- DON'T USE CHEAP THREAD! It clogs up your machine, especially these older ones. I only use Guterman thread.
- Don't pull fabric when sewing or you can break a needle, and this could mess up the machine's timing.
- Find some needles, fabric, scissors, and GET TO CREATING SOMETHING PRETTY!