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Apr 14, 2016

Best Sewing Machine Garbage Find EVER!



Readers, I know: yet another sewing machine found on the street.

I think this my sixth or seventh.  Without a doubt, it's my heaviest.  It weighs 37.5 lbs.  That's 10 lbs. more than my Bernina 930!

Yes, I actually weighed it with a postal scale.

Here's how it happened:

I was finishing up yesterday afternoon's dog walk when I saw this case sitting among the garbage cans of a nearby townhouse.



What would you have done, just left it there?

I picked it up (ouch -- heavy!) and unlatched the box.  OK, I was hoping for a Pfaff, Necchi, or Bernina, but this Japanese-made, Gimbel's-badged zigzag sewing machine is beautiful inside and out.  First I had to lug it home though.  I made the mistake of trying to carry it by the handle and in 20 seconds this happened.  So predictable!



Once I got the machine home, I inspected it more carefully.  Everything looked good: hardly any dust, wires in good condition, no frozen parts.  It was missing its bobbin case but, fortunately, I had an extra one that fit (the same type that fits my Kenmore 158.141; the Singer 15-91 bobbin didn't work).



This is a high-shank machine and the foot sits in the left position, not an uncommon feature on machines from this period.   I happened to have a high-shank straight stitch foot harvested from some other machine I once owned and, with that attached, the needle sits dead center -- perfect, since this is such a great machine for straight stitching, even though it's a zigzagger.

There are numerous buttons (push-buttons were the craze back then), the feed dogs drop, and it even performs a blind hem stitch (woo-hoo).  I just love the look of it -- like a 1950's Chevrolet -- and the heavy weight means that it feels incredibly solid.  (I guess you could say it was overbuilt.)  The motor works perfectly: no bad odors and very quiet.



There was no manual but I was able to thread the machine intuitively.   I opened it up and oiled it just about everywhere.  You can see me sew with it a bit here





One of the great things about this machine is that the motor is external.  If it ever wears out you can easily replace it.  More photos below:



 





 





One feature I love is the hinged thread spool pins.  I've never seen those before!



Will I keep this machine?  For the time being, yes.  These vintage Japanese machines have very little re-sale value, sadly, but they are lovely looking and sew beautifully.

Ever own one like mine?

Have a great day, everybody!

(You can learn a little more about these old Japanese-made sewing machines here.)

That look says, "ANOTHER sewing machine???"

43 comments:

  1. Good Lord, that's beautiful. Lucky find!

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  2. I have a very similar machine with an Emdeko label. I'm sure they were made in the same factory. After a good oiling it was so smooth and quiet, and sewed through anything I could fit under the presser foot. I bought mine with the thought I would use it to make bartacks on jeans. The best part, for me, at least, is I can put it on a treadle base without any modifications.

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  3. Hi Peter! I just bought a machine just like yours. I liked the machine instantly because growing up in Pittsburgh I used to shop at Gimbels at the Eastland Shopping Center. I took my first sewing lessons at at the Singer store there too.
    I love how these machines remind me of the vintage cars of the fifties. :)

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  4. If I lived closer, I would take it off your hands should you want to move it. That would be so much fun to sew on. Yes, kinda like a 50's Chevy.

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  5. wow, what a beautiful machine. i agree, it looks like an old car!

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  6. If nothing else, it's a lovely piece of architecture, and the Gimbel's branding launches it into the stratosphere...

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  7. Nice find! I've seen this machine badged 'Fleetwood' (another car reference) -- same color scheme, too. Here it is: https://carousell.com/p/11906356/ Hard to beat the price you paid. :)

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  8. Best curb find ever, I agree! Probably made by Toyota, they made all the best machines of that era. Enjoy!

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    Replies
    1. Or Brother. If Brother it will be stamped somewhere on several parts of the machine underneath.

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  9. Peter, I'm always astounded by the shear number of machines and other sewing stuff in your apartment. It must be a huge apartment - especially for New York City. I need some of your space planning magic.

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  10. Good pickin'. I had this gimbels 900 but sold it for $45 to someone who needed a heavy duty. Here: https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=2F305E8F480A7C83!399&authkey=!AA5dIo7d8SFIyQw&v=3&ithint=photo%2cJPG

    i think Toyota made these. Very similar to Japanese Kenmores, but heavier. Mike Foley

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  11. THIS IS IT! The machine I learned to sew on soooooooooo many moons ago now! The one we had was blue and labeled as a JC Penney machine, but it is identical! I remember it so clearly. Thanks for the blast from the past, Peter!

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  12. Love my similar machine , it's a left homing also , turquoise & cream with little fins : )

    https://flic.kr/p/6ZhEq2

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  13. Brings me back! My parents gave me a Gimbels sewing machine for my 15th birthday, looked just like this, but green and in a cabinet that was really beautiful. I had to give it away when Mom died as I had something like 15 machines and was planning on moving back to NJ. Let me know if you ever sell it, would love a piece if nostalgia.

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  14. Before I knew anything about sewing machines and I wanted to make a leather gym bag back in the mid 70's, I went to the local Goowill and got my own Japanese machine. I don't remember the badge name, but it was metallic blue and only did a straight stitch and I think I paid $8 for it. The reason I actually started sewing and designing 40 years ago, and later turning it into my profession, was that I wanted my own leather gym bag like the one the best gymnast in the gym had. I asked him where he got it and he answered that he had made it. Hmm..solid state engineer grad student, Olympic caliber gymnast, and a sewer! Well, a freshman walk on like me could at least make a bag! After purchasing the machine, a few Italian Cabretta leather coats, and some leather dye from Tandy's, I figured out how to use the machine to sew leather, and after a few weeks, had my own leather gym bag, and I was instantly propelled into the cool gymnast club. After making a few more bags, some recycled denim backpacks, and flaring some Levi's, I bought a vintage Pfaff, went on to design school and a clothing design career. Hard to believe that Japanese sewing machine changed my life over 40 years ago.

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  15. I'm so jealous of your find. All of my machines ended up in the shop at the same time - my Janome just needed a tune-up but my Kenmore needs a new bobbin casing and both my vintage Singers are having performance issues and one of those needs a few new parts. So I'm on a sewing hiatus, right when I need to get some projects finished! The agony of waiting for them to come back to me is real. I haven't heard from the shop yet but I'm calling them tomorrow to find out if they've at least finished the Janome's tune-up. It only needed a little cleaning and tension resetting. *sigh* I've got things to sew, darn it!

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  16. Love those Japanese badged machines, I have one and she's by far my favourite sewing machine. Smooth, quiet, makes short work of multiple layers of denim. Looks like a tank, sews like a dream.

    Keep her, you won't regret it, she's a great find. You'll probably find a manual, or at least one for an equivalent model on the Facebook group 'Vintage Japanese Machine's'

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  17. Hi,i didn't own one but my morther did and my first sewingskills i did learn on a pfaff like above.Would really like to find one now too,just while it's a great machine ,you're very Lucky.
    bye Ann

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  18. Your home is the,set for a talk show, the staff and sidekicks have 2 and 4 legs, and if Arlene Dahl were spotted curbside, she'd be your next guest.

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  19. Those older mechanical machines are practically bulletproof. I have a 70s model Kenmore that weighs a ton....and yes the only thing wrong with it is a broken handle on the case. It broke dead center, so I just patched it with "Southerner's choice" (aka duct tape)
    We never find stuff "curbside" in this area of the country - but there are occasionally some treasures like that in thrift stores.

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  20. Wow, how do you do that? I've never seen anything like that in the trash! It's a really nice machine, and I love the way it looks and sews. (I love the look on your little dog's face, by the way. I love the way his ears are pointing straight up, like"Really?")

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  21. Lucky you Peter! What a beautiful machine.

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  22. A machine like that won't be bouncing all over the table when in use like most of the junk today!!

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  23. Wish I could find something like it. Looks wonderful!

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  24. Amazing find!!! I also have a lovely, vintage left-needle aligned machine. I do a lot of piecing and kids clothes, so I use my quarter inch presser foot a lot. However, I can't find a quarter inch presser foot that's compatible. Any ideas on where I could find one?

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  25. I own way too many sewing machines but even I would have to keep this one because it's in such great condition.

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  26. Wow! That looks like a cousin to my Gimbels machine (which is blue & cream like Arlene's), and it's in such beautiful condition, glad you saved it. Also glad you got it home without injury, those Japanese machines are serious boat anchors.

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  27. I LOVE vintage Japanese machines!!!! I have many. Most of them will say Premier or Deluxe or both on their badge. They are absolute workhorses. Easy to maintain and get parts. Do not be tempted by similar looking Made in Taiwan or China models. Their metal is cheap and they do not have the same "fit and finish" of the Japanese "oldies but goodies." The only feature I try to avoid is the 'damm' reverse button. I like those with the older style levers for this feature (have arthritis in my thumb joints, so button pushing hurts, plus one has to look away from the needle to locate the button - aggravating! The enamel finish on these machines is superior to Singer 15's of this vintage, the feed dog drop dial is so handy compared to Singers AND the access to the shuttle region on many of them is also so simple and superior compared to the complicated race cover assembly of comparable Singer 15's. This makes thorough cleaning of this region - especially when you have to fetch out a thread wad. While one can find them as Peter did for nothing or next to nothing, one of them recently sold on ebay for over $300!

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    1. You're so right about the feed dog drop, Peg. So much easier on this one than on a Singer 201 or 15-91.

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  28. I am so envious and rue the day I had to let go my 1965 Singer top model acquired in Germany, only because, upon retirement, some of us have to move into an apartment with never enough space. I now have a 25 year old serger and a 5 year old Pfaff Expression that makes me nervous and it knows…! I mean, never heard of a machine that can't handle old thread, never mind serger thread! I am looking for an old standby like that to putter with. Or concentrate on my Macbook computer communication skills. Great blog!

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  29. LOVE vintage machines! Lucky find!

    I learned on an old avocado green Singer that was probably twice as old as I was at the time, which gives old machines a special place in my heart. They really are work horses!

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  30. Peter, this one is worthy to be kept as sculpture if nothing else. I hope I don't hear that you returned it to the wild.

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  31. I couldn't imagine lugging that thing around, and if you dropped it on your foot, ouch. I am not a vintage sewing machine person, but this machine looks pretty good and offers quite a lot of stitches and I love the way it is set up. Keep us updated and maybe a video.

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  32. Wow! The body of the machine itself looks so pristine you have to wonder if it was used at all.

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  33. I was all ready to josh you about yet another machine...but this one is really a beaut! So clean. Looks like a keeper.

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  34. I have rescued three machines so far this year. A Singer 201, a modern Brother NS10 computerised and an Elna Stella (like the Lotus). All terrific machines.. so obviously I wouldn't have left it. Someone has to save them!

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  35. Wonderful machine! How do you do it?? I live in Manhattan too, and I NEVER come across sewing machines at the curb or in the trash. You clearly have a very harmonious relationship with the universe!

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  36. What a stunning find. Hang on to it.

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  37. Ah!
    That's actually a Riccar, circa 1965. Custom-badged for Gimbel's.
    My mother had this machine (as a Riccar) and she loved it.

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