Sewing Machines

Seems like every other blog I read lately someone is wanting a new sewing machine.  There are some fancy ones out there, that’s for sure!  I never think too much about wanting a new machine til I’m at a show or hearing/reading about someone’s new machine.

In 2007 while at the Paducah quilt show, I bought a Babylock Decorator’s Choice machine.  The story about the trip is here.  I’ve never bonded with that machine.  It’s a good machine and I like it . .  but I like others better.  I do believe my Bernina 1230 is one of the best machines ever made.  But it is sick and I have not sent it off to be rebuilt.  I need to do it . . but you know how sometimes one not so good thing leads to a good thing?

I had been using the Singer 301 machines for a very long time but had set the Bernina 1230 up in the cabinet when we moved here 2 years ago.  With the Bernina needing repairs, I set up a Singer 301 and oh, I do love these 301 machines!  They make a perfect stitch.  There’s just something about sewing on a machine built in the 50’s, thinking about how things were in that era; remembering when people were more honest and a man’s word meant something; people believed in hard work and  knew if they didn’t work, they probably wouldn’t eat.  Quilts weren’t always made for fun back then . . it was a matter of keeping the family warm on a cold winter’s night.

There’s never a day that I sew on these old machines that I don’t think back to the lives of my grandmother and great-grandmother, and I wonder about the ladies who owned these machines along the way.  I think they would be happy to know that quilts are being pieced on these machines . . quilts that will go to comfort wounded soldiers as QOVs; quilts that will go to a home for orphans or troubled teens; quilts that will go to a veterans’ home . . maybe one day a quilt that will be entered in a show or appear in a magazine.  I have another machine like the one one the right but I’d really like to get a black one.  I think they look like little black locomotives.

I wonder if my machines will be passed down to future generations . . either Chad’s children (NO!  There are none on the way as far as I know!) or to my niece’s children.  I wonder if anyone coming after me will be a quilter.  Ever think about stuff like that?

I have Featherweights too.  Dad gave me another green one since this picture was taken.  They’re great for carrying to retreats or road trips but, in my opinion, they don’t compare to the 301 when it comes to really sewing.

Will I ever buy a new sewing machine?  Probably not.  If I did quilting on my sewing machine or if I had any desire to do machine embroidery . . maybe.  But for now, my priorities with my sewing machines are a good stitch and a perfect 1/4″ foot.  I consistently get both with the Singer 301 machines so . . why would I want something else?  That’s what I thought you would say! 🙂

But for any of you interested in buying a sewing machine, the March, 2009 issue of Consumer Report has an article on sewing machines.  Not every machine is rated but I thought the article would be helpful if I were looking for a machine now.


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    I know what you mean about the classic Singers. I feel a sense of awe almost when I sit down and use my 201. I can’t help but wonder about the story behind it, what it was used for, who owned it, did they marvel at the technology? And it sews a perfect seam.

    But for me, it’s the joy of owning this piece of history, and the knowledge that I’ll always have a back up machine to sew on that’s easy to repair. It will never be my daily machine though. My Bernina’s stitch out just as perfect of a stitch, and I absolutely love using all of the features. Needle up down, continuous reverse, decorative stitches… I could wax poetic about all the features that I love to use on practically a daily basis 🙂

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    I could cry for your Bernina. :o(

    The thing I find most amazing about the older machines is that they were not designed with a plan to become obsolete so you’d have to buy the latest and greatest, and that the average homemaker could perform most regular maintenance.

    Have you seen the new 820-830’s? Now THAT’s an investment. 8-0

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    After two years, I’m not surprised it needs repair.
    With your level of working I would have thought an annual service is the absolute minimum.
    I love my machines, all of them but if I win the lottery I shall buy the new 830.

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    Karen C says

    I, too, love stitching on older machines. My Pfaff has been having more problems of late so I pulled out a centennial 201 my DH’s friend found for me at a yard sale. What a sweet machine! No planned obsolesence there. And if/when it is ever non-repairable, it will make a great boat anchor. 😉

    I would like to know what quarter inch foot you use. I’d like to pick up one for the 201. Thanks.


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    My beloved Bernina 1630 died just over a year ago, and it just wasn’t worth fixing it. I found a new machine that I love for a reasonable price (A Janome 6600). I don’t need a machine that has all the bells and whistles, and I sure as heck didn’t want to pay as much for a machine as I would pay for a used car! But then I really really fell in love…I went into goodwill and found a Singer 201 (from 1958) for $60 including the table. I’ll tell you, NOTHING sews like that machine! I use that more than any of my other machines, as long as what I’m doing can be done with just a straight stitch.

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    After reading your article, I counted up my sewing machines. I have four that are usable. My first sewing machine was a Singer that my grandma bought me at an auction. Then I got my sister’s Viking, but she decided to sew again, so I had to give that back. Then I got my mom’s Viking and her back-up Brother sewing machine. Two years ago I bought a HuskyStar and I love that machine. I also have two antique Singers (non-working) that are more for display. Whew! I guess I have a lot!!! My grandma and my mom were Viking dealers for years, so that’s the reason for all of the Vikings in and out of my house!

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    Don’t get me started counting machines… LOL I love vintage machines! My very favorite is still packed up although I’ve been pondering getting her out since I’ve some machine quilting to do and I like her best for that. She’s a 1920’s Singer 15-30 machine with Tiffany decals in a treadle cabinet… love her stitches!

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    Leslie says

    More like a question, but here goes – I have 2 301’s. One was my Mom’s and she is gone so I can’t ask her but I can’t start stitching from the foot pedal, even with the needle starting in the fabric. Is this normal or should it go to the machine hospital? As CJ pointed out that no one has 3 hands. HELP!

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    Karla says

    I have an old Pfaff that I absolutely love but it too is starting to have problems. I am trying to baby it along until I can afford a new one. I also have a Brother which I use occasionally .

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    Rose H says

    I bought a 301 thru a newspaper ad. Really didn’t need the sewing machine but machine came with a wooden square table (like card table) with drop down space
    for the machine. Haven’t used the machine but after reading Judy’s post, I think I need to test and use the machine. I wanted the table and my Janome 4000 fits into it perfectly. The table was worth the $70 I paid for the table/machine combination. Have always had Singers, first a 338, then a 756 (I think) that was a Touch & Sew that threads the bobbin right in the bobbin case. Loved that feature but purchased the 4000 before I retired because I thought I deserved a newer machine. The Janome 4000 is all the machine I need as it has several fancy stitches that suit my needs–not interested in the embroidery machines. Passed on my old Touch & Sew to my daughter who lets her teenage daughters use it. Daughter now has a Janome 8000 which she uses alot. My daughter took Home Ec in jr high and did sewing and moderately enjoyed it. Didn’t sew at all until after she married and then she made curtains, pillows and all sorts of home dec items. She even repairs our granddaughter’s horse blankets with her machine. I am confident she will probably take to quilting once her girls grow up and leave her more time to sew. Think she really enjoys sewing–she has a stressful job and as for most of us sewing is a very calming activity. She always made the girls’ Halloween costumes (much more creative than I am). Hopefully my stash and other sewing accessories will get put to use by my daughter and her girls when I pass on.

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    I have three machines, though one (a Singer 99) is a handcrank that I really should find a new home for; I just don’t use it the way I’d thought I would. :S

    I also have a Bernina and a Featherweight, and I *love* them both. The FW was my MIL’s, but she didn’t like sewing and gave it to me — lucky me! The Bernina is my workhorse; it does everything I want it to do and does it beautifully. Yes, the new 830/820 look nice, but I simply don’t have room for one of those, so I’m not even drooling.

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    Deb Leonard says

    My mom gave DD19 her old Singer 301, but DD19 was too used to my Viking Romeo to try something new when she was busy making 5 prom dresses last year. I pulled it out to try piecing DD’s college quilt. What a dream! So accurate and easy to use. I’m in the market to replace the Viking (DD has dibs on it!). I need something that I can use to machine quilt..just baby and lap quilts.

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    That’s quite a collection of sewing machines you have there. I think your Bernina is the same model a friend of mine had. She loved that machine & nothing she’s had since has made her as happy.

    I started sewing on the old New Home (Janome) my grandma got when she traded in her treadle. (And she wished later she’d kept the treadle) I used it until the check spring broke. Sometimes I wish I had tried to get it fixed. I have a Pfaff 7550 now and I love it but it’s beginning to have a few problems. I think if it gets to the point I need a new machine I’ll look at Janome. They make Brother & Babylock too but I’ve read they keep the good stuff for their own brand name. I also don’t have any desire to do machine embroidery so a good basic machine would do. I use very few of the fancy stitches on the Pfaff.

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    Bobbie says

    I have a Berna 1020-I don’t think they made them very long, but I love mine–nothing fancy, but thats just what I need-I doubt if I could even work the newer fancy ones. And I have a Singer 201, that I would rather sew on than anything.. She is in her little black case and I don’t get her out that much-when my Grandaughter is here sewing on her 4-H quilt or clothers, I let her use the Bernina and I use the 201. And I’m going to be on the lookout for a Singer 301. Hugs, Bobbie

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    I have a very good home for Singer machines. If you would like to adopt one of you green/white featherweights, feel free to let me help you with that. I have adopted 2-301’s and 2-black featherweights in the past. My Neice received one of the 301’s and my daughter received the other. I pet and pamper both of my featherweights and use and talk to them often.

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    Mary says

    Sadly, we discovered my Featherweight had disappeared in a move. What happened to is is still a mystery. A friend advised me to consider a 301 as a slightly less expensive alternative. I found one on E-Bay and love it. It is my take-along machine and my Janome 6600 is my workhorse. Thanks for showing us your collection, Judy.

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    June Piper-Brandon says

    I have a Singer 401A Slant and love it for straight sewing. It has perfect seams, perfect stitches and perfect tension. However, when it comes to fancy stitches and machine quilting it doesn’t cut it. I learned to sew on this machine, it was my grandmothers before me, then my mothers and I sewed on it all the way through college (Fashion Design major) and still love it. However, I bought a Husqvarna Lily a few years ago when I worked at Viking and JoAnn’s and love it too. It machine quilts fairly well and does a nice blanket stitch and some other fancy stitches that are good for crazy quilting and the like.

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    I do most of my piecing on a tan FW (Marilyn) but have several 301’s which are fabulous machines. The prettiest one is named Delilah and is a black, short-bed in an open side cabinet. Unfortunately, it’s not in a great place for me to use. You are so right that the stitches are perfect on these wonderful machines. I have a Viking 500 which is a basic computerized machine but it’s so temperamental and it needs to go to the shop. My sister swears it hates her. I would so much rather stitch on a vintage machine. I feel such a connection with the past. Thanks for sharing pics of your babies.

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    neen says

    Deb Leonard, you can drop the feed dogs in the 301 and free-motion quilt with it.

    Judy, You know me and 301s. Our hearts beat to the same tune.

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    Evelyn says

    The NICE thing about the old machines – no expensive computer circuit boards to fry… on my Janome 9000 the main board went after just 10 years – and will cost over $1,000 to repair – so there she sits – not fixed! I am sewing on my Janome 3050, which is also a nice machine, but not the 9000. For quilting, I’ve loved my sister’s Bernina (an model from the early 1980’s – it was my Nana’s) and another sister’s Kenmore (from 1969). A nice straight stitch is all you really need for quilting. But I like my newer model machines when it comes to sewing clothes – the stretch stitch for knits, the perfect, perfect buttonholes, etc. When I upgraded to the 9000 I gave my beautiful Elna to my sister-in-law who also sews lots of clothes – that is a wonderful multi-purpose machine too (a 1992 model). And now Bonnie over at quiltville has a neat little video on her new machine with an instant thread cutter – now that feature makes perfect sense for the paper piecing she is demoing!!! Last year my DH almost bought me a Viking Saphire – on a whim – but I held him back because for now the 3050 is still chugging along. Cheers! Evelyn

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    My mother (92 yrs young) is still sewing on her Singer – Dad got it for her in the 1950s and it runs like a champ. I use a Pffaff 1630 and a Bernina 440. Last week I purchased a Baby Lock Audrey series that only weighs 12 lbs and will be perfect for taking to classes and traveling. A friend gave me one of his mother’s machines last year after she died. I haven’t taken it out of the case to see if it even works yet. Do we ever have too many sewing machines?

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    You DO have the best machine ever made (it and the 1260). Get that poor baby to a hospital–she deserves resuscitation. And if she can’t be brought back and you ever get a hankering for a new machine, stick with Bernina. I adore my 630–it’s the closest thing I’ve ever found to my old 1130.

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    SUE says