When I started buying vintage sewing machines, I did so without much knowledge about what to look for when buying one. Luckily I ended up loving most of the ones I did buy. There have been many posts out in blog land about what to look for when buying but not much has been posted on what tools you should gather up and take with you on your quest for your vintage sewing machine.
Of course, this bundle of tools you will gather will depend on the type of machine you are searching for. If you do some research ahead of time, you can find information on your specific machine and determine what type of bobbin and bobbin case you will need, what needles the machine uses and if you will need a high, low, slant or snap-on foot.
Most private sellers are pretty nice and will allow you to try the machine, especially if they know nothing about it or if it has not been used in years. A lot of the time they just want to get rid of the machine and will let you tinker with it until you are satisfied.
Here is a list of the items I take with me in a small zip-lock bag when I am out on searching for another vintage sewing machine.
Small scissors – these are cheap little folding scissors.
A small cleaning brush – sometimes the feed dogs a full of lint. I take my brush and dust the feed dogs and the tension unit while I am at it, before threading the machine.
Small screwdrivers (flat/slotted and phillips/cross) – sometimes you need to adjust the flywheel or loosen or tighten the motor. I have found that the lug belts on vintage sewing machines are on too tightly and sometimes the reason the machine struggles or does not move when the foot controller is pressed.
Small pieces of fabric (I usually take cotton) so that I can see if the stitching is consistent and so that I can also check the tension on the machine.
A set of universal sewing needles – I usually take a Singer variety needle pack because they tend to fit most machines and because sometimes the needle is broken, bent, or just missing.
A bobbin (pre-filled with thread) and a bobbin case – many times one of both of these items are missing in a machine. I will take a set with me for an oscillator, shuttle hook type machine as this is the most common bobbin case for the side and front-loading machines. You should also take an empty bobbin so that you can wind a bobbin on the machine and make sure the bobbin-winding unit works properly.
The last item on my list is a zig-zag foot. I favor low shank sewing machines so I will take a foot with me just in case it too is missing. This is rare but sometimes, especially at thrift shops the feet and other accessories that sewing machines come with, mysteriously disappear. I take the zig zag foot opposed to a straight stitch foot because I want to be able to try out all the stitches on the machine; decorative stitches usually require this type of foot.
This kit has always been helpful to me and I hope this will be helpful to you too.