How much is that bobbin case in the window?

Reckless seamstress behaviour

Hello. My name is Tanit-Isis, and I have a problem with sewing. It’s been 15 minutes since I last sewed a stitch…

So, I just did a slightly reckless and potentially self-destructive thing.

I was at the thrift store tonight (killing time during Syo’s dance class). The supply of fun vintage notions that kept me entertained over most of last winter seems to have dried up (I hypothesize that it was all part of one big stash) and I’m trying to be good on the fabric front, and the patterns have been abysmal since they purged a bunch before Hallowe’en. But as I wandered in a half-hearted manner through the electronics section (and there are few things sadder than a thrift store electronics section, I have to say) I realized that there were, not one, but two sewing machines.

Ah, you see where this is going.

The first machine, a middle-aged Kenmore, didn’t thrill me. I was unenthused by a Kenmore as a child (yes, I was a Pfaff snob at the age of nine). But the other caught my eye.

First, there was the blue. A splash of colour on a vintage machine always warms the heart. The price, $10, didn’t hurt. The visual depiction of 24 stitches across the top showed a nice array including plenty of pretty decorative ones that my almost painfully basic Janome doesn’t have, as well as proclaiming her a “White Super Deluxe Sewing Machine.”

There were the two mysterious boxes tucked under the harp arm—accessories! Now I was really getting excited.

I am not a complete rube. I have been around the vintage-sewing-machine block before (possibly even twice). I ducked around the shelves until I located a plug-in and plugged the machine in. Hesitantly, I gave the pedal a squeeze.

Whirr! Motor purrs (and doesn’t sound bad, actually). Needle goes up and down!

Sold. I slapped the carrying-cover back on and sauntered off to the checkout.

Machine footies!

Ensconced with my prize in the car (but still killing time), I dove eagerly into the accessories. A modest but nice array of feet, including several kinds I don’t have. They are low-shank feet, the same as my other two machines, which is nice. Most niftily, there’s a separate straight-stitch throat plate. (Also, the feed dogs drop! This is my first machine with drop-able feed-dogs. They have three settings, down, low, and high.)


The second accessories case turned out to house the cams for all those fancy stitches. Good thing they’re there! I would’ve been seriously choked to discover the machine could only do straight-stitch because the cams were gone.

No manual. Ah, well. I’m sure I can find one online if I need it. Β And no spare bobbins.

It occurred to me to wonder what kind of bobbins the machine might use. After a bit of fiddling, I figured out how to slide back the metal panel that covers the bobbin area.

And discovered just why the machine was probably at the thrift store in the first place.

Bobbin housing---empty

No bobbin.

No bobin case, either.


So it looks like I’m going to be hunting for the bobbin case for a White 967. Presumably they can be found. I’m guessing eBay*, though I’ll check if my local sewing-machine/repair/expensive scissors crack-store deals in Whites.

So here’s the thing. Looking at the bobbin housing (y’know, the part where the bobbin case fits into), I thought it looked pretty much exactly like my Janome’s. So, being an experimental kind of girl, I pulled out the bobbin case from my Janome and popped it in the White.

It fits. I don’t know if it fits perfectly, but it works.


So I got to test out my new machine after all. I will still need another bobbin case, since having to switch it back and forth between machines pretty much defeats the purpose of having two machines, but in any case. Stitches are formed. Fabric moves around (once I remembered to raise the feed dogs). I won’t say they’re the best stitches I’ve ever seen, and I still have hardly pushed the envelope on how the cams work (though I did figure out how to switch them in and out properly.) Not to mention I haven’t done any of the basics like cleaning out the lint and oiling. But at least she sews.

So if three makes a collection, I now officially have a collection of sewing machines. Oops. I can’t help feeling like I’ve crossed some invisible threshold… that now my sewing machines will begin multiplying, until my sewing-room is overrun with archaic, half-functional machines and my husband leaves me because he can’t stand their looming presence spilling out into the basement…

Ahem. I got a new machine!

*After I wrote this, about 30 seconds on eBay determined that “Kenmore White” bobbin cases that at least look right can be had for under $10. Should be doable.



Filed under Sewing

58 responses to “How much is that bobbin case in the window?

  1. Huzzah! I tend to refer to my two as a small heard, so I think calling three a collection is fair.

  2. What a find! Thrift stores here often don’t carry electronic goods are they need to have them electronically tested first and it is not worth the cost to them.

    • Heh! Yeah, the “No Returns” signs are especially big in the electronics section at my thrift store. If they had to test things to make sure they work (and were safe) I’m sure they wouldn’t bother here, either.

  3. Awesome! I have two machines and a serger, and I recall being embarrassed to show a friend how many machines I had. She just blinked at me and said, “I have two machines and TWO SERGERS.” So now I’m jealous….

    Hopefully you can find a White bobbin case that works. I seem to recall that Janome and White are the same company, or were bought by the same company, so maybe that’s why the case fits so closely? And lucky you, getting the cams and everything as well!

    • I dream of another serger… one with differential feed! ;)… and a coverstitch… yup, I think I have a problem.

      I’ve also heard that Janome and Pfaff are the same company, and also that often models made a the same factory are/were sold by several different brands, with minor differences in things like colour (like my serger, which is identical to a Pfaff version…) Who knows. πŸ˜‰

      • I don’t know about Janome, but Singer, Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff are all owned by SVP Worldwide. Maybe try their website?

        Sweet new (old) machine! I would have no clue what to do with the cams. You definitely have a collection going at this point.

  4. I also am about thisclose to starting a sewing machine collection…. πŸ™‚

  5. Score!
    reading this made me realise I already have a collection (three machines, one overlocker) without even trying to collect…
    I think I need to join you at that problem sewing meeting you’re attending

  6. Great find. Where do you store the collection? Only nosey cause my newly aquired vintage machine is sitting on the dining table after being on the kitchen bench. There is no room in my sewing room for her (plus she is to heavy)

    • I took over the basement bedroom for my sewing-room a while ago. I have a desk down there that holds two of the machines (prior to this one I had two machines and a serger) and the third sits on the end of my cutting table. Right now the new one is on the cutting-table as well, leaving me with no space at all on the cutting-table. Not sure how that’s ultimately going to play out… πŸ˜‰

  7. Amy

    The blue color is really cool, and you’ll have fun with the feed dogs dropping and the fancy stitches – definitely good reasons to get another machine! So far I have the one. But, my husband and I share a teeny tiny apartment with two cats, so another machine wouldn’t even fit. I did find a way to squeeze my dress form in to the house – it essentially became an art piece! Thanks as well for your note on my post today. So far everything is as best as you can hope for in this type of situation. Hopefully with all of the good mojo the sewing community has, things will keep on the up and up. Have a great night and good luck with all of the thesis stuff.

    • When we had a teeny tiny apartment (ok, it was a decent-sized 2-bedroom, but that’s still pretty small for four people) I had only the one machine (well, and the serger) and that was pushing it. I’m not sure what we’re going to do if we have to downsize when we leave here…

  8. Good luck for the bobbin case! Luckily you can find things online these days that you would have had no chance of finding before.
    I put a bid on an old machine last night, must be something in the air…!

  9. Amy

    Lucky you! Glad you were able to find a bobbin case. I always love stories of people just finding, oh, some old Bernina sitting all lonely in a thrift store for next to nothing. Of course you had to buy it!

  10. Shams

    But, wait, the bobbin case will cost as much as the entire machine??!! πŸ˜‰ Congrats on the new toy.

  11. What a beauty! However you are a braver stitcher than I and clearly more knowledgeable about things like “stitch cams” – I’d have no idea!! Good news on the interchangeability of the bobbin pieces and good luck in your quest

    • Hey, I have no idea about the cams! (I didn’t even know they were there when I bought it!)—all I knew was that it had some features my current machines don’t and that it still ran. For $10, I figured if was worth the risk…

  12. Brilliant find! Re: the bobbin case – try here shipping is very reasonable (I bought from them several times for shipping to the UK so to Canada should be fine too)! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Claire! That is even cheaper than the eBay ones (though they came in sets with bobbins included…). I always prefer to order from somewhere I’ve heard recommendations for. πŸ™‚

      • You won’t regret going with Sew-Classic, the gal that owns it is a gem. πŸ™‚ And you can email her with questions if you are a bit shaky on which exact bobbin case to use. And she’s got all sorts of other parts if you need them. Sorry….can you tell I’ve been a satisfied customer? 😳

        Anyway, congrats on the find! I never find cool stuff like that at our local thrift stores….unless you count left shoes and stained coats. (OK, I’ll confess the left shoes do intrigue me a bit…)

  13. Oh you lucky girl!! It even has a Teddy bear sticker. Someone loved her once. It sounds like she may come from the same general era as my old Singer – cams and droppable feed dogs we have in common. While you’re trolling EBay, pick up a buttonholer too. (or don’t you already have one?) My Singer makes the most amazing buttonholes…

    • Yeah, the sticker cracks me up! A tenuous bit of info on suggests that it’s from about 1975. Sound right?

      Yeah, I have a vintage buttonholer ($2.99 from the thrift store), so I will definitely have to give that a try, too. This machine has a basic 4-step buttonhole function built in, but I doubt I’ll be able to figure it out without the manual. Which I can download online for, oh, only what the machine cost me. πŸ˜‰

  14. Congratulations on the new purchase! I’m always too scared to buy a machine at a thrift store, but I guess I might be tempted for one in a cool color.

  15. LinB

    My father bought a basic White machine for my mother’s graduation from nursing school, in 1955. It is still a fine machine, and still reliable. My favorite feature on it: You press down a lever for reverse stitching, and it stays in reverse — leaving both hands free to manipulate fabric. My favorite attachment: an all-metal buttonholer. You made a great find!

    • The Featherweight (which is only a couple of years older than your mom’s machine) stays in reverse, too, until you switch it back to forward. Comes in handy sometimes! I discovered the hard way that this new one, if the cam isn’t placed properly, just stitches backwards, too. Not sure if that’s going to be useful, however. πŸ˜‰

  16. Elle C

    Strange. I too, was trolling a thrift store today and found two machines calling my name. I was strong and I resisted the call as I already have a White treadle, a very vintage Husqvarna, a Featherweight, my normal sewing Janome, a Kenmore serger and a Janome coverstitch, and even though my sewing dungeon is in the humongous basement, I really don’t have room, cause those things breed you know. Like rabbits, or fabric, or vintage notions or ….

  17. Gorgeous! That is sews is just an added bonus πŸ™‚

  18. Here’s another source for parts. Just a really nice guy out there keeping machines up and running for reasonable prices:
    congratulations on the new member to the collection (collective!)

  19. Can you say score?!?! Wow, what a great find. Enjoy your new toy!!!

  20. EXCITING! My first machine was a Brother of that very vintage and color. I didn’t service it for 10 years and it still sewed great. I’m pretty sure all those Japanese machines from that era all use a standard class 15 bobbin case that you could probably even get at a fabric store. They were modeled on Singer’s solid 15-90 machines, but they added zig-zag, better lights etc. to make them more appealing. My Brother was the only machine I have ever had that you could drop the feed dogs half way down, which seems to work really well for silky fabrics.

  21. Love, love, love that it has a straight stitch plate! I was hoping I could get one of those for my Janome, but I don’t think so. Hopefully you score that bobbin case on e-Bay!

  22. Congratulations on the new member of your family! She looks beautiful, and I’m excited to see what you do with her once she’s all bobbinned up.

    I’ve only found a couple of sewing machines at the thrift stores in my area, but they’re always exorbitantly overpriced for being what is, essentially, a giant block of rust and dust. Thankfully, the thrift stores make up for being vintage sewing machine-less by being comic book character sheet-full. Well, not full, but you know. If I ever see Gambit sheets, I will snatch them up for you!

    • Plenty of things at Value Village (the thrift store in question) are overpriced,in my opinion (my MIL was looking at hoodies there a few weeks ago and one cost $35! And it wasn’t in pristine condition or anything…) It may just have been the bobbin-case-less condition that made it so cheap.

  23. Love the color of that machine. I am a vintage Singer sewer, 50’s models, lovely coffee and cream color. So fun to have several machines and you will find it so useful to have one set up for straight stitch and the other for all the zig-zags etc. Your early holiday present to yourself!

  24. Joy

    What a great find! $10 is a steal. (I would’ve been interested in the Kenmore, since my workhorse is a Kenmore). I wouldn’t say I have a machine collection, but 5 machines is a pretty good start (3 sewing, 1 serger, 1 coverstitch). But those can be justified as inheritances for my children, right?

    • The Kenmore looked like a more basic machine (simple zig-zagger), which I already have pretty well covered. I know lots of people love their Kenmores, I shouldn’t judge them all by my friend’s crappy one. πŸ™‚

      So all I need now to match your collection is a coverstitch… πŸ˜‰

  25. Sweet! Glad you could find an affordable bobbin case–I’ve bought from Sew Classic, she’s great.
    The Yahoo group WeFixIt can hook you up with info, including where to find a manual and troubleshooting should you have any problems πŸ™‚

  26. Oh my gosh! Are those little fishy stitches?! Too cute! πŸ™‚

  27. Aww! It’s blue! It’s adorable! I seriously envy you your thrift store luck. πŸ™‚ And the decorative stitches look nice! I’ve never even seen stitch cams, how do they work?

    • Good question! This is the first time I’ve ever seen them, but here’s what seems to be happening:

      The cams are basically discs that fit into a holder in the top of the machine, where they turn slowly as the machine stitches. Each cam has a distinct shape to its outer edge. Something about the shape of the outer edge controls a mechanism in the machine that dictates stitch direction and width. So one cam makes the machine do a simple zig-zag, others make stretch stitches (backwards and forwards) and even funny shapes like swans and fishies.

  28. BLUE! Such a smile inducing shade, too. πŸ™‚

  29. Oh man, I would have never thought to check the bobbin case, now I know because I am sure one of these days I will have an identical experience and like you be unable to resist πŸ™‚

  30. I love your blue wonder. she is gorgeous.

    if you google “Atlanta thread”, I’m pretty sure they can get you any bobbin case & bobbin. you tell them the make of your machine and they’ll tell you the price (usually CHEAP.)

    and you are most definitely insane.

  31. ooh so jealous!! i had to get rid of my old blue singer when i moved in september, no space! but post a pic or email me with what the bobbins look like and i’ll check my stash and see if i can send you any. i got a fair mount of old metal bobbins with a button holer i bought a while ago….but my brother can’t wind them, so they might as well go somewhere useful!

  32. Pingback: Yup, I officially have a problem | Tanit-Isis Sews

  33. phyllis alexander

    Question about your super deluxe 967, what is the amperage/ power on this machine?

  34. Pingback: Experimental design | Tanit-Isis Sews

  35. I know this is a few years back but just happened to find it on Pinterest. I recently bought a used White 967 and still trying to learn more about it. I’m curious how old it is. I can’t find videos on it or much info about the attachments that came with it. I ordered a photocopied manual and found that it does zigzag stitches, but just says to make sure (whatever items) are in place before using that stitch. No pictures of the attachments. It needs 2 plug covers replaced also. For now, I’m using a 1957 Singer Featherweight portable that my mom bought 2nd hand years ago and never used, and gave me.

    • Good luck with your White! Mine used cams (funky discs with grooves edges that fit in a spot on the top of the machine and control the kind of stitches it made). There was a whole box of them that did different stitches, but the basic one allowed straight stitch and various widths of zig-zag. If your machine has lost its other cams, I suspect that one would be in place in the top, hopefully. In terms of other attachments, it fit a normal low-shank foot. Sadly I don’t have it any more as the motor blew after about three solid years. It was a good machine.

  36. Claire Narbonne

    I love my White 967. I’ve had in since 1979 and it is very reliable and problem-free. I also have a copy of the manual. It’s a huge file, so if you want it I will need a flash drive. Let me know. β„οΈπŸŒ²β›„οΈπŸŒ²β„οΈ

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