Not being a parent, I can only imagine what it must be like to await the arrival of a child, an event long anticipated, something you've hoped and dreamed about. It's unforgettable.
But readers, could it possibly be as exciting as hearing the doorbell ring, opening the door and having the UPS man drop off a vintage sewing machine?
How could it be?
OK, I know what you're thinking. It's absurd to compare the arrival of a newborn with the delivery of an old piece of machinery. You detect a desperate attempt to justify the impulsive decision to purchase my ninth sewing machine, a Singer 15-91, on Monday, just one day after visiting my friend Johanna, who owns ten.
For me vintage sewing machines are special; for you maybe not so much. Oh, you enjoy reading about other people's vintage mechanical machines, but you'd never consider buying one yourself. After all, who wants to have to oil an old machine, or lift 35 lbs of metal onto the dining room table, or shlepp some old clunker to quilting class?
It may be too late to change your mind. But perhaps there is someone out there who's just a little bit curious and open to the possibility...
YOU there! Yes, you.
For you -- forward-thinking, independent-minded idealist that you are -- I offer my top 10 reasons for buying a vintage sewing machine.
1) Many wonderful vintage sewing machines can be purchased online for less than $50, including shipping, and at local thrift stores, garage or estate sales for even less. Check out the Completed Listings on eBay: there are machines being had for a song. Many of these have names you'll recognize like Singer, Kenmore, and Viking. Others are perhaps more obscure yet fully functional. When in doubt, ask the seller about the condition. Can you see a stitch sample?
2) A vintage machine is a "greener" choice. We all know by now that we live on a planet with finite resources. It makes sense to give new life to a perfectly functional, albeit second-hand machine rather than force our planet to squeeze out a new one, further despoiling our environment in the process.
3) Vintage sewing machines are mechanically less complex, break down less often, and are easier (and cheaper) to repair. There are no motherboards to break down, no computer circuits that can get fried from an electric surge in a thunderstorm. With a vintage mechanical machine, it's generally just a question of sufficient oiling and the occasional tune up if necessary -- and it often isn't.
4) When you buy a vintage sewing machine, you're connecting with a piece of history. There's something about using a piece of equipment from the past that nourishes the soul. We're connecting not only with those who used the machine before -- sometimes our own ancestors -- but also with those who manufactured it with pride.
5) Vintage sewing machines have already proven their reliability. If a machine is more than forty or fifty years old and still works, that tells you about the quality of its design and manufacture. Many vintage machines available today were top of the line and still perform flawlessly.
6) Most vintage sewing machines use the same parts -- presser feet, needles, bobbins, and bobbin cases -- as new machines. Most of the accessories for old machines by major manufacturers like Kenmore and Singer are relatively easy to find -- if not in stores, then certainly on eBay. Very little has changed in terms of the basic equipment necessary to sew on a mechanical machine.
7) Vintage sewing machines are beautiful. Just like the automobiles of their day, the sewing machines of the Thirties, Forties, Fifties, and even Sixties were uniquely styled, with personality to spare. Just like so many cars today look virtually alike, most contemporary sewing machines have a bland, cookie-cutter quality. Gone are the vivid pinks, blues, and greens, the chrome, the eccentric lines, and the futuristic styling.
8) Using vintage machines is cool. Just like people who wear vintage clothes tend to be non-conformists, people who sew on vintage machines are generally independent-minded and resistant to media manipulation. They're saying, No, I'm not going to succumb to the marketing pressure to buy the latest thing with all the bells and whistles; I'm opting instead for something simpler that better reflects my values.
9) Vintage sewing machines last longer.
Will future generations still be sewing with the primarily plastic Singers, Brothers, and Janome models for sale at Walmart or Jo-Ann's the way people today can still enjoy the sewing machines of the past? We'll see.
10) Vintage sewing machines are plentiful. I honestly wouldn't know where to buy a new sewing machine in New York City. But just go on Craigslist or eBay, and they're everywhere. If you buy on Craigslist, you can actually view and test the machine first to make sure you like it.
11) When you buy a vintage sewing machine locally, you're helping to keep money in your community. Why send your money to some transnational corporation based in another country and using the workforce of yet some other (generally low-wage) country? Buy from a neighbor, or a local thrift store and keep the money in the local economy.
Have I left anything out? Let me know.
And so readers, I ask you:
New or vintage? Which is your next machine going to be?