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Choosing an Antique Sewing Machine with the Sewing Machine Scoring System

by Ripstop by the Roll July 05, 2023 4 min read

Antique Sewing Machine Scoring System

During  Episode 66 of Ripstop on the Record , Heath Jackson from  77 Gear Co  reviewed the Sewing Machine Scoring Criteria, which outlines seven criteria to assess your sewing machine. Heath Jackson spent the past six years developing this tool.

Like many makers, he had a dream of making a project to enable his outdoor pursuits. What started as just a tool became his infatuation. Since then he has bought and restored over 30 machines. While working with these machines Heath, kept careful notes on seven distinctive features. With the help of friendly internet compatriots the homemade spreadsheet has become fairly extensive. Now you can see how the machines ranked and stacked up against each other.

In this blog, we'll take a closer look at the scoring system's seven criteria to help you choose the best (new) antique sewing machine for your needs:  Power, Strength, Finesse, Durability, Ease, Features, and Cost.

Antique Sewing Machine

Sewing Machine Non-Negotiables

Before we hop into the scoring system, there are a few disclaimers of what types of antique domestic machines are included in the scoring system. In order to be considered for rating the sewing machines we reviewed must have the following:

  • Must have reverse
  • Round bobbins only
  • Must have zigzag
  • Must have power/motor
  • Readily available for sale
  • Avoid non-metal plastic critical parts
  • We exclude models that were part of the cost reduction and cheapening of parts and labor. In the age of vintage machines, this was done by moving work to Southeast Asian countries.

Sewing Machine Scoring Criteria

1. Power - Not including industrial machines

A sewing machine's power is essential because it determines how efficiently it can handle various fabrics. In this category, we want to consider the strength of the motor, the pull of the belt, and the whole system that makes the machine go.

You'll want to find a machine that can handle everything from lightweight cotton to heavier fabrics like denim. If you're not working with heavy fabrics, you don't need an industrial machine, but you'll still want a machine with a motor that can keep up with your projects.

2. Strength - Punching Power

The strength of a sewing machine refers to its punching power which is not to be confused with the previous category. This has to do with the internal components and how well it can penetrate thick fabrics or several layers of fabric without jamming or breaking needles. Look for machines that have a high punching power to handle heavy duty fabrics with ease.

Other things to look at here are how strong are the feed dogs and how wide are the feed dogs?

3. Finesse - How delicate of an item can you put through?

Finesse refers to a machine's ability to handle delicate fabrics like silpoly. Sewing with a delicate material might require a different machine than you would need if you were working with multiple layers of heavy-duty fabric like Cordura.

4. Durability - Is it metal parts or plastic parts?

The durability of a sewing machine is crucial to consider, especially if you plan on using it frequently. Metal parts are more durable than plastic ones and can withstand wear and tear better. Look for machines with a metal frame and sturdy components to ensure they will last for years.

5. Ease - Can I find information/parts about it?

The ease of finding information and parts for your sewing machine is also essential. Look for machines that have readily available parts and accessories, with manuals and tutorials easily accessible. Many brands have online communities where you can ask questions or get advice from other sewers.

6. Features - What are you trying to accomplish?

Think about what you want to accomplish with your sewing machine. Do you need a machine with a built-in buttonhole function? Would you like a machine with decorative stitches? Consider what features you need and what you can do without.

7. Cost - What is your budget?

There are a lot of resources to finding used machines. Check out your local thrift store, garage sale, or online marketplace. The lower the rating, the more cost-effective. 

1 = Under $50

2 = Below $200

10 = Above $3,000

Alder Antique Sewing Machine

Antique Sewing Machine Scoring System

Here is the most recent version of the scoring system. Please keep in mind that there are some requirements listed above and this model is focused on a new maker deciding on a first Vintage (and some not so Vintage) machine. 

Even better, request a change to a current machine or add a machine that's not on the list through this form.

Choosing the right sewing machine can be a daunting task, but the Sewing Machine Scoring System makes it easier by breaking down the critical criteria. When shopping for a sewing machine, consider the power, strength, finesse, machine tolerance, durability, ease, and features. Additionally, look for machines with reverse, round bobbins, and zigzag stitches, as these features are crucial for most sewing projects. By keeping these factors in mind, you can find the perfect sewing machine to suit your needs, allowing you to sew with ease and confidence.

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