A positive that has come from pandemic lockdowns is a renewed interest in sewing, as many looked for activities and hobbies while housebound. It has produced a new generation of sewers. And that’s a good thing. Like many other homemaking skills, knowing how to use a sewing machine, even just for altering or mending clothes, was slowly becoming a lost skill.
Making clothing, especially from recycled materials is getting very popular as sewers look for ways to be creative, while saving on the household budget. But what is really surprising is the popularity of antique and vintage sewing machines. And prices are truly incredible for machines that still work fine or maybe need a little dusting and oil.
There are wonderful vintage sewing machine bargains to be had, with some models being sold for as little as $10 with a cabinet. I’m talking about sewing machines that still work and many have all the attachments and parts. Just the cabinets alone (or treadle irons) could be repurposed as a vanity table, desk, aquarium stand and more. Parts for vintage machines are usually easy to find, especially for the popular brands.
Just in case you’re wondering what the difference is between the term ‘antique’ and ‘vintage’, an antique is usually at least 100 years old. A vintage item can be something that went out of style decades ago and/or is not quite old enough to be classed as an antique.
There are various old name brands on classifieds, at yard sales or thrift shops, such as Singer® treadle machines, Elna® and White®, just to name a few. Prices do tend to vary and though some try to label a 1924 model as being antique and want big bucks for it, there are many to be had for a pittance. You can also find models that are 30 – 40 years old with several stitches and attachments. These older sewing machines were workhorses in their day and if they have been cared for over the years, can continue to serve for several more.
Have you ever used a treadle sewing machine? I learned how to sew on one and it doesn’t take long to get a good rhythm going on the foot peddle. Most treadles are basic machines though, so mostly straight stitches and reverse, but some have quite an assortment of feet for different sewing tasks.
Many sewers are going back to Singer treadle sewing machines for the sheer pleasure of owning them, or making clothes on a old workhorse. They were built to last. Off-grid dwellers are also interested in these non-electric treadle sewing machines.
If only those old machines could talk, what tales they could tell. In the early 1900’s, almost every family had a sewing machine because clothing was usually made at home. From wedding apparel to christening gowns and clothes for the grandparents, it was all made on these old sewing machines. And clothing was mended continually and handed down, till it was only good for a rag. Those were the frugal days!
If you’re interested in going back that far, look for a sewing machine that is newer but still vintage. You’ll find lots of models from the 1960’s and 1970’s that still work well and have lots of built-in stitches and attachments.
So, if you’ve been wanting to learn how to sew, find a sewing machine bargain and some fabric and get started. Thrift stores often have great bargains in materials, fabrics, notions or items that can be recycled such as drapes and sheets. And there are lots of videos and information sites for just about any sewing instruction you’ll ever need.
When it comes to Singer sewing machines, you can print out a manual, as long as you have the serial number to enter here: Singer Company. You can also get a lot of replacement parts from manufacturers for their vintage models.
There are also vintage sewing machine groups and forums online where you can find important information on what to look for in a machine.