Saturday, 5 September 2015

Top of the must-have list

Just after my first Pfaff (260PE) I could see how fantastic these late 1950s models are. When reading the manual for it the free arm version was mentioned, and I decided to keep an eye out for one. Another 260 late last year, which I sold a few months ago and I then knew how rare the free arm versions were. Apparently the higher the number the better the machine, option-wide.
There was also a logic to Pfaff's model numbers, unlike Singers. Under 100 is a straight stitch, 100 to 200 is the same as the other but add zig-zag. 200-300 add pattern cams, and 300-400 machines are free arms. The highest number I've seen is 362 but I can't imagine it being any better than a 360 (maybe an extra pattern?).

I saw one for sale a week or so ago and here it is:
It's a 260 with a free arm. The free arm is the easiest one ever. Spring loaded so you pull the table out to the left, lift it a bit, line it up and let go. Everything clicks into place and stays there. Oh you clever Germans! This is way ahead of Singer's efforts of the time. The only free arms they made were the 222K, which is straight stitch only, and the 320K2 which has a much larger arm and is simply not as good a machine as this. Additionally the latter was made in very small numbers because Singer couldn't mass produce them.
Feature #2: The stitch length indicator goes from 4 to 0, but at 1 it goes down very slowly. This isn't a gimmick, it will reliably feed fabric in the tiniest increment. Very useful indeed when using the embroidery patterns, which work superbly.
Feature #3: Look at the spool in the photo. Most thread spools were wound so they had to come off by spinning but some were stack wound, as for industrial machines and have to come off from one end or they twist. Pfaff catered for this by including a transverse spool holder. This clips easily to one of the vertical spool pins and allows you to use stack wound thread.

There are other nice things like needle threader (yes it still works) but they had to compromise a little with this design. The lack of space in the bed meant they had to use a smaller motor. It only has 2/3 of the power of the 260. Considering the 260 was incredibly fast, I have to say the 360s motor is still more than adequate.

Today I noticed two little problems, one caused by me. The first wasn't: The zig-zag set to maximum was skewed to one side. Solution was simple: There is a screw that is accessed at the rear of the left side of the machine which is a simple adjuster. Thanks again Pfaff! The second was because I insisted on cleaning and oiling when I got it. It really needed nothing at all. The previous owner had taken extraordinarily good care of it and it's really like a showroom one. When I put the bed back together, I just screwed the three screws down. Well, it seems there's a bit of play in the screws and I should have aligned them. The needle plate was right against the needle and deflecting it just a little. When I set it to zig-zag, it kept catching the hook during its left swing and I broke two needles before realising what was wrong. At least they're ordinary domestic needles and I learned something about my new favourite.

Won't mention how much it was, but it wasn't much. Luckily the lady was just happy it went to a good home.


  1. These are GREAT sewing machines. They have more features and stitches that most modern machines. Also comes with a powerful motor, and it does fit a vintage singer buttonholer. You can also use a walking foot. Why do I know, I have a Pfaff 332 which is almost identical. If you want to sew jeans, canvas, leather, heavy home dec material, this is the machine to do it. Just clean (with kerosene) and oil with good sewing machine oil and it will outlive you or me.

    1. Corey, I'm actually using it for jeans at the moment :-D
      Amazingly it handles the super thick thread more easily than my 201.

    2. The pfaff 260 which is similiar, these machines are built so that they can take a servo motor and be setup like an industrial sewing machine. The german's back then new how to make terrific sewing machines. Which is also amazing with mine it even comes with a needle threader. Singer never made machines like this. Their best machines: 201 and 15-90/91. I have several of them and they are just awesome to sew anything. I have a newer Bernina that I use as my main machine since I like the adjustable needle position and accurate sewing, needle up down etc. but I always still use my vintage machines for heavy duty work, jeans, and home dec fabric. I don't have to worry about knocking them out etc.