My Love of Vintage Sewing Machines

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I have developed a little vintage machine habit. I think I have 10 now, not including my Viking, and I have 3 more on the way. I just can’t leave them to rot in a thrift store, and my husband is more than accommodating, so they come home with me quite often.

I’d like to share the adventure here with anyone curious to follow along with me. There used to be this divide – men would sell the machines and women would sew on them. There’s still some of those residual feelings from those days. Let’s break those down. I don’t care about your gender, if you prefer sewing to mechanics, your flavor of the rainbow – let’s throw all of that out.

I’m not a trained sewing machine mechanic. Actual dealer mechanics have a bit of secret sauce they go off to learn in a special tech class, get all certified, and that is how a dealer can maintain some income. They sell you a machine, the manufacturer shares the service manual, not to be confused with the owner’s manual, and they keep proprietary secrets and charge you for a yearly tune-up.

I get that to a degree. I want my local dealer to thrive, however, even IF I got my hands on the service manual to my Viking Sapphire, I’m not going to crack it open just to see what makes it tick. I’m not willing to risk that kind of investment.

Most importantly, this is more about saving the old girls sent to the boneyard. Many of these are really good machines. We all need a back-up machine, or maybe we only want vintage machines, or even more likely, it’s really cool just to see how things work, amirite?

I wish I had a grandpa that was into sewing machines and repair, but at the same time, I like a little trial by fire, know what I mean? When I was a kid, my parents owned a bowling alley, and my smug-ass thought it wasn’t that hard to be a bowling alley mechanic. Well, now I need to put my money where my mouth is, don’t I? I’m not that smug little brat anymore, but I’ve got some penance owed.

Come on this ride with me. If you know something I don’t, please share. Maybe you’ll have a different experience to share, or a cool memory of one of these machines, or maybe you think I’m off my rocker – that’s cool too.

This Brother Valiant is in bad, bad shape. I pulled a 140/22 sized industrial leather needle out of it. I had to use pliers to yank it out. A lot of people take these old machines and think they’re going to do industrial sewing on them, and just trash them when they find out it doesn’t work that way. Many of them are pretty heavy duty, but that isn’t the same as industrial. I’ve got a neighbor that is in handbag production – she has a walking foot industrial Juki. THAT is the right machine for the needle I yanked out.

I’ve got a few others in various stages. I’m going to try to post the insta-videos here and see if that works. I’ll probably switch to another format when I get it a bit more situated, but let me know what you think. Here’s the pick-up day on the Valiant. Really cool machine. Really abused.

And here’s the revelation that I’m going to have to pull off the wheel, lol.

Have you ever seen one of these machines? I’ve run across a few online, but this is the only one I’ve found that has the Brother name hidden only on the bottom. She’s really quite special looking, I think.

I’d like to give a shout out to Emily Lang. I’ve been collecting and tinkering with these machines awhile now, and she saw I was looking for some pretty specific repair manuals. Emily, out of the blue, offered to help me find them, and sure enough, one of the two is now in my hot little hands. The sewing community, man, can you beat it? So awesome. Thank you, Emily.