May 14, 2019

My Sewing Machines

The following are some notes on the various sewing machines I own.

It might seem like I am collecting sewing machines. That is not my intent. However, when I see a fine machine from the golden age of sewing machines being sold for a song, it is hard to resist. And different machines have different virtues. I am using my Singer 401A as my workhorse these days. However, as I contemplate putting some patches on pant legs, the Elna has advantages. The part of the machine under the needle is a slender arm that will nicely fit into a leg or sleeve. The Singer on the other hand is a table and nothing like that is possible.

The Elna model 62C "super"

This is my workhorse and the machine I use more than any other.

My machine is an Elna "super" (Model 62C). It is a classic manual zig-zag machine. I bought mine in July of 2009. I subsequently found another for sale at a ridiculous low price and picked it up as a "spare". I don't really intend to collect sewing machines, but maybe it is becoming that? These were made in the early 1970's in Switzerland.

When purchasing it, I asked the guy at the shop why people spend the big money on fancy new machines if this one is so powerful and will last me forever. He said: "Simple: TV". People should watch TV for entertainment, not to get facts to base decisions on. I thought this was interesting and very solid advice and will continue to do business with this fellow.

You are supposed to use Elna #426000 bobbins, and like any sensible person, I bought a bunch so I can have one loaded up with whatever thread I get ready to use. Years later I bought a Singer 401A, which uses "class 66" bobbins, and as near as I can tell they are the exact same thing. I have heard it said that the Elna bobbins are "slightly taller", and my measurements indicate that indeed they are .01 inches taller. Only one one hundredth of an inch. Will these shorter Singer bobbins work in the Elna? They seem just fine.

The Featherweight

I also have a Singer model 221-1, which is what is called a "featherweight". It has almost a cult following, although some say although it is not the very best machine Singer ever made. It is very good and extremely popular among quilters, mostly because it is light, simple, and relatively portable.

The Singer 401A

I picked one of these up at a thrift store (actually an "estate sale store". It is very clean and seems to have been little used and/or well taken care of. I am starting to use it more often instead of my Elna for no particular reason. This machine was probably made in the early 1960's in Anderson, South Carolina. Use "class 66" bobbins, but see my note above about interchanging with Elna bobbins. So far this is working for me, and lets me use either my Elna 401A or the Elna on a project without having to wind new bobbins. Careful measurements with calipers show that the class 66 bobbins are 0.420 inches tall, while the Elna bobbins are 0.430 inches tall. Will .01 inches matter? The taller Elna bobbins seem to work just fine in the 401A. Stay tuned for more on this.

The White

I never use this any more. It was my first sewing machine and I used it for a while. It is a simple straight stitch only machine. There are enough much better and newer machines available at give away prices that I have many more options now (as enumerated above), and little reason to continue to use this antique.

This machine is a White "rotary" sewing machine, with serial number 43-215003. It was probably made around 1910 (but the serial numbers are confusing). I sewed with it for years, but always had trouble with the upper tension mechanism. I disassembled it myself and was confused by what I found inside. Then I took it to a shop - told him what I had done, he confirmed that the whole thing had been assembled wrong by some nimrod before I got my hands on it. He replaced a spring that was bent and put one part on the proper shaft, and now things seem much better. He recommended storing it with some kind of wedge to keep pressure off of the rubber motor drive wheel (else it will get a flat spot), and suggested a "tree" to handle the big spool of heavy thread I intend to use. You can learn a lot from a good repair guy if you show an interest in listening and they have time (in some shops they are in a back room and you won't get past the sales person at the front desk).

He thinks highly of the Pfaff 1222 (but the one he has rebuilt he wants to sell for $450, which is out of my price range).

Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

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