Necchi Sewing Machines
Everyone has something that they love for no other reason than it reminds them of a loved one. Necchi sewing machines are that for me, my mom always used a Necchi for piecing and I have always found it to be fitting that the machine that started our herd was a Necchi. I love Necchi so much that I have a cat named Vittorio.
One of the reasons I am doing this for various sewing machine companies is a lot of the information available is on websites that have been updated for a decade or better. While we say the internet is forever I have recently found some of the websites I have relied on for sewing machine history are slowly disappearing. The older generation that worked for these companies and owned the old books that documented a lot of this are passing on or don’t want to pay all of the fees associated with having a website anymore. I’m doing my best to preserve the information for future generations.
Necchi Sewing Machine History
This is a brief summary of the history of the Vittorio Necchi Sewing Machine Company. If you would like to read the full history of the company please see this article. You will need to translate it from Italian. If you can understand Italian there is a documentary on Necchi here.
Vittorio Necchi was the son of a foundry owner. When he returned to Pavia, Italy at the end of World War I he wasn’t sure what to do with the foundry. After his wife bugged him about buying her a sewing machine he decided to retool the foundry to cast sewing machines. He really took the, “I can make it cheaper and better” to heart. In 1924, Vittorio produced his first sewing machine the Necchi BD which was based on the Singer 15. The BD was a hand-powered sewing machine.
By 1930 Necchi sewing was producing almost 20,000 sewing machines with 2,000 of them being exported. Necchi was the first company to produce a domestic sewing machine with zigzag capabilities in 1932, the Necchi BU.
By the end of World War II, Necchi was producing 1,000 sewing machines a day. They were also selling worldwide with 10,000 retail outlets.
During this time the machines being produced were all based on that original BU. Paul’s Nora looks very much like my BU machines except that it takes cams. It wouldn’t be until 1954 that the body style of the machine would be changed.
In 1954 Necchi introduced the Supernova line of machines. It was awarded the Compasso d’Oro, which is an industrial design award. The Supernova machines broke from the boxy style of the BU machines. Necchi even hired Sophia Loren as the spokesmodel for the Supernova, selling the sex appeal of the machine.
The Mirella machine was introduced in 1956 and has the distinct honor of being one of a few sewing machines in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Necchi made every part of the machines that they sold, with a few exceptions. They produced both domestic and industrial sewing machines and made the cabinets that housed the machines. The exception to the rule of Necchi making every part of the machine is the original BU machines that were imported to the US. The motors on those machines were added after they got to the states.
Marcello Nizzoli designed the Supernova, Lydia, and Mirella machines. Nizzoli was also designing for Olivetti during this time and designed the Letter 22 typewriter.
In 1975 Vittorio passed away. He had no children and his sisters were not interested in his industrial empire. The company would be sold shortly after and production would move to Taiwan in 1980. Since then other companies have purchased the rights to use the name Necchi in the sewing machine world. The most recently documented company being Janome.
No history of Necchi sewing machines from an American would be complete without mentioning Leon Jolson. His father had been the Necchi agent, an agent I pieced together to mean employee, in Warsaw before the war. Leon came to America to escape Nazi persecution. When the war ended he built his own distribution network for Necchi sewing machines. He is also credited with bringing Elna sewing machines to the US as well.
Leon obviously had a certain clientele in mind when he decided to bring Necchi sewing machines to America. In 1947 a Necchi BU cost $279. To put that into perspective in 2022 which would be $4,239.53. My list of best sewing machines for quilting in 2023 tops out at $999. That steep price did not stop Americans from wanting the machine. Probably because the BU had zigzag something no Singer sewing machine had. By 1948 Leon was importing 13% of Necchi machines produced in Italy.
Necchi-Elna Sewing Circle
Leon would start the Necchi-Elna Sewing Circle a few years later. In order to deal with the demand for the high-quality Necchi sewing machines and the Elna sewing machines he would start importing machines from Japan in 1953. These machines would sometimes bare the name Necchi but usually had the name Nelco. He would use the reputation of the other companies to sell his line of imported sewing machines. This wouldn’t bode well for his relationship with either company and by the early 60s, he was “compelled” to end his relationship with both companies. He would be sued several times over the use of the name Nelco as both Necchi and Elna felt it infringed on their trademarks. Most of the suits went Leon’s way though.
If you have ever used a Nelco sewing machine you know they are not of the quality of Necchi or Elna sewing machines. I do have a couple of them just because of the historical significance in the sewing machine world for those of us who are Necchi sewing machine history buffs.
You can read more about Leon Jolson and his amazing story in his obituary.
Dating Necchi Sewing Machines
Having access to Singer sewing machine’s database of serial numbers has spoiled sewing machine collectors. IF Necchi kept the same kind of detailed records those records are no longer. On the Lombardy Cultural Heritage website it stated that the production records were destroyed every 10 years. The dates listed with the machine models below are based on the limited information from the company and from sales receipts that people have compiled over the years.
Value of Necchi Sewing Machines
I REFUSE to value a vintage sewing machine, period. Anyone who says that they can value a machine, sight unseen, is full of poop. Sewing machines were mass-produced, 100s of thousands were made and those of us who watch Antiques Roadshow know that mass-produced items hold little value for collectors. The sale price comes down to what are you willing to spend on the sewing machine. Old doesn’t necessarily mean valuable or rare.
I’ve been given Necchi sewing machines and I have paid up to $100 for a Necchi. There are a few models I’d probably pay more than $100 for but that’s because I’d really like to have those machines in my collection. Not because they have some long-term value that I can one day sell to pay for my grandchild’s first home but because I love Necchi sewing machines and it would bring me joy to own one.
Some things to keep in mind when pricing any vintage sewing machine, what I paid and what you will pay can be completely different. The area in which the machine is being sold has a lot to do with price and the area doesn’t have to be very big. I have seen a machine I bought for $10 sell for $100 a hundred miles from me on the same weekend I bought mine. It truly depends on what the market will handle at the time you are buying or selling.
I also look at what comes with the machine when I’m buying or what doesn’t come with the machine. For example, I will pay more for a Necchi Supernova Julia with the cams than I will for one without the cams. The condition of the machine is something that plays into my decision on how much I will pay for a machine. I’ll spend a little more for a well-maintained sewing machine than I will for one that I have to work on when I get it home. The main thing is to only spend what you are comfortable with spending on that sewing machine. It might be $5 and it might be $1000, it’s your bank account and I can’t decide what is right for you only you can.
Necchi Sewing Machine Models
I have done my best to put a complete list of the models of sewing machines made by Necchi but there may be a few that have been missed. The resources for Necchi sewing machines are sketchy at best and that includes sites that are very reliable for other brands. ISMACs has no information about the Necchi Sewing Machine company, Alex Askaroff has a very basic history of the company, and a list I found on another website is missing models that I own.
My information is based on Needlebar website, the history portion of the Necchi website, and a printout that I have in my files from Ed from the Necchi Sewing Machine club. The dates are from sales and not necessarily production years. Ed mentions in his list the blue book of sewing machines and I do know at one point in the 70s or 80s there was a book that listed various sewing machine models and where they were made. There are some places where I will disagree with Ed’s list because his list is 20 years old and while it was a reliable list at the time with the internet we can cross-reference with photos and build a more complete list today.
Necchi Vibrating Shuttle Machine V
As I said in the history section of this article Necchi started by copying other popular machines of the time. The vibrating shuttle machine would be one of his first machines and if you head to Needlebar using the link above you’ll see that this machine looks a lot like the Singer 28.
Necchi Model 30 and Necchi BD
These machines are very similar and that’s why I’m putting them together. They were based on the Singer 15 and based on Necchi company documentation the first machine that Necchi really put out to the public. It had an oscillating bobbin and was a straight-stitch-only machine.
This was a refined version of the Necchi BD. The bobbin winder and tension assembly had been refined and the machine looks a lot like the Necchi BF that will be introduced later. It’s a straight-stitch-only machine as well. It would introduce back-tack. This machine was introduced in the late 20s probably. This date is based on the fact that the Necchi BD was released in 1924 and the BDA in 1930.
As I said earlier the Necchi BDA was introduced in 1930. It was a refinement of the BC. The bobbin winder was updated, the balance wheel was changed, the belt guard was moved, and the threading was changed slightly.
Necchi Sewing Machines 1932 and Beyond
We have made it to the model of sewing machines that were imported to the US. That does not mean that the above models can’t be found in the US. Many women brought their sewing machines with them when they immigrated so you might find those models here.
I have divided the machines based on the body style of the machine and included dates as they were given. That seemed to be more important than the year it was made as far as features and functions.
A few things to get out of the way so I don’t repeat the same thing over and over again. Necchi sewing machines use a 15×1 needle and a class 15 bobbin and bobbin case, in fact, my BU has a bobbin case marked Singer in it. The BF machines are straight-stitch only machines and use low shank feet and any machine that does zigzag uses high shank feet. I have never found an exception to this rule.
Necchi sewing machines are also very thirsty. They like to be oiled very frequently. For the machine that I use every day, I oil it every other day and for the machines that I use from time to time, I oil them every time I sit down at them. Just a few drops in each of the oil ports will do, there’s no need to drown them once you have them limbered up.
Necchi BU and Necchi BF
Necchi used this body style for many years even after the Supernova machines were introduced. BF are straight-stitch only and BU has the capability to do zigzag and decorative stitches.
1932 was the first year of the Necchi BU and it brought zigzag to domestic sewing machines. This was a pretty big deal considering Singer wouldn’t introduce zigzag for almost 20 years. The Necchi BU is my daily sewing machine and does an excellent job as a quilt piecing machine. You can read more about the Necchi BU line of machines in my full article on the history of the Necchi BU. The BU sewing machines would be sold until 1953. The Mira was sold until 1956.
Necchi BF – Necchi BF Mira – Necchi BF Nova
Necchi produced straight-stitch-only counterparts to their zigzag machines. While the zigzag machines had updates to how they produced the “embroidery” stitches the straight-stitch machines were updated with functionality. The big difference between the BU/BF and BU/BF Nova was some minor changes in the levers and tension. The major update was from the Nova to the Mira because the Mira was the first machine with a motor and light from the factory.
It’s listed as 1955 only. The Miracle was a straight-stitch-only machine. The Miracle is a machine I’ve always questioned if it’s truly an Italian-made Necchi machine. Ed does have it listed on the list of Italian-made sewing machines but I don’t believe it was made by Necchi. Let me make my case for my disagreement with this machine.
When you look on Google Images for the Necchi Miracle there are two distinct body styles. Nowhere else in the catalog of Necchi sewing machines are there any machines that have two body styles. One looks very much like the Singer 66 – 99 family of sewing machines and the other is very boxy but not the same style of boxy of the BU. The name of the machine is on the arm of the machine and the emblem on the bed of the machine is an M not an N or VN like other Necchi machines.
Also, in 1955 is when Jolson was importing machines and putting decals on them that made people think they were Necchi or Elna machines. If you look at the pictures linked above you’ll notice that on the pillar of the machines Necchi and Necchi Elna Sewing circle are on there. The Necchi font is different from the font that Necchi used and there were no machines made in conjunction with Necchi and Elna.
Necchi NA Nora
I don’t have concrete dates on the Nora. On Ed’s list, he lists it as a 514 machine but the 514 is a Lelia as stated above. The Nora looks like the BU sewing machines except it takes cams instead of using the Wonderwheel. It’s my opinion that this machine replace the Mira and that would place it in the late 50s for sales. Our Nora is one of Paul’s favorite machines to sew on. It has an external motor making it easy to convert to a treadle sewing machine. It fits in a Singer cabinet with no need to modify anything though we have a BU that needed to have the hinge pinhole sanded slightly because there was a burr in the casting process.
The Esperia machine was sold from 1958 – 1961. It’s a straight-stitch-only machine and does look similar to the BF with some minor changes. It uses the same tension knob as the Supernova machines.
The Miranda was Necchi’s last hoorah in the BU family of sewing machines. The Miranda looks a lot like the Mira with a few cosmetic changes. The tension knob and the stitch length are a knob instead of a lever. It also has a push button reverse. It was sold in 1961.
Necchi Supernova Sewing Machines
In 1954 Necchi made a huge shift in the aesthetics of their sewing machines. The previous machines were boxy and the Supernova is curvy like a supermodel. Necchi even hired Sophia Loren as their spokesmodel for the Supernova line of sewing machines. To take away the boxy square style of previous sewing machines the Supernova even has a round needle plate. Instead of swapping from a zigzag needle plate to a straight-stitch needle plate you just rotate the needle plate around. They also have a built-in needle threader that works like most modern sewing machines today.
The Supernovas originally sold for about $575 in 1954 in 2022 money which is about $6,000. Necchi sewing machines were not cheap but in some advertising, it appears that they did offer payment plans. Like the BU/BF line of sewing machines, all of the Supernova machines are very similar with minor updates with each new model.
The Supernova line of sewing machines would be made until the early 70s. There are Supernova sewing machines that were designed to go in treadle sewing machine tables. The belt guard is modified to fit a treadle belt and there are punch-outs on the bed of the machine for the belt.
BU Supernova and BF Supernova
The rule of thumb of BU doing zigzag and BF being straight-stitch-only machines still holds true with the Supernova sewing machines. The BU was sold until 1958 and the BF was sold until 1962.
Supernova Portable 103
This machine came in a carrying case and had an extension bed. The extension bed is similar to the bed on the Singer 301.
Supernova Freearm 105
This is one of those unicorn machines for me. I know they exist because I’ve seen pictures but I’ve never seen one in the wild. The machine is very similar to the rest of the Supernova line of sewing machines with the addition of a freearm and it is shown in a carrying case like the 103.
Supernova Ultra and Ultra Mark 2
In 1958 the Supernova Ultra models debuted and these had minor updates over the BU Supernova. The dials on the front of the machine changed to have windows to see where you set the tension and make adjustments for the cams. These would be sold until 1963.
The Supernova Julia is the first Supernova machine I got. It’s a fun little story, I found the machine on Craigslist and contacted the seller. She told me that there was someone else interested and it was first come first serve. I knew I couldn’t be at her house until after 7 and I just knew the machine would be gone and I was right. The other person who wanted the machine was Paul and he picked it up on his way home. It was complete with all of the feet and all of the cams. The “major update” for the Julia over the Ultra models was the addition of holes on the part that covers the light. The holes allow the light to come out of the front of the machine and not just down on the bed. The Julia would be made until 1971.
Lelia 510 – 512 – 513 – 514 – 515
The Lelia line of machines are not Supernovas but they have the same body style as the Supernovas so I’m including them here. The 510 is a straight-stitch-only machine, the 512 and the 513 both had zigzag, and the 514 and 515 took cams. These were listed as an economical model and I’m guessing that was in response to the Supernova’s price tag though I could not find documentation on how much the Lelia originally sold for. The 510 and 513 models were sold in 1961 and the 512 and 515 models are listed as 1963 – 1971. The 514 I’m not sure about the years, it’s not listed as a Lelia on my list but I have seen the machine and the badge on it clearly says, Lelia. The Lelia had a “magic key” that is clamshell-shaped.
Type 523 – 525
Type 523 was sold from 1963 – 1971 and while there are no dates for the Type 525 it is safe to assume the dates are similar. These machines look like the Lelia but aren’t listed as a Lelia model. This isn’t unusual for Necchi at the time. Necchi has several models that physically look like other lines of sewing machines but are just given Type numbers. These two sewing machines also take the “magic key”.
The Type 554 has built-in stitches that you can select using the dial on the front of the machine. The dial is in a similar location as the “magic key” on the Lelia machines. It was sold from 1963 – 1971. It also has a new bobbin winding system. The bobbin winder is still located on the face of the machine but it no longer has an external tire.
The Type 555 sewing machine is a cross between a Supernova and the 554. Mine takes cams and the zigzag and needle position are similar to the other Supernova machines I have. It has the same bobbin winder as the 554. Ed has it listed as sold between 1975 and 1982.
Necchi Lycia Sewing Machine Models
The first Lycia was introduced in 1955. These machines were portable and were distinct from other Necchi sewing machines. They were white instead of the gray, black, greens, and pinks that Necchi had been using for their machines. Cosmetically they look like a cross between the Supernovas and the BUs. The Lycia had two models the 522 and the 524. The 524 took cams.
I found this great demo video of the Lycia machines if you are interested in seeing one working.
Necchi Mirella, Lydia, and Sylvia Sewing Machine Models
Oh, the Mirella! I would love to own one of these machines. The Mirella is part of the permanent collection at MOMA as I said before. I put these two machines together because they have very similar body styles.
The Mirella line of sewing machines was introduced in 1956. There is a new line of Mirella sewing machines that look similar to the vintage sewing machine and the easiest way to know if you are looking at a vintage or a new one is the stitches it makes. The vintage Mirella was a straight-stitch-only machine. It also came with a hand crank so you could use the motor or the hand crank to power it. It reportedly takes a special bobbin and they would be difficult to come by today.
The Lydia sewing machine is what started this whole vintage sewing machine herd here. I do have a post dedicated to the Necchi Lydia Type 544 there is also a Lydia Type 542 per the manual. It takes standard class 15 bobbins though it does prefer the plastic ones over the metal ones. It also has some decorative stitches built-in but the cam stack that makes them possible is known to crack. Despite that it is one of my favorite machines, it’s just cool looking.
There were three versions of the Sylvia sewing machine, 582, 584, and 586, and all three were sold from 1973 – 1978. These have a similar body style as the other two machines in this section. The Sylvia came in a wide variety of colors. I’ve seen photos of navy blue, green, brown, and white/cream. The pattern selection is on the front of the machine instead of the side like the Lydia.
The Necchi Logica is the last Necchi sewing machine marked “made in Italy”. I believe the more correct term would be assembled in Italy because there is a Kenmore that looks exactly the same but isn’t marked “made in Italy”. The Logica is a fully computerized machine that was first introduced in 1983. I have a non-working model but I spent many hours behind the Logica. That was the last sewing machine my mom bought and used until she passed. I used it for many years after as well. The one I have needs a motor and when we looked at them I couldn’t justify the cost to repair it.
Other Necchi Sewing Machine Models
When Necchi moved production to Asia, mainly Taiwan but a few models were made in Japan, they reused several model numbers and because of this, there are a few models on the Italian-made list that I couldn’t verify because I don’t have them in my collection. When I searched for these everything came back to the Asian-made machine. If you have one of the following that is marked “Made in Italy” would you please reach out to me so that I can classify these machines in the correct section? My email is [email protected]
- Type 532 – from mid-50s flat bed machine with manual zig zag
- Type 535 – Olive in color per Ed’s list it is a rotary hook machine and takes cams
- Type 538
- Type 539
- Type 565
Asian-Made Necchi Sewing Machine Models
This is not a complete list, this is only the list of machines that used the same numbers as the Italian-made sewing machines. If you happened upon this list and the machine you own doesn’t look similar to the machine above this is why.
522 – Same as Lycia
534 – I actually own one of these. It’s a fine early 80s sewing machine but it’s nothing like my Julia.
My Final Thoughts on Necchi Sewing Machines
Vintage Italian-made Necchi sewing machines will always hold the top spot in my heart even if the day comes I can no longer use one. It makes complete sense to me that I love them, not just because my mom used one but because I have a tendency to like REALLY expensive things, not that I can afford them. Seeing the cost conversions really shocked me, I had seen what the machines had originally sold for but hadn’t done the conversion into today’s money. It’s not shocking they were so expensive though because they were leading the way in technology. Necchi introduced back tack, zigzag, and automatic needle threaders decades before other companies would start including the technology.
Would I recommend buying a Necchi Sewing Machine?
I would never discourage someone from purchasing something from the BU/BF section or the Supernova section of this article. I own many of them and have not found one that doesn’t just make beautiful stitches or isn’t smooth as glass to sew on. The ones I would caution purchasing from the Mirella/Lydia/Slyvia section.
The Mirella takes a special bobbin that is next to impossible to find and the Lydia and Slyvia machines do have cam stacks that could be cracked. If the machine was in working order I would buy it, like I said earlier the Lydia is a great machine to sew on. I know nothing about the new Necchi sewing machines and have not seen anyone in my quilting circles talk about the machines. Maybe someday I’ll buy one just to try it but right now there are other things more important than a “because it says Necchi” sewing machine.