1940s | Sewing Machines | Vintage Sewing

A new-old sewing machine, a pair of pants, and a question

July 31, 2014

The past few weeks have been FULL of sewing machine mayhem!  I visited my parents in Indiana, and brought home a new-to-me sewing machine, a gorgeous 1925 Singer 66.  After cleaning out the decades of lint, replacing the belt, and oiling every single moving part I could found, it WORKS!

(pardon my messy sewing area)

It’s really an incredible machine.  If you haven’t sewn with a treadle before, you should try it out.  It’s a good workout, as well as being fun.  I think the physical requirements make me feel like I am doing so much more.

(There are more pictures and even a video of the bobbin winder on my blog.)

I knew I had to sew something vintage on the machine once I got it working.  I was hoping for something 20s/30s, but got too frustrated trying to find a pattern I liked, so one night I just sat down and made a pair of ’40s pants from Simplicity 3699.  I’ve made them before – such a good and comfortable pair of pants!

One of these days, I’m going to make the blouse (I even have fabric picked out).  For now, though, the pants are fun and easy.  I was able to finish them in a night and morning.

(sorry for the distant photos…I’m still trying to teach my husband how to take proper “fashion” pictures of my projects)

I didn’t change the pattern too much.  Last time, the waist was WAY too high (I love the 40s waist, but goodness I’d like my pants below my bellybutton, please!), so I took about 3 inches off.  It’s still pretty high, and the crotch rides fairly low.  They were also very long, so I sewed a cuff on the bottom (which you can’t see from the pictures).  Overall, I’m very pleased.  They are great lounging pants.

Now for a sewing machine question.  In the midst of figuring out how to make the Singer 66 work, my “modern” machine (which is about the same age as me…), a Singer Sonata, decided to kick the bucket.  It had been hanging on for dear life desperately for some time, so it is probably time to let it go.  That, and the repair cost would be outrageous.  So!  I need some advice.  What type of sewing machines do you all have?  Do you like/love/hate them?  I mostly sew clothing, so I don’t need fancy computerized embroidery stuff.  I’ll be happy with a buttonholer, bobbin winder, blind hem, and the ability to sew on all types of fabrics.

If you have suggestions, or a link to someone’s wonderful sewing machine advice, I would be grateful!  Thank you!


  1. I use my Janome DC2013 for garment construction and some home dec stuff and absolutely love it. It’s a real little workhorse of a machine, buttonholes are good, have sewn everything from chiffon to denim (with the correct needles/feet of course) and haven’t had a single problem with it over the past couple of years. I like having the Janome stabilizer plate for the buttonhole foot, which helps to keep the fabric moving properly if you’re sewing right near an edge or a seam. Good luck with your shopping.

  2. I have a Janome 7330 Magnolia that I use. It’s handled everything I’ve thrown at it, and while it is computerized, it does not do embroidery. I think there’s about 25 stitches it does, and you can adjust the length/width of the stitches. It also has an automatic button-holer feature.

  3. I have a 1920 66K, a 1934 Singer Featherweight, and a 1967 Singer “Fashion Mate”. They don’t do anything fancy, but I have an awesome buttonholer, rolled hem foot, ruffler, etc and there’s not really anything I’ve wanted to do that I couldn’t do with them (and I sew A LOT). Since they’re entirely mechanical and entirely metal they are also really easy to service, maintain and use. They’ll all handle chiffon to canvas with no problems at all.

  4. I love love love my Babylock Elizabeth. She sews like a dream. It’s only a coincidence that we share the same name 😉
    She’s not one of the super fancy Babylocks that is colored gold that do embroidery. She’s from their other line.
    Enjoy your new machine once you decide.

  5. I currently have a Pfaff 2140, and it does have the embroidery attachment jazz. I find it’s a workhorse of a machine although mine probably needs a tune-up (it keeps forgetting to tell me when I’m out of bobbin thread). I dislike the button-hole stitch, however, as I find that this machine (much like most I’ve used) doesn’t feed evenly going backwards and forwards. I also can’t figure out the units used — how long is a 20 buttonhole?!

    The only machine whose buttonhole I loved was a Bernina. It was completely easy to understand, and it DID IT PROPERLY.

  6. I have a Bernina 1001 which I love. It’s a really basic machine and about 15 years old now, but it sews beautifully on every fabric I’ve tried so far. Buying extra pressed feet is expensive, but it’s such a great quality, durable machine I don’t care.

  7. I have a Janome Memory Craft 3500. It’s actually not really mine, it’s on permanent loan from my mom. I think it has several nice stitches and comes with several attachments. I’m just getting started in sewing, so I haven’t fully explored all of it’s options yet, but it got me through about 30 pairs of flannel lounge pants and a hobo quilt top and several pairs of curtains without arguing with me. It’s pretty easy to use.

  8. For regular sewing I say check the thrift stores and estate sales and find a good old machine. Once of the heavy metal ones, not a lightweight plastic job.
    These machines frequently come from the estates of a longtime seamstress who took care of it. Prices range from $20 – $50 around here. I have several and I have not been disappointed with any of them.
    I make sure it works before I buy. Then when I get it home I do what you did with the treadle, get all the lint out and then oil the moving parts.
    I work in a fabric store and several customers have lamented getting rid of an old machine in favor of a new one.
    Just a thought.

    1. Thank you. I have a Kenmore about 30 years old without the bells and whistles, but it is solid and durably built. I need to count my blessings!

  9. I second Jan’s idea. I have a newer model Brother, and it sews just fine, but I end up using it just for its lovely buttonholes. My non computerized Singer from the 70s that I got second hand is my favorite machine. It is all metal, has never needed repair, and will sew any fabric, even heavy weight canvas. It does do basic buttonholes, a blind stitch and a zigzag, all the basics. Check out used machines at a sewing machine repair shop before you buy.

  10. I’ve used Janome machines for almost 20 years, and have been very pleased with them overall. I’ve got three Janome machines, two of them are machanical machines and the third, newest machine is a MC6500 that I got for Christmas a few years back. It hasn’t disappointed me yet, and all three machines have been relatively easy to clean and maintain.


  11. I actually only use treadles (a Singer 27 circa 1896 to be specific) so I’m all for you giving it a shot as your main machine.You can actually do anything on them that you can on a modern machine except back stitch and free motion embroidery or quilting. Attachments for them are easy to come by and usually under $20. The only problem you may have is that for a while model 66 took a special type of attachment that mounts from behind and are very difficult to find. If that is the case for yours and you’re still interested in trying treadles a new head (machine) is easy enough to buy but watch the prices. If you’re willing to get something needing heavy cleaning* you ought to be able to get one under $30.

    *Baby oil is your best bet. Change the spot on your paper towel as it gets really dirty or you risk accidentally doing damage to the finish. Too much abrasion = bye bye finish = by bye decals. It’s a lot of elbow grease but totally worth it when you expose decals that were so covered in gunk they weren’t visible. Let it sit over night before use to let the excess oil on it “soak in”.

  12. I used to work with a Bernina Sport, which I adored and wish I could have taken with me when I hanged jobs. Now I own another older model Bernina which I also love and find both really easy to use and really easy to clean, but weighs a ton.

  13. I think everyone has different sewing styles, and there are different machines to suit them all. For example, I can’t seem to get along with Berninas, but I’ve never met a Pfaff or a Baby Lock that I didn’t like. Go around to the different dealers and try out their machines. Bring some scrap fabrics from home, because they all sew perfectly on that stiff stuff they provide for you. 🙂

  14. I would love to see photos of everyone’s machines. Let me figure out a way we can do a gallery anyone can submit to. Next time you’re sitting down to sew, snap a picture of your workhorse! 🙂

  15. Vintage 1970s Kenmores are plentiful and cheap in my area. I have been sewing on one for a few years now. It has all of the features I need, and it is very dependable, powerful, and fast. Cost me $15. It has a free arm, droppable feed dogs, a few helpful stitches such as stretch and blind hem, a throat plate that changes from zig zag to straight stitch, and it is easy to wind bobbins and maintain it. I highly recommend a Japanese made vintage Kenmore, or a Singer 337 or 338.

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