Episode 31. Vintage Sewing Machines Part 1

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Vintage Sewing Machines, Part 1 The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast

In this week’s episode, we dive into the world of vintage sewing machines. We talk about the history of the sewing machines, different machines you may encounter looking for your vintage sewing machine, and tips for finding one. For show notes and a transcript of this episode, please see: https://asiansewistcollective.com/episode-31-vintage-sewing-machines-part-1/   If you find our podcast informative and enjoy listening, you can support us by joining our monthly membership or making a one-time donation via Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective 

Links

Patterns & Designers mentioned

Sandhill Sling by Noodlehead 

Sofia Sweetheart Knit Dress and Top by Staystitch Patterns

Lola Racer Tank by Staystitch Patterns

Weiland Tank by Elbe Textiles

Fabric Stores mentioned

The Wasteshed, Chicago-based Creative Reuse Center

Resources 

*Views and Opinions expressed by each author are theirs and may or may not be shared by ASC* 

Sewing Machine History

The Sewing Machine: Its Invention and Development, Smithsonian Libraries

Sewing Machine, Wikipedia

Who Invented the Sewing Machine, ISMACS

The Singer Story Made in Clydebank, BBC

The Secret Life of Sewing Machine

How Singer Won the Sewing Machine War, Smithsonian Magazine

Treadle, Wikipedia

History of the Sewing Machine, Treasurie.com

History of Singer Sewing Machine Company, Singer.com

Wheeler & Wilson Co History, Connecticut History

Inventor Elias Howe Was Born, America’s Library

Japanese Vintage Sewing Machine

Japanese Sewing Machine Brands, Love to Know 

Japanese Sewing Machine Clones, Vintage Sewing Machines Blog

Occupation and Reconstruction of Japan, 1945-52, Office of the Historian, US State of Department

What is Japanese VSM and How to Spot one, Vintage Sewing Machine Garage

Sewing Machine Features 

Types of Bobbin Driver, Wikipedia

Slank Shank History, Singer301.com 

Singer Knee Bar, Old Singer Sewing Machine Blog

Singer Knee Bar Description Ad

(Image source: Old Singer Sewing Machine Blog)

Bernina Foot, Sewing Parts Online

Vintage Singer Feet Identification, Offspring Blog

Glossary for Vintage Sewing, Still Stitching

Japanning, Britannica

Japanning, ISMACS

Buttonholer foot 

Buttonholer Foot

(Image source: Male Pattern Boldness Blog)

Ruffler foot 

Ruffler Foot

(Image Source: Yesterday’s Thimble)

Bernina Cone-Lever Presser Feet System, Bernina International AG

Bentwood Case, ISMACS

Sewing Machine Models Mentioned

Singer Featherweight, Threads Magazine

Singer 15, Singer Sewing Info

Singer 66, ISAMCS

Singer 201, SingerSewingInfo.co.uk 

Singer 237, DragonPoodle Studio Blog

Singer 301

Singer 401A, ISMACS

Elna SU, Needlebar.org

Bernina 830 Record, Male Pattern Boldness Blog

Bernette 234

Bernette 234

(Image Source: Sewing Machines Blog)

Bernina 801 Sportmatic

Bernina 801 Sportmatic

(Image Source: Urban Recylist Blog)

Books and Papers

Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan by Andrew Gordon (Univ. of Calif. Press, 2012)

Finnane, Antonia (2016). “Cold War Sewing Machines: Production and Consumption in 1950s China and Japan.” The Journal of Asian Studies, 75(3), 755-783.

Bobbin Tension Correction

Bobbin Tension Videos, Archaic Arcane 

Restoration Booklets

Guide to Refurbishing Hand Sewing Machine, Tools for Reliance

The Sewing Machine Master Guide, From Basic to Expert, by Clifford L. Blodget (2013)

VSM Restoration Starter Guide

Where to Buy 

Garage Sales 

Local reuse restore or thrift shops

Facebook Marketplace 

Estate Sales.net
eBay

Kijiji

ShopGoodWill 

Identify Models Information and Finding Sewing/Service Manuals

International Sewing Machine Collectors Society

Identifying Vintage Sewing Machines, Threads Magazine

Visual Guide to Identifying Singers, Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog

Archive.org 

Needlebar.org

Restoration Starter Toolkit 

Sewing machine oil and grease for oiling the machine

Screw drivers for disassembly

Cotton swabs, chopsticks, toothpicks, etc for getting into the nooks and crannies 

Soft paint brush or make up brush for picking up lint and dirt

Soft cotton rags for cleaning and polishing 

Metal brush for cleaning

Metal polish for polishing metal pieces 

Degreaser for removing old oil 

Rust remover (if rust is present – don’t forget to oil after removal to prevent oxidation)

Dremel tool (optional) for polishing

Hair dryer (optional) for softening old oil 

PB Blaster (optional) for really, really stuck pieces

Tajima thread tension gauge or Singer featherweight bobbin tension meter (optional) for adjusting bobbin tension, if needed

Organization bins or bags for keeping track of parts 

Phone for taking pictures of how parts are put together prior to disassembly 

Other Cosmetic Restoration Equipment (Not sponsored)

Boiled Linseed Oil + Shellac for French polishing

Singer Touch up Paint Singer Featherweight Shop or Make your own here

Waterslide decals Singer Decals

Some Restoration Resources (Youtube, Blogs)

SewSaveMe

AndyTube

Vintage Sewing Machine Garage Blog & YouTube

Archaic Arcane Website & YouTube

Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog

Old Singer Sewing Machine Blog

My Sewing Machine Obsession

Treadle On (Specific to restoring treadles)

Tumor Farmer Blog 

She’s a Sewing Machine Mechanic

Ashley and the Noisemakers

Show transcript

Nicole: That won’t, you know, backup cameras don’t stop people from still hitting. This has nothing to do with sewing machines but I’m just like, I do know that people have a sensor or not, sometimes that doesn’t matter.

Ada: Welcome to the Asian Sewist Collective podcast the Asian Sewist Collective is a group of Asian people from around the world brought together by our shared appreciation for fiber and textile arts, and our desire to see more Asian representation in the sewing community.

Nicole: In this podcast, we explore the intersection of our identities, and our shared sewing practice as we create a space for Asian sewists and our allies.

Ada: I’m your co-host, Ada Chen, and I’m recording from Denver, Colorado. Denver is the traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. I’m a Taiwanese-American marketer turned entrepreneur and these days you’ll find me running my own natural skincare business called Chuan’s Promise. That’s C-H-U-A-N-apostrophe-S promise – and sharing my marketing tips on my blog. Most importantly, for this podcast, you can find my sewing at @i.hope.sew on Instagram.

Nicole: And I’m your co-host, Nicole. I’m based outside of Chicago, the original homelands of the Council of the Three Fires, the Ojibwe, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa people. I’m a Philippine-American woman, a lawyer by day and a sewing enthusiast the rest of the time. You can find me on Instagram at @nicoleangelinesews.

Ada: Before we dive into this week’s episode, Nicole, can you tell us about your current sewing project?

Nicole: Yes, I can. I am going on vacation in T-minus four days. And podcast listeners and Ada you know that I’ve been like, thinking about, like what to make, and I’m not gonna make the whole wardrobe or whatever. But of course, I’ve made like three things. I’m finishing up a bag. Ooh, I’m a bag maker, y’all. Aarthi, fellow Asian Sewist Collective member, has been encouraging me to try the Noodle Head Sandhill Sling. You and I have gone back and forth about like making a new bag for a trip and then taking it to Spain, which is a place that is known, or at least travelers are frequently cautioned about like bags snatchers. So people that like slash your bags and all that. So it’s just been something I’ve been thinking about a lot. And you advised fanny pack plus water bottle holder? And I was like, so down for that. But then, maybe it was you or maybe it just came up in my feed, the Sandhill sling came up. And then you and Aarthi started talking about it. And then Aarthi said, Nicole, you got to do this, like in so many words.

Ada: Well, you sent me a photo. And I’m like, oh, isn’t that… it looks like this pattern. You were like it is this pattern, which was the Sandhill sling. And then I saw Aarthi the week after in person, which was nice. Because I’ve seen very few collective members in real life so far. And she just happened to be passing by for a work thing. And we were shopping, and there was some bag making hardware. And she made a comment like, oh, yeah. I think I made a comment like, oh, Nicole’s looking at this bag. And she made a comment, like, I’ve made like six of those, those are so easy. I can bang one out in one night and I was like what?

Nicole: Yeah. And it’s not bang one out in a night for me because it was my first time working with it. But it is fairly simple. So I had cut out all the pieces. And then it was a good, really laborious drawn out process to get what I needed because I thought I had the hardware. And then I didn’t and then I got some more hardware. And this was like the right size or the right kind. And then I was waiting for a strap that I really wanted. And then when it came in, it wasn’t really what I wanted. So it was just been like weeks of trying to get started. But I actually started sewing at our Ko-fi exclusive Sew and Chat on Friday, so I was on the phone, you know, we were talking about our substantive topic that we do for the Sew and Chats and then I stayed on for another hour after just chatting with the folks that joined. And in that two hours I got pretty far but then the reason why I bowed out of socializing is because I don’t think I can talk anymore and continue to work on the instruction. The instruction has gotten a little bit not confusing again, just this is my first time making a structured bag like this. I don’t actually think I can socialize and work on this. So I’m gonna go and that’s how the conversation ended. But I worked on it for a couple more hours, so maybe four hours and then I just need to drop the lining in and it’ll be good to go. I say that I understand that attaching the lining is one of the more complicated parts so we’ll see. Security feature wise I added a couple of things. So, one is I added a second D ring to the back so that I could switch sides to where I want to wear the bag. So if my shoulders is not feeling it anymore, I can switch the clip and it will comfortably sit on the other side, not a security thing. The clasp was really difficult to unclasp. The straps are really thick cotton webbing that’s doubled because of the way that the strap works. And so I was like, I’m pretty sure this would be not easy to cut. And then I added two D rings to the side of the bag, so that I could clip the double zipper closed. So I was looking into security bags that you can buy, like, yeah, travel bags. Yeah. And so I thought, Okay, well, I can add a D ring and a loop on the outside on each side. And it doesn’t, you know, it’s secure enough. And I have like a small, tiny clasp, that’s not a security clasp. But again, it’s just like, another hindrance to make people think like, I don’t think I can do that, like while they’re wearing it, I can get away with it. So, so I added the two day rings on each side of the double zipper so that like I could clip it on each side, if I wanted to, which I generally won’t. It’s just kind of see how I feel when I get there. I have never thought about these types of things when traveling really, I’m not a clueless person that just walks around with my passport hanging out in my back pocket. But like, in a lot of places I’ve traveled like, you know, I’ve never felt at risk of that in that way of like just being like, not physically hurt, but just, you know, having something stolen off of me. And again, not clueless. Like you know, one of the places I don’t think about that more was like Philippines but didn’t really. But Spain, every person that I’ve heard that travels to Spain, like cautions against that. And I know multiple people who have had things stolen from them while they were there. So I’m like, Okay, I mean, I’m making it anyway, then just add a couple of small things. But the fabric is from a creative reuse store called Waste Shed in Evanston. There’s another one in the city of Chicago. And I got it when I was volunteering on an Earth Day project to learn how to burn test and then roll fabric for the nonprofit. And I burned this fabric, and I liked it. And so I set it aside for myself. And it was three bucks, you know, so $3, and it was maybe it was definitely not a full yard. But there was like weird off cuts, but plenty of leftover when cutting out the sling for like another sling or even like another like a fanny pack or some other small item. So I have other bag patterns I’m really excited about I just never got like to making them. But I’m amazed at how much you can get out of small fabric because I’m used to buying three yards at a time to plan for a pair of pants and a top or a dress. And I’m like this was just scraps. And there’s so much more to make with it. So I’m very excited. And then the volunteer project was with the Chicago Sews Meetup group. So lots of things involved in this bag, but I’m excited. It’s really it’s really cute and it’s very summery. It’s orange and white patterned, and it’s a thick, according to my burn test, an acetate. Okay, so I think it was an outdoor fabric of some kind. Yeah, and so it’s nice and hefty. And the inside is actually thrifted fabric as well. The lining is dogs.

Ada: Aww, love it. 

Nicole: I think it was just at a Salvation Army and saw this fabric and I bought it to make masks for my little brother, who was a veterinarian, so he’s not very little. So that makes sense. Dogs make sense. But of course after making a mask, even though I had a half yard I was like, What am I gonna do with this dog fabric, so it’s gonna grace the inside of this bag when it’s complete. A long, long story and a lot of information about a bag if you want it.

Ada: I mean, I’m a bag person, bag lady. I used to joke that I’m a bag lady. Because bags are my favorite accessory. So I enjoy nerding out on those things. And I do agree. I love Spain. I’ve been, I want to say three times. The first time I went, you know, I’m very lucky to have been three times. And the first time I went was on a university trip. And, you know, we were chaperoned in a big group and we still had like people watching out for us, but I remember getting on to the subway in Barcelona and somebody who kind of was carefree and not really paying attention. Got their bags snatched. And the person who did it I remember seeing them and keep in mind all these people from my university we went to school in New York City like we’re used to getting on the train. And just the person hopped on grab the bag and hopped off as the doors were closing. So it was like the perfect snatch of opportunity. Yeah. And yeah, ever since I saw that I’ve been a lot more cautious in my traveling and bags and security features and all of them. I’m very excited to see how this actually works for you like I want to wear the best of your trip when you come back.

Nicole: Oh, you’ll hear from me. I’m sure you might even hear from me on the trip because like and stay away from you all. Are you working on anything fun, Ada?

Ada:  I am. It is a pattern that you pattern tested. And I think I mentioned before but I’m making a Sofia tank from Stay Stitch Patterns. It’s my second attempt. My first one. It wasn’t terrible, it’s totally wearable albeit not in the way that I thought I wanted to wear it. But I made the tank top version and was kind of just a straight cut across the bottom hem and I used leftover… I kind of had like a half yard, maybe three quarters of a yard left of Merino knit after I made my Nico dresses in those two Merino knits that I had from last year. They had those leftover and I was like, Oh, this I could squeeze this out of at least one of them. So I did that. And I think the Merino knit I picked was like too light for the interfacing because I followed their instructions for like a mid-weight interfacing but the interfacing ended up making the curved part of the neckline the “sweetheart” neckline, trying to flop out a little bit like a collar. And I was like, this is a look, this is not the look I was going for. So we’re gonna try again, with a heavier knit I have like a white just I think it’s it’s not a ribbon. I think it’s an ITY that I thrifted also, similarly came from like a sub-one yard cut. And I was like this time I’m gonna try it with a fabric where I could wear it and I would wear this color. But if it doesn’t work, I won’t be super super heartbroken about it because it was definitely a little like, ugh, man, wrong fabric choices here with the Merino knit. So it’s cut out, I just haven’t actually sat down to do anything with it yet.

Nicole: Yeah, how do you like the pattern?

Ada: I really like it, I thought it was like a really fast. So compared to some of the other tank tops that I’ve done that have similar like, it uses a burrito method and interfacings and linings. So I really enjoy that part. And that it like, took me maybe an afternoon to finish. And the instructions were really clear like this might be my, I think this is my first pattern from them. And they were pretty clear. I appreciate it. Even though like you know, at this point, I feel like I can figure enough things out. But it’s just nice to have the extra hand holding sometimes when you don’t feel like being completely like your brain is turned on. Kind of like you were saying, Yeah,

Nicole: I find Stay Stitch Patterns to be really clear for anyone. I think they’re designed for beginners and generally simple silhouettes, but also like a nice, I don’t know, a twist to it like the Sofia tank, the sweetheart. I think if I looked at it and didn’t know, like if I hadn’t tested it. Wow, that looks really complicated. Or it looks like high impact, you know, so maybe it’ll be difficult, but I actually have all of their patterns. 

Ada: You did mention that to me, you’ve run out of patterns to purchase from them.

Nicole: I have yeah, I’ve tested twice and so they get you know, well, still free I don’t get paid, but they like most provide the pattern and then they offer maybe an extra pattern and I have purchased their patterns. So it’s not like, you know, but anyway, I have all their patterns. And I have yet to find one that like I’ve not been satisfied with. The beanie was a fun thing for gifts you know, so.

Ada: I’m interested because we’ve been talking about this on Instagram and I swear we’re gonna get to the topic of this episode soon. My last comment is that I will be, I think pretty much back to back comparing the Sofia with the Weiland from Elbe Textiles out of Australia. The Weiland just launched with a B and a C/D cup version. So two versions, sorry that was unclear. And it’s also a tank top. It also has kind of a similar not rise, but the tank top version of rise like it’s the length is similar, it’s not super, super long. And it’s more of a V neck or there’s two options for the neck hole which are, they look less kind of involved versus the curved neckline of the Sofia tank top. But it has a built-in kind of shelf bra options. So that was intriguing and it’s just got like a more, I would call it a more athletic wear look than the Sofia, so I’m going to be doing that one as well because even though it snowed yesterday, it is going to be hot again, soon. As in like tomorrow here. So I’m like all over my summer tank tops like that is a type of top that I have identified as like I need more in my wardrobe for practicality and I’m excited to compare them and probably have a bunch by the time this episode comes out.

Nicole: You’re making me want to buckle down and try to sell a bunch of tanks in the next three days but I’m trying to be like, whatever I can make by tomorrow. That’s it. You are not going to be sewing up until you know like 5pm when you need to leave your house on Thursday. Do you by any  chance know what the maximum measurements are for the Sofia?

Ada: Oh… 

Nicole: I have the Lola pulled up. I have the Sofia can’t find it though. So just for listeners I know that they are one of the more inclusive indie pattern size companies out there and at least the Lola the tank and dress is a maximum 58 inch 147.4 centimeter chest and a 51 inch and 129.6 centimeter waist and then a 61 hip 155 centimeter hip and that’s for the Lola.

Ada:  I think the Sofia I pulled it up it’s actually a little bigger. Okay, so the minimum is their size 0 is a bust 32 waist 25 Hip 35 inches. Max being the size 34 plus 61 waist 54 hips 64 inches and then – sorry listeners will let you convert the centimeters or check their website because it’s there as well. And on the  Ellb Textiles Weiland tank, W E I L A N D if you’re Googling it, the small sizes the size a with a bust 29 B cup 31 or C/D cup 32.5 inch and then the waist 24.4 inch and the size N bust is 55 inch for the B cup then you have a 57 for the C/D cup, you have a 58.5 both in inches and then the waist is 50 inches. So I would extrapolate from there but it is a cropped pattern. So I assume that is why there is no hip measurement there as well. But yeah, if you’re interested definitely check them out, we will have them linked all of these patterns in the show notes.

Nicole: Today we are talking about vintage sewing machines, specifically focusing on finding and how to restore them for domestic use. This topic is huge. So we have a two part series on this. This week is part one and next week we will have ASC member Esther talking about her experience with vintage sewing machines. So we have so much to cover, and we figured it’d be best to give our listeners a little bit of an ear break and we’ll split it into two sections. Before we get started. Another quick disclaimer here is that we are not professional sewing machinists. But Esther and our colleagues did a ton of research for this episode. So listeners you can feel confident in knowing that the information here is reliable. And of course, we also prepared a large resource list in the show notes. So as always, be sure to check those out.

Ada:  Let’s dive in with a brief history of how sewing machines came about and ended up in many people’s homes including our own. According to the “Sewing Machine: Its invention and use” a book that’s available at the Smithsonian library, Thomas Saint, an Englishman was issued a patent in 1790 for his design of the first sewing machine. It was a manually operated hand crank machine that featured a horizontal cloth plate, an overhanging arm with a straight needle and a continuous supply of thread from a spool. However, Saint’s machine was not found physically, like the actual machine itself. And later when that design was actually put to be built. It was discovered that you needed to make modifications to it before it would even make a stitch. So several individuals had come up with and patented their own versions of a sewing machine starting at the turn of the 19th century in different parts of the world. These names kind of come up across various sources that we found. So there’s Thomas Stone and James Henderson in England, Josef Madersperger in Australia, Barthelemy Thimmonier in France, John Greenough in America and Walter Hunt, also in America.

Nicole:  In 1844, John Fisher and James Gibbons were granted a British patent for a sewing machine design that resembles modern day sewing machines. This machine was the earliest known patent using a combination of an eye pointed needle and a shuttle to form a two threads stitch, which is in the sewing machine article. The needles were secured to a needle bar, and the fabric was carried by a set of rollers to move it in the horizontal plane. Around the same time, Elias Howe Jr. and Isaac M Singer had also come up with a similar sewing machine that uses a needle and shuttle to create stitches, and had obtained a patent in 1846 and 1851, respectively. Both were credited with building treadle sewing machines, according to Wikipedia, but many machines back then relied on treadles as a source of power, including lathes, rotating saws, looms, and of course sewing machines. There were a lot of people who contributed to improving aspects of the sewing machines like Allen B. Wilson, who developed another shuttle bobbin mechanism and eventually invented the rotary hook bobbin. He also came up with the four motion feed dog that is familiar to us with the modern day sewing machine that feeds the fabric through the machine while sewing.

Ada:  So there was a lot of competition in the sewing machine technology development world at the time. And that kind of triggered almost a patent war patent battle called the sewing machine war. And it wasn’t until 1856, when Howe, Wheeler and Wilson, which Allen Wilson was one half of, Singer and then another Sewing Machine Company – Grover and Baker – pulled together nine patents into one called the sewing machine combination. And then the legal war kind of on license infringement and all that fun stuff came to an end. So this patent pool included Howe’s eye pointed needle that was used with the shuttle to form a lockstitch, the feed dog mechanism that Nicole mentioned, and a number of patterns or patents. Sewing brain kicked in there, that Singer held for the needle bar movement and the presser foot. So for example, holding down the cloth by using a spring yielded pressure and then a cam that moves the needle bar, as well as the vertical movement of the needle up and down. 

Nicole:  According to a Smithsonian Magazine article, Singer & Co had so much staying power and became so infamously tied to sewing machines because of their co founder Edward Clark, who pushed for very aggressive advertising campaigns, the company would have salesmen go door to door to bring the machines straight to potential customers and open flashy showrooms with frequent demonstrations to draw interest. They also encourage customers to upgrade to newer models whenever there was a new sewing machine rolled out. This would very much work on me if I would let anyone into my house but like, like, yeah, of course, I want the new model think about how everything is these days. But back then sewing machines were worth a lot of money. According to a BBC documentary link in the show notes, one would easily cost six months of a person’s wages. The Singer company came up with an innovative business strategy to allow buyers to pay off the very expensive sewing machines in installments, introducing the first installment payment plan in the United States of its kind. By lowering the cost of access Singer was able to get their sewing machines into many homes around the world.

Ada:  Wow. Payment plans are truly that old because we’re still in the 1800s. So, in 1889, Singer introduced the first electric sewing machines so these machines started off as standard mechanical sewing machines with a motor strapped on the side. But later when they became more popular, the motor was gradually designed to be encased inside the machine. Sewing machines also trended towards being more portable as time progressed and around 1933, Singer produced their lightweight portable sewing machine that you may have seen. It’s called The Featherweight, aka the Singer 221 and 222. So in the time period that we’ve covered so far, sewing machines could only do straight stitches. It is unclear when the first sewing machines capable of making zigzags came onto the market and domestic sewing. One source stated that the Singer 206 was the first machine to do this, but another credits Necchi with bringing zigzag stitch capability to home use. But by the 1950s to 60s, there were definitely sewing machines that could make zigzag stitches on the market. And sewing machine manufacturers also figured out how to incorporate several stitches into one machine. So they used to only do one straight stitch. And now they could do more sewing machines like Singer 300 to 700 series and Elna Supermatic come with a number of built in stitches, which are made possible by the stack of vaguely circular discs that kind of resemble gears, and those are called cams inside your machine. If you have one of these machines and you open it up, you might know what I’m talking about. The shape of the cam correlates to how the needle position should move to achieve that specific stitch. And a cam follower which kind of looks like a finger will follow the shape of the cam and move the needle position so it’s kind of like this thing moves to move that thing to move the needle. Now some of these machines are capable of accepting insertable plastic cam so you can kind of like change it up as you go on top of the built in cam stack to create more stitch designs. But in that same time period, electric motorized machines with plastic internal parts began to emerge on the market.

Nicole:  And gradually sewing machines went from having mostly internal metal parts to mostly plastic. Computerized sewing machines were introduced and became popular around the 1980s. For those of us who so with modern computerized sewing machines, we are probably familiar with what computerized machines look like. Mine is mine is very computerized and unlike mechanical machines we’ve talked about so far, in which all of the moving parts of a sewing machine are controlled by gears and knobs, the user presses buttons to give commands to the computer chip inside the machine to indicate preferences like stitch length, and width, tension feed dog speed and stitch styles. There is a very easy to digest documentary called The Secret Life of the Sewing Machine that details how sewing machine technology evolved over time from its invention to the modern ones that we see now, we will again link it into the show notes for those who are interested. I think it’s pretty neat to see the evolution of this machine that I spend so much time with. Mine is definitely like a Bing-Bong-Bong-like, machine. Like I just press buttons, but I can appreciate how you know, I find it interesting that the computerized machine started to come out in the 80s. I don’t know if that you found that surprising at all. Ada. Like, I don’t know why I thought maybe it would have happened later than that.

Ada:  so I guess we can backtrack with I have a very intense knowledge of the progression of technology and history. Because my name is Ada, which if you didn’t know, was the same name of Lady Ada Lovelace who was the daughter of Lord Byron, the famous poet and Lady Ada Lovelace happened to be the first female programmer what back when programming was uh was doing math on punch cards. But in programming that way, there were no modern computers as we know them involve. And so I’ve kind of that was who I was named after, I’ve kind of grown up with that, and surrounded by at least software. And so I’ve always been that kind of nerd. And I wasn’t surprised to hear it was the 80s, I was kind of surprised to learn that it wasn’t a little bit earlier, because there were enough improvements, I think, by the 70s. But at the time, computers were still quite fairly large. So to have one on your sewing machine, I think would have been a little a, like price prohibitive and b, large size prohibitive like to have in your house, the ones that we saw starting out in the 80s were actually quite compact. If you look at any of those types of machines, online or photos of them. They seem smaller than I would think they would be at that point. But then again, perhaps I think some of what we expect in sewing machines nowadays, at least the computer as models, they are, you know, a little bit on the bigger end because they have to house so much hardware inside. But yeah, that’s my little nerd take for the day.

Nicole  

No, I think that’s really interesting. Because when I think of computers from the, around the time I was born, which was in the 80s. And before that, I do  think of like the giant ones, and so like, how did they get it into the sewing machine. So what I’m hearing from you is that maybe the sewing machine industry was more technologically advanced, or at least invested in minimizing the computer components faster than maybe computers themselves, which

Ada:  I also think the computers they were putting into the machines of the 80s were quite simple in comparison to what we have today. They could do like, what 10 commands, right? So those would tell the different pieces to move and to change speeds. But they weren’t necessarily as fancy as what we have today are the options that you have of like it’s an automatic thread cutter, it can sense when the fabric is under your foot, like all the things like that. Obviously technology has progressed where you can fit in the same amount of space, way more technical capabilities now than then. So perhaps I don’t know, we’re giving them more credit. But yes, I remember floppy disks. And even the big the big floppy disk, not the three and a half inch. Yeah, they were actually floppy. They were like the size of the record or something.

Nicole:  Yeah, yeah, I remember using all that. While we’re talking about vintage sewing machines, I think it’s important to like, define the word vintage and I know that there’s a lot of different viewpoints about this. So Ada, what are the requirements for a machine to be called “vintage”?

Ada:   Right. So according to many countries, laws around taxation for antiques, antiques are 100 plus years old, but then there’s no official definition for vintage. The definition of the vintage sewing machine or VSM is also a little bit different per different people’s opinions, right? So many in the VSM world will say that they must be at least 25 years old, and others will say that they have to have all metal gears to be considered vintage. Now I would disagree with this rule because plastic parts started to become more popular, as we said in the 50s and 60s of plastic just became more part of our lives. And they were gradually incorporated into sewing machines as scientists and chemists discovered all sorts of different uses for plastic, all of which I might note we still live with today because plastic is not biodegradable.

Nicole:  Vintage machines are usually only preserved if they’re mechanical. Older computerized machines are generally not considered worthy of restoration because the motherboards or the brains of the machine are primarily made of plastic. And along with the wire connections that would send electronic signals all become very brittle over the years. As far as being “collectible” and “worthy of restoration” VSM enthusiast tend to gravitate toward the machines with all metal gears with minimal to no plastic parts. Starting in the 60s, Singer, like Ada said, started to use plastic gears in the all then-new models they released. The Singer 237, which had a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch was the last singer model to be made with all metal parts. And it was manufactured until the very early 70s. There are other brands like Elna, and Bernina, that still have mechanical machines made in the 70s that were still considered “collectible”, such as the Elna SU series and the Bernina 830 Record.

Ada:   one of my first vintage machines was Singer 237. And it was beautiful. It was just rose, pink, it was the first machine I’d ever tinkered with, it didn’t have a top loading bobbin. So instead, it kind of loaded around the side front of the machine. If you’ve seen a vintage machine, you probably know what I’m talking about. But for anyone who hasn’t or who sews exclusively on modern machines, it’s like the front, not butt of your machine with the front side of your machine on the side, if you put your left hand if you’re facing it straight on your machine, that’s where it kind of loads. And I was so lost. And this machine just needed some some love and care and cleaning. And the stitches were beautiful they were they’re gorgeous. But eventually it was quite heavy and quite bulky. And so I sold this machine to just make more room in my sewing machine space. So I say sewing machine space and I look over my table and I have like four machines. It is, it is a sewing machine space. So like me, a lot of vintage sewing machine enthusiast seem to be restorers, collectors or sewists or some sort of combination of the above. And based on our observation, it is my opinion that the majority of these folks tend to be white. And there are a number of women in the VSM circle who have blogged about their restoration journey. But if you look at social media and on YouTube, a lot of the restores who have built a following or presence tend to be men. And when I got my vintage Singers, plural, a friend recommended joining a particular Facebook group to ask questions about restoration and get more resources. And that’s where I kind of found a lot of thinly veiled racism. So listeners, I will caution you that if you would like to be in these spaces, you may encounter that as well. I have chosen after things that I will describe, to remove myself from that, because it’s just not something I need in my life. But basically, there were comments, putting down parts that were made in China. And pretty much all vintage sewing machines are made in China nowadays, and blaming things on the “China virus”. And it just didn’t feel like me being in these groups with my real name and photo on my Facebook profile, that I was going to be welcome in that space, regardless if we had a shared interest in restoring these machines and using these machines. And so when I tried to correct or educate folks or even comment, like, hey, that seems really inappropriate to say I was asked to leave. And I yeah, I choose not to engage with those people or those faces anymore. And it really wasn’t to me, unlike a lot of other predominantly white spaces in the online sewing community, or even unlike some of the experiences of our past guests. Our collective member Esther, who will be joining us later on in this episode, shared that only one of the VSM specific Facebook groups that she’s in made a statement about Black Lives Matter. But the rest of the groups tend to be as she puts it, no drama llama here.

Nicole: Because addressing issues that face people of color is drama, excuse you. I am just, I’m not on Facebook anymore for a lot of reasons. Like I have my account, but I don’t run in Facebook groups at all because I’m just like, I don’t need that in my life. Like you said, Ada. I will say that listeners, particularly if you are a white person in these groups, and you see shit like that, it would be very helpful for you to step up and say like, Hey, that’s not appropriate. It’s really hard. It’s both emotional labor and then people just aren’t going to listen to someone that looks like a to tell them that that’s not okay. If that’s already their pre programmed attitude. It’s really important for allies even if there’s no even if ADA wasn’t in that group. You know, hey, that’s ridiculous and racist. As you know, blaming things on a China virus we need to really rethink this but to be asked to leave because you’re sticking up for yourself. That’s some thing that’s clearly racist? Like, no, you I don’t want you to be in that space Ada, but like, where are you gonna go for for you know to find a commonality with other folks anyway? I just when you’ve said that just now I didn’t, I didn’t really know you were going to talk about that. And I was just like, are you serious? Like, is this really you know, there can’t be space just to exist without this type of thing. And it’s not drama, like, standing up for yourself and telling people that you are being racist isn’t drama, like

Ada   

Yeah, I mean, it’s similar to an experience I had at Joann, which is where I no longer shop there, which is highlighted and highlights on my stories if you want to check my personal Instagram. But yeah, like this woman was putting down fabric that was made in Korea, and then she was putting on fabric that was made in China. And I was like, half the store 98% of the store, the majority of the store is made abroad and comes here. And that is how our supply chain works. That’s why many of the stores that you shop at now have, you know, shortages of things because supply chain disruptions, but that’s just the society that we live with, that we have chosen to live in as consumers, right? Because these businesses have built their businesses that way in order to meet our demands of lower and lower prices and cheaper goods. And so that’s why vintage sewing machine parts are mostly manufactured in China, because that’s where the factories that will make them and see profit, and that that venture, are and, you know, it’s it’s not that no one will make them here, it’s that if someone made those parts here in the States, they would be more expensive for a lot of different reasons. And would people even buy them? Would those same people complaining? Be the same people buying those parts here? And spending that money? I think probably not. And so yeah, it was just it was extremely frustrating to be in spaces. And I choose to instead chat with other folks about vintage machines elsewhere.

Nicole:  Yeah, yeah. I’m sorry for that experience like that. You experienced that? And, you know, I’m glad you’re not in that space anymore. And yeah, I guess that’s Facebook. I just moved Facebook anyway. Turning back to specifically the topics of vintage sewing machines. Why would somebody want a vintage sewing machine instead of a modern one, and then eight, I know you’re into it. So maybe you can talk a little bit also about how you got into vintage sewing machines.

Ada:  I mean, I can talk to my experience of why I wanted vintage machines, how I got into it. And I’ve kind of always been a big secondhand and vintage sharper part of it from need and part of it before it became cool. I thought it was cool to have nicer things that were older. And then instead of buying like five of the same T-shirt over and over again as I broke them, or they, you know, just fell apart. And after I got into sewing, I realized that vintage sewing machines like vintage clothing have a lot to offer. So I view vintage sewing machines, kind of like any vintage machinery or cars. If you think about it, the mechanics of how we describe how modern sewing machines and how vintage machines work are very similar. But the vintage machines have been around for a lot longer and seen a lot more. They’ve just got some personality in them, if you will. There’s a story there and quite honestly, they’ve held up to the test of time. And so I bought my first few vintage machines online via Goodwill’s auction site for cheap, mostly because I was curious about tinkering with them. And because I didn’t find any immediately available to me in my area. And so I wanted to see if I could get these machines see how they sewed and compare them to the basic modern starter machine that I had at the time and that modern Janome cost me like 150 bucks. It was a really good starter machine for me. And eventually I think I just outgrew the capabilities of it. So I acquired a singer to 37 Like I mentioned and also at about the same time a singer 66 Which is when you think of a vintage sewing machine probably more of what you think of the black classic with the hand wheel on it that’s like really large and pretty. It’s got decals, not I guess it’s not details. It’s like nice furnishing and paint. It’s really beautiful. I replaced the motor on it. I did all this stuff but it does mostly just sit there for looks. And I had a vintage serger as well a Bernette 234 So the predecessor of the machine I currently have and then the final addition to my collection is my Bernina Sportmatic 801 That’s a bit of a newer, more basic of the popular vintage Bernina has and it does have plastic parts inside. But it is super solid, super sturdy and I got it for about two 100 bucks, and it was great. It’s the stitches are really pretty if I do say so myself, and it does have a reverse and it’s just modern enough where it has enough for me to use, like it has an overlocking stitch and all that kind of fancier stuff. But it only has seven stitches, not including buttonholes. But it does have a buttonhole built in. So it has all that that I need for basic sewing and it just works really well for me. And so once I got that I actually resold my solder machine to another local service and helped her get started on it because she had never had a machine and actually sold the 237 also to make room in my space. So then I also sold that vintage serger. So now I only have the Bernina and the singer 66.

Nicole: That is an impressive collection and activities. I’m interested why it’s called a sportmatic. Do you know? 

Ada: I think it was the lower because we had the record, which there’s a 730 and an 830 of the record, the record I think was like the not the top of the line, but the higher one. And the sportmatic is like slightly more basic than that one. So I think that was just the branding that they use, like they just ticked it down a notch.

Nicole: I thought it had something to do with sports, I don’t know.

Ada: It did come with a cool, handy giant plastic carrying case, though, that fits it perfectly. So were I ever to carry this one around and go to a workshop or try to fly with it like I’m set.

Nicole: Maybe that’s the sporty part.

Ada: As mobile is like 45 pounds of machinery can be

Nicole: Well, I think we talked about this on previous podcast, but shopping secondhand or vintage wasn’t something that was part of my values growing up. And I appreciate it, you know, for what it is now. But it didn’t really start to pique my interest until relatively recently. And now, I don’t know if I’d be interested in a vintage sewing machine only because I feel like the effort and to find it to maintain it is more than you know, maybe what I am looking for, like I want a secondhand machine and maybe an older one that’s, you know, more reliable heavy duty. Um, you know, when it comes to like the more durable parts, but I think I just love a second sewing machine. And you know, just I wouldn’t have to switch around feet or thread colors, and I wouldn’t buy a new one for that purpose. And maybe a vintage would be nice. But like, I’d rather leave it to folks like you with that much enthusiasm for the process. Like I’m not a mechanical tinkerer like sewing itself is one of the most, you know, manual things that I am into, I’ve always been very much like, I just read books, read books, and I played tennis growing up. And that’s kind of you know, that that’s where my hobbies lie, which is why sewing is so wonderful, like it to be more tactile with a hobby. But, you know, the tinkering and the machinery stuff isn’t something that it’s not that it doesn’t appeal to me just the energy to learn that I feel like go somewhere else, you know, like perfecting a buttonhole. But yeah, I would go secondhand for sure. But leave the vintage to the enthusiastic folks like,

Ada: Yeah, and I will say that I don’t have an engineering background, I have been mostly exclusively like doing office jobs and kind of odd jobs here and there. And so I do like that tactile aspect of sewing. But I think that carries over into tinkering with machines and just getting more interested in it. So I think that’s a big part of what people think of as a barrier. Like for you, you’re clearly not interested in it. And that’s okay, for anyone who is interested but thinks they might not be able to because they don’t have the right skills or the right toolset. Like there’s so many resources. And we’re obviously talking a lot about them today. So I definitely encourage you if you have any sort of interest in it to maybe explore it if you can see what is available for you. I think that like I said, there’s kind of the simplicity to vintage sewing machines. That while it’s definitely nice to have a lot of stitch options you really, like I said only need a few basic ones to get by and buttonholes if you’re sewing garments. If you’re on the minimalistic side like me, then a vintage sewing machine might be right for you. I personally really like my Bernina machine because it’s sturdy with mostly metal pieces, I can see the plastic. So when I have to oil it more frequently, but when I pop the top on it, if there’s a problem where I need to oil it, I can just open it and visually check what’s wrong and know versus questioning like, is it a software problem? Did I get something stuck somewhere that I can’t reach, which you know, can happen. And there’s a lot of options to customize vintage machines as well. You can add a presser foot pressure knob, which does sometimes come built in with a lot of older machines like singers, or you can add a buttonholer attachment for some machines if they don’t have that feature. Or basically it’s kind of like a mix and match add on things to add certain functionalities because as these machines progress Rest. A lot of people because they were so expensive wouldn’t necessarily upgrade immediately, they would add on like an extra buttonholer to get that feature. And I will say, like I said, No finicky software to deal with, or software bugs really. And some ASC team members have also mentioned that vintage machines can be cheaper than modern starter machines sometimes, but also sturdier, at the same time, since most of those modern starter machines are all plastic. And from a sustainability aspect, you can keep these machines out of the landfill too. And something that was brought up by multiple collective members was the sound of the machine. It’s almost like the sound of a vintage car, right? A big appeal of vintage machines is how quiet the machine runs and all kind of, you know, the car powering the engine powering i My partner’s into car if I’m not clear. But you know, he really likes the power of the car and the mechanics and how it works. So similarly, I think the same can be said about a vintage machine and its motor if it has one, and how it sews the sound of the needle. It’s just different on a vintage machine. And it’s kind of hard to describe, it’s a little more mechanical. And unlike a modern computerized machine, there’s no hum of the computer or electronics while you’re sitting there and there’s no beeping or screaming kind of like if you have a backup cam. There’s nothing like that kind of beeping at you on your vintage machine. Which you know, pros and cons. It won’t tell you that it’s mad at you. But also, it won’t be making noises all the time.

Nicole: It’s funny when you make that analogy to vintage cars. I was thinking like is that noisier than like a modern car.

Ada:   Some of them Yeah.

Nicole:  Yeah. And so then I’m thinking about vintage machines. I was like, wouldn’t the motor be noisier but then I’m starting to run through all of like the little noises that I hear. So my machine is fully computerized. Well, I don’t know what fully computerized, computerized. And I have an automatic thread cutter. And it’s like to hear that. And then when my bobbin is about to run out of thought. It like stops and it’s like maybe like your bobbins almost done. I’m like no we got we got more and but it won’t let you proceed. Like it’ll it’ll keep stopping you every like several stitches. I’m yeah, baby new bobbins.

Ada:  No, that’s so annoying.

Nicole: Just let me live. Just let me!

Ada: Let me play my thread chicken.

Nicole: Yeah, exactly. And then the screens like the I can turn off the beeps. But just like when you started talking about the car, I was like, Wouldn’t a mechanical one be noisier and then I find a lot of beeping. There’s a lot of beep boops on my mine. And I’m like, I don’t know I now I’m gonna notice it a lot. But I am interested in hearing like the smoothness of like the vintage machine,

Ada:  I will say when I run on a bobbin thread, I can tell because I can go all the way to the end because nothing stopping me. But also I can tell because my machine, you all stop hearing the bobbin thread pickup sound being the undercurrent of when the motors running. So I can tell when I’ve run out of because if you didn’t, and your machine didn’t beep at you, you would keep sewing and then I know this from my starter machine, you would have a bunch of top stitches that didn’t catch anything. So they just come out, right. But on this machine, I can tell because the sound gets like a little less steep. Like there’s just less sound. And it’s also like sometimes I liken it to if you learn how to drive a car that didn’t have as many bells and whistles or maybe you still drive a car that has less bells and whistles like I learned to drive without a backup cam. And without sensors on the side and all the stuff like it was a very basic 2001 car. And I had to learn how to parallel park as part of my test in New Jersey. I think in all the states I’ve lived in since then not but there it’s a test. And so you had to do it without beeping or any of the signals you also couldn’t take your hand off the wheel. So I think in order to now I drive a modern car, a relatively new car that does all the beeping and the warnings all the things I’m like, I am so much more grateful for that. I think now that I have them, but I can’t imagine if you learn to drive on a modern car that has all these kind of Beep boop beep boop alerts and sensors and things how you would function if you had to you’d let’s say like get a rental car that was a bit more basic and old school.

Nicole:  Yeah. So the kids have it easy these days. My car still doesn’t have any of that. Like I drive it’s old now but like yeah, I learned I learned that the same way no backup cameras, no sensors, but you know, that won’t you know backup cameras don’t stop people from still hitting. i This has nothing to do with sewing machines but I’m just like, I do know that people that sensors that sometimes that doesn’t matter. Our next car will be, we’re speak of the age but yeah, anyway, but I see what you’re saying about sewing machines like sewing on a vintage machine might feel like it will feel like a different experience in terms of appreciation because I’m very with my with my stuff. So I would want to try it. I mean, there’s definitely like one of my grandma’s she was a seamstress for Marshall Field’s for decades. And you know, she has since passed, but like, had a sewing machine. And I’d be interested in knowing just like what it was like for her. You know, like learning that she took a class with Giorgio Armani at some point like they sent her for training with him for the Marshall Fields. Tailoring is such a cool legacy. Let’s go back to the owning and maintenance of vintage sewing machines. And before you are completely sold on investing in a vintage sewing machine, you should know about some of the potential shortcomings. Some cons are that they need lots of oiling, like every eight hours of sewing, I have oil. I’ve never used it. I bought it because it’s like, yeah, you probably should. And then I was like reading and talking to people who have this, like a similar model. And they’re like, I’ve never had to do it. And I’ve never had problems with like, okay, it’s here, just in case. But so eight hours or so I’m like, Ah, I see you oil a lot.

Ada:   Yeah, I have a recurring reminder every two weeks on Sunday night to oil. Nina as I affectionately call her. Oh, because I know all the oiling spots. And it’s pretty fast for me, because the time at which I set that alarm, I’m probably not going to be selling I’m going to be getting ready for bed. So it’s like part of my Get Ready for the week routine. 

Nicole: Yeah, face mask, you know, nice shower and little bit of oil while the while the face mask is marinating. Now that makes sense. And vintage machines can require some tinkering to get a good stitch. But when you get a good stitch, they look great. For example, you may need to get used to a different method of threading the machine or use an additional threads stand because modern cross wound spools of thread unwind differently than older stack wound style, bobbins and thread. And then you may also need to fiddle with attention to get it just right. And depending on what model you have, there can be a lack of replacement parts or rarer parts that could cost a lot of money, you won’t have the luxury of automatic threading or snipping or automatic tensions. And you definitely won’t have a machine that tells you when your bobbin is empty or a census something is wrong. Mine thinks something is wrong all the time, probably right about 70% of the time. Other times I’m like chill out machine and we’re good, we’re good. But from an accessibility perspective, physical limitation exists when operating these older machines. For example, a treadle requires someone who has the strength in their legs to pedal, there’s definitely a bit of a learning curve for new users to get used to traveling as well. When electric powered machines were introduced, there was a knee bar feature to power the machine that required hip thigh mobility to push a bar that shaped like the top of a question mark with a straight bit being, you know, inserted into the machine base. And rather than just pushing the control button with your foot like we do with modern machines, these days, the controller is mounted to the side of the cabinet and you would activate it by pressing this bar to the side with your knee. And we’ll put a picture of what this looks like in the show notes. And you know, now that we’re getting into it, I’m pretty sure I don’t have the fortitude or patience to maintain a vintage machine. I was already sure back then I’m like, Okay. I don’t think that I have a tinker soul that’s required for things like vintage cars or other mechanical things. But for those whose heart is into vintage machines, Ada, where would somebody start?

Ada:  So a lot of people get their first machine vintage or not from a relative, which I will say right now is a privilege. It’s a privilege to have a nice enough machine that made it through decades of use or storage and the privilege to keep one around now and pass it on. And so I didn’t have this kind of privilege. So I looked elsewhere. I started at local thrift shops, but most of them were a bust or as soon as a machine hit the floor, they were gone. And I looked at local creative reuse stores and both of the ones that I looked at actually pretty much always have at least a few vintage machines lying around. And the pricing there varies between you know $50 to $200 depending on what’s included with the machine does have everything and the condition of the machine. You can also search at garage sales yard sales estate sales, Nicole’s talked about getting sewing supplies for estate sales before so any tips on those?

Nicole:  Yeah, for folks unfamiliar with the term estate sales, it’s a sale or auction to dispose of a substantial portion of the materials owned by a person who is recently deceased or who must dispose of their personal property to facilitate a move. And there’s a website called estate sales dotnet where you can sign up for an account and set up alerts for estate sales within Your area some, some folks will do like online estate sales. But for a while I had sewing as a search for state sales within 20 miles of my home here in Illinois. But since they usually start on a weekday, like I could never get out of my house before stuff was gone, and people go hard for stuff. So you know, it hasn’t always worked out. But you know, using that website, I think is really helpful for tracking estate sales. And I also work with someone who like know, someone who loves a state sale, so just kind of put out there that you’re looking for these things. And for those who are estate sale enthusiast, like they’ll keep an eye out for you. I mean, it’s, it’s the going and the looking for stuff that’s like part of what’s exciting for them. And this is why I always think I should be a personal shopper, because that’s exciting, too. And then I don’t have to spend my own money, I can just buy stuff for other people. So you know, the websites a nice way to see the stuff before the sale is physically open. But about like hand me down sewing machines. I really wish that I had taken my mom up on her offer a few years ago when she offered me her sewing machine. So I say that we don’t have a sewing tradition in my family. Like my mom had a machine. And she threw together scrubs, because it was cheaper to do that. Maybe it is a tradition. And I should stop saying that. She threw together scrubs, which are squares essentially for work and she would buy quilting cottons from wherever. And a few years ago, she asked me if I wanted her sewing machine, which, by the I guess standard definition of vintage would be vintage. So it’s from the 90s from the early 90s, or the 80s. And they said no. And I said, I’m sorry, I can’t take. I don’t have the space. I wasn’t sewing. So why am I gonna use a sewing machine? Like, you know, I was very unsentimental about it. And I’m like, Just get rid of it. I don’t need it. And now I’m like, really, really sorry that I did not get the hand me down. And, you know, if if something like that were to happen, now, you better believe I’m going to clear all the space, I need to keep that and I really, like ah, it would have been like, I think it would have been a 90s machine like I remember what it looks like brown. So that sounds 90s. Right. Like Brown. But I don’t know, I just think I missed that kind of stuff.

Ada: I mean, on the other hand, that is how a lot of machines make their way to creative reuse stores and thrift stores. So hopefully somebody else picked it up and is having a great time with it. That might be a little wishful on my part. I think. We do recommend if you’re getting into vintage machine starting the search locally though, because of how heavy these machines are like seriously, they’re mostly metal and quite compact so they can weigh 30 to 40 pounds or for those of us not in the US 15 kilograms or more. This isn’t the most time efficient way to look for machines though. So online options to help you with that include Facebook marketplace next door online listing sites like Craigslist in the US and Kijiji in Canada, and listeners if you have other places outside of North America that you would recommend definitely share them in our comments and we can add them to the show notes obviously exercise care and caution on these sites as well. If you can’t find anything near you or prefer to shop completely online. Other popular options are eBay Macari and shop goodwill that’s Goodwill’s online auction site. And when you’re shopping online, you have to be extra careful and pay attention to the listing. So note whether they have tested if the machine works or not, or even if it has been tested at all, and whether or not it comes with all of the pieces and parts that you need. You also want to inspect the photos for any damage whether that’s cosmetic damage, rust damage or anything missing in the description. And really with these types of listings, it can be hard to know whether the machine is really as advertised. Plus shipping a very heavy machine is tricky because you can it can sustain a lot of damage if it’s not packed properly and the shipping can be quite quite a lot like a hefty amount. For example, I shipped a what I would consider 90s Vintage Husqvarna machine to our past guests and Anita after finding it at my local creative restore and getting it for a good deal. And it came with all the accessories hoops VHS tapes, old school monitor plugs which I’m sure none of us have monitors that plug in like that anymore. And it required multiple boxes because it had so many pieces and parts and accessories but these boxes and the weight added up basically making the shipping just as expensive as the machine itself and you would not believe I’m a I’m a shipping and packaging supply hoarder of recycler because I do use them for work and you would not believe the number of recycled packing peanuts I wanted to need those boxes.

Nicole:  And once you locate a machine, you definitely want to inspect the machine make sure the condition is acceptable before buying it like he said if you can’t inspect it like it’s a hard drive away just make sure to get a good look at the pictures beforehand and you know ask for pictures And if they don’t want to send you any more that my pupil would have a red flag. Sometimes it’s also helpful to find or ask for the machine serial number, so you can look it up and verify the information. Oftentimes, people selling a sewing machine online might not actually know much about it and are making their best guess in their listings. The serial number and the model number can also help you find the sewing machines manual so you know even more detail about to what to look for in machine will include a link to the international sewing machine collector society database to look up the model and year the sewing machine was manufactured. The ISMACS website is run by an international group of vintage sewing machine enthusiast that post vintage sewing machine history research findings and manuals. As you’re browsing through all of the available options, we would recommend doing a quick research on what type of machines you want. It’s always a good idea to have a few models you want in mind because you never really know what you will stumble upon. And those model numbers and serial numbers we mentioned before are helpful when researching because you can find a ton of blog posts and forums online with discussions about particular models. Most vintage machines have limited stitch options and only make a straight or zigzag stitch like we talked about earlier. And more options were introduced in the 60s and 70s with those insertable plastic cams, which resembles small plastic gears two to three inches in diameter. And you could get up to hundreds of stitch designs which is comparable to today’s machines at you know hundreds of different stitches. They tend to make stitches like a row of ducks or more embroidery like decorative stitches. And the cams are not always easy to find, especially if there’s a specific rare stitch design you want. Your choice of machine will depend on what you sell most often or what you want to so forth.

Ada: Oof. That was a lot of information. And we didn’t even get to a conversation with our producer Esther about her experience restoring vintage machines. So tune in next time for that discussion and even more information about vintage sewing machines. Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on Ko-fi. Your financial support helps us with overhead expenses and allows us to give back to our all-volunteer team. You can make a monthly or one time donation at ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective. You can find this link in our show notes, on our website and on our Instagram account. Check us out on Instagram, @asiansewistcollective. That’s one word, asiansewistcollective. You can also help us out by spreading the word and telling your friends. We would appreciate it if you could rate, review and subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts PocketCasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Nicole: All of the links and resources mentioned in today’s episode will be in the show notes on our website. That’s AsianSewistCollective.com And we’d love to hear from you. Email us with your questions, comments or even voice messages if you want to be featured on future episodes at AsianSewistCollective@gmail.com This episode was brought to you by your co host Ada Chen and Nicole Angeline. This episode was researched by Erica Y and Eileen Leung, produced by Esther Lee, and edited by Serena Granger and Henry Wong. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective who made this week’s episode a reality. This is the Asian Sewist Collective podcast and we’ll see you next week.

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