Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sewing Machines For Sale

Note to my regular readers:  I am selling off some of the herd on CraigsList and will use the blog to give prospective buyers additional information.  Sorry, I won't ship them.

My hobby is restoring vintage sewing machines.  The all-metal machines of the 1960's and earlier were real workhorses designed to last forever and it is pleasure to bring them back to life.  Modern machines are made of plastic and computer components and are designed to last a few years.  Feel free to throw your money away on one of those if you like.  But for the same price as a low end plastic wonder from Walmart you COULD have a lovely vintage sewing machine that will probably outlive you. 

90% of the time all the vintage machines need is a thorough cleaning and some new oil and lube.  Anyone even slightly mechanical can do this, by the way, but it does take time.  I spend between 5 and 20 hours on each machine (longer for the really old ones with beautiful but tragically fragile decals).  I love doing this but after years of this hobby I have a house full of restored vintage sewing machines.  I only "need" a dozen or so for myself ;), so it is time to clear house and make room so that I can buy MORE vintage sewing machines.

Every machine I sell has been cleaned, oiled, lubed, and tested thoroughly.  If it has a motor, every inch of the wiring has been inspected and appears to be sound.  The motor has been run at full speed for half an hour, giving it plenty of time for any problems to show up.  I don't open the motors for inspection--that is beyond my skill level at this time.  If the machine does not perform well I don't sell it--I may strip it for parts, but I won't sell it.

I am not running a business.  My goal in selling them is to clear space and to gather some funds to buy even more vintage sewing machines, and the tools I need to fix them.  I think you will find my prices not only reasonable, but ridiculously low if you consider the labor that has gone into them.

Prices for vintage machines on CraigsList range from quite cheap ($25 and under) to stratospherically delusional.  You can get great deals just about any time and if you are interested in buying a cheap one and restoring it yourself it is pretty easy to do.  But you won't know until you get it home and spend the time on it whether it will turn out to be a gem or a dud.  If it has a missing piece you may or may not be able to get parts for it, and if you can it will probably double the price of that "cheap" machine.  It may look vintage and cool and yet have non-metal parts lurking inside just waiting to break.

Or, you can buy one from me, spend a bit more and know that it it is an all-metal machine which will work.  I guarantee every machine I sell for 30 days.  At Christmas time I extend the warranty to January 31, so if you give it as a gift the recipient will have plenty of time to check it out after the holidays.  I've never seen another CraigsList seller of vintage sewing machines offer a warranty.  In five years of selling, I have only had one machine returned.  And I gave the owner a loaner while I made further adjustments to that machine, successfully, and then returned it to her.

I will spend up to an hour with you (or later with the recipient of your gift) demonstrating the machine.

Lessons are also available, for money or barter.  I enormously prefer barter.  Can you make handmade tortillas?  Create a simple database?  Clean out gutters? Groom poodles?  Build a garden fence?  Till a garden (starting from grass cover)?  Teach me how to do maintenance on sewing machine motors?  Perhaps you have a skill you can barter for sewing lessons.  (My favorite barter was with a professional massage therapist, but I doubt I will ever be that lucky again.)

I'm also always looking for an apprentice.  This person would trade me one hour of their time cleaning up the studio and doing miscellaneous studio-related chores in return for an hour of sewing instruction.  He or she would get to play with all the studio toys and have access to all of my supplies at my (thrift shop) cost.  I imagine a young teenager doing this, but would not discriminate based on age.   If a young person does this, I will provide continuous real-time video coverage privately available online to their parent(s) or guardian(s), for their peace of mind about their child's security.


  1. Do you have pictures posted somewhere of your machines? I also collect old machines but don't know as much about them as I would like. I would really like to know how to restore old vintage machines. I have oiled a couple to death and loosened up the moving parts but that is all. I would love to have a singer hand crank. I might have something that could be converted but have no clue where or how to know that or start.

    1. Hand crank conversion is really easy and works on many (but not all) vintage machines with exterior motors. I wrote about it earlier for the 3/4 size Singers, and the process is the same for any machine.

      good luck!

  2. I am sorry you are not closer ~ I would enjoy finding some money to buy a few more machines :)

    Good Luck making room and I hope to see what you find next year.

  3. Cheryl, I am so sad. I live in Mi and have been watching the 301 that you had on Craigslist. I so wanted that machine, but I couldn't call for 2 reasons. I got duped out of one on Craigslist and any day I should be getting my funds back, but did not want to hold you up and then not be able to come thru. The other is I have airline reservations to NC for a surgery for my blind sister, however they have changed things and may have to reschedule ( you know how that goes) so I didn't want to promise you a date that I would be able to pick it up without having that finalized. Saw tonite that the machine is no longer listed. I so admire what you do and I am kind of starting to do the same. I love using all of my machines and prefer them to the modern machines. I can only FMQ on my antiques. NJOY from MI

  4. Do you have any more vintage hand crank machines left to sell? I didn't see any on the Raleigh/Chapel Hill Craigslist.


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