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Antique/Vintage Sewing Machines

I wasn’t looking to buy an “old” sewing machine. I don’t even recall why I was looking through the classifieds. But there it was. An ad for an “antique” sewing machine. I called the number and talked to the nice lady on the other end of the phone. I had never heard of the manufacturer “Kohler” (except plumbing supplies), and never ever heard of a hand-crank sewing machine. I was advised that the machine came over from the Netherlands, somewhere between 40-60 years ago. I was intrigued.

We made an appointment for me to view the machine. Asking price $175.

I fell in love with the machine. The lines, the wood detailing… granted the case is missing the locking mechanism… and it isn’t working very well. She offered to let me to take it home for the weekend, to see what I thought of it.

I brought it home… cleaned it up, just with a dry soft cloth. Was in awe of the bobbin and shuttle cylinder. I got it working!!! My kids even tried it. It sews like a dream… although it does take some coordination with feeding the cloth through, and turning the hand-crank. I bought it… for $160. They say, a sewing machine is worth what you are willing to pay for it. I have done a preliminary dating on it… from the 1920’s.

Kohler Front View

Wooden Case

My next acquisition came accidentally. My eldest daughter wanted to hit some garage sales… I can’t remember what she was looking for. I put $20 in my pocket, just in case I found something, but I wasn’t looking for anything in particular.

While she was looking around one garage sale, I walked up to another that was about 1/2 block away. Lo and behold, there was an old Singer sewing machine with cabinet sitting out. My youngest daughter accompanied me and she thought it looked pretty neat. The lady holding the garage sale says “$20 and its yours”. I asked her “really”, and she says sure. Well, that $20 in my pocket was whipped out… and I had my youngest daughter stand by it, until I could get the mini-van to put it in.

This poor thing needs a fair bit of work. I don’t even know if the motor works. The power cord and the foot cord are well worn… I was hoping to find replacements… I may still look. I’m hoping for my quilting room to be finished, so I can restore this beauty. The case is in good condition, but water damage to the top. According Singer’s website the serial number JB294256 was made in Canada in 1936.

Singer Machine 15-91 I think


19 Responses to "Antique/Vintage Sewing Machines"

I too seem have aquired a few of these older machines — check out my most recent purchase written about on my blog. They are certainly interesting toys to play with and it may surprise you they are out there everywhere, keep your eyes open and you will soon be overwhelmed by them in your closets and cupboards!

I was left a Kohler sewing machine by my mother in law. The family immigrated to the US from Holland in the 1950s and this was one of the few things they brought with them. I would love to get more information on the machine and even get it in working order so I can use it. The bobbin set up looks very complicated to me. Can you offer any help as to how to go about cleaning/restoring it for use? Or how you were able to date yours? Thank you so much for any suggestions you might have.

Hi Beth,

I was doing some research on my Kohler and have much the same story…
My family is Dutch and my Oma (my mother’s mother) brought her Kohler over to Canada from Holland in 1952. My mom can’t remember when she initially bought it so it could be a bit older.

When I was 11 I wanted to lean how to sew so my mom dragged it out of the basement 🙂

What might be of interest to you is that I have the manual/booklet that came with it, although it’s in German, there are some diagrams for the bobbin and where to oil etc.

The manual is quite generic so it was probably meant for several different models of Kohler from the 40’s-50’s.

I have scanned it as a PDF and I will email it to you if you wish. Feel free to email me at aketelaars@rogers.com and I’ll send it along if you are interested…

Andrea, how wonderful. I haven’t done much more research on it, and one day, I hope to have it set up to be used.


HI Andrea
I have Kkohler Sewing Machines.

In looking at you pic of the machine, I believe it is a 15J model made in St. Johns. You say the cords are worn, as someone who does machine restoration, I would probably replace ALL the wiring.

In the old machines, the wire deteriorates and can leave a very dangerous situation where the wire is exposed and can short out through the body of the machine.

You may be able to find some parts for the model you have, one of the best features of the 15J is the “potted” motor which means there are no belts to drive the mechanism. There were some earlier problems with this drive mechanism due to stripping the gears, but I believe Singer solved the problem by using a different composite material.

I am in the process of restoring a 15J at the moment, and the hardest thing to find believe it or not is suitable replacement wire. All wire today is made of vinyl not rubber, and it is just not the same.

I am also in the process of restoring some 201 machines. These machines are just fantastic, Singer’s best ever. They are a favourite for quilters, and are the only machine that is being converted to long arms due to the exquisite mechanism. If you want to read more about the 201 just Google it and you can see all sorts of information.

Anyhow that’s my views today, best of luck with your find.

i am trying to gain information about an antique quilting machine that has been passed down to me.It has push buttons on it and looks like a long skinny xylophone.Is this considered a valuable antique?

I have a Kohler sewing Machine as well serial number 1894645 looks like the one posted on the top, in a wooden case, not the coffin style, and am wondering how much it’s worth, and how come i can’t seem to find information on it. Hermann Kohler made it, but worked under W.J. Harris & Co. Ltd… from what i’ve got so far, but no Luck….

Aside from the occasional collector, sewing machines are worth only what you are willing to pay for them. One of the resources for collectors who wish to discuss their machines is at needlebar.org They have photos of several types of Kohler-made sewing machines. However, they are not a commercial service; you are expected to join and participate in discussions.

I am looking for one of this machines. We used them in high school sewing class and ever since fell in love with them. any ideas where i can get one. am in Kenya.

Sorry, I don’t know where you can find one. Perhaps eBay.


Tears well in my eyes as I read the history of your first sewing machine. As a child I learned to sew on a machine very similar to the Kohler. My mother has it still. She too brought it from Holland when she immigrated here in 1958. Learning on it was an experience. I was 3, yes 3 when I learned to sew on it, My Mother said that at least I would only ever have one hand near the needle. Now almost 50 years later I am still sewing and have no intention of ever stopping. Someday I hope to inherit that machine and the memories that it brings to me with my Mother.

Hi Elizabeth,

What a wonderful memory you have. I don’t have memories like that. I have since acquired another hand crank (about a month ago), she is from 1908, a Singer Model 28, built in Scotland.


I have one very similar that my Oma brought from Holland, has the crank, etc. I would be interested in selling it.

I have just brought a singer sewing machine just like the one in your photo. Mine is an EF series made in 1949. Quite rusted but beautiful and in original condition. I’m wondering have you had your 1936 valued? If so can you please tell me the going value? Thanks


Hi Simone

Sewing machines are difficult to value. Basically they are what you or someone else will pay for it.

Many people sell them as antiques and can greatly inflate the prices of them… doesn’t mean that is what they will actually get for it. Condition, accessories, cabinet, etc. all are taken into account on how to value a machine.

I read recently that if you consider a sewing machine as an appliance, as such it isn’t worth much. Think of the 50’s style refrigerator. Painted and cleaned up, they could be worth more. Hope this helps.

For more information on Vintage Sewing machines, you may want to look into Facebook groups if you are on it.

I believe I have one???

What does the key for a dome Kohler sewing machine look like? I have the sewing machine but do not have a key. Would anyone know how to open it without a key?

Oh gee… I don’t remember what it looks like… My machine is tucked away. I know with the singers, you can use a small flat head screwdriver, slide it in, and twist, and it pops open. Maybe try that?

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