Ever since I wrote about acquiring a vintage Morse zig zag sewing machine, I’ve been periodically getting emails from people who have bought vintage machines, and want some tips on how to get them running. I’m not an expert, but I enjoy talking shop with the people who have emailed me, and I do offer up my advice based on my experiences. So if you just bought a vintage sewing machine, or are thinking about it, here’s what I suggest you do upon bringing home your new best friend:
Right off the bat, I suggest finding a mom-and-pops type sewing machine repair shop in your city (many of them offer both sewing machine and vacuum cleaner servicing). Here in Portland, we have a really great one called Montavilla Sewing Center. If you’re not sure where to go, contact a few of the big shot crafty people in your city who sew things for a living, or a locally owned fabric store for suggestions. Then, before you even try out your machine, take it in to the sewing repair shop for a tune-up. The older machines, especially, tend to have their tension discs out of alignment when you get them, just because they’ve been sitting in storage somewhere for who knows how long. Some small part might be missing, too, like a rubber bobbin belt. The technician at the repair shop will give your machine a good look-over, replace any missing/broken parts, and set the tension to sew properly. Prices vary on this service. I paid $80 for my tune-up. One thing I would suggest upon picking up your machine from the repair shop (something I wish I would have done) is ask the technician to show you how to thread your machine! It will save a lot of time, and a small headache. Trust me on this.
Another question I get asked by people who email about vintage sewing machines is how satisfied I am working on an older machine. I absolutely love my machine! It is a total workhorse. At the risk of sounding like a well-meaning grandmother, they just don’t make things the way they used to. My machine runs so smoothly, and is so much quieter than the new Janome I was using prior to buying my Morse. I almost passed up my vintage Morse sewing machine, and I’m so glad that I did not. It would have been a regretful mistake.