A humble 1960s sewing machine from DDR… but why does it fetch £150 at auction?
Textima VEB was created after WWII in East Germany by merging various local sewing machine manufacturers (largely stripped of all their machinery in post-war reparations). Notably, that included Clemens Müller and Naumann from Dresden and Singer from Wittenberge. Crême de la crême.
Veritas was a trade mark registered by Clemens Müller, so Textima took it over and started producing domestic Pfaff-style vertical rotary machines for the entire East European block. They were common, popular and well-regarded. My parents bought one in late 1960s, and I grew up with it.
Textima produced many other types of machines as well, both domestic and industrial, and the industrial branch is still active today. Cresta Autostitch for example is from Textima, model Naumann 8014/26, but it’s a vertical oscillator, not a rotary. The same top, different bottom, the same robustness and quality.
But today DDR is no more, Germany is one again and much of the former East European block is a part of the EU. Textima Veritas machines started popping up on eBay, and some even turned up here in the UK. What happens when you combine the brains of three of the very best sewing machine manufacturers into one company? You get machines that just don’t quit. Textima Veritas 8014 series machines are “old school” – they are built to last. They sew jeans and leather, as well as fine fabrics. They have useful stitches and powerful motors with more torque than speed. They make an excellent stitch. And they look quite plain and unpretentious. No frills, no fancy colours. Pure muscle.
When one of these comes up on German eBay and it’s been serviced and the seller is willing to post it abroad, it fetches between £150 and £250. There are enough people who know exactly what they are getting. I could never justify the cost, besides it’s always been a slightly different model from the one I grew up with. But then one exactly like our old one turned up on eBay UK! The seller wrote that she “could not get her head around the knobs”, so was selling the machine as she didn’t want to just throw it out. It started with 1p and fetched £150 and I didn’t win it.
About a month later she relisted it. No explanations, the same description as before, but now also with a buy it now at only £40. What a drop! What happened? I smelled a rat. But it was the very model from my childhood, and it was my birthday, and so I bought it. Rat or not, I was going to fix it.
Well, the “fully working” machine with “confusing knobs” actually had a solidly jammed hook that was forced out of alignment and was snapping the needle on every turn. Ah! I can see how that would be confusing. 😉
But the good news was that it wasn’t actually broken. I had to disassemble the hook, and it didn’t want to let go, but eventually it let loose, got cleaned out, reassembled, realigned, thoroughly oiled and back to working order. Then it transpired that the needle wasn’t centred and would have been hitting the needle plate on wide zig-zag if zig-zag had been working… Instead it sort of meandered on the left not quite sure what to do. And of course the light bulb exploded the moment I plugged it in… Oh dear. Lots of confusing knobs there! 😤
But never fear – it all got sorted out. Oiled, oiled and oiled again, run through and thoroughly tested. Smooth as butter. Powerful, precise and well worth the effort. After 35 years, my old friend is home again. 😊
But enough of this sentimental dribble! 😉 Let’s get down to the technical bits.
Vertical rotary hook
This is a Pfaff-style machine with the familiar “stapled” belt.
There are some plastic parts, such as the bits under the belt, and notably one of the two gears driving the hook.
Obviously, when I discovered this, the alarm was sounding loud and clear. But I had a good look at that gear, and it is still immaculate. The housing that covers the gears, has an oiling hole for the plastic gear, so this is the type of plastic that requires oiling, or at least does not get dissolved by oil. Perhaps this is the secret of its longevity. The machine was clearly used a lot over its lifetime, but the gear is still as good as new.
The hook itself is a fairly standard Pfaff hook, so I had to undo 9 tiny screws to get it disassembled. Fiddly but straightforward, and once the offending piece of thread was removed, it all went back together and moved properly.
There were many models of Veritas and Naumann machines, and they varied mostly in the available stitches. Some models were plain straight stitch, some straight stitch and zig-zag only, some had needle positioning, buttonhole programs, fancy stitches with a simple selector or with a combined mechanism – lots of different variations in the top part of the machine. Each of those mechanisms could be combined either with a vertical rotary hook in Veritas models or with a vertical oscillating hook in Naumann models. The 8014 series was truly versatile.
My machine is model 8014/35 and it has no zig-zag width knob and no needle positioning. Instead, it has two cam stacks providing 4 basic stitches (straight stitch and zig-zag of fixed widths), 4 utility stitches and 8 decorative stitches.
The lever on the top lid switches between the cam stacks and the program selection knob selects the stitch. (Pattern 1 in the bottom row is a wiggly line without zig-zag component, so it is not easy to see it on the black background.)
Not having a zig-zag width knob sounds like a handicap, but actually it isn’t. The machine has 5mm wide zig-zag, so reducing the width for the fancy patterns is not very sensible, and indeed I always sew such patterns at full width even when I do have the option to reduce it. The same can be said for the utility stitches, and we have blind hem stitch (5), stitched zig-zag (7) and sew-and-overcast stitch (8). Note that blind hem stitch is not using full width of zig-zag, but only about half of it, as you would expect. But what is stitch 6 which shows a button? Ummm, that’s a stitch for sewing on buttons. 🙂 No, it doesn’t drop the feed dogs – you need to do that yourself. What the stitch does is secure the thread at the start and at the end, so that your button doesn’t come off the first time you try to use it. Clever! The pattern is as follows: three stitches on the left, then zig-zag, zig-zag, zig-zag (didn’t count how many times), then three stitches on the right. With feed dogs dropped, the three stitches at the beginning and at the end are in place, securing the thread. And if you are wondering how to know where in the pattern you currently are, there is an indicator for that! The side of the front cam has a spiral drawn on it, and there’s a cut-out window in the lid to the left of the pattern selection knob. You simply need to advance the pattern until you see a vertical line indicating the start. This is also very useful for all decorative patterns.
But what about regular zig-zag and not being able to set whatever width you want? Again, it sounds like an unacceptable limitation, but in fact it is much more useful to have three pre-set widths than a “free range” knob. In practice, there is no useful difference between zig-zag width of 1.2mm and 1.5mm, but if you switch widths and then wish to return to the previous setting, you will be hard pressed to do it exactly right. But get it wrong, and it will be noticeable and untidy. For this reason old style zig-zag width adjusters were levers with stops, so that you could mark that useful width… So here there’s no need to fuff about marking. The three widths are about all that is useful on a 5mm zig-zag: full width (2), narrow zig-zag (3) and medium width zig-zag (4). That’s 5mm, 1.5mm and 3mm.
Besides the pattern selector, the machine also has a stitch length knob with a lever for reverse, and a drop feed switch.
Needle position and zig-zag
It turned out that my “fully functional” machine had its needle off-centre, and if zig-zag had been working, it would have been hitting the needle plate on the left. Upon investigation, these issues turned out to be one and the same.
Needle position is driven by the cams through a flat bar that pushes the needle bar to the left, with a spring pulling the needle bar back to the right. This is a commonly used concept. However, the spring in this machine is not the usual coiled spring mounted somewhere near the cam stack. No, it’s a flat spring mounted in the head of the machine to the left of the needle bar.
A flat spring is basically a strip of metal that can be bent but always returns to its original shape. The long vertical strip in this photo is the flat spring that pushes the needle bar to the right with its bottom end. This photo shows how it should be fitted – notice that the spring is curved to the right. In my machine the spring was mounted the wrong way around and curved to the left. Not only was it not pushing the needle bar to the right, it wasn’t even preventing it going too far to the left!
Once I took off the spring, I realised that the needle bar assembly could be easily removed by pulling it to the left… Which I obviously had to do.
Well, don’t if you don’t have to! It’s very fiddly to put it back on. The jointed round stick needs to go into the hole in the take-up lever assembly, while at the same time the pin at the end of the zig-zag bar has to go into the hole in the needle bar assembly where you see a screw on the other side near the bottom. It might be easier to remove that screw first. There is a hole in the housing of the machine on the other side of the head to help you manoeuvre it all in position.
That screw is what determines needle centering. Set stitch selector to straight stitch and keep pushing the needle bar to the right with your finger emulating the flat spring. You can now adjust the screw such that the needle is perfectly centred. My machine came with a straight stitch needle plate (completely unused and still in its original paper wrap, I might add), so I used that to get it centred perfectly. Put on and tighten the first nut to fix this position.
Now assemble everything and “hang” the needle bar assembly from the top of the frame. There are three spacers that allow you to position the flat spring so that it does not collide with the needle bar assembly. This is a swing needle, but not as we know it – it doesn’t swing on a pivot point, but instead the top of the assembly slightly bends left and right.
The bottom end of the flat spring has an elongated hole that fits over the centering screw in the needle bar assembly. Fit the second nut over it, but don’t tighten it fully, or the needle bar won’t be able to swing!
Set the machine to wide zig-zag and test it. The screw and nut construction is quite sensitive, and the flat spring must be strong enough to push the needle bar assembly to the right. If it doesn’t do it, bend the spring a bit more until it does. Keep checking needle positioning with the straight stitch setting as well, as it is all to easy to mess that up in the process. I went back and forth a few times, but eventually it was all set correctly, tightened and ready to sew. Once set up and the nuts tightened, it doesn’t slip and keeps working properly, until many years down the line, the flat spring grows weak and needs resetting again. I think I should be good for the next 50 years though.
Foot pressure adjuster
It is normally hidden under the lid, but it’s there for you if you need it. It is a fairly straight forward design, except for the adjuster itself. It’s got a collar that rides on the foot presser spring which limits how far you can unscrew it.
The adjuster knob keeps turning, but the setting doesn’t change. You can feel the change in resistance though, so you know when you’ve hit the end. It’s the same on the top end as well.
The lowest foot pressure that this adjuster lets you set, is not very low, certainly not zero (such as when the spring is not engaged at all). I’ll have to do more sewing tests with various fabrics to see whether this is low enough, but if it isn’t, I know what to modify.
Feet, needles and bobbins
This is a standard low shank machine that takes “standard domestic” 15×1 needles and standard rotary bobbins, not the “large rotary bobbins” used by some of the more recent Pfaff machines – this is still old style, the same as most industrial machines.
When it comes to feet though, be careful. All common low shank feet except straight stitch and zig-zag should work here, but be sure that they actually touch the needle plate. This is standard low shank, but not Singer standard, but rather Naumann and Clemens Muller standard, which means that straight stitch and zig-zag feet have the same height from the mounting point as all other feet. Singer feet however come in two heights, with straight stitch and zig-zag feet being 1.5mm shorter than all others. So if you mount one of those feet on your machine, you’ll find that it doesn’t touch the ground. I had a bit of an investigation into this, see this post.
A possible solution is to bring the machine to Singer standard by lowering the foot presser bar. I tried it and found that it makes the foot pressure much too high, even for straight stitch and zig-zag, and way and way too high for all other feet. This is because of that fancy adjuster! So I put the foot pressure bar back to where it was supposed to be and rummaged around for some suitable feet. A lot of German, Swiss and some Japanese machines had the same standard, so “high low shank” feet are common, although they are not labelled as such in shops. Most “universal” low shank straight stitch and zig-zag feet, including clip-ons, are of Singer standard – too low.
For someone who is used to zig-zag width controls, this machine looks odd and possibly confusing. For someone who was used to a fixed pattern selection, a zig-zag width knob looks out of place. 😉 Each solution has its pros and cons, but this one definitely wins in simplicity. If you are not missing a feature, then may be you don’t need it.
Other than the stitch selector, this model is quite standard. Forward-facing hook means that you can sew with a twin needle, although only for straight stitch or narrow zig-zag, since fancy stitches are always full width. But in all fairness, I’ve never sewn a fancy stitch with a twin needle on a 5mm width machine… It just all comes out pretty flat, if you do.
I think this is a good model, and not only because that’s what I started with. 🙂 It’s simple, it’s got all the important stitches, it sews most fabrics, and it just doesn’t quit.