Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Machine for Jenn: SMAD* runs rampant

*SMAD:  Sewing Machine Acquisition Disorder

one of the DDs asked me if I would be willing to teach a friend of hers to sew.  Silly question!  I made contact with her friend Jenn, and Jenn indicated that she needed a machine.  I easily convinced her that what she REALLY needed was a wonderful vintage machine, and not plastic crap.

so I trolled the thrift shops for the next week and also dug into the "archives" to see what I had squirreled away on the shelves.  My MIL asked me if I was really going to be able to find one I was willing to part with.

Here are the results:
The lavender Kenmore mentioned in an earlier post (and henceforth named "Brigadoon" for its ability to appear and disappear) reappeared at my favorite charity shop.  Apparently they have a new volunteer who knows something about machines, and she included a lengthy note describing its condition and what she had done to it in a way that gave me a lot of confidence about the machine.   Enough confidence to bring it home with me.  It does straight and zig-zag but nothing else.  It just purrs.  Lovely machine.  But you may have noticed that I tend to fall in love with ALL of the machines that come home with me.

A nice shiny Singer 66 in a modern plastic case.  I'm not a big fan of the 66's, but this one does reverse, and it is in marvelous condition.  This is probably the model I learned to sew on (more about the confusion in a future post).  And a 66 is certainly a cast iron workhorse.  I didn't think a straight stitch machine would be best for Jenn, I just wanted to show her the options.

 A Taiwanese green machine badged "Aldens" and almost identical to the green Dressmaker that I discussed in an earlier post.  This machine was super cheap at the Goodwill, and for good reason.  It looked horrible.  It was filthy.   I bought it in the hopes that I could cannibalize the tensioner off of it and put it on the Dressmaker.  When I got it home and opened it up I was amazed.  It was very clean inside, and with a few drops of oil it sews smoothly.  It is all metal inside, no plastic gears, although parts of the face plates are plastic.  It takes cams, although I don't have any that fit it.  It does zig-zag without a cam. The paint on the handwheel is badly chipped, but other than that it cleaned up to be a beautiful machine.  I could now cannibalize the green handwheel off the Dressmaker, but I still have hopes for that one.

A 401, with a nice set of feet and cams, and a repro manual.  I expect to get some serious money for this one some day, and I didn't think that Jenn would want to invest this much in a hobby that she is just diving in to.  Also just an option.

and a note on pricing:  on all the other machines I am just expecting to recover my investment, NOT including my investment of time cleaning, oiling, fixing, etc.  Very few people can make money on vintage sewing machines because there is an enormous supply and practically no demand, except for a few models that have caught the attention of collectors (famously the Singer 221, and less so for the 301, 401 and 500).

And speaking of the Singer 500, The Rocketeer
This was one of the first ones I collected when the SMAD bug bit me, and I made some mistakes.  It did not have a controller (foot pedal) nor a bobbin slide cover.  Now I know what those things cost to replace!  The soapdish works fine (top cover) but the left hand cover hinge pin is broken, which is a common flaw on these machines.  I'd rather let it go to a friend now than invest even more in parts in the hope of making a profit in the future.  This one also has a nice set of feet, cams, and a repro manual.

I have read that the 500 is identical mechanically to the 401, and that these are considered to be "the best machines that Singer ever made".  In fact, it says this on the cover to the manual, so it MUST be true, right?

Jenn likes this one, but she also wants a cabinet and the only one I have that will fit it is plywood covered in blond wood-patterned Formica.  It is not only the sewing machines that went downhill over time, the cabinets followed right along.

Cases, on the other hand, went from bad to worse.  The exception here is the case to the lavender Kenmore, which is the most attractive vintage case I have seen.  Not flawless by any means, but sturdy and covered in a black and white tweedy vinyl, I think.

Most of the vintage cases I have look more like this, filthy and shedding their original coverings
and if funky vintage plywood covered with something like vinyl wallpaper or cloth does not float your boat, there is always the modern alternative:  white plastic!

Jenn is debating between the lavender Kennie and the Rocketeer.  I've suggested that she can switch back and forth between them during the lessons and test drive them much more extensively.


  1. I'm trying to be good, I'm trying to be good, I'm trying to be good. You aren't helping my SMAD. I'm supposed to be getting a Spartan the end of this week. I haven't been in a thrift shop in almost 2 weeks. I'm trying to be good. : )

  2. @Cheryl from Cheryl: A Spartan is on my wish list, not because they are wonderful but just because I don't have one! I did bag a green 185 recently and will post about it one of these days.

    Why be good? Why not just give in and go with the flow?

  3. Lavender Kenmore! Love it. Good advice about a good older machine to start. Simple is good, so you can concentrate on sewing rather than fixing tension issues.


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