Costume design, vintage sewing machines, painting
I had a feeling this morning that something wonderful was headed my way, and when I checked my usual round of emails & websites found someone who was giving away a vintage Morse 200 Deluxe sewing machine. I would be happy if this machine was even in decent condition! I don’t know much about Morse machines, except that they were made by Toyota at one point and looked somewhat like a Zephyr train.
So, why not? I contacted the owner, and within an hour I was as giddy as a kid at Christmas as I pulled my treasure out of its box. And it did not disappoint! It was love at first sight (sorry honey). Gorgeous metallic blue and gleaming chrome . . . this 30 lb beast has real metal levers and knobs, not a BIT of plastic to be found. Now, I’ve owned vintage machines before (Franklin Treadle, Singer 66-8, Singer 20U) and have never been in such awe of the gorgeousness of a machine. It’s like time stopped the moment its former owner stopped sewing with it. The chrome is flawless, there is no rust, the original manual is complete, accessories UNOPENED. Here are some basic pics:
Some small touches that I just love: The graphic on the front of the manual is charming, “For Home Sewing Pleasure” indeed! Then I found the gleaming miniature oilcan (unopened) and the cuff from an old shirt that was buttoned around the machine’s arm and used as a pincushion (what a great idea!) CORRECTION! This is NOT a great idea. The pins & needles can scratch the paint and cause pin-rash. It’s true! Don’t do it.
I immediately started kicking tires & checking under the hood. The only negatives I could find were a crumbling light cord and belt. Fortunately, the set of standard belts sold at JoAnns fit perfectly, the light cord I will deal with later. The extent of necessary cleaning & maintenance: replace belts, blast some fuzz with canned air & oil all the spots. A side note: I was recently frustrated with my 5 yr-old domestic Viking machine because it had locked up & the manual said NOTHING about oiling, so I squirted it in the usual spots & it came back to life. The Morse? Perfectly clear illustrations and directions for oiling. C’mon machine manufacturers, give us some credit!
Moving on – This machine has some interesting features: Non-Jamming: the description is kinda confusing, but I checked the race assembly, and there were indeed a couple of short peices of thread in there, so it must work. Also features Automatic Darner, not really automatic, but it is a push button release for the pressure that the presser foot exerts downward on the feed dogs. Kinda neat, never seen that before. Fabric Selector controls the pressure that the feed dogs exert upward on the presser foot.
This is a straight-stitch machine only, with reverse. It ranges from 7-30 stitches per inch. The only negative I’ve found so far is that it’s a little time-consuming to switch stitch lengths. The lever needs to be in the middle, thumbscrew loosened, length adjusted, thumbscrew tightened, lever moved out of middle. It’s a bit cumbersome, but the mechanism is pretty 😉 The bobbin winder is nice and solid, as well as fast. It can be run with the needle disengaged OR while you sew using a 2nd spool of thread. LOVE that. I also really like that the takeup lever, tension control and all that jazz is off to the left side of the needle, I hate seeing all that stuff whizzing up & down right in front of my face. And yes, I’ve whacked myself in the forehead with a takeup lever when leaning in too close. More than once.
So, how does it run? In a word; spectacularly. It’s not super-quiet, but quieter than my newer Viking. I only had to make slight tension adjustments to get a beautiful, balanced stitch. It feels smooth, not jerky. I also like the older style metal foot pedal, it gives you great speed control. One recommendation: Whenever you get a new machine, whether you have one or many (ahem) always make a stitch length sample to keep with the machine. It’s easier to know what length you want if you have a visual reference right there. Each of my machines does it differently; arbitrary numbers 1-7, 1-4.5, stitches per inch . . . and I cannot remember exactly what each looks like.
Overall, I love this machine & can’t wait to get the lamp re-wired. If you have the opportunity to pick one up in (at least) decent condition, don’t hesitate. Here’s some eye-candy of other Morse models, I’m definitely a fan!
UPDATE: Here’s the manual in pdf format for FREE download!