What antique lover’s heart has not been captivated by the classic beauty of an old sewing machine?
House Crazy Sarah has one:
Hers isn’t as ornate as some, but the 1936 electric Singer has a neat backstory: she bought it from an old farm wife in rural Colorado who said she taught all her children and grandchildren to sew on it. Guess what? It still works!
These old things, even the beat-up ones, have such intrinsic beauty.
The name Singer is synonymous with collectible old sewing machines. But let’s take a deeper dive into the world of antique and vintage sewing machines because there is so much more to it than one well-known brand.
What Makes A Sewing Machine Antique Or Vintage?
According to expert/professional collectors, sewing machines made before 1900 are called “antique”, while those made between 1900 and 1970 are typically considered “vintage”. It’s that simple! Often the words are used interchangeably, but if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, using the proper terminology for the era of your machine is important.
What Are Treadle Sewing Machines?
Before sewing machines could run on electricity, they used a foot peddle – called a treadle – to turn a flywheel and power the components of the machine. The main benefit of the treadle-style machines: your hands were free to hold and direct the fabric while sewing.
What Are Crank Sewing Machines?
Not all antique machines use a treadle, however, some use a hand crank instead. Proponents of the hand cranked models cited more control and the ability to sew through thicker material more easily without stalling.
What Are The Most Popular Vintage Sewing Machines?
Interested in collecting? Experts in the field tell us the Singer Featherweight and the Singer 201 usually rank as the most popular vintage sewing machines for collectors.
First made in 1935, the 201 model remained in production for thirty years. You will often see it described as the best of the Singers – the gold standard of vintage sewing machines.
Other American Brands
While Singer is by far the best-known manufacturer of vintage sewing machines, there are other North American brands to note.
White was a fierce competitor to Singer during the early 20th century, but they eventually lost the battle and the company no longer exists. Nonetheless, up until the 1950s, White provided all the sewing machines sold by Sears Roebuck.
Kenmore is the brand name Sears Roebuck applied to all the machines they sold from 1913 through 2013. But, Kenmore machines were actually manufactured by several different companies, including White and Janome. Kenmore’s were known as “budget” sewing machines that were sturdy, affordable, and capable of completing basic sewing tasks.
National Sewing Machine Company
Founded in 1890, the National Sewing Machine Company based a lot of its business around selling “badged” machines. Large retailers would sell machines made by other manufacturers under the National Sewing Machine Company brand name.
There were also several prominent European and Japanese vintage brands. Bernina was a popular one:
Are Old Sewing Machines Valuable?
If you have one, you may be wondering about the value.
Some rare and pristine condition models do sell for a lot of money, but most antique and vintage machines have a typical price range of $50-$500 because they are so common.
If they work, even better, but the presence of a manual and the original accessories can add to a machine’s worth.
Desirable antique pieces that can fetch some serious money include a two-stitch machine produced by Grover Baker & Co of Boston, a company in operation from the 1850s to 1875. This model (shown below), which dates from the 1860s, is an early example of the first portable sewing machine and is one of less than 200 known examples.
Another is a Canadian sewing machine dated to the 1880s which used a single thread to make a twisted loop stitch. It is stamped Victoria SM Toronto CW (shown below) and was likely manufactured or sold by Gates and Company.
Old Sewing Machine Tables As Home Decor
So how do you display old sewing machine tables? Here are a few ideas gleaned from social media…
Some people have gotten very creative in repurposing these old things.
Some other unorthodox uses…
Vintage sewing machine tables as wine bars!
Or, how about a coffee bar – since those are all the rage lately:
And for a more feminine use, a make-up vanity:
No matter how they are displayed, these vintage beauties are always head turners in home decor.