Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No Fear

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!

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

No problem! I have 14!

Wanderingcatstudio said...

I have a machine from the 80s and it's great - when I actually do sew with it. I don't want a newer machine because I'm so comfortable with mine.... and I'm seriously tempted t go to the fabric store and get some fabric for skirts and it's all your fault!

Tracy said...

speechless and green with envy.

seashells said...

tenacious!!!

Jean Baardsen said...

I smiled all the way through your post! Does this machine have a name yet? Tell KH that if you end up with too many sewing machines, after you get them running, you can make good money selling them online. That is, if you want to let any of them go....

Cynthia said...

I have one word: Bernina.

You already have a bunch. What's one more?

toni in florida said...

Score!

caknitter said...

Wow, you totally scored with this machine. Congratulations!

melissaknits said...

As soon as I saw the first picture my heart skipped a beat. She will live forever if she gets a little use now and again. Stock up on parts.

Machines are like knitting needles and spinning wheels. They have different jobs. My fancy newer Viking does embroidery and can sew through 10 layers of denim with the right needle and speed. The old Singers are like old Ford trucks. They just never die. And since they can't die, I can't kill them off. Hello Kitty is green plastic, but excellent quality under that, so good for visiting kids or aging mothers. Old portable Kenmore is the perfect size for quick hemming or crafty jobs. The 1970's Viking is probably the best quilter ever produced.

You have a serger yet? Vital, IMO.

Susanjane said...

You have a pearl beyond price. My 1969 all-metal Singer runs like a top. I took it in last year for the only repair it has ever needed-- some little spring-- and said maybe I should just put a little more money with the cost of the repair and I could get a new one? The repairman [who also sells machines] looked aghast and actually talked me out of a new one. They really don't make 'em like this any more. Enjoy!!

ginaknits said...

I have a Pfaff from the 1970s. It still runs great, and I have run it hard at times. So far it has only needed a tune-up now and then, and a capacitor for the foot pedal. I'm sure you will enjoy your new machine. (In case you need the instruction booklet for the machine, Pfaff has most of them online, although there is a small fee for some models.)

punkin said...

I am fond of the older machines. I have my mother's machine that is a Viking and my grandmother's that is a Singer. I also have a 'newer' one that I bought 25 years ago. Unfortunately, I put away the machines when the youngest came along and they have not seen the light of day since. (he is 20 years old now). eek.

Christina said...

I back-tack the ends of my seams on an older singer by lifting the pressure foot, moving the work back a few inches and making sure to sew over the loose thread as well as the end stitches. Saves me from turning the work all the way around. Anyway, have fun with your new Pfaff, it sounds awesome!

Knitman said...

There is no hope for you! Knitting machine next? Serger?

trek said...

Wow - and it was only a short time ago that you were bemoaning sewing how how it sucked! :o)

Strickmuse said...

That looks like a great machine. I could swear my mom used to have that Pfaff a long time ago and she used it a lot and later on sold it to a seamstress.

tanitisis said...

This is my mom's machine! She bought hers second hand in the 70s and still has it (and all attachments and the original manual). I learned on it and it's gorgeous. Hope you've had (by now, as I just found this post googling these) lots of fun with it!

Shayla said...

I have this machine (PFAFF Automatic 360) and have been looking everywhere for a walking foot to help with sewing knits. Can you give me some direction?