So, I have been concentrating on the more well known brand name sewing machines. Some of my favorites are Singer, Kenmore, White, and one of my favorites… New Home. I have had no shortage of opportunities to find and acquire different models in each brand. In every one of these brands, I am impressed with the sewing experience offered by almost (with a few exceptions) all of them.
I have noticed that in every instance, the newer the model, the more the changes in manufacturing techniques become apparent. For example, a Singer machine made in the 30’s and 40’s is noticeably smoother and quieter than a Singer model made in the 60’s. This is, I think, due to the complexity of the sewing mechanisms. Earlier machines were straight stitch only, and the simpler drive mechanisms were manufactured to be buttery smooth. Great for the day, but sewing machine manufacturers had to evolve with the times. The introduction of the zigzag machine changed what I consider to be a basic sewing machine forever.
The consumer quickly realized the potential of a machine that could do more than a straight stitch. Competition between sewing machine manufacturers brought with it innovation and change. New features and stitch options blossomed. The race for more stitches, driven by competition, added a lot of linkages, gears, and cam mechanisms to these later machines. No longer simple, they became quite complex. But complexity also took a toll on the amount of power delivered to the needle. This is not surprising, because turning all that extra hardware takes power, even when they are not engaged in making these added stitches. Not to be deterred, manufacturers set to optimize their designs. The net result was astounding. Motors became more powerful, gear trains were optimized to be more efficient. Bronze worm gears, sprung linkages, and gear reduction schemes were incorporated in more and more machines. The weight of all of this extra steel and metal hardware was offset by the use of aluminum or magnesium frames. With the exception of some machines that retained a cast iron frame (increasing the weight substantially), many machines weighed less!
For example, it was not unusual for a vintage cast iron straight stitch sewing machine to tip the scales somewhere between 35 to 40 pounds. By comparison, aluminum body machines capable of dozens of stitch patterns typically weigh in around 30 pounds. Their cast iron counterparts could top 43 pounds. Still heavy by modern machine standards (I mentioned in another blog that plastic weighs less than steel… no need to mention it here… so on with the story.)
Surprisingly, the quality of manufacture and materials, along with intelligent design, still resulted in a smooth running, reasonably quiet machine. While they may not match the beauty and precision of the straight stitch produced by the wonderful older straight stitch machines, the difference is not worth mentioning in comparison. Those that are concerned with the best straight stitch possible already know this and tend to use the older straight stitch machines for their purpose. For utility and application, these multiple stitch machines produce an impressive straight stitch, and the quality of the added pattern stitches is impressive as well.
Bravo vintage all metal manufacturers of fine quality multiple stitch machines! Three cheers to the feature conscious consumer who pushed the envelope of sewing machine evolution by demanding more features for their hard earned money! Take a bow, you have expanded the average sewing machines capabilities to a new horizon! Sewing machines will never be the same… Still, I’ll never part with my Singer 201-2.