Full seam ahead on a vintage sewing machine sale/donation
July 31, 2017 6:06 AM   Subscribe

My cousin has a vintage sewing machine she'd like to sell or give to someone who will use it. What are her options?

The sewing machine used to be my aunt's. Aunt Reta bought this electric sewing machine as a young woman in the 1950s, after learning to sew on my grandmother's treadle machine, and was at first too intimidated by such a marvel of advanced technology to use it. She soon got past that and, being a very talented and skillful seamstress, produced many beautiful garments with the machine before her death in 1984. The machine now belongs to my cousin, who doesn't sew at all, and she would like to find a new home for it. While she thinks it would be nice to get some money in return for it, what she really cares about is making sure the machine goes to someone who will use it.

The machine is a Singer Electric Sewing Machine (B.R.S. Motor), model 201-3. My aunt bought it used, and I'd put its age as being circa 1950 given that there's a similar 1950 model on eBay with a nearly identical carrying case. It comes with a little instruction manual and there are various accoutrements for it. It is not attached to the table you see in the photos in any way -- that's simply a sewing table that's been custom built for it.

My cousin lives over an hour's drive north of Toronto. How can she find a new home for this sewing machine?
posted by orange swan to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
List it on a local Craigslist, or talk to the folks at a nearby sewing/quilting store (or even the staff at a bigbox craft store) to see if they know someone who will use it, or use social media to find a Scout leader who might know a lucky recipient. Is there a school nearby with a program teaching sewing, whose teacher might know a kid who can use it? Does Toronto do makerspaces or tool libraries?

Plenty of folks do MYOG (make your own gear) for camping, men and women alike, so don't get sidetracked into only looking for a girl. :7)

Bonus points if you can get it to a young person who will learn the skill early and recapitulate your aunt's story of enjoyment and productivity!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:16 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]

(Deft post title, too!)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:16 AM on July 31

There's a yahoo group called Sew It's For Sale (and they have a FB group analogue) -- your audience is probably going to be in a specialty group like this. That's a nice vintage machine, and people will pay well for those if they are collectors / are interested.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:42 AM on July 31

You can find the year it was likely manufactured via the Serial Number.

I'd expect to pay between $50 and $200 for a machine of similar quality and age, depending on wear and extras, in Montreal. I get my machines from used sewing machine stores and also from thrift stores.
posted by eisforcool at 7:01 AM on July 31

I might try posting a flyer at a quilt shop. Quilters love the old singers for their straight stitch and wide throat (or mouth? I forget what it is called!).
posted by Malla at 7:02 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]

Hey, so that looks like a nice 201-3. Unfortunately, it isn't worth all that much actual money unless someone really wants a 201 with the external motor instead of the more powerful direct drive (potted) motor. It is a beast of a machine, and with proper care could sew through almost anything all day long. But it is straight stitch only, and there are a lot of them out there.

Singer made the 201 for about 30 years, from 1934 to 1963. Aside from finding out by serial number which batch it was manufactured in, age isn't much of a factor. I can see from the photo that it doesn't have any of the special badges (Centennial or Exposition) that might make it collectable. With the plain gold badge, and unable to see the inspection plate or the face plate, I'd say made before 1950.

If it hasn't been used since 1984, it would need a deep cleaning and new grease and oil, and probably electrical cords need to be replaced as well. I do suggest that it not be lifted by the handle of the case, but by the base, as the bentwood case looks to be in decent condition. The attatchements of the handles and latches of those cases are pretty prone to failure, spectacular heartbreaking failure, at this point.

The most value it could have is as a family heirloom. If anyone in your family wants it, to learn or just for the history, that is the best place for it. Otherwise, check for local quilting or sewing shops and clubs to see if anyone might know of someone that wants one. Because if it has any sentimental value, the fact is that your cousin would probably only get $25 to $50 for it if it was put up on Kijiji, or even less at a garage sale.

I do not recommend trying to ship it, but if that does come up, please me-mail me and I can direct you to instructions on how to pack machines for shipping.

Interesting link: Treadled 201-3 blog post. A quick one about how hard some of the parts for the 201-3 can be hard to find from a very nice Canadian lady.
posted by monopas at 10:46 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]

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