Buying An Old Sewing Machine

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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..)

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...

Here's What I Have For Sale

This is Why

HOWEVER, I do a lot of travelling in the year, so if you are on one of my routes I will deliver.. For 2017 I will be in 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..

We have also sorted some machines for you to tinker with - very cheap, basic checks only, advice if required, see the bottom of this page...


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


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...

Head detail

and the table - honorable scarring filled with black to preserve the history.. Smooth, though
£200 (Reduced (again) to make it go away...)

Hand Cranks

Lots of machines in preparation at the moment, watch this space...


SM204 Singer 99 with nice domed case and all the usual offices


SMQG018 Jones "Hand"
Working, uses available needles. From 1880, and archetypal in its way
Selling this on behalf of the Quilters' Guild


SM258 Wheeler and Wilson 9 - early round-bobbin machine with serious pedigree and charm
Needles are still available for this machine, and I have a few different feet


SM224 Singer 201 with good domed case and everything it needs...



SM281 Blue Baby with drop-feed, reverse, and No Name
Card lid case
Very solid


SM116 Jones 35 shuttle machine in wooden case - has reverse...

Details £50


SM138 Jones Empress
This one came to me with a poor base and a big red bow in its hair.. I have replaced both, and refurbished a little.. Nice solid machine


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..)

Portable Electric Machines

"Portable" is relative, of course.. All (mostly) heavy...

SM269 Toyota 2260. Works. No charm, but it works. Not very heavy


SM197 White Featherweight with original case

Pretty good, the motor has some paint touch-up.. PAT tested and serviced, of course
COLLECTION Preferred, but this one can be couriered if required - cost will be at least £30 to the UK
I am selling this on commission from its one, careful, lady owner...


SM154 Frister and Rossmann VS in luscious cream.. Made after 1946 (see detail below) and fully restored..

£90; PAT tested, of course..


SM158 Helvetia in British Racing Green.. Has the usual tools, case, table etc.. Takes modern needles, bobbins etc, and has had its wiring poked nicely into shape
£100; PAT tested, of course..


SM102 Singer 185 in delightful brown, electric with tools, good box, extension table, and retro charmingness..
PAT tested..



Horrible, not guaranteed

SMQG014 Essex toy. No box or table; takes regular needles and has a repro manual
£20. Can be posted
Selling this on behalf of the Quilters' Guild

Sometimes I have donatables - local collection only, free machines with minimal work (checked only to see if they stitch) -
EMAIL me to ask, please

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
I'm open 11 till 5 every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays