Top 5 Best Vintage & Antique Sewing Machines...Singers

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For Beginners:

So, you want to own an antique sewing machine ? 

There are several reasons people choose to use a vintage or antique machine and they are all legitimate . It's a great choice !

One  case for choosing an antique model is that they were the pinnacle of excellence in their day. Time has shown them to be, in some ways, the best that was ever made  -  tried and true.

I own an antique treadle sewing machine and love it. I won't lie to you though, my sewing skills are amateur at best but it doesn't matter, because just using it is satisfying enough.

Once you've learned how your particular machine works it becomes second nature. Everything you do with it becomes rewarding, even if your stitches don't always come out looking professional. You get the same feeling as when you first learned how to ride a bike, it's exhilarating, you get the sense that with practice it won't be long before you can take the training wheels off and let loose, go fast or do tricks .
Sewing is the same, you begin to understand that with a sound, reliable machine the rest is up to you and possibilities abound.

Like bicycles, there are "Walmart" ones and there are "Bike Shop" ones.  
Most plastic sewing machines going as far back as the 50's are disposable, "Walmart", made with plastic inner parts that wear out and you just don't know what you're going to get, what could be wrong with it or how much wear and tear these inner parts have had. There are some antique and vintage sewing machines, "bike store" level that were obviously made to last and perform like those 2,000 + dollar racing bikes. The value in these is in the design, construction and materials. The ironic difference is that with sewing machines, heavier (Cast Iron) is better, the best bikes are light as a feather (Aluminum or Carbon). 

Even among old machines there are differences in style to suit you, your needs and your price. Like bikes, they vary in purpose and price, from leisure to industrial like  mountain or racing bikes.  With the right sewing machine you can count on it to perform the same way every time, you know what to expect from it.

In this list,  you'll see that the key thing about what makes these picks special is that they take the guess work out of choosing.  T he one's I've selected are famous for one thing - They are all awesome- because they can suit just about anyone for just about any project and their quality and reputation is proven.
 
Which really leads us to which 5 machines are right for you or, really, anyone. 


*I say "Vintage OR Antique" because though you may think you want an "antique" sewing machine some of the best models that were made pre- 1920 were also made after that as well. Some folks may think that the older the machine the more desirable it is - the more authentic the experience.

Where I can understand that, and am also drawn to the older models and even own a real antique treadle machine, practicality must have it's place.  (I am the exception and live completely on solar power and don't want to use the extra energy to use an electric machine when we can have one that works without it- a blessing and a curse -still practical but less accessible.) For those who have the magic of electricity, I think you should embrace the future.
 
I have found that the real gems are those electric machines that were made in the early 40's and 50's - still the old Cast Iron construction mind you. They are the one's with the upgrades compared to their early cousins which lack modern conveniences like lights, pedals, motors, etc. These have also, usually, seen the least use. (I have found them in barely used condition, so the buyer is getting to break in the machine themselves - pretty cool to use a machine that old for it's first several thousand stitches.)

*I know I sound like a traitor to the treadle but I really consider that method of sewing a sub niche - It's a commitment, more hobby than production speed. Don't get me wrong, the treadle can perform and be even more rewarding, in my opinion, than using an electric machine but, like a bicycle, it's comparable to a fixed gear or single speed bike versus  a racing bike. You can pedal your heart out but you won't win.
Anyway, on to the List.


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Hint: They're all Singers

You have arrived. You're ready to take the leap and go old school with your sewing. Choosing the "best" one can seem difficult though.
Let me take some of the mystery right out of the search. Some sewing machines are more collectible than others (for good reasons) and therefore cost more.  

However, when it comes to these five machines you will find that their reputation proceeds them and that their average prices tend to reflect that. Generally the better the condition and higher the demand the higher the price. Which brings us to the next point. 

Looks don't matter much if the machine is proven to work. Among these 5, none is better than sewing than the others. You will save so much money if you don't have to have the "museum piece" or if you are willing to search out the good models that aren't trending and high in price at that moment - being flexible always saves you money. It's easy to get caught in a demand swell and ignore comparable models that will suit you just as well.  If you are looking for a rewarding hobby or  plan on light to even heavy use, you will be happy with any of these machines just find the best deal on any one of them, don't zero in on one specific model. Do a search for all of these.  You could find a deal on one when you can't on the other.

I say this because I have sold most of these models and can vouch for their quality construction -their designs are all great and functional and boil down, more or less, to your preference.  They are just different configurations of quality . If you like the look of one you can't go horribly wrong -  once you've learned how to work your machine you wouldn't have it any other way.

Sticking with the "all Stars" though, the Singer models listed or similar ones, is important. Don't stray from the Singers. You may come across a beautiful old machine but have never heard of the manufacturer, you will also never see any parts for it. Singer dominated the industry in those days, they were the best, they put everyone else out of business and as a result you can find any replacement part or attachment for every machine they ever made. They are affordable and readily available.

By all means, just buy the cabinet too. If the seller is willing to undertake that shipping challenge - go for it,  those sometimes unsightly tables were designed perfectly for sewing and for your machine - sometimes in listings the machine head alone is featured and that makes for a cooler picture but is really not very functional when sewing. The machine alone will sit up higher on your table causing you to have to sew with your arms in the air, that's dumb, the cabinet allows you to rest your arms on it with the machine being flush with the table. 

Alright, In debatable order, the greatest sewing machines of all time....
1) If you are wanting to ramp up production and really need a workhorse just go with  the Singer 201 it's the Mad Man with a reputation for hard work, quality and dependability. A denim buster that can even punch leather! 

2)The Singer 66 is my favorite,  (really the 66-16 or newer) I like the Tensioning dial in front. It has the feel like you can sew light stuff and tough stuff alike, and it can. It's delicate design it's curves and ease of setup / threading are a plus. I also think that visibility of your work is better because of the high sleek profile of the neck -

These were made for a long time and I would find one that is  newer with a motor and reverse, made after around 1941 (66-16 model). The old ones use attachments that fit to the back of the shank which are harder to find and had no reverse-
You can find out a machines date by it's serial number on the Singer website. This machine works so smoothly, kind of bare bones sewing but really worth it despite these catches.  2b) the 99 model is just a smaller version of the 66 and just as good, but maybe not best for bigger, heavier jobs.

3) The Singer 15-91, with the tensioner at the left end of the machine, has as good a reputation and I have sure sold some fine ones of these.  To me the threading is a little tricky but not hard. A good all -a -rounder. You should know that sewing multiple layers of fabric is limited with this one because it has a lower shank. The reverse is easy to use though.

The real truth is that if you've never used any of these or especially if you've never even sewn, it really doesn't matter which of these you go with -you'll get used to it either way and you can't go wrong - price and looks should be your biggest concern. They will all get the job done - they can handle anything you can throw at them. 
If you aren't planning to use many attachments or you would like the option, that might be something to consider as well.
 
4) When considering the Singer 221 Featherweight you might find the price to be higher because these have been targeted by collectors. Lately though the demand seems to have waned and you can have one for the lowest price in a long time. Do you really need a small portable, sewing machine? It won' t sew as heavy material as the others so if you can forego the novelty of a small machine then you can save some money by just avoiding these.

5)The Singer 301 is a larger portable machine which is popular.
  5b) 401 is also a good newer but still old school machine. Respectable, and has more settings 
Both of these have a slanted shank / needle and so the attachments are more specific but it has a reputation for being strong and capable of sewing heavy duty material.
Quality is standard on all of these machines. 

Heavy duty materials like denim really seem to be what a lot of folks are looking to sew and wondering which machine is best for that - these are all capable of sewing denim but there's a catch- some will take longer than others to do it and might need coaxing over those serious layered seams i.e. the 99 or 221 .
If you are intending to make lots of garments you might wanna go with the 201, 301 or 401.

Past those, you are gonna need an industrial machine with a heavy duty clutched motor which isn't really necessary unless you are opening a factory. I do stand by these 5 machines as capable of sewing denim projects and for cutting your teeth on any heavy duty material. 
Hope that helps and I hope that I have one of these to sell you at: hardknocksbicyclelocks

*All rights reserved on this original guide.

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