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Is There a Sadder Sight?

. . . than the space where my much-loved Pfaff used to be? Thursday night, as I attempted to sew the last eight inches of the hem on a Kwik Sew top, the tension went all wonky. Irretrievably, unfixably wonky.

I’ve owned my Synchrotronic 1229 for 25 years, having acquired it new shortly after it was manufactured in April of 1983. (Shown here as the disaster multiplied. How about that tangle of thread on the left, eh?) I bought it because it did four things beautifully: the needle stops the minute instant power is cut; the walking foot feeds tricky fabric beautifully; it has a hands-free reverse stitching feature; and the machine edge-stitches with a precision that is amazing. For all these years, it’s done these things, and more, perfectly. Predictably. Wonderfully. I love this baby! So Thursday night was a bit devastating. A quick Internet search revealed a Pfaff dealer only 45 minutes away, which helped. After I called Friday morning, I felt even better — the technician was trained by Pfaff 22 years ago, and periodically since. That’s my era! My baby won’t leave the shop, and I should have it back in two weeks.

Not that it’s going to be a good two weeks. On the plus side, I do have a couple of options, at least for sewing wovens. The Singer Fashion Mate 237 that I picked up in California a few years ago will pinch hit, and, if I want, my 60-year-old Singer Featherweight is available, too. But nothing is quite as versatile as my trusty Pfaff; I’ll be feeling a bit of pain, even though I’ll still be able to sew. My spouse was sympathetic, but not really dismayed. He pointed out that I’ve been wanting to re-make my duct tape dummy, and that this could be the right moment. That’s a pretty good idea, especially since I keep putting it off in favor of actual sewing. We’ll see. Two weeks? I can probably survive two weeks, right?

Update:  It’s fixed!

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  1. Ashley
    June 8th, 2012 at 17:26 | #1

    Thank you for answering, Noile. Funny, my lever that raises and lowers the presser foot broke the other day, so I can’t even do that until the part arrives! But I have tried it “by the book” and it just won’t disengage 🙁 so I think it’s just my machine. That’s ok, though, other than that (and the plastic on it that only lasts 30 years!), it is a wonderful machine!

    • June 9th, 2012 at 15:48 | #2

      Sorry your machine still has the glitch, Ashley. Is there a Pfaff dealer near you with a talented mechanic? It might be worth taking your machine in to get an estimate and some advice. If you’re especially lucky, you may find a mechanic who knows these wonderful old machines, and knows exactly what yours needs (other than the lever you’re waiting for!). I suspect it’s a pretty easy fix, but one that needs specialized knowledge. Thank goodness the rest of the works are doing well!

  2. Melanie Adams
    May 19th, 2012 at 21:04 | #3

    Hello,could you please help me,how do you thread a pfaff 1229? I just purchased a secondhand one and I have no idea…Please help

    • May 27th, 2012 at 16:29 | #4

      Melanie, I’m traveling at the moment, and can’t help with this. I have two suggestions: one, if you have little sewing experience, is to google “Pfaff 1229 manual” and spend ten dollars or so to buy a copy of the original manual. The second is to look carefully at your Pfaff, and follow the logical threading paths. If you have a little experience sewing, you’ll recognize that these paths are pretty standard; if I recall correctly, my Pfaff 1229 offers no surprises.

      You pass the thread through the machine and various points in a pretty obvious path. The spool goes on the spindle at the back of the machine. The thread goes through a slot at the side at the upper left edge of the head of the machine, down under a spring hook, then back up through the hole in the arm that goes up and down, then straight down and snaps under the tiny clips just above the needle(s). I hope this helps, but if you need a diagram, a manual is your best bet.

      If you’re quite inexperienced, you might go to a dealer (if there’s a Pfaff dealer nearby, so much the better), and see how their standard machines thread to get started. Having a general idea of how most machines thread would be a good place to start. A Pfaff dealer may be able to help, specifically, with your 1229, too.

  3. Ashley
    May 17th, 2012 at 05:30 | #5

    I recently picked up one at an estate sale, and I LOVE IT! My only complaint about it is when I wind the bobbin, it doesn’t disengage the needle and the thread will get hung up in that arm that goes up and down. I can by-pass this but would like to be able to leave thread in the needle and wind the bobbin from another spool. Any suggestions?

    I guess I was lucky, because she came with TWO manuals! Which is good, because I would have never been able to figure out how to thread her without them!!

    • May 27th, 2012 at 16:17 | #6

      Ashley, I can’t get to my Pfaff at the moment, but you should be able to disengage the rise and fall of the needle as you wind the bobbin. You must either raise the presser foot, or lower it (I can’t remember which; after all these years, so much of what I do with my Pfafg is autopilot!). Try both, and see; when you’ve got it, the needle won’t go down into the bobbin casing, and you’ll be able to wind the bobbin from that second spool of thread.

  4. Barbara Zimmermann
    November 13th, 2011 at 19:34 | #7

    Noile, I was just on a site that has Pfaff 1229 parts. I saw a presser foot lever AND a manual for sale. Glad to know that others love their 1229 like I do.

    • November 13th, 2011 at 21:40 | #8

      Thanks for your comment, Barbara. It really is a wonderful machine, isn’t it?

  5. Janet
    May 11th, 2010 at 17:21 | #9

    If you ever have Pfaff machine troubles, call Marc Briley at Ashby Sewing Center in Kennesaw, GA. He is a THIRD GENERATION Pfaff dealer (ie his Grandfather passed the business to his Father who passed the business to him) and has worked on the machines ALL HIS LIFE. The man knows his stuff. Just call with the model number. He can tell you if the parts are available any more. He can advise on which machines are worth keeping… This man is worth GOLD in his knowlege of sewing machine innerds! And he’s honest… (which is hard to find now days)

    • May 11th, 2010 at 17:27 | #10

      Thanks for the input, Janet. It’s always good to have a recommendation. Three generations in a family business isn’t all that common, either, these days. That’s potentially a wealth of knowledge to draw upon.

  6. December 6th, 2009 at 22:08 | #11

    If I ever get my hands on another 1229 manual, I’m going to photocopy it and put it in my safety deposit box!

  7. CarlaDian
    December 6th, 2009 at 21:53 | #12


    I’ve owned my 1229 for decades too. I love it. I have other machines now, but I’m lending out the 1229. I had a big problem a couple of years ago, the presser foot lever broke off. My favorite repairman had unfortunately passed away several years ago. His brother said he’d see what he could do, but he didn’t do it for 7 weeks. Then I took it to Auger in Rochester, NH. They had it back, humming, in about a week. I would ship my machine too. And, sadly, the last time I lent it out, to a 13 year old, it came back without the manual. They’ll look for it, but you never know when the old brain cells will require a refresher.

  8. jacqui
    September 25th, 2009 at 19:35 | #13

    Did your machine ever get fixed. My 1229 just did the same and I took it for service. It was returned with lights working but no motor functioning and told its now a fuse …no fuse to be had…now is the mother board. The local sewing center said that Pfaff is no longer fixing them. I am devastated. i have emailed Pfaff.


    • September 26th, 2009 at 14:20 | #14

      Yes, Jacqui, my 1229 did get fixed, and it works beautifully. I took it to Smith-Owen in Kentwood, Michigan. (Here’s their URL: Smith-Owen. They have an in-house mechanic, and he’s great. I was visiting in Michigan for a couple of weeks, and they were kind enough to repair it during that period, so that I dropped it off when I arrived, and picked it up when I left.

      They told me that people ship machines to them all the time. I’d be willing to ship my machine to them in the future, if I had to. (Though no one likes shipping a beloved sewing machine!) You might consider contacting them and doing that, if you’re not in the area.

      I was really impressed with them. They honored their word in every way and the estimate was accurate (they warned me that they couldn’t be sure that the machine didn’t need anything else, but as it happened, it didn’t.). And I really loved the way the mechanic handled my machine — as if it was worthy of a lot of respect, not to mention all the love I give it! Their mechanic clearly loves his work, and has for a long time. You don’t see many people with that kind of pride in what they do anymore. The whole experience was more than I’d hoped for. Now, I’m wishing the same for you! Someday I might add to my sewing machine collection, but it’s the 1229 I prefer for everything, so keeping it alive is a huge priority for me!

  9. Marie Volbeda
    March 2nd, 2009 at 15:59 | #15

    Hello Melissa, saw your posting from May of 2008 regarding the mishap with your machine and you mentioned having a Singer 237. I too have one that I purchased recently at a resale shop. I have no manual or attachments and am interested in purchasing a buttonholer attachment with the cams. Do you know which model buttonholer will fit this machine??

    I called Singer today and they could not give me this info??


    Marie Volbeda

    • March 2nd, 2009 at 21:46 | #16

      Hi, Marie — Sorry, I don’t know which buttonholer might work with the 237, but I do have a couple of suggestions.

      First, of course, is to keep searching on the model name and number; sometimes a lot of persistence will pay off when Googling for information!

      Second, you might undertake a search for a sewing machine repair shop that has been in business for a couple of decades. About 30 miles from us there’s a family owned shop, and I’ve been able to go in in person and pick out ancient feet, etc., from bins that have been around the store forever.

      Third, try thrift shops, which (for some strange reason) often seem to have the old Singer buttonhole attachments. Since they weren’t used nearly as much as the machines themselves, they often even have the little manual or booklet still in the box. Even if you aren’t sure the one you find is right for your machine, for a couple of dollars you could take it home and find out.

      Fourth, you could probably fake buttonholes (though not those really nice vintage Singer ones) using the zigzag if you got desperate! (Though I admit it might take a lot of practice.)

      Oh, and sewusa.com used to have some great information on the 237 (maintenance, etc.) you might want to check them out. Maybe they’d know which buttonholer?

      Hope this helps! By the way, my name isn’t Melissa — were you thinking of Melissa from Fehr Trade by any chance? If not, she writes a great blog — check it out!

  10. May 12th, 2008 at 22:13 | #17

    Ah, Melissa, thank you! Hmmm . . . as long as I had my machine here and functioning, I think I, too, could live without my car, even here in suburbia. That sounds like a pretty good plan for conserving resources — sell the SUVs, and let the people sew!

    What’s it been? Two days? The time is already dragging so incredibly slowly!

  11. May 12th, 2008 at 10:01 | #18

    Why oh why don’t sewing machine shops give out loaners while yours is in for repair like car mechanics do? 🙁 I’ve lived without a car for 7 years now, but I’d be distraught without my sewing machine for two weeks… Condolences and wishes on a speedy recovery!

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