"New" Old Sewing Machines

When it comes to sewing machines, older is better. I learned this the hard way.

Several years ago, the low-end Pfaff sewing machine my mother bought me in junior high stopped working well. I'd been using it frequently for twenty-some years with nary a problem, but now I thought I'd "step up" and buy one of the new awe-inspiring computerized sewing machines. Ah, the fancy stitches it could do! But I had problems with it nearly from the start, until several months ago when it stopped sewing altogether.

I took the machine to an expert sewing machine repair man. He quickly confirmed what I'd already been thinking: Modern sewing machines are not designed to last. In fact, he was shocked I got a few years out of my low-end Brother. Could it be repaired? Nope. Manufacturers don't stock parts; they simply assume you'll buy a new machine rather than repair it.

When I asked if there was a decent sewing machine out there, he said, "Some modern machines are better than others, but they are all lousy compared to the older machines." He reminded me the modern machines are mostly plastic, that you can't oil them, and that you can't even properly adjust their tension. He suggested I look for a mid-1970s Viking. "They were built to last and have all the features you need," he said.

Of course he wanted to sell me one, but at the time I didn't have the money for that.

Fast forward a couple of months. I was in a thrift store when I thought: "I wonder if there are any decent old sewing machines here." Thrift stores - at least in my neck of the woods - frequently have older sewing machines. Sure enough, this one did, too. I even spotted an old Viking, still in it's suitcase-like container, manual still intact. It was $10. For that price, I figured it was worth a gamble.

When I got it home, my husband looked it over, then I tried sewing with it. The straight stitch worked great, but none of the other stitches did. My husband thought the machine was simply gummed up. So he took the machine to that same sewing machine repair man. When the repair man saw the machine, his eyes lit up. "Now THAT'S a great sewing machine!" he said.

$89 dollars later, the new machine was cleaned up, had new brushes on the motor and a few other small replacement parts - plus a new zipper foot, buttonhole foot, ruffler foot, and extra bobbins. It works perfectly. And I expect it will work well for the rest of my life.

I'm not the only one switching to an older sewing machine. I've noticed serious sewers and quilters everywhere are looking for, buying, and using machines from the 1970s or so. And they are happy. Even without fancy stitches.

1 comment

  1. I've been told by a few people to "just buy a new machine" instead of investing around what you did in my grandmother's old White machine. I can't see going from an old all metal rugged machine to one of the flimsy models of today. I've just got to save up to get my old one looked over!