Vintage Sewing Machine Buying Guide

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Vintage Sewing Machine Buying Guide

There are many hobbies that can be quite enjoyable and satisfying. However, perhaps the most satisfying hobby is one that is both enjoyable and productive, like sewing. An avid sewer can not only take pleasure in enjoying his or her hobby but can also actually create clothes, blankets, and any number of other things. While most sewing enthusiasts today use modern sewing machines, there are also many that choose to sew on vintage sewing machines. These machines serve the same purpose as more streamlined modern machines, but some people actually prefer the way they feel and work.

Because sewing was once a necessary function in many households, vintage sewing machines are widely available at flea markets, second-hand stores, and online on eBay.. Even for an experienced sewer, buying a vintage sewing machine can be a very involved experience. This is because there are a number of factors to take into consideration before buying such a vintage item. Thorough research of both the type of sewing machines that are available, as well as the particular one being purchased, are essential for a smooth transaction.

Differences Between Modern and Vintage Sewing Machines

One of the most important considerations when purchasing a vintage sewing machine is how that machine differs from modern sewing machines. Depending on the age of the machine as well as the model, there are many differences that may exist. Ultimately, the person purchasing and using the machine needs to decide which factors are most important to him or her.

Sewing Machine Durability

One reason that people choose to purchase a vintage sewing machine is because of their durability. After all, if a machine has lasted for many decades and is still in good working order, it is clearly quite durable. Many vintage sewing machines are more durable because their parts and gears are made exclusively from metal. Modern sewing machines, on the other hand, have many plastic parts that break much more easily.

Sewing Machine Appearance

As with many items that are purchased in vintage condition, appearance and style are also a contributing factor for many people who are in the market for a vintage sewing machine. In fact, some people purchase a broken machine with no intention of repairing it but simply to put it on display as an antique artefact. Older sewing machines can, indeed, be an attractive addition to the décor of many homes, particularly in a sewing or craft room.


Price is also something to take into account when deciding between a modern and vintage sewing machine. Depending on the type of machine, vintage sewing machines can be a good deal more affordable than top-of-the-line modern machines. However, it is important to make sure that any vintage sewing machine with a price that seems too good to be true is thoroughly inspected before purchase because in many cases, they may not work at all.

Hand Powered Vintage Sewing Machines

Another reason that vintage sewing machines are more durable and preferred by some sewers is because they are powered by hand rather than by electricity. Of course, that can mean more work when using the machine since the sewer has to pump the pedal or turn a crank with his or her own strength. But this also means that these machines are much easier repaired by a layman because there is no circuitry or computer interface like there would be in a computerized machine..

Treadle Sewing Machines

Treadle sewing machines are generally older than some other types of vintage sewing machines. This is because treadle machines are powered solely by the person who is sewing. The term treadle actually refers to the foot pedal, which is much larger than that of a modern machine and must be physically rocked back and forth to power the machine.

Treadle sewing machines are built into tables in order to accommodate the treadle. Most have hinges that allow the sewing machine to hide inside the table when not in use and be flipped up for sewing. For some people, having a sewing machine that works under their own power is a very attractive feature, while others may prefer a motorised machine.

Hand Crank Sewing Machines

Unlike treadle sewing machines, hand cranked machines do not have a pedal. Instead, the sewer must physically turn the crank on the machine itself in order to make the needle move up and down. Aside from requiring a bit more physical exertion, these machines do have advantages over modern machines. For instance, the slow pace means that the sewer has superior control over the stitching, unlike the faster, pedal-controlled sewing machines of today.

Vintage Sewing Machine Parts

When purchasing any vintage item, particularly one with moving sewing machine parts that could become damaged and render the item useless, it is important to consider that it may be necessary to replace those parts. This is certainly true of vintage sewing machines. Some parts may be easily replaced, while others require a major expenditure in order to fix the machine.

Vintage Sewing Machine Feet

Depending on the requirements of the person sewing, new feet for the sewing machine may be required. For popular brands, such as Singer, these can be easy and affordable to find because the vintage machines were mass-produced. However, those that have machines that are rarer may have difficulty finding replacement feet. In this case, it is important to be sure that the sewer is all right functioning with whatever feet are included with the purchase.

Vintage Sewing Machine Oil

Vintage sewing machines need to be oiled on a regular basis. In fact, many experts recommend that a vintage sewing machine that is in use be oiled every day. This is because otherwise the metal parts can become rusted and stuck, making the machine difficult or even impossible to use. Luckily, sewing machine oil is quite easy to find. Rather, it is a matter of investing the time and energy required to oil the machine regularly.

Vintage Sewing Machine Brands

While there is certainly a wide variety of vintage sewing machine brands available for sale, there are some that are more popular and more prevalent than others. This is because these machines are highly reliable, durable, and continue to be useful despite the fact that they are decades old.

Vintage Singer Sewing Machines

The Singer Corporation has been making sewing machines since 1851. With such a long history of sewing machine manufacturing, it stands to reason that there would be many vintage Singer sewing machines available for purchase, even to this day.

One of the most popular vintage Singer sewing machines is known as the Singer Featherweight and was first made in 1933. Weighing in at only 11 pounds, this portable sewing machine remains popular with quilters and other hobbyists that want to be able to easily transport their sewing machine to different locations. Due to its popularity, the Singer Featherweight is also one of the more costly vintage sewing machines on the market.

Vintage Pfaff Sewing Machines

Pfaff is another name that is still closely associated with sewing machines. The German company made their first machine in 1862 with the purpose of sewing leather for shoes. Vintage Pfaff sewing machines may not be in quite as high demand as Singer, but they are also quite durable and well-liked by sewers and crafters around the world. With their basis in leather sewing, even the vintage machines are quite heavy-duty, even industrial, and can handle jobs that more delicate machines may not be able to.

How to Buy a Vintage Sewing Machine on eBay

Once you have decided upon the perfect vintage sewing machine for your sewing or decorative needs, you can easily search for it on eBay.. With sellers from around the world, some who may have simply found an old sewing machine in the attic and others who may be experienced vintage sewing machine sellers, there is bound to be one that fits into your lifestyle. Simply enter your search terms, such as "mechanical sewing machine" or "used singer sewing machine&" into the search box on any page and then sort the results using the eBay filters.

Because vintage sewing machines, despite their durability, can easily be broken, jostled, and otherwise damaged during transport, shipping is a very important consideration when buying one on eBay. Be sure to ask the seller whether he or she has experience shipping sewing machines. You can easily do this using the eBay interface. If the seller does not place a great deal of importance on packaging and shipping, it may be better to use the geography filters in order to find a sewing machine that is in your area. That way, you can arrange to safely pick up and transport the machine yourself, saving the worry of it becoming damaged during transit.


While sewing certainly is not a hobby for everyone, those that enjoy it can not only find relaxation in their sewing projects but can also create beautiful, unique items. Using a vintage sewing machine to complete a project can be even more satisfying than using a modern machine with all its bells and whistles. This is because many vintage sewing machines allow the sewer to be closer to the project and exercise more control over the stitching. Many people also find it compelling to use their own power in order to make the machine work rather than relying on electricity.

Choosing the right vintage sewing machine can certainly be a challenge because there are so many types and styles available. But with a bit of research and close examination, either in person or by questioning an online seller, it is possible to find the perfect vintage machine for any number of sewing projects.

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