Pfaff Sewing Machines – the 332

Pfaff 332 – 1955 – Permanent Collection

Pfaff is a very old sewing machine company founded in 1862 by Georg Michael Pfaff who was an instrument maker, and by 1910 they had already sold a million machines, not many relative to Singer but still quite a milestone.

By 1950 they hade produced 5 million machines and were producing the venerable model 130 and in the mid 1950’s they introduced the 260 flat bed, and it’s sister, the free arm model 332 are mechanical marvels. These models added built in stitch capability far beyond what the 130 could do with it’s external embroidery attachment and were competing head to head with companies like Bernina, Husqvarna and Elna. these companies had also introduced multi stitch models with the Bernina 530 also having built in stitch capability.

The finish is the same as Pfaff’s industrial models and is quite durable, the white dials can crack if the machine is stored poorly or abused but rarely fail.

Open the hood on a 260 or a 332 and you will think you are looking at a clock, or an automobile engine as these are extremely complex machines internally, but from a users standpoint a very straightforward machine to use, save for needing a Rosetta stone, or a stitch wheel to set the machine up for it’s range if utility and embroidery stitches.

These are extremely powerful machines that will sew anything you can get under the foot, and have a presser foot system designed to sew heavy fabrics, while being able to sew the finest silks and cottons.

They are also very fast, being capable of sewing 2500 stitches a minute with nary a vibration.

The stitch quality of these machines is perfect whether you are straight stitching, zig zagging, or using one of the many decorative or utility stitches, a drop feed allows you to do free motion and the vertical rotary hook is well suited for this kind of work.

Although this model is now almost 70 years old, they are still highly sought after, primarily by people who sew more than those who collect machines for display… if they are used regularly and kept oiled they work flawlessly day in and day out.

They rarely have any mechanical issues no matter how hard they have been used, but can be quite a bit of work to free up if they have been left to sit for long periods of time.

Like the Husqvarna 21, the Pfaff 260 and 332 set the template and a standard for Pfaff machines well into the 1970’s with models like the 360 and 1222 which are also outstanding in their own right.

I am somewhat partial to the pure mechanical machines like the 332 that have no extra electronics like needle position sensors, or automatic needle lifts, and because they were the first of their kind.

Happy sewing.

The Husqvarna / Viking 21 – Legendary

In 1955 Husqvarna introduced the model 21 which remained in production until 1966 and it is widely considered by many sewists and people in the industry, as one of the greatest machines ever designed.

While many will focus on the 21’s capabilities (which we will get to), what strikes most people first is the beautiful design and the colour ; the free arm is rather small for a full size machine, the harp has that lovely curve, and the entire machine has an almost art deco look, despite being made in the 1950’s.

There isn’t a square corner anywhere on this machine and the green simply sparkles…

When we get under the hood we find a lovely rotary hook design, a powerful motor, some rather complex internal parts, and a transmission !

This is not a simple machine but the build quality of the 21 is so good, they rarely have any issues except being sticky from dis-use.

Unlike machines that have an electric speed reducer, the model 21 has a physical transmission to provide a much lower gear for sewing heavy materials, and I have often said these machines will sew a bumper on a Volvo.

Multiple stitches are available via the use of 4 cams, that provide a total of 20 stitches and the stitch quality of the 21 is absolutely perfect. with a drop feed the 21 is also capable of some excellent free motion work, which is something a vertical rotary hook machine excels at.

The Husqvarna 21 was such a great design that this served as the template for Husqvarna machines for the next 20 years and beyond, it was superseded by the 2000 series in the mid sixties which is a very similar machine that has a different body shell, and utilized color-matic cams and colour coded dials.

Much of the DNA of the 21 lives in the 2000 series, the Bakelite controls were replaced by more modern plastics and they came in many other colours like orange and deep red. The earlier 2000 series were also all metal machines while later versions started using more plastics in the internal assemblies. This was done to reduce the need for lubrication and to make an already quiet machine, even quieter.

Husqvarna 2000 – 1968

In Canada these machines were sold as Husqvarna as Viking was a name already trade marked by Eaton’s Canada for their appliance line, in the United States they were sold as Viking machines.

Why Buy A Vintage Machine ?

Singer 4452 “Heavy Duty”

These days you can pop down to x-mart and pick up a new Singer HD machine for just under $300.00 and for a time, this machine will likely do what you paid for, and sew pretty much anything you put under the foot. It has a sold medal chassis that is surrounded by a plastic shell and plastic parts and from experience in servicing these Chinese made machines, they really aren’t made for the long haul.

They use a similar drop in bobbin system like the earlier Brazilian made machines which are also known for having issues because the assembly isn’t metal and often breaks. The hook gear and bobbin winder assembly are also plastic and we have seen countless failures in these, and similar machines. replacement parts are available and they can be a little spendy.

Rewind the clock back the the 1960’s and you will find machines like this 1963 Singer 500A that originally sold for around 400.00 in Canada (4000.00 in 2023) that were built to an exceptional standard, with no plastic in the critical drive parts, with a precision made steel bobbin case, and a completely (metal) gear driven drive.

The 500A is a wee bit more fragile than the 401A that preceded it, namely in the top cover and nose plate that can be damaged if you mishandle them but with proper care (it is a precision tool) there should not be any issues.

An old Singer guy once told me that these machines were so much better than many of the new commercial machines and we have customers who use these machines day in and day out to do commercial work with no issues.

The Singer 500A and Singer 401A… just a few examples of mid century machines that will still sew circles around most modern machines. It is rare that any come to us needing anything more than cleaning and lubrication.

Singer 500A
Singer 401A

There are many more variants of the Singer 4xx series like the 403 and 404 and then there are the German versions of the 4 series that are truly exceptional like the 411G (flat bed) and 431G (free arm), just to name a few.

The Singer 206k “Swing Needle”.

If there is one lesser known and completely under rated Singer machine the 206k should top that list.

These were the earliest zig zag models that Singer offered in the late 1930’s and the second generation of these machines appeared after World War 2, eventually evolving into the 306, 319, and 320 models. The model is very German looking as they were designed there originally, as a competitor to Pfaff and other European marques.

These machines use a cleated belt drive which makes them exceptionally quiet and light running, and have a vertical rotary hook which gives them a smoothness of operation, a nigh perfect stitch, and they are absolutely wonderful for free motion work.

The 206k is not as commonly encountered as the 306, as it would seem they had lower production numbers, probably because Singer moved to producing the 306 which is the same mechanically, but adds cam capability in some variants, and has a more modern looking casting.

The Singer 306k, in black… another awesome machine. Some variants did not have cam capability and were virtually identical to the 206k save for the bodywork.

A stitch test… and one of the best designed zag zag feet ever.

Happy sewing !

The Singer 301… magnificent.

When Singer introduced the 301 in 1951 it was a revolutionary machine for it’s time, taking the rotary hook system from the 221 and combining it with the direct gear drive system of the venerable 201.

The machine was cast aluminium and is light enough to carry with one hand, is full sized, and capable if running at 1600 stitches a minute with nary a vibration.

They cost the equivalent of $3200.00 cad when they were new (275.00 in 1951) so were a significant purchase, and preceded the later slant needle models like the 403 and 500 which added multi stitch capabilities. These later models used a drop in class 66 bobbin instead of the vertical rotary hook.

These are a favourite among quilters and many of our customers who have discovered the 301 / 301A have found their Singer 221 Featherwights don’t see nearly as much use. the 301 is not much heavier and much more capable due to a more powerful motor and full size harp space.

We currently have quite a few of these wonderful machines available for purchase and if you are local we are always happy to arrange a test drive.

The Singer 128… Marca Registrada

Singer 128 Centennial with M.R. stamp

The Singer VS machines were produced from the 1880’s until the late 1950’s and saw small changes in the placement of the bobbin winder, an addition of a shuttle ejector, as well as a change in the casting as the early machines had a cast plate that exposed the back of the machine instead of a plate.

The 28 and 128 were the smaller version of the model 27 and 128 and sold in massive numbers as they were one of the least expensive machines Singer offered, were dead reliable, and made an outstanding stitch. They could also sew through pretty much anything you could get under the foot.

The model 28 had a heavier hand wheel and a lower placed bobbin winder save for the case of the 28-9 which was a transitional model, that had a high placed winder and a handwheel that was a little heavier than the 128’s.

The 128 shown here is a 1951 Centennial model with an M.R. decal, this stood for Marca Registrada and was placed their for export to Spanish speaking countries. It has Celtic decals which were unique to Canadian made machines and the hand crank is a replacement for the original electric motor.

These machines were always best as hand cranks as they were not designed to run at the speeds an electric motor provided, and turning one of these machines over by hand is a zen like experience. It does of course provide excellent stitch control and the stitching of a VS machine is beautiful, and as close to a hand stitch as any machine could make.

Any collector of vintage Singer machines should have at least one, as they were so significant and successful for almost 60 years of production.

A Day In The Life…

I have been suffering from some unrelated health issues over the past month which has slowed me down but the other day I popped out to make a service call at a prosthetic clinic to repair one of their machines.

A needle strike on a buckle caused a bent needle which then knocked the positioning finger on the hook out of place… it was a pretty easy repair.

After that I wrapped up the service on a Featherweight…

Then I decided I should open up a bernina 1130 I purchased some months back but haven’t really taken the time to look at…

The machine is is great cosmetic shape but serges a little so I will have to open her up and check the motor and do the same for the pedal, and also check the circuit board… this was a pretty advanced machine back in 1986 and is still a pretty advanced machine.

Every Shop Needs A Dog…

Jenny is an old friend who has recently started to come and spend her days with us in the shop…

For nine years she served as my friend’s guide dog and she should have retired a few years ago but due to covid, her replacement was put off and she continued to serve and work faithfully.

She will be eleven years old soon and although she is now retired, she is still really happy when I pick her up in the morning to bring her to work for the day and we will be looking at other volunteer options as she would make a great therapy dog.

She loves everyone, is completely non reactive to dogs, cats, birds, and really likes kids too.

Hoping we have many more years together.

Apples and Oranges

If you wanted an entry level machine back in the early 60’s and went to your local Singer dealer, they might have sold you a 328 for around $150.00 which was still a pretty good chunk of change back then.

These were an all metal workhorse that used cams to expand the stitch selection and 60 years later these machines are still working reliably and in our experience, rarely fail despite being abused and neglected. They will sew pretty much anything you can get under the foot.

Singer 328

Fast forward to 2022 and take a walk down to your local sewing shop and they will might sell you a decent quality, entry level machine like a Janome HD series for around $400.00, and while these new machines are a clamshell design they do have an internal metal frame to which everything else is attached. There will be a bunch of internal plastic parts but modern plastics tend to be very good and you should be able to use one of these machines for decades.

A vintage Kenmore from the 1970’s will still be a much better machine at a fraction of the cost… but anyways.

It is when you start looking at some of the economy models that you should really consider if you want to save a few hundred dollars, especially if you knew what was under that plastic clamshell.

This is a Brother CS4000, a computerized model which is very alike to the Brother CS6000i which sells for just under $400.00 in Canada. It came in for a new bobbin winder tyre as the one it had turned to goo.

Note the absence of any metal sub frame and how everything is attached to the external plastic shell… and don’t get me started on how much I hate plastic take up assemblies as these are a stressed part that cycle tens of thousands of times and will often fail.

It sews well but it’s 11 year old owner says it is possessed… I am sure that one day she will be coming to upgrade her machine and maybe we can hook her up with a nice vintage machine for much less that will last a lifetime, or three.

We sold a beautiful Singer 411G yesterday, in a beautiful cabinet for less than one would pay for a better quality entry level machine like the aforementioned Janome 3000 HD… the Singer 411G falls into the category of one of the best machines ever made.

I doubt that this machine will ever require anything beyond regular oiling / lubrication, and might need a new bobbin winder tyre in a few decades, and if you sew enough the brushes in the motor may need to be replaced after 40,000 – 50,000 hours of work. Singer built these with the expectation this machine would last a lifetime, or three.

The Singer 222K

There is often much confusion when people see a 221 “Featherweight” selling for $1200 plus dollars because, at a a glance the Singer 222K looks very similar.

That is until you notice the oval needle plate, and maybe the set screw on the bed that releases the extension to turn this wee machine into a free arm.

The Singer 222K was only made in Scotland and distributed through the Commonwealth and Europe with a total production of just under 109,000 units which is a fraction of a 2.5 million Featherweights that were produced.

As it was never sold in the United States, it tends to be very rare there and command some very high prices, and even here in Canada we may only see one or two a year compared to dozens of the 221 Featherweight.

The case is also a little different but that requires a trained eye to discern the small dimensional differences.