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Sewing machines - buying to last a life-time (preferably one that already has!)

 
gardener
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When I visit my sister in Ontario, I often do sewing projects for her (she cooks delicious meals for me - fair's fair!) and I do so on my grandmother's sewing machine that was bought around 1950. It's a Singer and there's not a whole lot that can go wrong with it.

When I got married, my family bought me a little portable machine which was great for sewing dresses, but when I morphed into a "farm wife" it just wasn't up to triple reinforced knees on the boys pants, not to mention tarps...

We went hunting for an alternative as I didn't feel good about "abusing" a machine (it's been re-homed to a friend who promised to use it for its designed target jobs). This was the early 2000's and it was already getting hard to find a "basic sturdy machine". There were way too many bells and whistles and machines attempting to be all things to all sewers which worried me would result in reality of a machine that did nothing well.

The choice ended up being a Janome Decor Excell 5018. The dials are mechanical. There isn't a "Mother Board" (don't get me started on that topic - there's a place for computers, but many places where they're one more thing to break and be irreplaceable/unfixable/limited-lifespan) However, *much* more of this machine is plastic and already there's a problem in the plastic lever that allows me to do a back stitch. I'm gradually getting up the nerve to try taking it apart, but it may have to wait until winter.

So this thread is for people to discuss the sewing machines they've found that are sturdy, long-lasting, repairable and whose parts would be easy to re-build even if no longer available. I'm sick of the "disposable" attitude of humans and want to be able to read about machines that have already lived a long and productive life and yet are still willing to sew new seat cushions when I go to visit them (oops - I mean, "go to visit the sister they live with").
 
steward & bricolagier
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My workhorse day to day machine is a Kenmore 385. My mom was going to buy a herself a new machine and give me her old one for my 19th birthday in 1982. She was at Sears, looking at machines, and the sales guy talked her into taking two demo models. So we each got a new machine, slightly different, and we have worked those puppies into the ground, and both still run beautifully.

I have had mine open a couple of times never had to do serious repairs on it. Weirdest thing it ever did was I was sewing and there was a loud CLUNK! inside of it. I opened it, there was a chunk of metal,  looked like a counterweight to something, but I could find no place it would go. I took it to a shop, he couldn't figure out where it came off of either. I have it someplace, labeled "the thing that went CLUNK!" in case I ever figure it out. Runs just fine without it. Other than that, I have rewired the foot pedal, and greased it, and I think that's it. Lovely, hardworking, solid machine. I highly recommend them, if you see one second hand, well worth buying. I have sewn miles of fabric, upholstered furniture with it, and abused it pretty hard, it still kicks along, works close to as well as the day I got it.

 
pollinator
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It seems the Janome 712t has a pretty good reputation, but then again there's not a lot of competition in the treadle market for modern machines and maybe that's just what people use because it's their only non-electric option. I haven't used one myself, but I doubt there's many people wanting a treadle machine who would settle for a fu-fu light duty machine that needs repairs often. Definitely all electrical maladies would be ruled out.

The old iron workhorses from the early to mid 20th century were definitely built before the era of "planned obsolescence," and can be considered for all practical purposes impossible to wear out under normal use. I hear that many sweatshops in Asia are still using many of these old machines to this day. Even the little aluminum Singer Featherweight is known for being extremely powerful and dependable, especially compared to modern machines. There's a guy on youtube who rebuilds old singers with heavy flywheels and bigger motors to sell for upholstering and even leather work. People definitely had a dirrerent way of looking at tools back them. And to top it off, look at how beautiful they were. Beauty and toughness...most modern stuff can claim neither!
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