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Discussion Starter #1
Been wanting to learn to sew for years. My experience is limited to some hand sewing heavy leather.

Looking on craigslist, there are a lot of old machines out there, but I have no clue what to look for.

Is an old Singer the best machine? Anything to avoid? What's easy to learn on? I would like to find something to do basic repairs, as well as light leather work. Treadle or electric?

Any help is appreciated.

Surge
 

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I use a White and a Singer electric, I would look for a simple newer machine, go to a Joann Fabrics and look at all the fancy machines they even have classes. But it will give you an idea of whats available. then look to see what for sale around your area. I would think it would be frustrating to learn on a treadle.
 

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I definitely like the Brother, Singer and White machines.

My mother taught me as a young boy with an old Singer. It did straight stitching only and zig-zag required an attachment. We also have a couple of Singers and a White 734D serger. I have done a lot of canvas and upholstery work for our sailboats and RV. Probably similar loads to light leather work. The machine has to be powerful enough to push a #18 needle through some tough materials along with being able to handle heavier duty synthetic Dacron and polyester threads.

We had a treadle Singer for a while. Thought it might be nice for light sail repairs where there was no power. Not so. It was little more than a novelty when it comes to real work. But it was a real antique so it sold for a decent price.

You may not need something that has 101 stitches but something with a little power is worth looking at. Most of your work will involve no more than 6 stitches.
 

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What you are looking for is a commercial sewing machines. Try some of the Military sales and you may find them. If you only want to sew fabric and do repairs try a singer or white, but if you want to sew leather you will have to a bigger machine made for sewing leather.
 

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You know there is a whole forum for sewing and quilting and we talk about machines all the time. And give recommendations.

Many like the old singers, but I would not have a singer made after about 1970. I swear by Janome brand machines, they also make the Kenmore machines that model number starts with 385.

Here's the forum. Ask this question there and you'll get lots of information, or just search on sewing machines.

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/sewing-quilting/
 

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A newer cheaper machine is not going to sew anything very heavy for very long. The gears are plastic and will strip pretty easily. Follow Angie's suggestion and go to the sewing board and we can help you figure out what you need.
 

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I have an old Kenmore about 45 years old, cabinet style. So sturdy it can sew through leather. I used it a lot on heavy upholstery fabrics.
If I were going to do a lot of heavy leather (not light weight clothing type leather) work, I'd get a commercial machine.
 
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I recommend getting a machine built before 1960. A 301 or 401 will work well for you and they do more than just a straight stitch. These machines are mechanical, need to be oiled, and have a lot of power. If you want an even older machine, a Singer 201 or 66 or 99 would probably take care of you, but they only do a straight stitch. Once you start sewing you may want a machine that does more. At that point, instead of getting a newer fancy machine, get a serger.
 

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Think about how much you are going to sew. If it is mostly leather or very heavy items an industrial type machine would be best I imagine.

If you are going to sew less than 2-3 hours a day, a cheaper newer singer would be fine in my humble opinion. I have a 15 year or maybe 20 year old singer that is pretty basic but has required zero maintenance other than oiling and cleaning. I don't sew heavily. I also only spent 100 dollars on it brand new.

I think straight stitch and zig zag stitch are the most important stitches for basic sewing. I like singer's because it is easy to find someone to repair a singer.

I hear great things about Janome's Babylock and Bernina but the prices are probably higher.

Think of your sewing machine as a tool, how much are you going to use it, will you try and earn money with it, does it have to be heavy duty and is your electric reliable. My mother loved her treadle but electric is convenient. Also to consider is if you have any repair skills, I do NOT, lol.

Good luck, sewing is very enjoyable and a great skill to have.
 

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20 years ago I bought a White called The Jeans Machine.
I have sewn four thick denim with it and had no problems at all.
It is setting on a cabinet and inside that cabinet is a late 60s White that has more options for stitches so they are both very good machines.
I grew up on my mother's old 1944 little Singer. I loved it's old button hole attachment. Both of my Whites tell me to sew the button holes the hard way but of all places to find them at an old engine swap meet I bought a paper grocery bag full of, in their original boxes, button hole attachments. I believe there were ten of them in there and only one didn't come with all of it's parts.
Not a bad deal for six bucks for the whole bag.
 

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would like to find something to do basic repairs, as well as light leather work.
For this, I would never recommend a "newer machine." Light leather work, (I'm assuming something 4oz or less?) will strip a new machine in less than a year. Don't waste your money.
In addition to the five Maura mentioned, I would add my personal favorite, the model 15. Either a 15-90 or 91 will be a workhorse.

All of these can be found on eBay, Craigslist, etc. for less than $70, shipped (they can also be found for considerably more, so shop for a while!)
 

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Not many non-specialized machines will do leather for any length of time.
I have a couple Kenmore machines spanning half a century, all salvaged and repaired.
Sears still supports even the old relics with parts! Very handy.

The old, old machine looks like you took the valve cover off a tractor inside. It is all oil points and shining bushing surfaces. I found it seized in a trash pile - all it needed was oil. It is belt drive so I put a 1/2 HP DC motor on it and use it for kite sailmaking and sewing halter straps etc. When the blind stitch cam broke I fabricated a new one and welded it in. This is a machine built to last.

The newer machines make neat stitches but are full of plastic cams at best, gears and linkages at worst. Don't bring them near a thick piece of fabric!

I agree on milsurp or commercial if you can find one. These are the only tough machines left.
 
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