How To Use An Old Sewing Machine: 3 Steps To Do

Last Updated on 6 months by Susan Mayrich

Those who want to know how to use an old sewing machine can start with three steps. However, you don’t need to overwhelm yourself with complicated procedures. We’ll also discuss what to do with a vintage unit. 

how to use an old sewing machine

Are you also interested in a specific model such as a Western Electric? We discussed how much a Western Electric sewing machine costs if this vintage unit is something you want to buy.  


How To Use A Old Sewing Machine Correctly


Step 1. Search about the machine

  • Identify the specific vintage or antique sewing machine brand you have
  • Search about the function and use of your unit
  • Study the components and familiarize yourself with every part
  • Consider finding forums and discussions about the specific sewing machine you have

Step 2. Thread the machine

  • Have the top thread through the hook and tension assembly
  • Guide the thread through the uptake lever and into the hooks
  • The thread should be now close to the needle, so you only need to go through the needle eye

Step 3. Set up the bobbin

  • Set the bobbin on your old sewing machine so that it will thread counterclockwise
  • Put the bobbin in its case and thread the top of the machine 
  • Never start sewing until you’ve ensured that you secured the bobbin in the sewing machine
  • Hold the top thread and turn the handwheel to pull it 
  • See the bobbin thread up and out

Are Old Sewing Machines Hard To Use?

Old sewing machines can be tricky to use if you’re more accustomed to modern models. This is because advanced machines use technology for features that make sewing easier. However, some would also argue that they find it easy to work with an old sewing machine because it is more straightforward. 

Another side where an old sewing machine becomes easier to own is the repair. There are fewer technical components that you’ll need to fix compared to modern units that require professionals. Overall, identifying which sewing machine will be easier for you will depend on your personal comfort and familiarity with different sewing machine features. 


Antique vs vintage sewing machine

Antique sewing machines were made before 1900 while vintage sewing machines can be vintage antique or modern. This means that vintage models are found in all eras rather than antique ones made before 1900. Therefore, it’s harder to find antiques than vintage sewing machines, especially if you want a working one. 


What makes an old sewing machine vintage?

  • Sewing machines that the manufacturer made with the best technology during that era
  • Brands such as Singer, Brother, and Bernina are the most common vintage sewing machines because they often have the best features and functions in various era

What Is A Manual Sewing Machine?

A manual sewing machine is a model that doesn’t depend on an electric motor. Therefore, you’ll work using the foot pedal and handwheel, hence the name manual sewing machine. The advantage of this straightforward sewing machine type is the ease of use and maintenance while also saving repair costs because of the lack of technical features. 

Electric vs manual sewing machine

Choosing between an electric and a manual sewing machine will depend on the user’s preference and abilities. For example, you may prefer a manual unit for low maintenance, while some would rather own an electric sewing machine for its extra features. And, of course, you have to consider the convenience of portability with manual models versus the pricier electric sewing machine. 

How Do You Use An Old Treadle Sewing Machine?

Using a treadle sewing machine is simple because it is a foot pedal-powered machine. You can even consider it as an antique, and you’ll often find one in garage sales and auction houses. Compared to a motor-powered sewing machine, your hands will hold and move the fabric while the sewing is controlled with your foot pressing the pedal. 

What Can I Do With An Old Vintage Sewing Machine?

  • Keep the old vintage sewing machine as memorabilia or family heirloom
  • Sell or trade it with other vintage sewing machine enthusiasts
  • Donate the old sewing machine to local charities or ask a friend/family member if they could use a sewing machine
  • If the old sewing machine is too worn down, consider repurposing or recycling its parts

Are Vintage Sewing Machines Worth Anything?

The value of the vintage sewing machine will depend on its desirability. For example, does it have features that make it attractive for collectors? Perhaps it’s also a limited model, or it has a historical value.

Note that not all old sewing machines can be sold at high prices. However, you can try searching your model on eBay or ask your local antique shop about the potential value of your machine. From there, you can gauge the worth of your unit. 

Here is also where you can sell a sewing machine if you’re interested. 



And that’s it! We discussed how to use an old sewing machine, but you must research your model above all else. Then, since most vintage and antique models are straightforward, learning how to thread and set them up will also be accessible. 

We hope this was a helpful read, but feel free to leave us any questions if you still have any.


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