In this post, I’m going to cover some of the issues encountered when you find a cool vintage sewing machine, but you’re not sure what parts it takes. Specifically, I’m going to delve into White Rotary sewing machines and the type of needle you should use with them. If you’re just starting to collect vintage sewing machines, I highly recommend getting a Singer brand sewing machine, since there is a lot of information out there on Singers. Operating manuals, service manuals, exploded diagrams, and parts lists are easy to find for most vintage Singer sewing machines. In previous posts, I’ve covered how to restore two different Singer 99ks, and how to add a hand crank, so you don’t have to rely upon potentially unsafe electrical components. Vintage Singer sewing machines also take bobbins and needles that are easily available and still in production.
White Rotary Sewing Machines
I’m in the process of restoring a vintage White Rotary sewing machine, which luckily came with a manual, bobbins, and a few other assorted accessories (and it was only $10!).
Although White sewing machines were very popular back in the day, there isn’t that much information about them online, especially in contrast with the wealth of information on vintage Singers.
White Rotary Bobbins
In a previous post, I covered how to remove rust from vintage bobbins. White Rotary sewing machines use a non-standard size bobbin, so it’s good to use the original bobbins, even if they’re in rough shape. You can find reproduction bobbins online, but they’re not quite as good as the originals. It’s best to try to restore the original bobbins if at all possible.
White Rotary Needles
Some vintage sewing machines also take non-standard size needles. The manual that came with my White Rotary sewing machine did not name a specific size of needle to use, but it did provide an illustration of the needle to be used. I compared it with a modern 2020 (or 15×1) needle. They seem about the same size, but the very tip of the needle in the illustration is slightly longer than a modern needle. However, the holes in the needle match up, and they’re very close in size.
When I put the modern needle on the illustration, it matched up almost exactly.
I also came across some vintage needles, which were advertised as fitting both White Rotary and Singer sewing machines. Singer needles became the standard size for all modern sewing machines, so it appears that modern 2020 class needles are fine to use with the White Rotary sewing machine. In comparing these vintage needles with modern Schmetz needles, they seem to be exactly the same size.
Other bloggers have confirmed this, too, but I always like to investigate when there’s any ambiguity. It’s strange that the manual refuses to name a specific size of needle, but it impresses upon you the importance of using the exact right size of needle. Perhaps they didn’t want to admit that people could buy other brands of needles. Maybe they wanted to scare them into only buying White brand needles!