I seem to have overcome my lifelong fear of sewing machines.
Here is my newest baby:
This is a Pfaff 360 automatic from 1962.
I know, I know. I've been sewing for four weeks and have four machines. I've already heard it all. The KH is starting to freak out. (It took him several years to adjust to the whole knitting thing.) But there is a reason for this. As much as I love my old machines, they are all straight stitch only machines. This means exactly what it sounds like: they sew only straight stitches in one direction. Meaning if you want to, say, back tack the ends of your seams to keep them from pulling out, you have to stop, raise the presser foot, turn the work completely around, lower the presser foot, and stitch a few stitches with the fabric going the opposite direction. This gets old really fast. And it goes without saying that they don't do zigzag stitches or anything decorative.
So I've been on a mad hunt for the past couple of weeks for a "modern" machine that would give me the functionality the old machines lack. By modern, I mean 1950s-196os. I wanted a powerful, trouble-free, all-metal machine without anything electronic. There were several machines in the running. At the top of my list were the Singer 401 and 500--both great machines with a huge following. I've been stalking eBay and craigslist like a woman possessed. The prices on eBay are a little nuts (one of the machines I was bidding on went for $355--way, way more than I would pay). And then there's the shipping for a 30-40 pound machine. Yikes. I spent an hour at the thrift mall--the only time I've ever been there. I even made the rounds of the garage sales over the weekend. I hate garage sales. And it was a total bust. (For me. My older son got a gas-powered scooter that needed a little work for $20. He was ecstatic when he went online and found that they sell new for over $500, and used for around $300. So it was a productive trip anyway.)
And then, as I was compulsively clicking back and forth between eBay and craigslist on Saturday evening, a listing popped up for this Pfaff machine only a couple of miles from me. The owner said she didn't know if it even worked, but it was $25, so I instantly emailed and said I'd take it.
I am so glad I did! Although it was almost completely frozen up when I got it, a couple of days of degunking and oiling the works loosened it up and I've got it running almost perfectly now. A quick online check revealed that this is considered by many to be one of the best Pfaff machines ever made. One online dealer I found is selling them for $900. And the cheapest listing I've found on eBay is for $325. It is all metal, inside and out. It has forward, reverse, and zigzag functions, and supposedly sews 1200 stitches per minute. I haven't counted, but it's really fast and powerful. It has a free arm, which is good for working on sleeves and pant legs, with a pop-up deck to make a larger work surface. The feed dogs drop, which is important if you want to machine quilt (I don't--yet). It also has an automatic embroidery mechanism that does all kinds of decorative stitches. I don't have that working quite right yet, but I think I'm getting there.
It didn't come with the case or any accessories, but I've tracked down and bought the most important bits--like a zipper foot and a walking foot--so I should have a fully-functional machine soon!