Sewing & Crochet

Meet Helga, My Pfaff Sewing Machine

Sewing is a hobby I’ve wanted to pick up for several years now. I love how it can be as practical or as glamourous as you want it to be. I love the control the sewer has over the finished product. Even working from a simple pattern, being able to choose your own fabric gives infinitely more options than what is available in stores.

This is why several months ago my mother kindly gifted me her old sewing machine (Thank you Mom!!). She’s had a new one for at least a couple years now, but promised that this one still works fine. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the manual on hand but I had a feeling I would be able to make due without. So, outside of one or two lessons I had as a child, I was on my own to figure this out.

Late the other night, I got the itch.

Dirty Carrying Case

Cleaning Helga

Before I could do anything, this machine desperately needed a bath. You don’t want to know how many Lysol wipes I went through, and that was before I even lifted off the carrying case.



Seriously, there were cobwebs all over it. I had to call in my germophobic significant other to help because I freaked myself out thinking a spider was going to crawl out of a crevice.


After I declared the machine spotless and started to get to know it, I discovered new compartments and began to realize this machine may never be truly clean again. Just kidding, but I will probably need to pick up a little oil.

Squeaky clean, cords & all!

In the midst of this cleaning adventure, her name came to me. Helga: strong, dependable, and no frills. It wasn’t until later I discovered Pfaff (pronounced like “foff”) originated in Germany.

I also discovered that Pfaff has the manual available for free online, which was helpful. I find it’s better for reassurance that I’m headed in the right direction than an actual step-by-step guide due to the poor printing quality, but pair that with the knowledge of the internet and I feel ready for anything.


Upon swinging open the free arm and opening up the compartment, I was pleased to discover a few treasures!


At first I was worried my mother had just forgotten them there, but I remembered she’s been sewing with her new machine and hadn’t touched this one in ages, so I doubt there’s anything here she misses much.


On closer inspection, I found a whole bunch of sewing machine needles, even a pack that was unopened. There were two regular needles for sewing by hand which were promptly added to my own stash. There’s also a device that helps thread needles, but I have no idea how to work it. In the very bottom left corner of the photo, there’s a piece of plastic with measuring lines on it (probably in inches). I think it may be to help with button holes, but that is beyond me. Next to that is a small plastic brush which the manual says came with the machine and is to be used for cleaning. It looks a little small to me, but we’ll see how it fairs. There’s also a bobbin, some variation of a presser foot, and a white pencil for marking fabric.

Winding the Bobbin

The first thing my manual had me do was wind up a bobbin. I guess it’s a good thing I had one in the arm storage! I was a little confused which hole anything was supposed to be thread through but a quick Youtube video cleared that up (answer: any of the little ones on the top).


I found it incredibly rewarding to wind my first bobbin. I used the machine! With electricity! By myself! It’s okay, I’ll escort myself back to the 50s now.

After the bobbin was wound, it needed to be inserted into the machine. Pop open the compartment easy peasy and — lint. Lots of it. Also, a thread was sticking out of the bobbin case because there was already a bobbin hiding inside! Score, now I have two bobbins. The second one has a little extra grey thread left on it.


After that, I managed to thread the machine and needle with minimal difficulty. Just like that, I’ve got a machine & it’s ready to sew.

What’s Next?

There’s still a couple things I need before I get going. While I have a few up cycle projects in mind, I want to get comfortable with the basics making something easy like pillow cases, totes, and PJ bottoms. I’m going to hunt down some bed linens, curtains, and the like at my local university’s free store early next week. Some other essentials I want to get ASAP are:

  • Fabric scissors
  • Pins
  • Pin Cushion
  • Seam Ripper

I’m also lacking in the thread department but hopefully my spool of black thread will last me through a couple projects.

Did anyone else get a hand-me-down machine?

What was the hardest part about the absolute basics for you?


2 thoughts on “Meet Helga, My Pfaff Sewing Machine

  1. Hi Katie Marie,
    I too am just beginning to sew – I’ve only done infinity scarves so far, which is probably the easiest possible thing to sew! I’m curious about upcycling though … do you know of anywhere on the web to find free upcycling projects?
    p.s. thx for visiting my yoga site!


    1. Awesome! My first project was turning one of my boyfriend’s old work sweater into a sweater for one of my hounds. It still needs a lot of work though, I probably should have started with something easier haha!

      It’s not really a how-to, but one of my first big inspirations for learning to sew was which is a blog where the writer buys old thrift store dresses and makes them into something more modern and wearable.


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