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Topic: Can you trust used sewing machines?  (Read 7461 times)
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« on: May 13, 2009 04:49:12 PM »

My grandma was talking about looking for a sewing machine for me at Goodwill, Trader's World, a newspaper or any thrift-store or flea market type of place. She has sewn for years, and says that as long as you can plug it in and it works, it should be okay to buy. Is this true? Should I trust any sewing machines that come used, or should I just invest in a cheap new one?

I don't have much of a budget, and am really just looking for something that will make plushes and dolls for fun, at a beginner level.
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2009 04:55:39 PM »

Ive had my pawn shop bought machine for 5 years now and I have just recently been having problems that stump me.

Goodwill and things like that you probably cant return I'm assuming, a reputable pawn shop will take returns if you have problems early on. You need to check out their return policy

I have been seeing some fairly affordable machines but they cant do the same stitches as my pawn shop find, I might go get a new cheap one myself soon and keep the other one to see if I cant figure it out

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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2009 05:09:34 PM »

I haven't looked at new machines for a few years, but the old addage - tried and true - seemed to hold a lot of merit when it came to sewing machines.  The older, simpler metal machines held up for years....

In another thread someone had just gotten a Singer from the 1930's and it worked well.

If it has the features you want, and you can try it out to make sure it is in working order, I would go with an older machine over a cheap new one.  Besides, what better way to "reuse, reduce, recycle" and save our mother earth.

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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2009 10:10:12 AM »

I think you need to expect that you'll get what you pay for. Smiley

My recommendation is to call some machine dealerships in your area and ask if they have used machines for sale. Many take trade-ins, so they have serviced the machine and know what it can (or can't) do.
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2009 06:33:00 PM »

Since there is more to a machine forming a proper stitch and winding a bobbin that having the "stabber thingy go up and down", the only way to properly evaluate a thrift store machine is to thread it up, sew with it, wind a bobbin, and test the various functions.  Some machines just need a dusting and some oil, but it's not uncommon for them to need more.  And, metal on the outside does NOT mean that the parts on the inside are metal.  Stripped, cracked or worn gears and camstacks are common on certain models of machines.  If you test the machine by actually sewing  (straight and zigzag if equipped), and winding a bobbin, you'll find out quickly if it has major issues.

Something as simple as one missing or broken tension part can render a machine useless for sewing.

Choosing a Sewing machine- New, Used or Vintage?

Buying a serviced, used machine from a reputable source is an excellent option.   

One more thing- for pre-1960's machines, it's important to CAREFULLY check the wiring:

Inspecting Electrical Wiring on a Vintage Sewing Machine

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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2009 10:15:12 AM »

So far I've had good experiences with thrift store/yard sale machines.  I have an old White Jeans Machine(free, from a friend's basement) that has run well for over six years, and a 1950's Singer (from Goodwill) which has run well for two years-- admittedly, the power cord was frayed, and I had to replace that-- but that's an easy fix.  My dad collected old sewing machines for a while (mostly Singers), and all of them ran well-- but some did need new cords/pedals.  The governor (variable speed controller) mechanism in the pedal tends to wear out before the rest of the machine.  A sewing machine shop should be able to replace.  If you buy from Goodwill or another thrift store, you should be able to talk the staff into letting you test the machine before you buy it.

If you're just looking for a fun beginner machine, you should be OK with a used machine.  (besides, if you shop around,  you can buy 2 to 4 old machines for the price of a new, kinda crappy machine) I'd recommend a mid-century Singer or an older Kenmore-- they usually have at least a straight stitch and a zigzag are pretty easy to use, and are very very sturdy.  And, with care, they'll keep running nicely for years to come.

If you buy an older machine, in addition to checking seeing how it runs and whether the wires are worn, you should check to see whether the machine:
a) needs a cam or disc to perform zigzag stitches--and are the cams still with the machine?
b) requires a weirdly shaped bobbin, needle, or can't take a standard foot for some reason (probably more trouble than it's worth...)
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« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2009 03:06:57 PM »

My personal opinion is that it's a gamble. I've bought two secondhand sewingmachines and the first one which was very cheap helped me for over 5 years, it was kind of oldfashioned, but had every basic stitch a girl can need. The second one my boyfriend and father bought me, wasn't very cheap for a secondhand and after 7 or 8 months it completely died. Just as the last comments said. Try it out and look for it, because even though there is some crap in between, sometimes you can find a sewingmachine that lasts longer than any new cheap one.
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2009 08:18:22 PM »

I just got a lily 545 off Craigslist...the lady got way too fancy a machine for her needs and had literally never taken some attachments out of their little "homes!" I think I scored big!  Grin

« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2009 01:52:05 PM »

Personally, I'd much rather have a used Pfaff, Bernina or Viking than a new machine for the same price. Unless a computer board is out, most of the repairs should be fairly straightforward by an experienced sewing machine repairer.

Goodwill offers a 10-day guaranty on their electronic items. You can return them with the receipt.

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« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2009 05:02:47 PM »

They usually need some oil and that's it.

As some one that tinkers with ALOT ofr used, old and vintage machines, I find that they often need more than just a dusting and oil to perform at their best.  BUT, if the machine has safe wires, sews a proper stitch and winds a nice bobbin when you test it, then it probably won't need any significant, difficult or expensive work or repairs.   

FWIW, all of the thrift stores in my area sell everything AS-IS, including Goodwill.  It might be a good idea to ask your particular store to find out exactly what their policy is.  Obviously, it can vary.

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