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Feb 2, 2012

Farewell, Pfaff 30, etc.

Friends, if you've been reading MPB for more than a year, you probably know that my vintage Pfaff 30, which I found at the end of 2010 on Craigslist and bought from a Broadway actress (whose mother had purchased it new) was one of my most treasured sewing machine finds.

It hadn't been sewn with for decades and the motor burned off many layers of smoky dust at first.  But once I had this machine cranking, it was a fabulous workhorse and I thought we'd be together forever.  But life doesn't always turn out the way we expect.

How could I have predicted that between then and now I would acquire two Singer Featherweights, a Kenmore 158.141 in a table, a Kenmore 158.1040 (the 3/4 portable with the rose-embossed case), and a Singer 201 gifted from Rain?  Suddenly, my Pfaff, which I'd sewn on constantly throughout the early part of 2010, felt redundant and, once I found my Featherweight table at Christmastime last year, it took up precious space I no longer had.

I decided to sell it, but due to my ambivalence, I didn't do much to make that happen.  As it does so often, however, fate intervened.  Two MPB readers, Kimberly and Amanda, came to see me in Noah's Very Unusual Insight last Friday, and while I was chatting with them after the show, I offhandedly mentioned that if either one of them was interested in a vintage Pfaff straight stitcher, they should let me know (ha ha).  Lo and behold, the following day I received an email from Kimberly saying that she was interested in the machine!

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let it do the talking.  Below are Amanda (left) and Kimberly (right) last night.

Here's Amanda carrying the table (without the machine in it, of course) out of my apartment and out of my life (sob).

I'm still in shock, but Kimberly assures me that I can come visit my-I mean her Pfaff in the East Village whenever I want (That IS what you said, isn't it, Kimberly?).  That made me feel a little better.  I gave Kimberly a detailed tutorial on how the machine works -- how to oil it, thread it, wind the bobbin, etc.  I wasn't sure if I was being overly parental but, hey, I could be Kimberly's father (alas).  I feel responsible.

Thankfully, this painful goodbye has been somewhat offset by a few exciting hellos.

My O'Mast video arrived yesterday!  This is the documentary about Neopolitan tailoring by Gianluca Migliarotti I mentioned over the weekend, which has also been featured on the blog Made by Hand -- The Great Sartorial Debate.  Should we have a home screening/pot luck sometime this Spring perhaps?  Look at the cute packaging!

I also just received Lynda Maynard's book, The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques.  I'll talk more about this one in the future, but here's a peek.

On Sunday, I promised you a pic of Michael's sister Sara's Prada pumps, picked up at a NYC consignment store at a great -- albeit still high in my book, but what do I know? -- price on her visit here last weekend.  I must say they're lovely and (Sara assures me) practical!

Big news!  We now have RCN cable Internet service instead of crummy Verizon DSL.  Uploads are practically instantaneous.  I called for installation on Monday and Monday evening we were already using it -- how often does that happen in life?  Normally I hate dealing with phone/Internet/cable companies, but it felt SO good to cancel my Verizon service, I can't tell you.

Friends, that's it.  A few questions:

1) Have you ever sold a vintage sewing machine and later regretted it?

2) Have you ever bought/sold shoes on consignment? 

3) Can anyone recommend a good HD video camera (or a still camera that has HD video capability) for less than $500?  (Ideally much less)  Now that I have cable Internet I'd like to produce some higher quality video but my Canon S90 doesn't do HD.

4) Anybody up for a spring potluck/screening (maybe we can throw in another video and make it a double feature.  The Singing Nun perhaps?)

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. This may be much more simple than what you're looking for, but the Flip camera records in HD, and it's only about $150. My old roommate had the 1st gen and we recorded our share of videos - the quality is great, although if you're trying to record extreme close-ups you are probably going to want to look elsewhere.

  2. Oddly enough, the only vintage machine I ever sold (in conjunction with a move) and regretted was a Pfaff 31, exactly the same as a 30 but in a treadle cabinet. I still miss that machine.

  3. my answers are -
    1. not yet. No, I take that back - I traded a 10(?) year old Berinina 1020 in on a new Viking about 15 years ago. That I regretted and ended up buying a used Bernina 1030 a couple of years ago.
    2. not yet.
    3. Cannon PowerShot SX230 HS. I just got this one, and haven't fully explored what it can do, as I need to get a case before hauling it around. But I'm impressed so far.
    4. unfortunately I live to far away

    If there's anything specific you'd like me to try shooting on my camera (like sewing close-ups), let me know.

  4. oh COULD you??? How could you let her (it) go??? i've only ever come across one Pfaff30 but sadly didn't buy it because it didn't have a bobbin case and i knew it would be hard to get parts here. *sniff*

    I have yet to say goodbye to any of my machines...i much prefer 'hellos'. And speaking of 'hellos' i said a big warm welcoming hello to a 222K last week. It was my 46th birthday last Friday and my OH and our youngest daughter miss19 went on a mission with a cause and found a lovely 222k with the embroidery ring and embroidery foot. It was the BEST ever birthday surprise.

  5. You can always get your fix over at has so many pictures of different machines I'm sure it will make you feel better <3

  6. I gave away an early-1970's Nelco. It's a defunct brand but the machine was built like a tank: All-metal parts, hardly used. I didn't need it because I had unlimited access to my mother's Singer 600-E, but it was too good a machine to just unload. But it was also too heavy to justify shipping, especially for an off-brand machine with no frills and no manual. I waffled for years--I used it as a doorstop for security when I was home alone; not kidding--but then gave it to a friend, telling her that if she didn't need it, she was to pass it along to someone else.

    We still have a 1950's Singer Featherweight, the 600-E, a massive 1937-ish Singer in an Art Deco cabinet, and I was recently given a 1990's Husqvarna Viking 500. I'm a little afraid of electronic machines but it does buttonholes(!!). I hate doing buttonholes by hand so I'm practically doing backflips.

  7. I would totally come to the screening / potluck. It sounds like a blast.

  8. I haven't sold or let go any of my old machines, though I'm planning to let my daughters have one of my 99s.

    I have bought shoes at consignment stores-- they're usually there because someone wore them once and couldn't return them when they found they really didn't quite fit.

  9. Well I'm happy to report that the Pfaff and table made it cross town safe and sound! I know Kimberly is good on her word and you can come visit it any time :) I'm sure it was hard to let it go (I hope you're not feeling too down about it), but it has a nice spot in her apt. with a view of Midtown. Thanks for giving such an excellent tutorial! I love these old machines.

  10. We have a Canon Vixia HD camcorder. It's under $500 (just a bit) but the video is superb, and it plays well with iMovie and also takes stills. My son uses it to record his YouTube stuff (his channel is GreenRiceProd1995 if you want to see some real, albeit very goofy, footage).

  11. I used to own a Husqvarna/Viking 6440. It was the machine I thought I'd sew on *forever*. Mine didn't sew tricot very well, so I bought a Pfaff 7550, which is a lovely, lovely machine. At the time, I thought owning *2* machines was scandalous and wanton consumerism (I've since changed my tune), so I gave the Husqvarna/Viking to my daughter. I thought I was good with letting that machine go, but that was self-deception. I miss it still. Luckily when I go visit, I always sew on it, so the happiness continues!

  12. I do not miss the Kenmore Snarlomatic from 1980, but the Singer 328K? Oh yes, I miss it. Buttonholes! Pattern cams! Metal body! It hated to sew knits, and was LOUD but for wovens of every weight, it sewed like a dream. Loudly. It's on loan, and presumably I can get it back. I hope. I've got a Bernina 1230, and am trying to get used to an Artista, but it is slow going. For the sad story, go here.

  13. Yes Peter, I meant it! You are welcome to come and visit the machine anytime you are feeling nostalgic! I will send pictures of her in her new home soon!

    1. You witnessed his performance art, visited his lair, and now own a significant piece from his collection, and all within 48 hours!

      Kimberly, rest assured, you are the envy of many readers of this blog.

  14. I sold a Viking 990 to a friend of mine. I loved that machine and could probably get it back if I really had to have it. But I soldier on with my current Viking 1+, also bought used and I never use the embroidery stuff

  15. The Prada shoes...awesome, classic. I would wear the heck out of them. I have never consigned shoes because I wear mine completely out! As for selling a machine, sorry--still have the first brand new machine I ever bought. It sucks, but I have it. I am of the opinion, tho, that things should go to people who will use and love them and not be accumulated--that just keeps bad energy stagnating in your living space (too Feng shui?). I can tell that Kimberly loves that machine, and that should make you feel great.

  16. The thought of consignment shoes squicks me out. I don't even like trying on the sample shoes at the shoe store that thousands have stuffed their feet into. But that is just me and I am in therapy for it.
    I have never sold a vintage machine but have happily bought a few. The hoarding train stops here!

  17. I admire your ability to part with that machine and can understand the regrets. But it sounds like it has a loving home and will be used joyfully. So no tears. We must think of the best interests of the child ... er ... machine.

    The only machine I ever parted with was a Brother with all-plastic parts that did not sew worth a damn. I put it out on the curb. It disappeared and I have never looked back.

    I thought I was bad with my 3 machines until I started reading your blog. I don't think I could part with any of them ... a 1950's Singer, a 1923 White that is foot-powered, and a refurbished factory machine from Singer from an unknown year. When I see a vintage machine that is available I force myself to look the other way. I just don't have the space.

  18. OMG! I'm so happy you found someone close to send the Pfaff off to. They both look very loving and responsible. That would be the ONLY way I would part with a machine I cared so much about. If I could find the right person I would part with...lets see 4 machines:) If I lived in NY...I would love to come to your screening. I like hand sewing and try to couture when I can. I admit I am a slow methodical sewer most of the time. And I confess...I will and have bought consignment shoes. It is amazing the new shoes you can find...I figure they bought them and never wore them, Never caught a disease from this practice either! HA Fun Topics, thanks.BTW...I am still kicking myself for selling my last car. I miss her dearly! If space was not a factor...I shudder to think what I'd hang onto.

  19. Love Linda Maynard's are so close up! Makes you want to cut yards of bias binding and trim trim trim. Her technique are simple and beautiful. She also has a CD available through Kenneth D King where she follows up on using a moulage and commercial patterns:

  20. Peter,

    While your profile headline needs an adjustment (to reflect nine sewing machines and a little heart ache), it is wonderful that the Pfaff 30 found its way to a good home.


  21. I have sold many of my vintage machines, and regret quite a few of those sales, but since I don't live in a warehouse and continue to purchase ones that promise me a good time, I have to sell some. As a matter of fact, I should go right now and list a beautiful New England Queen treadle (which I regret already and haven't sold yet) and a Singer 128 hand crank. . . . .

  22. Thank you so much for the "O'Mast" video review. We just finished watching the film and enjoyed it thoroughly! Incidentally our fabric swatch is quite different from yours but equally beautiful...

  23. 1. Vintage machines: Still in the acquisition (er, hoarder) stage of life. All my machines are vintage at this point, some unintentionally.
    2. Consignment shoes: Always look, never buy. Might buy NIB.
    3. Hmm, O'Mast screening? Pot luck? Spring? Sounds interesting!

  24. Peter, You know an iPhone makes a wonderful HD camera amongst other things.

  25. We have two Samsung SC-MX20 camcorders and they're great.There's one used right now on Ebay $180

  26. Fisrt post here, long time reader… `
    I'm kind of sad cause' I bought my Pfaff 30 because of all of your comments, btw, the good news is that it is in right hands with Kimberly !

    Kimberly, Peter, we all need a youtube video showing us how to oil those old pfaff !


    (sorry for the english btw, I'm not from the US…)

    1. Fred, a drop of oil in all the obvious holes up top, and then on every other moving metal part where metal touches metal on the underside and the needle bar area (you'll have to open the front to access this). Keep oil away from the motor and the belt.

  27. I finally gave away my Vintage Anniversary Model Singer machine in a cabinet. Freecycled it to be exact. It wasn't sewing dependably, and it felt good to see it go to a good home, someone who was willing to put $$ into it to get it running well. I'd had it for 40 years!!!!!
    I've only had bad experience with second hand shoes. Other feet wear them in and then they just don't feel right. I have sold shoes that I couldn't wear, it feels so good to see someone else enjoying a pair of shoes I couldn't enjoy, and get some of my money back as well.
    I so wish I lived on the East Coast when you issue an invitation. Have fun, I'm jealous.

  28. I've just handed on my old grey Elna. It was a 60s one, my Nan bought it for my mum when I was born, as she wanted her old Singer back.
    Like yours, she has gone to a good home - a young woman who wants to learn to sew. She went with some vintage patterns, and a few books on sewing.
    I believe in keeping the craft alive.
    I have three others, no make that five. Ummm, no six, well seven.
    1. Singer 201 (Nanas)
    2. Elna grasshopper (Great Aunt Pols)
    3. Elna SU - 1970s -(Big Sisters)
    4. Elna SU (My first machine)
    5. Pfaff industrial (Mums work machine)
    6. Janome DC2010 - for taking to classes.
    7. Elna SU 1970s (Mums)
    I don't regret sending her on, and I will start to hand the others on as well.
    It is hard to let them go tho, but I keep reminding myself that I really only need two. Or three.
    And, I would like to buy a new 6600 Janome, so I have to make room.
    Or my husband could move out. . . .

  29. Hi Peter and everybody.

    I have a Pfaff 30, vintage in its cabinet. It works excellently and has its original owners' manual and accessory box, with its accessories. I am looking to sell it, but I have no idea what it is worth. I'm hoping to get a good price, as the money is needed elsewhere in my life..Could you help me out? Thank you!!

  30. Ricki, you can check the "completed listings" section of eBay to see what people have been getting for them. If you're selling it on Craigslist, a lot will depend on the market for a sewing machine in your area.

    1. I would say anywhere in the $100-200 range, with accessories.

  31. i just got a pfaff 30 at a yard sale for 8 dollars!

  32. Are you crazy? Never in a MILLION years would I ever sell a Phaff 130.... I am on many waiting list to buy them. My Favorite. I put mine in a commerical power stands. (I have 8)And they sew chiffon to leather without changing setting.

  33. I am researching a Pfaff 30 vs the 15-91 and was so enthralled with your post of finding the Pfaff I was stunned when I saw the little picture to the right saying good-bye. Good part is though that it didn't die, but was adopted by 2 ladies. I'm still considering the Pfaff because of the amount of room under the presser foot which seems greater than my 201. My 15-91 is in the garage awaiting reassembly. Thank you for your video and blog. :D

  34. Thanks for the enlightening blog! This is my first time here, and I feel right at home!
    I own two antique Singer treadle machines, a Featherweight, a Viking, and my latest, A Baby Lock Aria, bought brand new. I love them all! I hostess quilting classes in my studio, so there's always an extra machine or two, (4?) to loan. I LOVED my Pfaff, but ran over a needle and ruined the timing. After many visits to the repair shop, and expense, I had to give up! Loved the built in walking foot! : (


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