Vintage Vs New Sewing Machine: Are Old Machines Better?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. While sewing machines get upgrades and fancy stitches, you can still only do one stitch at a time, thread the machine in one way, place the needle in the same position, feed the fabric in the same, and soon. Not much changes.

Are old sewing machines better? The answer to this question would be how you define better. If your definition includes modern upgrades then newer machines are better. If your definition includes quality parts and construction then old machines are better.

To learn if old sewing machines are better than newer models, just continue to read our article. We will try not to let any bias show through and let you decide for yourself which style of machine is better

Old Sewing Machines


This is a tough question to answer as modern machines have had the advantage of all the technology and technological upgrades that have come along since World War 2. Modern machines get made with computer screens that only need a touch of your finger to work.

Plus, they get other technological advances that make sewing a lot simpler to do. Unfortunately, what those technological advances have done is to remove repair out of the hands of those skilled with their hands and placed in the realm of professionals who may charge a lot of money for their services.

Old machines were made in a different era where greed had not taken over. The machines were given parts that lasted and were simple to fix. They were also simple to operate and you did not need a course in computer science to operate them.

Plus, anyone could learn off of an old sewing machine. Sewing machine owners did not need to fear if a novice or their child tried to learn how to sew on an old machine. Those beginners could not hurt the machine.

Whereas a novice can damage a computerized sewing machine quite easily causing a high repair bill. While the newer machines have all the bells and whistles you need to help sewing be a part of your busy schedule, there is just something about an older machine that brings the romance when you sew.

There are advantages to both styles of sewing machines and the answer boils down to your personal preference, schedule, and if you like to sew or not.

What Makes a Sewing Machine Vintage?


When you look the word vintage up in different dictionaries you will find multiple references to wine. Sewing and sewing machines are not listed in the first definitions of that term.

But the Cambridge Dictionary did not follow the crowd and listed these words as the best definition of the term vintage. That dictionary said vintage means “of high quality and lasting value,..”

Those words describe many pre-WW2 sewing machines to a T and give them a lasting identity because those sewing machines followed the rest of the definition given by the Cambridge dictionary- “showing the best and most typical characteristics of a particular type of thing, especially from the past”.

The original sewing machine makers did just that in the beginning. They made sewing machines with the best parts of their time and designed them to operate in the best way possible given the knowledge, the technology, and abilities of those eras.

Not all old sewing machines are vintage simply because they do not meet the standard set by the Cambridge Dictionary. It is a hard standard to live up to when companies need sales to stay in business.

Given that definition, you could say that the top Bernina, Brother, Singer, etc., sewing machines are vintage because those models have the best parts, features, functions and so on this era can give them.

That is why old fine wines are called vintage or made in a vintage year. That label is given because those wines represent the best winemaking skills, ingredients, and handling possible and their taste is a well above superior.

When you get a vintage sewing machine, you know you are getting one of the best sewing machines made at that time.

Vintage vs Modern Sewing Machine

When these competitions or comparisons come up it is often like comparing apples to oranges. While the basics are the same the elements governing each era are different. Comparing vintage sewing machines to modern ones is like comparing Stephan Curry to Larry Bird.

The basics are the same but the players played under different elements of the game making comparison very difficult. But there are some guidelines to compare old athletes' abilities with newer ones as there is with comparing old sewing machines with new ones. Here are those guidelines:

  • 1. Features - the modern ones have more features and more versatility.
  • 2. Durability & build quality - there are old sewing machines still working even after 100 years of service. Metal beats plastic every time.
  • 3. Repair & maintenance costs - the old machines may lose out here as it is hard to get old parts and when you do they can be expensive. Yet newer machines will still cost more to maintain and repair due to computerization.
  • 4. Environmental& economic impact - this will be a toss-up as there were expensive sewing machines pre WW2 and cheap ones as well. Metal degrades plastics do not so the scale tips in favor of the older machines.
  • 5. Price and value - newer computerized machines cost a lot and are out of reach of many sewers. Plus they do not hold their value for very long.
  • 6. Personal preference - this beats all the other factors and the winner here is the one you like the most.

What is the Best Vintage Sewing Machine?


This is also a very tough category to provide a straight forward answer. Some sewing machines are better with different fabrics and like denim, have sewing machines designed solely to sew that fabric.

Then you have to take into account the difference between industrial machines and home versions. Usually, the industrial machines are better than the residential models because they do a lot more work over a longer period.

We will do our best to present some of the best vintage sewing machines in their class

  • 1. Denim & industrial - Union Special 43200G but this one doe snot stand alone and to see a complete list for denim, etc., click right here
  • 2. Straight stitch - the Singer Featherweight, although it does have competition.
  • 3. Zig Zag stitch - The Sears Kenmore zig zag sewing machine.
  • 4. Treadle machine - the Singer 27.
  • 5. General - purpose sewing machine- Wizard 3KC 8842 or the Morse 4300.
  • 6. Best Vintage Toy Sewing Machine - Sew-rite Betsy Ross model.
  • 7. Best Vintage sewing machine for leather - Juki TL 2010 Q or the Tippman Boss.
  • 8. Honorable mention - Pre-1960 Singer sewing machines. It seems that a lot of people prefer these models to others made at the same time.

Of course, you may have a brand and model that you prefer over the ones mentioned in this list. That is okay as the best vintage machine is the one that performs well for you.

What is the Most Reliable Sewing Machine?


You will probably get a good argument going here as there are so many reliable sewing machines and so many different brands that made those machines. In modern times, there are very few residential sewing machine companies. You could almost count them all on one hand.

The reason for that is one corporation owns several of the most popular modern brands everyone knows about. For modern machines, you may consider the ones at this link as the most reliable. They are slated by that website as the best for 2020.

For industrial, the list is longer as the different sewing machine companies produce a lot of top sewing machines for the sewing industry. Some may say that Bernina makes the most reliable sewing machine around. At least at this website they are.

Like the best sewing machine comparison, the most reliable is the model that works for you without breaking down a lot or needing lots of repairs. The brand doesn’t matter as they all make sewing machines of different caliber and quality.

The Difference Between Antique and Vintage


To be classified as a true antique the item has to be over 100 years old. But for the sewing machine, that definition is a little bit different. To be declared an antique a sewing machine has to be made before 1900.

As for vintage, we gave the best definition of the term earlier and vintage machines can be found in any decade or era regardless of manufacturer. You will find vintage antique sewing machines and vintage modern ones.

But you cannot find antiques in any era. The antiques are getting harder and harder to find. They have not withstood the test of time very well and metal parts eventually wear out.

Reasons You Should Own a Vintage Sewing Machine

There are lots of reasons to buy a modern sewing machine. They just make your sewing life a little bit better. But those reasons may not trump the ones for owning a vintage sewing machine. Here are some reasons why you should own one:

  • 1. The parts were made to last - not only that those old machines were generally made with care.
  • 2. They are easy to repair - with the internet coming into existence it is now easier to find spare parts for older machines. Plus, the repair work is straightforward and not that difficult. You could do it yourself without the aid of a professional repairman.
  • 3. Better straight stitches - the needle and machine are not influenced by all the decorative stitching modern machines have. That means when you do a straight stitch on a vintage sewing machine, you get a very straight line.
  • 4. Versatility - the older machines were designed to be versatile when it came to fabrics. They were made to sew any fabric you got your hands-on.
  • 5. Weight is a good thing - these machines were made with metal parts and were heavy. That means that once you placed the machine down it was not going to move anywhere when you began to sew.
  • 6. They are flexible - when not sewing they can be used as art to decorate your home. It's one way to make your house look and feel like a real home.
  • 7. Full of history - you are getting something that connects you with your ancestors even though they may have used a different sewing machine.

Tips for Buying a Vintage Sewing Machine

Everyone needs a little help when they start to shop for a vintage machine. The following are just a few things to look for when trying to get a vintage machine for your home.

  • 1. The handwheel should turn with no problem.
  • 2. The needle bar should move up and down with relative ease.
  • 3. The feed dogs should move with every turn of the handwheel.
  • 4. The same for the bobbin wheel, it should move with the turning of the handwheel.
  • 5. See if there are any broken parts, missing screws and so on.
  • 6. The sewing machines from the 1920s to 50s used straight forward bobbins with no weird designs, straight forward needle designs and shuttles as well.
  • 7. Vintage Singer sewing machines are the easiest to get parts for.
  • 8. The price- if it is really cheap, buy it.

Some Final Words

Old machines are definitely better even though it may be hard to find spare parts. There is less worry when it comes to use them and anyone can learn on an old machine. They also do not break the bank when it comes time to buy them.

Old sewing machines in some ways outshine the newer models except for upgrades.

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