If you’re lucky enough to own a vintage Pfaff sewing machine, you have a real gem on your hands! For 150 years the Pfaff brand has stood out from the crowd when it comes to quality and durability. If you’re curious to learn more about these German sewing machines, keep reading to find out all there is to know about vintage Pfaff sewing machine models, history, and value!
Founded in 1862 by Georg Pfaff, this German sewing machine company expanded into the international market by the early 20th century. Vintage Pfaff sewing machines can famously sew through many layers of heavy-duty material. Today, vintage Pfaff sewing machines are sought-after collectibles.
In this article, you will find out where Pfaff sewing machines came from. You will also learn about the most famous Pfaff models. Finally, you will discover how much an old Pfaff sewing machine is worth today!
Pfaff Sewing Machine History
In 1862 Georg Pfaff made his first sewing machine. The following year he made a total of six machines and proceeded to launch a sewing machine business in Kaiserslautern, Germany. With this tiny foothold into the industry, Pfaff built a family-owned company out of nothing.
By 1872, Pfaff and his small group of employees sold more than 1,000 high-quality sewing machines. After Pfaff retired, his son Georg took over and saw an enormous expansion of the company. In fact, by 1910, the Pfaff company sold more than 1,000,000 sewing machines!
The Industrial Revolution opened the door to many sewing machine innovations. This era saw the rise of big companies like Singer and Bernina, as well. But Pfaff did several things quite differently from other sewing machine companies of the time.
For one thing, Pfaff and his descendants offered innovative employee benefits for their staff. At the time, workers had few rights anywhere in the world, so the idea of offering sick leave and housing assistance was quite revolutionary!
For another, the company didn’t just focus on making great sewing machines. The Pfaff family also built a sales organization as a unique department of the company. They also opened a brick-and-mortar shop in London when international sales rose dramatically in 1885.
By 1902, the Pfaff company exported sewing machines to 64 different countries!
None of the business developments would have mattered without great sewing machines! Georg Pfaff and his family engineered excellent machines that stand the test of time.
Over the years, Pfaff sewing machines offered innovations like a front-facing hook and IDT. But their real difference lies in the power of Pfaff machines.
Many antique and vintage Pfaff models are heavy-duty or semi-industrial models. These intense sewing machines were sold to households around the world but also family tailoring businesses.
Some of these intense sewing machines can still sew through more than a dozen layers of heavy fabric at a time today!
The remarkable German engineering that went into these machines gave Pfaff a great reputation. The company operated through both World Wars and well into the mid 20th Century. In fact, the company factory was bombed and then rebuilt following WWII!
The 1960s saw the launch of one of Pfaff’s most famous machines, the 260. The 1980s saw Pfaff develop groundbreaking computerized models. Unfortunately, the 1990s and early 2000s saw the end of an era, though not the end of the company!
The original Georg Pfaff handed his company to his oldest son, also named Georg. When that Georg passed away, his sister Lina ran the company until 1926. Following her death, a nephew named Karl Pfaff successfully took over and ran the company for many years.
All this goes to say that Pfaff remained a family-run business for a long, long time despite its successes. But this came to an end after Karl Pfaff died in 1951. In the 1960s, Pfaff went public and then suffered financial difficulties through the end of the 20th century.
Then in 1999, Husqvarna Viking purchased Pfaff. This global company also owned Singe. It became SVP Worldwide shortly after buying out Pfaff.
SVP Worldwide still owns Pfaff today, but a group called SGSB Group Co. Ltd., ShangGong bought the shares to Pfaff in 2013.
Pfaff still exists today. You can purchase brand-new Pfaff sewing machines if you can afford them! The new models still have a pretty great reputation in the sewing machine community.
Where Are Pfaff Sewing Machines Made?
Most SVG Worldwide sewing machine companies, including Pfaff, now manufacture all models at factories located in East Asia. Pfaff does not clearly state where its sewing machines are made today, but it is unlikely that the company manufactures them in Germany as it used to do.
Other high-end sewing machine companies like Bernina also transitioned to overseas production to cut costs in recent decades. You may feel like bemoaning the lack of quality in modern sewing machines, but it isn’t really about where the machines are made anymore.
The fact of the matter is that the golden age of sewing machines technology took place during the first half of the 20th century when companies like Pfaff, Bernina, and SInger crafted intricate, precise sewing machines out of solid metal parts. These days, sewing machines use advanced computer technology but almost always contain cheap plastic parts that won’t hold up for more than a few years.
Antique Pfaff Sewing Machine Models
Pfaff’s antique sewing machine models featured cast-iron bodies and treadles. These early models had industrial-grade parts and were put together by hand. Pfaff developed its factory and manufacturing equipment pretty quickly, though, leading to mass-production of some early models by the late 1800s.
In the early years, Pfaff assigned letters to its models, such as the Model K and the Model H. They soon moved away from this and by 1906, the company used numbers instead for easier model identification.
The Pfaff 11, or Model K, is probably the most famous early Pfaff model. This gorgeous antique had a vibrating shuttle and either a hand crank or a decorative treadle, depending on when it was made. Like most Pfaff models from the early years, it also has elaborate golden decals painted onto it and a prominent brand name on the sewing machine arm.
Vintage Pfaff Sewing Machine Models
Any Pfaff model made between 1990 and 1960 falls into the vintage category. Pfaff made some incredible sewing machines during this time. In fact, some of them remain highly sought-after collector’s items today!
For example, the Pfaff 130 remains extremely famous today. This model debuted in 1932 and remained in production for decades because of its popularity! The 130 also features industrial components and could easily sew through heavy fabrics and even leather.
More importantly, at the time, it came equipped with a mechanism that enabled it to sew a zigzag stitch. The 130 has a slightly more square shape, less visible decoration, and solid, precise inner workings. All of its components are made out of metal.
Today, a Pfaff 130 in good condition will sell for around $400, significantly above the average price for a vintage sewing machine! If the 130 comes mounted in an original cabinet or table, the price could rise even higher.
1950s Pfaff models included various models made out of more lightweight aluminum, though the heavy-duty industrial-strength models remained most popular. The 1950s also saw a huge milestone for the company as it sold its five millionth machine!
The Pfaff 230 and 230 Automatic were both released in the mid-1950s as well. The 230 has a forward-facing rotary hook and extra-wide feed dogs. The automatic version, released slightly later, features a mechanism in the machine’s arm that enables zigzag stitching.
The 1960s saw the release of the Pfaff 260, another massive best-seller. Also known as the Dial-a-Stitch model, this fully automated electric machine offered 80 different stitches. The new bells and whistles did not hinder the power of this model at all. It could sew through nine layers of denim at a time!
The 260 has a more modern shape because it has an internal motor instead of the mounted motor with a belt that operated earlier sewing machines. It comes in solid mid-century metal, usually in a grey or cream shade.
The 1960s saw the end of the vintage era, as machines made after this time began to incorporate modern technology and use plastic parts. That said, some 1970s and even 1980s models may sell as “vintage” models.
For example, the famous Pfaff 1222e model sold well into the 1980s. This model launched in the late 1960s and had integrated dual feed technology, more commonly known as IDT. This meant that the machine fed both the top and bottom layers of material through at the same time.
Modern Pfaff Models
You can buy brand-new Pfaff models today, selecting from a wide range of different models. These include highly advanced sewing and embroidery machines, computerized quilting machines, and sewing machines for all skill levels.
The Creative Icon Embroidery and Sewing Machine comes with a vast workspace, a touchscreen so advanced you can pinch and zoom on the screen, and more than 800 embroidery patterns. Pfaff continues to offer great power in its high-end machines, and this model can power through difficult material while sewing fancy stitches!
Pfaff markets this model as “designed for the artisan,” meaning that you probably can’t afford this beauty unless you sew professionally. Like any very expensive store, Pfaff does not list prices on its website! Local dealers list the Creative Icon at $15,999, though.
On the other end of the spectrum, Pfaff also sells some more basic sewing machines like the Smarter By Pfaff. This machine offers special features like adjustable needle position for topstitching and adjustable presser foot pressure for different materials. This more basic model sells at a mere $299.
Pfaff Models by Year
Pfaff does not provide a full timeline of all models by year on its company website, but you can find a full list of serial numbers and years here.
Pfaff also provides a generic timeline of its greatest achievements on its website, which you can find here.
If you’re looking for in-depth information about a particular Pfaff model, you can contact Pfaff customer service. Your best bet is probably to join an online sewing forum, though. You will find fellow Pfaff enthusiasts who can give you details about cleaning and using your machine.
You may even find people in the online community who can supply an old Pfaff sewing machine manual!
Pfaff Sewing Machine Serial Numbers
Every Pfaff sewing machine has a serial number that you can find either stamped onto the machine or in your ower’s manual. For vintage models, you can usually find the number stamped into the metal of the machine, often near the handwheel or on the bottom of the machine.
For some newer models, you may find this number on a metallic sticker, or you may need to check your owner’s manual.
Once you locate the serial number on your Pfaff sewing machine, you can use it to find out when your machine was made. The International Sewing Machine Society kindly provides a full list of all known Pfaff serial numbers and manufacture dates here!
The serial number helps you match up your machine to a particular year, but the model number also matters a lot. This number you can usually find painted or printed prominently on the body of the machine. When you talk to other sewers about your machine, you will refer to it by its model numbers, such as the 130 or the 260.
How Old is My Pfaff Sewing Machine?
Once you locate the serial number on your Pfaff sewing machine, you can go to the International Sewing Machine database here to find out how old it is!
This database is a nice feature that you can’t find for many old sewing machines. All you have to do is match the serial number to the chart on the website and look to the column to the right. This column holds the date your machine was first made!
Pfaff may not provide a lot of information or support for older models now that the company belongs to a giant corporation, but you can always try reaching out through the Pfaff website as well.
If you have a local Pfaff dealer or technician, you can take your model to the shop and ask for information from a professional.
Finally, a great way to get info about an old Pfaff model is to join an online sewing community. This is where you can learn the nitty-gritty about the inner workings of your particular machine.
How Much is My Old Pfaff Sewing Machine Worth?
Antique and vintage Pfaff sewing machines can sell for anywhere between $200 to more than $1,000. The price varies depending on the collectibility and condition of the individual Pfaff model. The functionality and features of the model, such as an included wooden cabinet, can also make it much more pricey.
That said, vintage Pfaff machines do typically sell for more than twice the average price of many other vintage sewing machine brands! Old sewing machines usually have a very low cost of around $100.
Of course, modern Pfaff models also have quite astronomical prices!
The famous Pfaff 130 model often sells for around $400 today. You can search eBay or Etsy to find rare and collectible models that may sell for much more!
In terms of the “best” vintage Pfaff model, you have to pick and choose what features you want most. The real oldies offer power and precision but don’t include IDT. Some sewers swear by this technology, so you may want to look for a model from the 60s that includes IDT.
Despite their collectibility, the true value of a beautiful machine like the early Pfaff models lies in its functionality. These semi-industrial sewing machines contain precisely fitted parts that function like Swiss clocks. They also contain a huge amount of power for stitching through thick fabrics.
For these reasons, many sewers love these expensive old sewing machines for actual sewing!
Pfaff Sewing Machine Manual
Your Pfaff sewing machine manual will give you necessary information like how to oil an older machine and how to insert any attachments. If you don’t have your original owner’s manual, you can almost always locate them online.
Pfaff offers free downloads of newer sewing machine manuals here. For vintage manuals, you can buy copies from many online sellers like this one. Of course, Etsy and eBay also provide a wealth of Pfaff accouterments such as owner’s manuals if you don’t mind paying for them!
You may also want to join a sewing group, either in person or online. A fellow sewer will often happily scan or photocopy a manual to share with you!
Here’s the kicker, though: some old Pfaff manual might only be available in German! Make sure you investigate this possibility before purchasing a manual unless you can read German, of course!
Old Pfaff Machine Threading
Many older Pfaff models use the basic thread path you can find in a Singer 15 or older machines from the early 1900s. This means the threading mechanisms will look familiar to any experienced sewer.
That said, every model has a few little quirks. You should always read your owner’s manual before you thread a vintage sewing machine for the first time. These days, you can also usually find a Youtube clip that will give you a nice visual of the process, too!
You can follow these basic rules to thread many old Pfaff sewing machines.
- First, insert a spool of thread onto the spool pin. On some Pfaff models, this places the spool of thread crosswise across the top of the machine rather than parallel with the top, as is more common in modern machines.
- Pull out about six inches of thread.
- Loop the thread around the threading hook. You can usually find this first mile-marker in the thread path located on the head of the machine.
- Next, wrap the thread up and over the circular knob to the left of this hook.
- Next, gently draw the thread down to the tension disc. This looks like a large circular knob right above the needle mechanism.
- Carefully loop the thread beneath the check spring to the left of that knob. This looks like an upside-down hook.
- Now you have to locate several guides, which look like wire loops attached to the front of the machine. The first you will find quite close to the check spring, but the next is way up near the top of the arm!
- You will make a steep upside-down V with the thread by bringing it back down through the final guide and then threading it through the needle front to back.
That does sound complicated when you write it all out step by step! Honestly, though, you will see all the hooks and knobs quite clearly on the front of the machine the minute you sit down in front of it. This process does not have any hidden or internal complexities to worry about!
Pfaff Sewing Machine Parts
Pfaff sewing machines have such popularity that you can still find many parts and accessories for sale today. Etsy offers a rich repository of vintage sewing machine parts and tools, as does eBay. Amazon does as well, but you have to use some discernment to make sure you’re buying an authentic vintage piece!
You can also find lots of online stores that specialize in sewing machine parts, like this one.
Pfaff machines have internal parts that fit together so precisely that even a bit of lint stuck in the wrong place could cause trouble. Remember that you might just need to clean and oil your machine before you rush out to buy parts!
If you need to replace wiring or something complex, you may also want to consider finding a certified Pfaff technician who will know all the ins and outs of the mechanisms inside your machine.
Pfaff Sewing Machine Repair
Even the best-made sewing machine like a vintage Pfaff sometimes needs a tune-up or repair! If you don’t feel comfortable taking apart your precious Pfaff, you may want to skip this section and cart your machine straight to an official technician.
If you do want to walk on the wild side, it’s not that hard to perform some basic troubleshooting on a vintage Pfaff model!
Here are some general guidelines to help you keep on top of any potential issues with your Pfaff sewing machine:
- Read the owner’s manual. Seriously, read it cover-to-cover! This preventative step will help you avoid making many mistakes in the future.
- All-metal machines usually require regular oiling. Check your manual to find out where exactly you need to squirt a tiny drop of oil. Make sure you use the recommended type of sewing machine oil.
- Clean the machine frequently. Use a small brush to remove built-up lint from the bobbin casing and the feed dogs. Clean everything the manual says to clean.
- If you have everything shiny, clean, and oiled, but the machine won’t sew, you can try a few fixes. First, rethread the upper and lower threads. Even on brand-new machines, rethreading fixes nine out of ten sewing machine problems!
- Second, check to see if the bobbin requires special alignment. Some models may have a notched bobbin that needs to align specifically in its case.
- Third, replace the needle and/or thread. Perhaps you have selected the wrong weight of thread or size of needle to pair with the fabric.
- Finally, look at the electrical side of things if you have an electric-powered model. Do you see any loose wires? Is everything plugged in, including the foot pedal?
You do sometimes come across more complex issues like timing problems. This means that the needle and bobbin hook goes up and down without catching properly. In this case, the upper thread does not draw up the lower thread. You can address this mechanical issue yourself, but it gets complicated.
Likewise, you can troubleshoot tension difficulties yourself with a bit of practice.
If you have electrical or computer issues, though, you should probably resort to paying a professional!
Is Pfaff a Good Sewing Machine Brand?
Absolutely, Pfaff is a good sewing machine brand! Pfaff produced remarkable sewing machines in the late 1800s and it continues to market high-end sewing machines that rival any other brands on the market today. Pfaff regularly ranks with Bernina, Janome, and Viking as the best high-end or luxury sewing machine brands available.
Vintage Pfaff models offer precision, power, and durability. They contain solid metal parts and excellent engineering. On top of this, Pfaff made super heavy-duty machines that worked just as well for professional use as they did for home sewing.
This means that vintage Pfaff sewing machines today can famously sew through up to ten layers of thick material at a time! You can’t even get close to that level of power with most domestic sewing machines today!
The average price of vintage Pfaff models reflects their value, too. Pfaff models usually cost twice as much as many other vintage brands.
In 1862 Georg Pfaff founded a sewing machine manufacturing company that has lasted for more than 150 years. Pfaff has consistently provided powerful, heavy-duty, high-end sewing machines during this whole time period.
Some of the most famous vintage Pfaff models include the 130 and the 260, both of which offered innovative technology at the time. Besides their other features, both of these models can sew through thick material with the power of an industrial sewing machine.
Have you ever used a Pfaff sewing machine? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below to let us know!
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