Assessing a Vintage Sewing Machine

I have LOTS of vintage SINGER® sewing machines. I guess you could say that I’m obsessed with them! My husband thinks I have enough of them – yeah, that’s like saying you can ever have enough chocolate! Hah! There is always another elusive machine – a turquoise (white) SINGER® 221 Featherweight, for sure – that is somewhere out there just waiting for me to find it and bring it home. If you are a fan of vintage sewing machines you know what I mean when I talk about my collection, and I’ll bet you have more than one vintage sewing machine too.

I wasn’t always a vintage sewing machine collector/addict. There was a time when I wouldn’t have taken a second glance at a SINGER® 66 Red Eye machine. Yes, it’s true: I didn’t notice them at all, but one day that all changed. One of my quilting guild members brought a SINGER® 221 Featherweight to a week-end retreat and I had to see what this little machine was all about. It piqued my curiosity and I started to look into vintage sewing machines, SINGER® models in particular (loved those shiny black beauties with the fancy gold decals). One machine caught my eye… and the rest is history!

The first machine I purchased was a SINGER® 99K. The machine had been in storage for a while, but the paint and decals were in beautiful shape, as was the cabinet. I tested it out to be sure that it would actually stitch and, after a bit of negotiation, I ended up with in the back of my van heading home. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about these machines at the time or I would’ve noticed the crumbling and bare wiring on it. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have plugged this machine in. I was just lucky that I didn’t get a nasty shock from my first machine! That might’ve been the end of my vintage sewing machine adventure!

SINGER® 99K wiring when I bought it

SINGER® 99K wiring when I bought it

The poor condition of the wiring could have been a real problem. The wiring had deteriorated so badly that it was crumbling in my hands so I had to do something if I was ever going to be able to use the machine. I considered taking it to a sewing machine repairman but their assessment fee of $100 with the possibility of a much higher cost to actually fix it didn’t impress me. My only alternative was, of course, to try to fix it myself. The machine was in great shape as was the cabinet, but if I didn’t learn how to re-wire it, it would become a nice door stop.

While I was investigating what to do with my newly acquired 99K, an opportunity to purchase another machine, a SINGER® Featherweight, presented itself. This time however, I had a bit more knowledge than I had had with my SINGER® 99K purchase. In researching a solution to my wiring problem with my SINGER® 99K, I had acquired considerable knowledge about different SINGER® models, particularly the SINGER® Featherweights. Who says going down internet rabbit holes isn’t helpful?!

When I contacted the seller, I found out that they wanted $350 for the machine which seemed really expensive considering I had paid $50 for my 99K. I knew that Featherweight models tended to be more expensive because they are so popular so I decided to take a look at it anyway. This is where my newly acquired knowledge really paid off. I had learned enough about Featherweights to know that this particular machine was in good shape and was fully functional. What was even better was that this particular model wasn’t a 221, but a 222K, the rarer Featherweight model. These models sell for much more than $350! I quickly closed the deal and took my new acquisition home. It was in such great shape that I didn’t even have to oil it. If I hadn’t taken the time to pour over vintage sewing machine websites, I wouldn’t have known how collectible and expensive this particular machine usually is and might’ve walked away from the deal.



This experience really illustrated how valuable it is to be prepared so that you can grab an opportunity when it presents itself. I have seen machines of this type for sale for over $1000, although I have a feeling that a price that high is the seller’s “wishful thinking”. I knew “just enough” to be confident in making this purchase ($350 is a lot of money) and got a machine of great value.

After these first two “quick purchases” I got “the bug” and started actively looking for vintage sewing machines to add to my collection. I knew that I had to learn a lot more about acquiring and repairing these machines before I considered purchasing any more. I started looking for information but there was no “one place” I could go for that information. It was very frustrating because many of the more comprehensive sites were targeted at serious collectors and were not suited for someone like me who just wanted to restore the machine to working condition. I did not have any intention of stripping and repainting the machine or reapplying the decals. I wanted machines that looked good but, more importantly, they had to stitch. I spent many hours scrolling through websites and writing down the information that I needed so I could have it for future reference.

One of the most important things I learned from my early experiences was that you need to be able to assess a machine knowledgeably when considering a purchase to ensure that you pay a fair price for it. The best deals are when someone is selling a machine privately and you usually do not have a lot of time to look the machine over. You really need to know about the model you are considering and ensure all the important parts are functional, and, if they aren’t, that you will be able to fix them. You don’t want to miss out on a good deal, but you also want to ensure that you are getting a functional machine.

Being able to get all the information you need to assess and restore a vintage sewing machine in one package would be the perfect solution. You won’t need to “learn-as-you-go” as I did, so you can be confident in your purchase even if you only ever buy one machine.

Over the years I’ve developed a checklist that I use to assess potential vintage sewing machine purchases. This has helped me to determine if I want to buy a particular machine and has saved me from buying one that would've required too much work to return it to a functional machine.

Watch the video below or on my YouTube channel for more information on assessing a vintage sewing machine.

I would love to share this “hard-won” knowledge with you so that you can experience the joy of owning a vintage sewing machine without having to spend hours of time researching. I have put together some valuable FREE content that can get you started on thinking about purchasing a vintage sewing machine.

I’ve created a FREE printable download, Vintage Sewing Machine Assessment Checklist, to share this valuable information with you. Be sure to download and print it out now so you’ll have it available to take with you when you are evaluating a vintage sewing machine.

You always have to do your research to determine what the average price for a certain machine model is in your area, but with the Vintage Sewing Machine Assessment Checklist, you’ll have a methodical approach with a list of items that you should be looking at when evaluating a vintage sewing machine for purchase.

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Download your FREE Vintage Sewing Machine Assessment Checklist now so you'll be ready to evaluate your first, or next, vintage sewing machine.

I hope you find this the Vintage Sewing Machine Assessment Checklist helpful and look forward to hearing about your latest – and next – vintage sewing machine purchase.



P.S. Join the private Chatterbox Quilts Facebook group for quilting and vintage sewing machine information.