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, 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 2017 I will be in Torquay (end of March), Bristol (September) Scotland (possibly) Germany (near Frankfurt) (August), Birmingham (also August), 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..
November 2016 - I have in preparation a whole lot more machines, including 4 Featherweights, a couple of Berninas, Joneses, and more 99s. Please ask if these attract you...
Newly prepared - SM218. Nice Jones treadle with a practical Singer 15 class round-bobbin head
Five practical drawers, and all of the finish has been remade with an oil-and-wax polish which will be both beautiful and useful for another hundred years
Nice wood, and pretty metal... New belt, tools, bobbins, needles, and so on...
£225; 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 £250 (Reduced to make it go away...)
SM223 Baby Blue! Post-war Japanese Singer 15 look-a-like with drop feed and reverse, immaculate baby-blue eyes, and all the usual offices.. Practical, pretty, and retro!
SM206 Singer 185 Handcrank, with reverse.. A later version of the 99, with all the solid charm of those machines, plus a "modern" shape and Brown! With tools, manual, stuff... This one has been out and about with me, and it's had a really good workout as a demo machine - this means it is definitely a good one... £90 COLLECTION ONLY
SM219 Quite the prettiest 28k I've had here, and a nice little sewer.. A true 19th Century machine, and surely as anything an antique, but still good for every day Came in the most appalling pink base and with no lid, it's so happy in its new home Ottoman Carnation decals
SM157 A real oddity - Frister Rossmann Star 60 free-arm with zigzag, which has been hacked as a hand-crank with the addition of a Singer wheel and crank. Heavy-duty, reasonably practical, with soft cover, manual, extension table, and very little Real Charm... And Electric Light! £70; PAT tested, of course.. COLLECTION ONLY
SM158 Helvetia in British Racing Green.. Has the usual tools, case, table etc.. Takes modern needles, bobbins etc, and has had it's wiring poked nicely into shape £100; PAT tested, of course.. COLLECTION ONLY
Note, I have tried these and they work, but I don't care...
SM012 For people who think sewing is a joke £2 (can be posted)
SM123 Netra, also £2, with paperwork and all (and also, can be posted)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org I'm open 11 till 5 every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays