Sewing Machine Advice

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Fitting a New Treadle Belt

What is my machine worth?

Well, in all honesty, not a lot. Unless it is very rare (unlikely), in extraordinarily good condition, and otherwise something out-of-the-ordinary, you will not be retiring on the proceeds. Millions were made and almost every household had one. They don't compost well, so there are lots still kicking about. And no museum will take them...
When I sell a machine I am largely selling the work I have done on servicing and restoration; there is no recognised market for "antique" machines. Let's face it, most people don't want a house full of machines, and those who are peculiarly attracted to the idea soon find they cannot get into the lounge...

I don't want to buy your machine, sorry... And I absolutely don't want to collect one from Wiltshire or wherever...


..they are still worthwhile to have, own, and use. I work every day on my 1928 Singer treadle machine, and it is accurate, quiet, user-friendly, and works even when the power goes out. For the much less than the price of a "modern" plastic cheapo machine, you can have a really good treadle or hand-crank that will long outlast the newer machine, and will be much less frustrating to use. Round-bobbin Singers are always going to be possible to keep going - the needles and bobbins are still used on many machines and the rest of the parts either don't wear out or are still available. I keep lots of these in stock, see the links at the top of this page..

If it was your grandma's machine, you should keep it. They don't take up much room in ones, and your children may hate you if you throw it out.
If it is in the way, try one of the charities that send machines abroad (round-bobbin machines only, please), I support Workaid - you can find a group that is local to you by Googling.
Or Freecycle is a great way to find a local user.
Or put an ad in the newsagents..

So, I've got this machine and I want to use it...

First you need to identify your machine's make and model. Most machines have a maker's name on somewhere.. This is a Clue. Singer machines always say Singer, by the way..On the other hand, only the later models of Singer will tell you a model number. The book it came with isn't always the right one...
The advice below concerns Singers, as that is probably what you have, we'll start there...
The Singer company did not put model numbers on their black machines, so you need a few clues.. (The number on the front of the bed is a serial number, and will tell you when it was made, but not what type it is)..
First, look at the bobbin. Is it round, like this (it's a 66, 99, or 201 class machine. If the distance between the needle and the pillar is 6-1/2 inches (16 cm) you have a 99, if 8 inches (20 cm), it's a 66 or a 201)
drop-in round bobbins
or this? 15 class round bobbins(it's a 15 class machine)
Does the bobbin go in a case like thisbobbin case (a 15 class machine) or drop in flat under the sliding plate? (it's a 66, 99, or 201 machine, see above). Look at the spool pin (holds the thread) on top. Does it have an oval silver plate under it? (it's a 201 - congratulations)

Or does it have a shuttle with a long bobbin like this? (it's a 27/127 (full-size - 8 inches (20 cm) between the needle and the pillar) or 28/128 machine (3/4 size, 6-1/2 inches (16 cm))
There's much more to it than this, but this helps..
If all else fails, ring me with the machine in sight and I'll talk you through all the above

When you have identified the machine (the book in the drawer does not always belong to your machine, by the way), you need a manual.
I sell original Singer manuals and many reproductions - Click here

Here's a link for 15, 66, 99, and 27/127 or 28/128 for a free download and here's a link to a page with a lot of manuals for sale and free download

The other make commonly found in the UK is the Jones, particularly the CS (Cylinder Shuttle) and Family CS models. I sell a book for these...
Other makes are quite common - many small old machine were made in Germany, are pretty and nice to use but may be hard to find parts for.
German machines are almost impossible to date, except you may be able to work out that they were made before 1914. Most of the manufacturing facilities were given over to munitions during the two World Wars, and most were comprehensively destroyed during and after the Second, with all their records. Any old machine labelled "Made in Germany" (or "Made in Berlin") is almost certainly pre-First World War...

If you still don't know what your machine is you can email me - preferably with an image...


If your machine is black and has had a motor added you MUST get it tested for safety by a competent tester - any electrical repair shop can do this. Don't risk using a machine with frayed or cracked wiring, or non-standard plugs. I generally reconvert to people-power, as the motors can be very tired by now...
We do rewiring now, by the way, and have motors and pedals.. It helps that my dear husband has electrical powers...

Oil it everywhere, and turn the machine until it is free and sweet and does not squeak. Wipe the excess off and then do it again. (And after every 8 hours of use and/or every month, too) Do the underneath, too. Everywhere that moves. USE SEWING MACHINE OIL! Not WD40 or 3-in-1 or cooking oil or car oil or butter or margarine PLEASE! If you can't get SM oil ask for gun oil or similar. (I sell SM oil, please ask...)

Then try the stitch. See further down...

Clean out all the grungy bits of fluff and dust, blunt pins, old razor blades and single suspender buttons from the drawers/box/underneath. If the machine is filthy (they tend to be), clean it with a little sewing machine oil on a clean cloth and rub gently. Don't use abrasive cleaners, wire wool on the painted bits, or car polishes, as they can take the patterns off. Use a good quality solid wax polish on the wooden bits with a cloth or 000 steel wool if they are really dirty. Old cabinet sewing machines tend to have "Plant Rash" - watermarks from plantpots - you can get proprietary refinishing liquids from your hardware store, but try on a corner before you go mad. Polish well, and leave it, then do it again later. Worth the effort, as a shiny machine sews much better...
Sewing machines should live indoors, by the way, the garage is too damp and you don't sew there...
Here is a link to a site with lots of good restoration information.

If the machine does not sew...

Look in the manual.
Thread the machine with 2 different colours of thread top and bottom, so you can see what is happening.
Change the needle. (Almost all Singers, and almost all modern domestic machines use a standard "705 class" or "15x1" needle. I now sell these HERE) Don't buy needles made in China, or without a manufacturers name on. I use Organ or Schmetz.
Jones machines take a different needle, which I also stock..
Have you threaded it properly?
Is the needle in the right way round?
Is it in far enough up?
Is the bobbin in the right way and threaded up properly?
Have you lowered the presser foot?
Are you winding the machine the right way (crank handles turn away from you, but the wheel turns towards you)?
Have you read the manual?

It sews, but not well...

If the thread has loops on the TOP, then the BOBBIN is threaded up wrong, or may need its tension adjusting. If the thread loops on the BOTTOM, the problem is with the TOP threading or tension settings. Try rethreading first. Take the thread out completely and start again. Make sure the foot is up. Look to see if the thread is seated nicely between the tension discs and that it goes through all the relevant loops and the right way through the needle. (Left to Right on most old machines, Front to Back on most later ones, but Right to Left on 201s and Featherweights, and very late 15s)
If the work puckers, then the tension is wrong somewhere, loosen and tighten a little at a time to get the best results. You will need to adjust tensions every time you change the thread, usually only the top one, so play with this and get used to the idea. Many of you will have been told "never adjust tensions" at school, but this is like driving everywhere in 2nd gear.....
The top tensions on old machines tend to arrive screwed down to complete standstill - I think this is probably a man thing... Or reassembled in a random order...

Bear in mind that sewing is a skill. If you can't do it, it's not the machine's fault, you just aren't good enough yet..

I have tried to answer the commonest problems and questions I get, but if you need more information, please Email Me

Now read on.. "How To Treadle"
My address is:-
Helen Howes, 4, The Raveningham Centre, Beccles Road, Raveningham, Norfolk, NR14 6NU. United Kingdom
01508 548137
07914 676182
I'm open 11 till 5 every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays