Packing Sewing Machines to Arrive Safely

by Bob Bannen,former owner of sew2go


If you're going to sell and ship a vintage or antique sewing machine, then I suggest you read and study this guide. I'm neither a professional packer or am I someone who makes a living solely packing and shipping antiques. What I am is a collector of fine antique sewing machines and collectibles who is fed up with the shoddy and careless disregard for the merchandise I pay for and have shipped to me. Is it too much to ask a seller to practice a reasonable amount of care and diligence in preparing a sewing machine for transit and expecting it to arrive undamaged? I don't think so.

If you're contemplating packing and shipping a sewing machine, then you had better do it properly or the chances of it making it through any automated sorting equipment is not very good. This isn't some fantasy where our newly-acquired prized possession is handled with white gloves and gently passed from one person to the next. This is the 21st century. Postal, courier, freight employees are pushed to their limit: where once there were only 30 stops per day, now there are 150, cities are gridlocked, frustration is everywhere, cargo is jammed into trucks, trucks are braking, turning, stopping and at the end of the day, our package is shunted into a sorting depot and handled by machinery programmed to shove as much through the system as possible, dropping from one conveyor belt to another. I'm not going to be very popular with this next opinion but what the hay, good guys finish last. Just because you insure the package with the carrier, whether it be UPS, the Post Office, Fed Ex or any other carrier Does not absolve you from your responsibility of packaging the item properly! Packed properly, a sewing machine will easily take this sort of punishment.

I just love the first response from the dealers whom have simply taken my money, stuffed a rare and very valuable sewing machine in a shoe box, scribbled my address on it, insured it and shipped it. When it finally arrives smashed beyond recognition, the seller responds, "It's insured, call the carrier!" Excuse me! like hell I'm going to call the carrier, it's not the carrier's fault that some pin head choose to pocket all the profit from the sale and not invest some of that profit back into ensuring the machine is packed properly. Instead of using good new packing material, some dealers choose instead to find their packing material in a garbage dumpster or paper boxes. If the dealer had done his/her job initially by investing in proper packing material and packed the sewing machine to absorb reasonable shipping weights and forces, then the odds of any damage being sustained is greatly reduced. It's NOT the carrier's fault should the sewing machine be damaged because of an irresponsible seller! It is the responsibility of the person (dealer) who packed this sewing machine. THE DEALER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CUSTOMER'S MERCHANDISE door to door. The customer has paidfor the merchandise expecting undamaged delivery. THE DEALER IS RESPONSIBLE NOT ONLY FOR THE MERCHANDISE, BUT ALSO RESPONSIBLE THAT THIS MERCHANDISE ARRIVES UNDAMAGED AT ITS DESTINATION. If we as dealers and sellers can't build this risk into our business then we should look for alternate work…period!

Just so I'm clear here. I'm not talking about catastrophic occurrences, you and I can never hedge against this. Things such as a truck roll over, plane crash, warehouse fire, tornado, theft and so on. I think you see what I mean; these are the things insurance is meant for. Some very good advice on shipping these rare and expensive sewing machines is "Pack a sewing machine to withstand a 5 foot drop from a conveyor belt." Keep this in mind and you will alleviate 99% of your complaints.

How much time does it take to pack a sewing machine? There is no one set answer to this question. It depends entirely on the sewing machine, whether it's a toy, domestic model, industrial, table model or probably the most time consuming, the treadle versions. Below is just an average it takes me to just prepare and pack a sewing machine.

Machine Type
Head Only
1 Hour
Head & Case (portable)
2 Hours
Featherweight & Case
2 Hours
Head with small table
3 Hours
Head with large table
4 hours
Head with Parlour Cabinet
6 Hours
7 Hours

 The above times do not take into account any cleaning or servicing, this is simply the act of disassembly, packing, addressing and paperwork. If the sewing machine you packed takes less time than suggested, then you had better back track and find out where you cut corners.

I just shake my head in disbelief when I see a sewing machine offered for sale with a ridiculously low shipping rate or listed in an auction description by seller "we are not responsible for damage" which begs the question "then who in the hell is responsible?" Another mind boggling statement is "free shipping." Nothing in this world is free. How can a dealer offer to ship a 40 lb. lump of cast steel for "free" ? Believe me, you're paying for it one way or another and hopefully not through suspect packing and shipping practices. Whenever you read a listing and see anything like the above, please stop for a moment and consider what I've just written. Better yet, if you have a website please include a link to this document. And if you are considering purchasing a sewing machine which requires it be packed and shipped, send this link to the dealer.

Not practicing good responsible packing and shipping practices cost us all in the long run. Do your part to ensure your customer's sewing machine arrives in the condition it was described.

In this series I will describe and show you how I pack and ship sewing machines, expecting the same in return when I purchase a sewing machine from you. This series will begin with the straw that broke the camel's back and the motive for this series. "How Not To Pack A Sewing Machine" below.


[How not to pack a sewing machine]
[Pack a Featherweight]
[Pack a Treadle]
[Pack a Portable Bentwood]
[Pack a Head Only]

Invention of the Sewing Machine ~ Canadian Sewing Machine Manufacturers
Sewing Machine Values ~ Singer Dates ~ Willcox & Gibbs Dates ~ Needle Threading
Shuttle Identification ~ Common Problems ~ Why Make Quilts? ~ Sewing With Children
Packing a Sewing Machine ~ Paint a Featherweight ~ Favorites and Links