Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Joys of Old Sewing Machines


My sewing machine is older than I am. 

My mom won it in a raffle when she was in the eighth grade, which would have been 1963 or 1964. It is a Necchi-Alco and it is solid metal and mounted in its own wooden fold-out cabinet. My mom takes meticulous care of her things and this sewing machine was no exception. It was her only machine for many, many years and then she finally bought herself a Bernina to support her quilting habit. When I started sewing five year ago she gave me the Necchi-Alco. (Thank you, Mom. It is my prize possession.)

It is the loudest sewing machine I have ever heard in my life. My mother once frightened a repair man who was working in her house while she was sewing. When I first inherited the Necchi we lived in a house with an attached garage. I set up my sewing station in the garage because it was the only place where I could sew without waking sleeping children. At Christmas time, when the outdoor temperature dropped, you could find me sewing in the garage while wearing a coat, scarf, and hat. 

The best thing about this machine is that it is a total workhorse. I think the only piece of plastic on it is the spike that holds the spool of thread on top. Everything else is metal and the whole thing weighs a metric ton. It isn't the least bit portable, which is okay with me, but it does seem to be indestructible. It uses old metal bobbins and instead of a foot pedal it has a knee pedal. I think the knee pedal is harder to use than a foot pedal but I have gotten used to it. I took a sewing class last week at The Stitch Lab (which was AWESOME) and I kept smashing my right knee into the desk while trying to sew with my rented (foot-pedaled) machine. 

I see many old sewing machines in thrift stores and they usually cost about $20-40. If I were planning to buy my first machine I would buy one of these old beaters for cheap and then spend some money getting it fine-tuned. I think you end up with a machine that is likely to last much longer (and suffer your first sewing mishaps much better) than the cheap plastic sewing machines you can find at Walmart these days. Plus, I would love thinking about who used my sewing machine before me and what they made with it. My own machine is a fixture in my childhood memories and I think it will be a fixture in my own children's memories, too. 

Viva lo viejo! (Long live the old stuff!) 

13 comments:

  1. I swear you read my mind! I just had to buy new pants for my fast-growing son, and need to hem them to fit properly. So I've suddenly gotten interested in getting repairs/tune-ups for my mom's old sewing machine (which I inherited) and an old Singer we picked up at a thrift shop. I just found out there's a place that offers sewing classes up here in the great northland. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  2. That's awesome!! My mom and I have traded back and forth this old relic of a sewing machine for so many years that when it finally went completely unfix-able tits up, we felt real sadness and mourned it's loss. It weighed about a ton, as well. But that thing WORKED.
    Now we have a plastic one that is nimble, easy to carry and so easy a trained monkey could sew with it blindfolded and half asleep.
    But I miss the old one.
    And boy-howdy, if I saw one like yours in a shop, I would totally budget for it and buy it.
    It has it's own table!! Score!!

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  3. I was gifted this sweet machine yesterday by a wonderful elderly neighbor. I feel so blessed! Long live old stuff!! Thank you so much for this post!

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