The Story of My Big Collection of Sewing Machines

Please, tell me I’m not alone… I have a ‘few’ sewing machines! (There, I said it) With all my creative and practical projects I hope I’m inspiring you to consider ownership of this great tool as well. Perhaps my wish is that everyone have at least one sewing machine. Here’s the Story of My Collection of Sewing Machines

Why should anyone have that many sewing machines?!

For avid sewing enthusiasts, the allure of a collection of sewing machines goes beyond mere functionality. I took a count and I have 10 (actually 13 with the ones I’m going to part with)! ‘Even I shook my head when I realized! Each machine does tell a story, represents a unique set of capabilities, and adds a layer of creativity to the art of sewing. In this blog post, we’ll explore why having a collection of sewing machines is a delightful pursuit that enhances your crafting experience and opens up a world of possibilities.

Whether or not it’s “great” to have a collection of sewing machines depends heavily on your individual motivations and circumstances. Here are some potential pros and cons to consider:

  • Versatility: Different machines excel at different tasks. Having a collection could provide options for heavy-duty projects, delicate fabrics, specific stitches, or embroidery.
  • Historical interest: Vintage sewing machines offer a connection to the past, showcasing craftsmanship and engineering advancements. They can be beautiful decorative pieces and conversation starters.
  • Learning opportunities: Working with various machines can deepen your understanding of sewing mechanics and improve your troubleshooting skills.
  • Sustainability: Upcycling vintage machines prevents them from ending up in landfills and gives them a new life.
  • Investment potential: Certain vintage models can appreciate in value, especially if rare or well-maintained.

Cleaning, Organizing & taking stock of my Machines

#1 – Kenmore 158.19312

How it started when I was a child:

A lot of this seems to stem back to my very young days. Yes, I know, I sometimes forget about yesterday but do remember over 50 years ago! I cherish those days when I would watch my mom sew meticulously, either clothes for us or hats for clients (she was a milliner) I honestly think a child absorbs so much just by watching with interest. She never really insisted I sew but since I saw the amazing things she made I also wanted to join in!

I was quite young so they bought me a toy machine that was supposed to sew with a chain stitch. I struggled and complained so much! Finally when I was 12 I got a new first machine for my birthday; a basic Kenmore 158.13200 for myself – and that was the start! My parents made a deal with me that I could have the government child bonus money if I made my own clothes; I was so excited. It had basic straight, zigzag and stretch stitches.

The above machine is a vintage Kenmore 158.19312 (produced in mid 1972- 1974) It is my main ‘workhorse’ that also allows ‘cams’ to be inserted for a variety of embroidery stitches. I bought it used in a cabinet for $50 about 20 years ago when my original one was growing weary. It is a relative of my first one. It has been flawless, for all my ‘maker’ projects, quilting, just the ‘perfect’ machine.

This wondrous tool will sew through leather, denim and even sew rope to make bowls! They are heavy metal machines that last forever.

#2 – Pfaff Hobbymatic 955

Deal of the Century:

Thrift stores are the greatest to find vintage machines! I have never bought a ‘new’ machine. This one was $8 since it was seized. Someone probably never used it so the oil solidified. All the attachments, book and even bill of sale was included.

How to fix a seized Sewing machine:

Nope, I am not a trained sewing machine repair professional but have managed to get quite a few machines going. The risk is pretty minimal when a machine only costs $20. Every machine I have found that needs some encouragement to hum again has not needed mechanical repair. Stay away from rusty ones though.

I start by oiling parts (with quality sewing machine oil) that move or turn. Most older machines have access panels to get to internal parts. If they still are not freely moving with coaxing apply a bit of heat. The old oil gets gummy but the warm heat of a blower dryer will help it soften to allow the new oil to do it’s job. It is so gratifying to get it humming again.

Pfaff Hobbymatic 955

I love this Pfaff brand as it is made in Germany. The bonus of this Pfaff Hobbymatic 955 machine is the dual feed ( means that the top also pushes the fabric, not just the bottom feed dogs). It is wonderful for garment sewing and FME ( free motion embroidery)

Pfaff Stretch 297-1

#3 – Pfaff Stretch 297-1

Another Heavy Duty Pfaff:

This is another super heavy vintage machine (30 pounds or so) and all metal. Sewing machines come in different height shanks, this one is a low shank. That means many of the attachments and presser feet will fit. Thanks to mom I do have a bunch of attachments, they help to hem, finish edges, ruffle and pleat, even push the fabric… (more on those later)

When doing Free-motion-embroidery it helps to have a large flat surface, and this one has a detachable one!

Janome My Lock 234D

#4 – Janome My Lock 234D

Any self-respecting sewist (sewer does not sound right) will need a serger! If you like to quickly stitch up a knit fabric this will sew the seam, cut excess off and overcast the edge. It is a 4 thread Janome My Lock 234D that also will adjust how much the top and bottom fabric feed (called differential). Since it was also seized and peddle was missing I also paid $8 for it, can you imagine! Peddles are pretty easy to order online. It’s reliable machine once it was coaxed with heat & oiled.

#5 – BabyLock BL3-416 & #6 – Baby lock 418

My first serger was a 3 thread Baby Lock. I didn’t have much knowledge about them but did end being lucky to make so much of my young kids clothing. These small metal machines have a good reputation. I think they are made by Juki, a brand (well known for their industrial machines) I’d love to pick up some day!

Love these Sewing Machines too!

#7 – Husqvarna 21E Automatic

I was jumping with excitement when I happened on this machine; another thrift find! It comes in a cute gingham lined carry case. It’s made in the early 60’s in Sweden. These machines have a lever that will allow you to change the gear drive for more strength. I was so thrilled that it still had the instruction booklet boasting the ability to sew leather. Mine is missing the large sewing bed that would aid when doing FME on it. Funny, these don’t sound like other sewing machines; more industrial.

After it probably sat for decades I also needed to use some heat to un-seize some of the dials but there’s often common things that are searchable online for help. I think of it like the way men tend to like to talk/share about cars and we have sewing machines!

# 8 – Kenmore 158.1040 & #9 – Kenmore 385.17627

‘Awaiting their turns…

This greenish machine is a lightweight Japanese 3/4 size machine that only weighs 17 pounds. It’s lovely since it’s unique case has roses on it. I imagine it would be a good machine to take along! It sadly sits waiting for that day…

The White Kenmore 385.17627 (behind) is a more modern machine with plastic parts. The manufacturing date is probably more towards the 8o’s. It works well, but I feel less confident about putting it to strenuous use. For the average person who just needs to hem the odd clothes or sew a blouse it would be fine. Personally I also do not like the drop-in bobbin types; perhaps because I learnt on the lower bobbin machine, where all parts are metal.

#10 – Kenmore 30 Stitch 385.1884180

Another of the newer early ’90s Janome-manufactured Kenmores, it boasts 30 different stitches. The accessory box slides off to enable free-arm sewing (in things like sleeves) It’s also a drop-in bobbin with low shank presser foot. It was easy to check out after another cheap thrift store deal, as I have never paid more than $30 for a sewing machine!

Ok, yes, there are a couple/few that are going to need a new home… ads to posted soon!

Singer 99 Hand Crank

#11 – Singer 99 Hand Crank

This machine is ready for the day the electricity goes off… It’s a lovely testament to history, design & craftmanship, complete with it’s bentwood case. Amazingly a model from 1922 that still had it’s book, accessories and key (tagged ‘Oma’s machine) was just dropped off at a thrift store. Again since it was seized I snagged it for $10! It sits on my cabinet as a piece of art!

#12, #13, #14… oh boy!

My mom’s first Kenmore (another 158.xxx) will be finding a new home as it needs a new motor. It must have millions of miles on it! I’ve also got a Singer treadle sewing machine that I forget about since I use the furniture piece as a server in the dining room.

Create your Organized Workspace:

organized table and space

If your space is organized it’s a much better experience. I love the clean look so I have painted the sewing cabinets white (painting furniture white) and lined up my 4 favourite machines (and a second serger for light thread). I often see cabinets looking for new homes. Once updated with modern colour they are quite convenient & do not take much space. Open the table, raise the machine and setup is quick compared to lugging out and setting up a machine…

Conclusion:

In the world of sewing, a collection of machines is more than a practical investment; it’s a celebration of craftsmanship, creativity, and the joy of sewing, not to mention the thrill of finding a deal. Whether you’re drawn to the advanced features of modern machines, the nostalgia of vintage models, or a combination of both, your collection becomes a testament to the artistry and versatility inherent in the sewing world. So, embrace the diversity of your sewing machine collection and let it be a source of inspiration and endless creative possibilities in your crafting journey. Happy sewing! Imagine all you can do with a sewing machine… especially old machines, maybe you’ll become a collector too!

Comment below to let me know what you have & love…

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18 Comments

  1. I only have four, but love every one of them. They all have different uses. My wheeled stool allows me to skate from my main machine for construction, to the serger for finishing edges, then my old bernina threaded up to top stitch . I just need a (much) bigger worktop

    1. It’s great isn’t it?! I do scoot along the table(s) The extra was going to be donated but I realized they are all the same depth so with a bit of leg-sawing they combine to make a long surface! There’s 4ish lined up for me too! I feel better about my obsession now…

  2. I loved reading about your machines. I have been laughed at for having too many. I also find them at thrift stores and garage sales (also seized up). I love the old machines, solid and simple. They have withstood the test of time. I feel like they are just begging to be used, the more you use them the better they work. I have 3 husqvarnas, a pfaff, a newer brother serger and a Necchi supernova. They are a beautiful collection. Can’t wait to save another from the landfill. Happy collecting.

    1. Oh, we are like-minded! That’s a great collection! Hmmm, Necchi; that would be a treat! They do really love to get out for a run! ‘Men’ have car shows, we should have sewing machine shows…

  3. Love this post! I currently own 12 machines – oops! and they all have a function as well. Although I haven’t been luck enough to find a good deal at a thrift store, I have been able to find three machines (Singer Featherweights) for my three grand daughters if they want to learn to sew with Grandma. I really hope they do. My first machine was also a Kenmore and my daughter still has it. My serger is the same model as yours and it needed a new motor during Covid which took forever to get to the repairman but well worth the wait.
    Thanks for sharing your stories.

    1. Oh, I understand! I thought I had maybe 8… I too am hoping to pass the sewing ‘bug’ onto my kids and grandson! I’ve come across a Singer featherweight but do keep an eye out. Maybe someday the realization will be made that much can be kept from landfill if we sew…

  4. Hi Barb,
    My Husqvarna #1 seized and when I took it to the repair shop, the owner of the shop started nodding his head “No” before I even took a step in. He quoted $300 to check, more $$’s to fix (parts were scarce) and and he couldn’t guarantee it would continue to work–then showed me thousand dollar machines. I was mad. I tramped out, went home, googled how to dismantle and fix. With oil, hair dryer and some coaxing it is back on track. It is a rockin machine. with panels of embroidery cards. Also have a White Serger given to me and a cheap Singer backup (new from thrift shop). That is all I need. Great story about the machines, Barb.

    1. I love that story! Same was with my Husqvarna! Even without training it isn’t that hard to figure out what part needs to move to get the next part to move… I read that a Husqvarna can ‘sew a bumper on a Volvo’! ‘Glad you have what you need! I miss the days where they taught ‘Home Economics’ in middle school. ‘Such vivid memories of the cooking and a-line skirt sewing; almost 5 decades ago!

  5. This is a fascinating article. I enjoyed reading about your collection My first machine was a Montgomery Ward circa 1976. It was a workhorse until it finally gave up the ghost.
    Thank you for the article

    1. I have never heard of those machines, but I bet they were great due to the time period! There might be machines available since the people who sewed masks may donate their machines…

  6. I love your collection. I now have 2 machines, my mom’s Singer from the late 1950’s and a Singer Fashion mate from the 70’s I picked up from someone whose mom had passed away and couldn’t use it. I barely know how to sew but can see the allure — not going to go for any more unless A. a fabulous opportunity presents itself, and/or B. I learn how to sew more things and need s wider variety of options.
    I wish I could be as organized as you — I hardly have any space for my new found hobby. I know sew in my basement studio where I already do ceramics, painting, and other things. It is ready to burst and so chaotic. Perhaps if I have a solid week I can reorder it and make better use of the space. You are a marvel at that!

    1. You know I am a bit fussy (sometimes). Us visual people tend to react to our environment! I get so busy that clean up time is tough, but I must say; once I go through everything I find things that remind me of my plans. I too have a lot of directions as you know, so transparent drawer bins are vital. I do not want to cringe every time I walk into my ‘studio’. Imagine we could buy ‘time’!

  7. Oh Barb, you give me hope that I haven’t completely lost my mind. I have at least 17 machines.
    10 Singers
    1 Antique White
    1 Minnesota brand treadle
    1 Huskystar by Husqvarna
    2 Necchi
    2 Sergers, 1 Singer, and 1 Sergemate
    All work except one old Singer, this one needs a motor and a foot pedal. My plan is to paint it dark metallic blue and add some flower decals.
    Three of my machines were actually bought new, some were inherited, some from garage sales, and some free from friends wanting to give them a good home. In any case I would have trouble giving any of them up.

    1. Ah ya, every time I’d count I’d remember another one! Great collection! I’m seeing some common ones that I’ll have to look out for. It’s a machine that really has stood the test of time! My hope is for a future where these will be as prized as those old rare cars… I’ll be ready!

  8. OMG! What a great collection. I have five – my wonderful Elna SU manual I’ve had for 25 plus years I dearly love but have had issues since it was last worked on. The closest service besides the guy who worked on it here is 3 hours away so it’s in the bottom of the closet. A Singer slant I bought from a friend several years ago but haven’t sewn on it much. I’ve promised to gift it to a friend once he moves into his new house. The other two are out and sewn with all of the time – Juki TL2200 straight stitch only manual machine which I love but since my Elna is sick and I need a zigzag from time to time, I purchased last year a Babylock Lyric. I also have an Elna serger which I’ve not used in years. Now you’re getting me to think I need to get it out of the closet and play!

    1. Thanks! You’ve got some ‘beauts’ too! I did work in a sewing factory during a summer break in high school; it wasn’t anything like I’d thought! I lasted only one week and new an education was the way to go! I would only make 2¢ per seam! It is satisfying to rev up a machine isn’t it?!

  9. Oh how I loved this post. It is so great that you have “saved” so many machines from the landfill. Whenever someone mentions wanting to buy a first machine, I always suggest vintage for durability and simplicity. My fav of your bunch is the Kenmore 1040 with the rose case….such a great travel machine. I’m surprised that you have never spied a Featherweight case in your thrifting!

    1. I had a lot of personal fun making this post as I feel a kinship with many I hear from! I also suggest vintage. The old machines sound so much better than the plastic ones. I think those featherweights are known to be valuable so they snatched by ‘flippers’!