Well, for a start, you might find it easier, cheaper, and less frustrating in the long run. Or you might be a sucker for a shiny black coat with gold twiddles on, or you may just like the idea of not throwing the old away just because the new exists.. Or you may like tinkering...
I have used old machines all my life, and my regular machines - Singer Class 15 treadle, Bernina 730, and Singer 31k industrial, are all old enough to know how to do it for themselves. My only modern machine is an overlocker - after much experimentation and considerable amounts of swearing, I decided that old overlockers, while charming, are not practical beasties...
Scroll down the page for my machines for sale... Updated with yet more further deep sighing, Tuesday 10th January 2017 Blooming things are breeding.. Puppies!
The world is full of old machines, but if you want to use one regularly you need to choose with a little care. If you plan to sew every day or every week it's no good getting something splendid but which has no regular supply of needles, and if you plan to do more than the odd small job, you don't want a Long Bobbin machine (too much bobbin-winding and spares may not be easy to get..) (However, these are great for heavy work)
So, you come down to Singer, ideally, and Round Bobbin, absolutely, and the following models:- 15, 66, 99, 201, 185. All take the regular needles, regular feet, and round bobbins which are all still available. This is for a hand-cranked or treadle machine, of course. If you want a machine with a tail (electric) then the big solid mid-twentieth-century machines made by Singer, Jones, Frister and Rossman, Bernina and others may be just the job. If it gives you a hernia when you lift it, it's probably going to last.
Now, don't think I don't like modern machines, I just think that the general selection available is no longer admirable. If you were buying a machine in, say, 1950, you would expect to go to a special shop, pay a lot of money, get some measure of after-sales service, and never have to throw it away. Now you can buy one for about two-pence-three-farthings in Aldi or Tesco (three-farthings in IKEA; don't go there), and you get precisely what you don't pay for. The bottom-end machines in all ranges are for people who buy them and put them in the cupboard. I teach regularly, and I now have a note on my Class lists that I do not allow "toy" machines in class. They are very cheap, sure, and lightweight, certainly, and they are not electrically safe or usable for sewing at all. Sad, really... Sadder still, most of the bottom-end-of-the-range machines are only just functional, and none will sew anything as heavy as canvas, denim, or webbing...
So, where do I find a Machine?
Start by asking your friends and relatives. There's one in almost every attic still. Might be free, or very cheap. Next, I would advertise in the local newsagents, local newspaper, Freecycle or work notice-board in your area. Machines are too heavy to post, and you want it nearby. My treadle came from an advert in the Post Office 40 years ago, and the chap delivered it for the (utterly paltry) price...
Then there's eBay. Look for local sellers. Look very carefully at the pictures. Does the machine have all the little plates that cover the bobbin? Is it clean? lit? the right way round? photographed somewhere clean? If not, don't bother to bid. Does the seller say "I know nothing about this machine"? If they do, it may be broken, and they are covering their backs. Look at their feedback, and levels of literacy, and what else they sell... I am always happy to give an opinion on eBay lots, providing you send me a link in good time. I don't guarantee the opinion, but I will tell you if something is obviously wrong with the machine. NEVER buy a lot without a picture! And when you have bought your Dream Machine, do send a picture, and I'll sell you something nice to go with it...
HOWEVER, I do a lot of travelling in the year, so if you are on one of my routes I will deliver.. For 2018 I will be in Cumbria in March, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (April) Birmingham (August), Bristol (September), Lincolnshire, all sorts of other places while teaching, and lots of other places besides.. ASK!
All machines are serviced and replacement parts provided as needed (new belts, bobbin winder tyres etc....) I usually supply a couple of bobbins with shuttle machines and 6 or so with round-bobbin machines. All machines come with a useful collection of feet and needles etc. (according to the machine, this may be a bit minimal) and you can have an "original" attachment set provided at an extra cost if required, or a tailored set to suit your sewing practice can be made up for you.. And a manual, of course..
I now have a few very special Antiques (but working, of course) - see below for a selection according to type...
SM282 Willcox and Gibbs Automatic Chain-stitch treadle Lovely, tiny, heavy, working, with manual and needles
Complete, good decals, new belt, serviced, so delicious...
SM296 Singer 66 in "brown fridge" cabinet. Practical drop-in-bobbin machine which takes low shank feet and modern needles and bobbins, has all the requisite tools and is ready to go.. £150 COLLECTION ONLY
SM151 "Cleveland" Treadle After the First World War, the word "German" was pretty dirty in France and the UK, as you might imagine, so machines did not sell with any kind of Germanic label.. This is most definitely a Vesta, as it has the badge (with the name scraped off) and has been rebadged as a Cleveland.. Came with a French manual, which I have found a reasonable substitute for, as it is a pretty good copy of a Jones Spool, which in turn is a re-imagined Wheeler and Wilson 9..
Stunning cabinet-work, and curly veneer... Runs, like a sewing-machine...!
Tools, and the Case.. Pretty, pretty £150; COLLECTION ONLY
SM110 Singer 31k Treadle. Scruffy but eminently usable. Actually mine, but I'm short of room and time and I can only sew on one or two at once Restored by me and used regularly, so run-in pretty well...
and the table - honorable scarring filled with black to preserve the history.. Smooth, though £200 (Reduced (again) to make it go away...)
Lots of machines in preparation at the moment, watch this space...
SM209 Willcox and Gibbs Automatic chain-stitch machine in nice case. Manual, needles, serviced...
SM311 Singer 185 in Grasscloth case, with built-in extension table. Nice solid machine which has been out with me a couple of times to demo, so, nicely-behaved These are a 99 in a more modern shape, but with all the solid charm of the black machines
SM120 Vickers VS Modele De Luxe with lovely Art Nouveau decals. Takes modern needles and is easy to use.. Remarkably like a Frister and Rossmann of similar age...
Case (that's sunlight, not marks..)
£50 COLLECTION ONLY
Portable Electric Machines
"Portable" is relative, of course.. All (mostly) heavy...
SM236 Viking 12 Straight-stitch machine with green "Godzilla" finish and nice leather-look suitcase Nice quiet, fast machine with great charm, extension table, original tool tin and booklet. Rewired
£120; PAT tested, of course.. COLLECTION ONLY
SM299 Bernina 730 This was mine, but I can no longer carry it about for teaching, so I'm happy to pass it along - it's a great machine and has been well-cared-for, and comes with tools, bobbins, needles, and a small selection of feet of your choice
£350; PAT tested, of course.. COLLECTION ONLY
SM223 Blue! No-name 15 class machine, fast and heavy. Drop-feed, reverse
My address is:- Helen Howes Helen Howes Textiles 4, The Raveningham Centre, Beccles Road, Raveningham, Norfolk, NR14 6NU. United Kingdom 01508 548137 From outside the UK dial:- 0044 1508 548137 07914 676182 firstname.lastname@example.org I'm open 11 till 5 every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays