Our permanent collection of machines spans well over 100 years of manufacturing and includes many brands including: Singer, Pfaff, Elna, Husqvarna, Kenmore, Wheeler and Wilson, Winselmann, and Bernina.
We have a particular affection for treadles and hand cranked machines and enjoy using these machines when we teach classes, which always include a little history lesson.
Wheeler and Wilson D9 – 1900
This was a grail machine for a sewing nerd like myself as W&W represents one of the earliest manufacturers of sewing machines, and were the most technologically advanced machines of their time.
You would think you were sewing on a modern machine, despite this being nearly 120 years old.
Manufactured in the mid 1950’s in Sweden. Considered by many to be one of the finest sewing machines ever made, featuring a rotary hook, drop feed, 20 stitches (via cams), gear reduction drive, and a 1.5 amp motor. It sews at roughly 1500 stitches per minute and will sew whatever you can fit under the foot.
Husqvarna Model 71 Rotary
Manufactured in Sweden during the 1950’s, a veritable powerhouse of a straight stitching machine with a drop feed for free motion, and a 1.5 amp motor. I think it is a little faster than it’s sister, the 21A.
Husqvarna Nordic 10
Manufactured in the late 1940’s it was a copy of a Singer 28/128 and utilizes a vibrating shuttle, like it’s sisters it came with a powerful 1 amp motor which was almost double the power of comparable Singer machines. It makes a perfect stitch and could sew a bumper on a Volvo.
You may realize by now that I have a thing for green sewing machines…
Bernina 117 treadle – 1938
This machine came to Canada by way of marriage, it’s owner purchased her in 1938 in Germany, escaped to France, and upon marrying a serviceman, was brought to Canada after World War 2.
The 117 was Bernina’s first domestic zig zag machine and it is unquestionably, the smoothest running machine I have ever had the pleasure to use.
Bernina 534 – 1958
It is not common to find a Bernina straight stitch machine since they were so well know for their excellent multi stitch models like the Record series.
This machine makes a perfect straight stitch and is so mechanically simple, it also has a drop feed and is usually reserved for doing free motion work since it also does that brilliantly.
Bernina 731 – 1965
This is the little sister to the 730 Record and differs only in that it has less built in stitches, with all the same other features, which is just fine for a simple man like myself.
The Bernina cabinet is a delight with it’s vertical lift mechanism and functions as a side board and display table for some of our other machines when the Bernina is not being put to work.
Winselmann TS High Arm – 1902
This German beauty with it’s mother of pearl and hand painted body was a gift to me from a lovely lady. It uses a transverse shuttle which might seem archaic, but it makes the most perfect stitch, and sews as fine a stitch that I have ever seen.
It is simply breathtaking to look at.
Singer 31k15 – 1915
At 103 years old this commercial tailor’s machine has seen enough work to warrant at least one repaint, and still runs like a brand new machine, and lays down an incredible stitch on whatever I throw at her. From light felt to cotton, and 10 oz cotton duck she sews it all without flinching.
Elna 62C Supermatic – 1972
Like opening a time capsule, this machine was only used a few times and still had it’s original factory stitch sample and inspection tag.
I put the Elna alongside the Husqvarna 21 as one of the very best machines ever made; few machines are quieter, the stitch quality and range of stitches is unparalleled, and at 45 years old it does not look out dated.
Singer 431G – 1965
The 431G was manufactured in Germany and sits at the pinnacle of Singer’s production, due to patent issues they could not sell a free arm machine in North America but instead produced these in Germany.
It is also one of the rarest Singer models ever made, their cost when new was prohibitive and the examples on this side of the pond were brought back by individuals, often armed forces members returning from tours with NATO.
Singer 411G – 1965
The 411G is the flatbed counterpart to the 431G and is a little easier to find since Singer did sell these domestically, and it is almost identical to the Singer 401A save for it’s ability to chain stitch. It also has the extra thread take up that is seen on the Singer 500A.
The 4xx series machines are my favourite of the Singer slant needle machines, their build quality is exceptional and their stitch quality is as good as any machine ever made.
Singer 99k – Britain – 1922
The 99k was the 3/4 size version of the Singer 66, released in 1911 to provide for a smaller and more portable machine, and stands as one of the most successful models Singer ever produced.
The hand crank is probably Japanese, with a custom turned handle we had made up here, these are well regarded as making a nigh on perfect stitch, and can handle a wide range of work.
Pfaff 31 – Germany – 1936-1937
Pfaff was established in 1862 and like many other companies, started by copying Singer models, but as Germans do, they made their machines to a much higher standard. The treadle on this machine is solid oak and the machine purrs like a kitten.
White Rotary Model 42 – U.S.A.
At one time White was second only to Singer in regard to sales, and from early in the 20th century they embraced the rotary hook design and never looked back.
These are among the smoothest and quietest running vintage machines, favoured by quilters and thread painters for their excellent stitch quality and free motion work.
White also made machines for Sears (Kenmore) and sold more machines through them than they did under their own name.
Kenmore 158.1931 – Japan- 1977
Sears has been selling sewing machines since their earliest days, utilizing manufacturers like White, Soryu, Gritzner, and even Chrysler, but their best machines came from Maruzen, in Japan.
During the mid seventies the quality of Singer machines declined sharply, and some of the best domestic machines were these Japanese made Kenmores, which I would put against Elna, Pfaff, or Bernina any day of the week.
This machine is fast, powerful, and has a super high lift foot which enables it to sew through things that would stall other machines. It has a nice set of built in stitches, has a stretch function, and can also utilize cams for more decorative stitches.
I have probably used this machine more than any other, buying it when I was a single parent on a really tight budget.
People rarely part with these machines since they are as capable as any modern machine, and a modern equivalent would cost well over $1000.00
Elna Supermatic – 1952 – Switzerland
I can never say enough about Elna machines, and am always blown away that back in the early 1950’s they introduced a machine that was 30 years ahead of it’s time. It was a cam capable rotary (140 plus stitches in the 50’s), had a free arm and a case that turns into a sewing table, a feed system that is to this day unsurpassed, and the ability to sew “stretch”, sewing backwards and forwards. For quite some time the Supermatic was the finest machine on earth and true to their advertising, they would never become out dated.
The 62C Supermatic eclipsed the original by being quieter, and had built in stitches, but it does not sew any better, and is not as fast.
Singer 403A – 1958 – U.S.A.
This was the second vintage machine I purchased from an older gentleman who was also named Keith, and he had purchased this machine as gently used for $275.00, from a lady who had bought it, but could not afford it.
The care he lavished on this machine over the 50 years he had it was incredible, he treated it like some people treat a vintage car and he was well aware of it’s value, as it cost as much as a mortage payment.
Being that I did not have a car, I brought the machine home by bicycle which has now gone to a good friend, but that 403A will be with me forever methinks.
Kenmore 1030 – 1972 – U.S.A.
The 1030 and it’s sisters are some of the most remarkable designs to come from Sears, they were designed in house by the legendary Chuck Harrison and manufactured by Maruzen in Japan.
I consider these to be one of the finest portable machines ever made, although they are compact they pack full size power, feature Kenmore’s super high lift foot, and could sew a bumper on a Buick.
The series includes the 1020, 1030, 1040, and 1050 which all have increasing levels of features, the 1040 and 1050 have a stretch feature.
Singer 15-91 – 1954 – U.S.A.
I refer to her as “The Queen”, as she is a perfect example of what is the most successful sewing machine ever made.
The 15 series was produced for well over 75 years in many variations, was copied by everyone, and established a the standard 15 by 1 needle and class 15 bobbin.
The 15 -91 was the top of the line machine and came fitted with a gear drive instead of a belt, (which is the same as the 201-2), and has an oscillating hook, and a drop feed. There is almost nothing you can do to a 15 to make it stitch poorly, it will sew through a tin can and then sew silk with nary an adjustment.
Kenmore C877.15 – 1958 – Japan
Sears sewing machines come with a prefix that tells you who made it, and in this case the C877 means that this machine was manufactured by Toyota, for the Canadian market. Maruzen made a 158.15 which is virtually identical but is found more commonly in the United States.
It took me a long time to find this machine, it was one of those white whales and was thrilled to find one in such exemplary condition.
These machines are often called clones, being a very close copy of the Singer 15 and in many respects were an improved version of that legendary machine.
Once the Japanese started entering the North American market the sun started to set on Singer and other domestic manufacturers, and they eventually came to dominate the market.
Singer 201k – 1951 – U.S.A.
The Singer 201 (there are many variants) is a legend among sewists around the world, it was the finest straight stitch machine ever produced, and for a time the most expensive machine Singer made, save for the 221 and 222.
Back in the early 50’s Popular Science reviewed the Singer 201 and said that it was a machine without any flaws, absolute perfection in a machine with a foot pedal that would run in excess of 50,000 cycles, and a drive that was smoother than anything ever made.
It is a machine that really has to be experienced to be appreciated and is one of Pearl’s favourite machines.
We have several in the works that we will be listing soon, and can be configured for a treadle, electric, or hand crank.
Singer 206k – Treadle – 1954 – Scotland
This machine started my love for the mid fifties “Swing Needle machines which were originally developed in Germany (late 1930’s), with a design that is unique compared to any Singers that came before or after.
This series of machine had a vertical rotary hook, the later 306 and 319 were capable of using cams and the 319 had built in stitches as well. The stitch quality is outstanding and the rotary hook system makes them extremely smooth.
Singer 31-20 – 1920 – U.S.A.
“Marie Louise” is named after the lady who owned her and is a wonderful example of an early Singer industrial tailor’s machine, at 108 years old she stitches as well as any new machine and purrs like a kitten.
Bernina 125 – Early 1950’s – Switzerland
It took us many years to find this machine, notable because it was the first portable machine with a free arm and a zig zag function, it sews in nearly complete silence and with outstanding precision and stitch quality.
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