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Can anyone tell me where to get a hand operated sewing machine, not electric. Do they make them these days? I'm doing a lot of sewing, but what with the price of electricity these days, I just wondered if there was an outlet preferably in the UK, that might sell them. I am trying to be eco friendly too, in recycling and altering clothes and making things, so I really would like a non electric sewing machine. Any suggestions? Thanks.
By Wendy H
Hiya Wendy! I'm in Scotland (originally from the US) and also sew. I teach sewing and have one class on using Gran's old treadle or hand crank machine:)
You are in treadle-hand crank Heaven here in the UK-these machines (most usually Singers and Jones machines) are very easy to find here and are usually in near perfect condition to start sewing with.
Ebay (not really recommended as prices often don't match condition), boot sales, charity shops, and Gumtree all carry these machines regularly.
But first you need to learn more about treadle and hand crank machines so that you know what to look for. I highly recommend the following as a starting point if you have a Kindle:
There are hard copy books there too, have a look around that site for more on using treadles and hand-crank machines. Libraries are a good book source too.
Also, you can learn about non-electric sewing machines from the following links:
I've learned a lot about these wonderful machines from the above links.
And don't miss this forum-I highly recommend it as a great place to talk with other vintage sewing enthusiasts who love to share tips, links, and commiseration when things go a bit wonky with the sewing:
Generally, what you need/want is a Singer treadle 66 or 99. You may find hand crank 99s, which are a great machine but for a new sewer, the treadle is your best bet as the hand crank requires you to be able to sew a straight line using one hand to guide the fabric and the other to crank the machine. I 'push' the Singers because they were made here in the UK and so are lurking in lofts, attics, cellars, cupboards, garages...just about everywhere.
Singer sewing machines were built in Scotland from about 1866 until long into the 20th century. The following link is loaded with tonnes of info on Singer machines including pages that help you recognise the different models:
You will need to familiarise yourself with the appearance of the machines so that you don't accidentally fall in love with a vibrating shuttle model, for example, so be sure to read his pages on models. The vibrating shuttle went out of general production fairly early in the 20th century in favour of the workhorse 66 and 99s, primarily, and so parts are very hard to find (and when you do find them, the cost is eye-watering).
The 66 and 99 machines are the ones that most women bought new and cherished over decades of home sewing. The 99 is a 3/4 version of the big sister 66-the parts are interchangable, the instructions for maintenance, refurbishment, and use are exactly the same, and free to download from Singer Company. For best service and parts availability, look for the serial number and then use ISMACS to determine build year-the years you should focus on are from about 1929 or '30 and forward. (My 66 was built in 1933, was the groom's wedding present to his bride in late 1933 and I am the second owner-my husband found it in a charity shop and gave it to me for a wedding present. When I unpacked it, I found the original receipt and note from the first groom. Of course I cried. I was able to find and talk with the couple's daughter who had donated it to the Dundee charity shop. All these lovely ladies have a 'back-story'!)
These machines were so well built and the parts so readily available even today that one found sitting in a damp basement or dusty loft can be refurbished easily and brought back to service. The ISMACS link as well as Helen's site link to a refurbishment manual that has clear photographs and step-by-step instructions for bringing a rusty old dear back online. Download it and print it-it will be your BFF in sewing. (And consider refurbing a second one for donation re the request on the manual download page)
The Singer 66 and 99 'consumables' parts (bobbins, needles and belts) are still being new-milled today and are easy to find in your local or online sewing centre.
Attachments, including the zig-zag attachment that makes it possible to sew knits on your treadle or hand crank, plus rufflers, blind hems, walking feet, etc, are very easy to find and if a bit rusty, easy to restore. Prices are usually reasonable, even for complete kit, and the best part is that these attachments will also fit...a modern, electric Singer!
I own several of these antique (over 100 years) and vintage (less than 100) machines. I teach on the 66 and 99 and also use those models to do wax cotton and leather jacket repair for the local farmers and bikers.
I use the vibrating shuttle machines for history and identification segments in my classes-yes, the machines will sew but sourcing parts is so hard I don't run more than a few lines of stitching to demonstrate the genuine superiority of the 66, lol!
I do have vintage electric Singers (and other brands) but have just about given up being able to find parts for the electric machines.
And I own a basic-ish modern Singer (Talent 3321). I teach on it as well. It's a good, inexpensive machine for those who want both a top-quality treadle (the 66 or 99) but also the convenience of having a modern machine handy (embellishment stitches, speed of sewing, etc).
Sorry for the 'book'. As you can likely tell, I am very enthusiastic about these lovely ladies of sewing. It can be addictive:)
Feel free to message me for more info. Welcome to the wonderful world of vintage sewing machine sewing, you'll love it! You're miles ahead already with your interest in repurposing vintage fabrics:) We all do it, charity shop linens and curtains are wonderful sources of fabric, the clothing a fantastic source for metal zips, gorgeous vintage buttons, and of course, vintage fabrics.
I don't know if you can purchase treadle or hand operated sewing machines or not. But I have had an electric sewing machine, since 1964 and believe me I did a lot of sewing when I was young. Took old adult coats apart and made coats for my kids, and used other old adult clothes to make kids clothes. Basically made all of my clothes and clothes for the kids. I also made a completely lined western style sport coat for my husband. Made prom dresses for my daughters when they got old enough. Our electric bills were never high priced compared to neighbors, who didn't do any sewing.
Wow, thanks "Frugalsunnie" what a mine of information! I will certainly look at the links you provided, thanks again.
Thanks for your answer, "Redhatterb". Good to know electric bill won't be so high then. Thanks.