Sewing toys: Coverstitch obsession edition

WARNING: This post is loooong. I was going to break it up into two but I decided it’s easier to keep it all together, then those of you looking for coverstitch information can find it all in one place.

You can use these links to navigate:

.

I was a very lucky girl this Christmas, “Santa” didn’t know what to get me so I asked for something I’ve been thinking about for a while: a coverstitch machine.

Santa knows what a coverstitch machine is, we’ve discussed them before. He said, “If you make me a hoodie with cool stitching then I’ll put one under the tree…”

Deal!

So I went into full investigation mode. It’s hard to find a lot of information about coverstitch machines, even more difficult to find one to test drive here in NZ. It seems that, like overlocker machines in the home back in my Mum’s day, cover stitch machines are only just beginning to gain traction with the domestic market.

(I will refer to my overlocker a few times in this post, it being the closest thing I have experienced to a coverstitch. Overlockers and sergers are the same thing. In NZ we call them overlockers so that is the term I will continue to use.)

This is a luxury purchase. Between my Elna 2130 and Bernina 1150MDA I have two very good machines that allow me to create anything I want. I love sewing, I sew a lot and I often sew with knits/stretchy fabrics. The “want” was strong. ;)

So I am going to share my experience of choosing a coverstitch machine and what I think of the machine I purchased. This is from my point of view and based on my personal sewing experience, I am not an expert. I hope this post will help any of you who are also considering one.

Disclaimer: By reading this post you release the curious kiwi from any responsibility should the following cause you to run out and buy a new sewing machine!

So what is a coverstitch machine?

.

If you are familiar with an overlocker, a coverstitch machine is similar except that they have no knives and only one looper with 1 or 2 needles. On higher end machines you may also have a 3rd needle.

I am still learning everything that my coverstitch machine can do but the most simple way to introduce you to coverstitch is for you to go grab a rtw t-shirt. See the double row of stitching on the outside of the hem and at the sleeves? It looks a bit like twin needle stitching but inside it looks like an overlocker stitch and encases the raw edge. This is a 2-needle coverstitch.

A 3-needle machine gives you two different widths of coverstitching – using the centre needle plus the left or right needle for a narrow width of 3mm OR using the two outside needles for the wider width of 6mm. And of course you can use all three needles at once.

You can also use the coverstitch to apply the “overlock” looking stitch as a decorative finish to the outside by stitching with your fabric “upside down”. You often see this type of decorative stitch on sports wear, sometimes in a contrasting thread colour.

Stitching with only 1 needle threaded creates a chainstitch. At first I wasn’t really sure what chainstitch was for, apart from embellishment (you can use a thicker thread in the looper), but I have read that it is great for basting because it unravels easily when the correct thread is pulled. Since developing my spot-the-coverstitching-vision I’ve noticed that on some of NH’s t-shirts there is 1 or 2 lines of chainstitching at the shoulder so perhaps it is also good for reinforcing those areas.

Some high-end overlockers can also convert to coverstitich. When I was investigating my overlocker purchase I looked at a few machines that could also coverstitich but chose to buy a dedicated overlocker. The price jump to a machine that could do both was out of my budget at the time but I was also advised that converting them can be difficult and that machines that do both can be a compromise of both designs. I was already 100% overwhelmed by the overlocker options so I decided at that time I would buy a dedicated coverstitch machine when I was ready.

Having said that however, I also know people who own these machines, use them as both overlockers and coverstitchers and love them.

Here are my tips for sewing machine shopping (for any type of machine):

  • Each brand is different – consider the brand you are familiar with but don’t forget to look at others
  • This is an important purchase so it’s important to “test drive” your options
  • Set a budget and decide what you want your machine to do
  • Think about how your sewing will evolve, try to buy a machine that you can “grow into”, consider any bonus features you can use in the future
  • At the shop try threading and converting the machine yourself
  • Take samples of fabrics that you sew with and try them out
  • Try all the features
  • Ask lots of questions
  • If the sales assistant isn’t helpful, go elsewhere
  • Make it fun!

My ideal coverstitch machine was less than NZD$1000, 3-needles/4-thread, had a free arm, and was not super chunky.

The options:

.

Bernina 009DCC/L220

I have a Bernina 1150MDA overlocker that I LOVE so it seemed logical to investigate Bernina first.

On their website they have a picture of the 009DCC, it is a 2-needle/3-thread coverstitch machine with no free arm. It has front dial-style tension adjustment knobs that look a little old fashioned in my opinion but I was prepared to give it a test drive.

I looked at this machine about 6 months ago and emailed my local Bernina dealer to ask about costs and if they had one in store for a test drive. They are near my work so it meant I could pop down during my lunch break for fun sewing play time. They replied that Bernina were releasing a new model soon and would let me know when it arrived. I rung them about 2 months ago after hearing nothing and got the same response and they didn’t seem inclined to help me further.

When I started looking more seriously just before Christmas I rung a different dealer outside of the CBD. She confirmed that Bernina are releasing a new machine but also offered to ring them to ask when it would be available and how much it would cost. The 009DCC will be replaced with the L220 in March 2014 and will cost NZD$1399 – This was way outside my budget and impatient kiwi didn’t want to wait that long.

Here is a sneak peak I found of the L220 and a YouTube video. It will be a 3-needle/4-thread machine but I cannot see a free arm.

Brother 2340CV

Next I grudging looked at Brother, I say “grudgingly” because Brother makes me think of printers and $199 sewing machines from Harvey Norman. However, since their sewing machines are fairly cheap…perhaps their coverstitch would be too?

I did not get far enough along in my investigation to learn how much this machine costs – perhaps around NZD$600? – I pretty quickly discounted it from my list. 

While it is a 3-needle/4-thread machine, it looks hideously clunky, has no free arm and I read some not very encouraging reviews about it online: There are difficulties in releasing the thread tension after you finish stitching and the foot controller is laggy when you start stitching.

Elna 444

This will sound silly (and vain) but when I was overlocker shopping I investigated Elna first. My sewing machine is an Elna 2130 (now discontinued) and it’s a great machine but when it came to the Elna overlockers I really didn’t like how they were painted up all “Fisher Price”. I think the newer machines are different now but at that time the thread path colours were overdone and it made me feel a bit babied. I kind of like my machines to look more grown up ;)

Their coverstitch isn’t so bad and I was willing to give one a try.

Unfortunately Elna have given the majority of their dealership rights to Spotlight, ugh!
I could write a ten thousand word essay on how bad their customer service is so don’t get me started. I was immediately not enthused about purchasing through any of their stores considering I might need to go back there for servicing and purchasing accessories. I rang them anyway and left a message but have not heard back from anyone to this day…there are a few other dealers in Wellington who sell Elna machines and I soon found out that the 444 isn’t available in New Zealand.

I also learnt that Janome make the Elna coverstitch and from what I read online the Janome would possibly be slightly less expensive.

So of course Janome were next:

Janome CoverPro 1000CPX – NZD$899 (on special)

I rung Wellington Sewing Services in Kilbirnie where the gentleman who answered the phone replied to all my questions including confirming the price and quickly suggested I come in for a test drive.

Finally, some real service and a machine worthy of my time.

While waiting for the weekend to roll around I read some great things online and watched some YouTube videos. This 3-needle/4-thread machine has the more upright look of a traditional sewing machine with a long arm promising lots of sewing space. It also has a removable piece on the sewing bed that reveals the free arm.

On Saturday NH drove me to the shop. The gentleman who I spoke with on the phone pulled out the machine and showed me how it worked. Then he un-threaded and re-threaded it to show me how easy it was and let me have a go using the samples of stretch fabric that I bought along with me from home.

It was AMAZING! My two fabrics were very different, one a slinky lycra and the other a cotton jersey, but it stitched both pieces beautifully without changing any settings.

The machine in the store had white thread in the two outer needles and a variegated thread through the looper:

Trippy!

Next I was shown how to correct skipped stitches by adjusting the differential feed.

TOP TIP! This is the most common complaint I read online about ALL coverstitch brands and not many people know this trick. I also leant how to stop “tunnelling” in merino by using a wash away stabiliser.

I was so impressed not just with the machine but with the service. It was my first visit to Wellington Sewing Services and I will definitely be back. It’s an amazing store with lots of stock and the gentleman who helped me really knows his stuff. He picked up quickly that I was an experienced sewist – there is nothing worse than being overly babied – and I enjoyed being allowed to use the machine with little interference so I could make up my own mind.

While I played around he talked a bit more about the machines features and motor. He has been servicing and repairing machines for quite some time and has a very high opinion of Janome in general.

I probably should have test driven another machine as comparison but after 30 minutes it was too late, I was SOLD! :) I took the machine home that day along with a free pair of fabric scissors and a long strip of the wash away stabiliser.

A boot full of Christmas shopping: Doing it right

Other machines I could have looked at, but discounted due to cost was the Babylock at NZD$1999 and the Pfaff Coverlock 3 or 4 at NZD$1699 and NZD$2599 respectively.

 

Unboxing the Janome CoverPro 1000CPX

.

The machine came in a really good quality box, wrapped in plastic. The lovely man at Wellington Sewing Services filled out my warranty card and dropped in a free pair of fabric scissors so technically my box had already been opened but he resealed it with packing tape.

Harri was excited about the prospect of a new box to claim as her own – a chunky bit of polystyrene on top kept her out of it…for now…

On the top layer were my free scissors (not as nice to use as my Mundials, but always good to have a spare set floating around!), plastic bag with manual and warranty card,  vinyl machine cover, foot controller and plastic box filled with the standard accessories.

Inside the plastic box:

  • 4 thread spool nets
  • 2 accessory screws
  • Schmetz needles (it uses the EL X 705 needle system)
  • 4 thread spool caps
  • Tweezers
  • 2 screwdrivers
  • Needle threader
  • Lint brush

Manual, warranty card and…umm, an “Important Notice” about not letting children play with the machine unsupervised.

The only bad thing I read online about this machine was complaints that the instruction book was lacking detail – I’m not sure if perhaps I have a newer book with more information but it was about what I expected. Similar in content to the instruction books that came with both my other machines.

The instructions include a large diagram of the machine, naming all the parts, information on how to set it up and what each dial does. Clear threading diagrams are followed by instructions on setting up each stitch type including correct tensioning. The final section includes machine care and a troubleshooting table.

Back to the box – under the foam I was surprised to find the machine pre-threaded with all three needles in white. Nice!

From the front it looks almost like a normal sewing machine.

From the side you can see the extra depth. Hand wheel, stitch length dial and differential feed located similar to my Bernina.

More vanity talk: Online I saw a lot of images of this machines with lilac coloured handwheel and knobs – I’m glad mine is dark grey ;)

Ohh free thread!

On the front right is a quick reference guide of tensions for each stitch type.

On the left, recommended settings for heavyweight fabrics. On the right, for light to medium weight. As with any tension settings these are just starting suggestions and the manual explains how to tune these for a balanced stitch depending on your fabric.

The slider below this is an additional adjustment to the looper thread tension, used when sewing heavyweight fabrics.

Inside the front cover you can see the thread passing through the looper take up levers (the three fingers at centre) and on to the looper, which is tucked under the feed dogs. The white knob near the base drops the looper out (to the right) so you can easily thread it. You click it back in when you are finished and bring the thread to the top.

A nice clear threading diagram and…

…quick reference for threading each stitch type.

It’s really easy to thread and tension plus the long arm gives you a lot of space to manoeuvre fabric around. It’s also fast (not quite as fast as the Bernina, but I’m ok with that!) and it’s very quiet.

The extensions table piece removes easily to reveal the free arm.

All lined up it appears as if I am trying to collect every brand of sewing machine, and I need a bigger table, hehe! Oh and I just noticed that all the brand names are printed in red. 

In reality they don’t sit on my table like this. I’m usually only using two machines at a time so the spare machine sits near the back. Ideally I’d like to position my table perpendicular to the wall so that I can put the overlocker and coverstitch back-to-back.

The only problem I have right now is that the foot controller is identical to the one for my Bernina (but the machine plugs are different so I still have to have both under the table) it’s hard to tell which to step on for each machine. First world sewing problems, I know, solved with a bit of fluorescent pink tape wrapped about the Janome’s cord :)

My first official project with my new machine was a fabric cover – look at the naff vinyl one it came with, yuck!

I never used to cover my machines but a certain furry helper who likes to eat thread means they need to be hidden when I am not around.

I ran out of the circus stripe (as NH refers to it) so I used some of my precious retro sewing machines. I hemmed the bottom with the coverstitch, pretty!

It’s not all super amazeballs however, and to prove I’m not begin paid by Janome to gush about their machine ;) here’s a quick outline of things I wish it had:

There is no on-board tools storage. When I rethread my Bernina, I do it from scratch, every time. Because reasons. Anyway, I flip open the cover, slip out my tweezers (and screw driver if I’m changing a needle) and get on with it. I also need the tweezers to thread the looper on the Janome and it would be nice if it had a slot inside the front cover to take at least the tweezers, but also perhaps the needles, brush and small screw driver. Instead they live in that little plastic box. The designer in me wishes they had made better use of the spare room inside the cover.

On board storage – Bernina 1150MDA

My Bernina also has a needle threader. While the Janome machine has more room to make threading the needles a little easier the little stick thing they give you for threading is hard to use. I’ll admit I haven’t really tried very hard to get the hang of it yet, I’ve been doing it “manually” so I’ll persevere and come back to you on that. Perhaps there isn’t room for something like the threading mechanism on the Bernina but it would have been nice to see it included if possible.

Needle threader – Bernina 1150MDA

Lastly, I wish it came with a few of the accessories – I did investigate them before buying so I knew they were fairly expensive. You can buy “generic” attachments, but I have read mixed reviews about them.

I will be buying the centre guide foot (NZD$79.00) and hemmer (NZD$39.00) because I already feel I need them. Later on I may get a binder but to use that you also need to buy the special attachment plate. This comes to a grand total, for binder and plate, of NZD$269.00! Ugh Janome, you could have at least included the plate, why did you bother to give me those attachment screws?!

At least Harri is happy with her new box :)

Coverstitch Tutorials

.

I’ve been collecting a few tutorials onto a Pinterest board, most are specific to the Janome but there’s some great general info as well, feel free to take a look:

pinterest

That’s it, phew!

I am excited about all the things I can sew with my new machine and so is NH. He thought the variegated thread that was in the store machine was very cool and then I made the mistake of telling him about the fluorescent, the glow-in-the-dark and the colour change thread spools I’ve seen on the Gutermann rack at Made Marion…oops ;)

Universal Apollo (Singer 15-30 “clone”/HA-1 generic) aka “The Experiment”

Isn’t she pretty?

Prepare for a bombardment of photographs!

Unfortunately her story is not as triumphant as the Singer 328P.

I spotted her on TradeMe, advertised as just “Apollo Sewing Machine”, at a mere $1 reserve and bided my time until nearer the auction end time. In the mean time I had a quick squizz online for information and came up with absolutely nothing.

Shrug.

I figured she was some sort of re-badged Singer 15-something so I decided, working or not (there was a suggestion that it did “sew”, but we know what that means don’t we?), I wanted her. She was just so cute looking, sparkly green and smaller sized. If she went cheap enough she would be worth getting if only for pulling apart to learn more about the internals.

After a fierce 7-bidder battle in the dying 2 minutes, of which I was the victor of course, I organised to pick her up. This involved climbing up a super steep driveway – this is Wellington after all, shaped by violent geological forces – waaaay on the other side of the harbour. I do wish people would be more specific with their suburb listings!

She cost me a tiny $23.50

The lady was very nice (face-to-face contact this time) and even offered to carry it down the driveway with me to my car. On the way I learnt that the seller had been gifted several machines from an estate of a friend. He had been a sewing machine repairer/restorer so had quite a collection.

At first I was quite excited to hear this thinking that a machine from a repairer/restorer would most certainly be in sewing condition…and then Sensible Kiwi realised that actually it was quite possible there was a very good reason why this machine was residing with the former owner!

Once I was at home I put her up on my table and had a good look at her. She was dirty but even more cute IRL, a smaller and older looking version of the 201 with a few other style differences.

The power cord, plug and foot controller all looked in excellent condition, no exposed wiring or dodgy looking connections, but just to be safe I tested all the movable parts by hand first.

My first discovery, not very surprisingly, is that she needs a new drive belt and bobbin winder ring. Both are badly degraded, but I know where to buy those from.

Then I immediately spotted something more seriously amiss – there was no thumb screw in the curved slot beside the stitch length lever, hmm…

The tension knob also turned round and round past the numbers without any stopper, something must be missing inside there as well.

I unwound it for a quick look. When I had the 328’s assembly apart I remember there was a sort of tabbed stop washer inside which doesn’t seem to be present in this model, this is either by design (doubt it) or perhaps this is the All Knowing Vintage Sewing Machine Buyers Powers That Be keeping my 2 for 2 tension-dial-has-been-fuxed-with-on-every-machine-you-have-bought-so-far record in check (more likely).

I was feeling a bit deflated now so I tipped out the accessory tin to see what goodies were in there. A bobbin case but no bobbin, three extremely rusty feet (zipper, binding and whatever that other things is?!), screwdriver thingee and some other unidentifiable metal bits that may or may not have belonged to my machine or indeed any machine.

Sigh.

It was time for a cup of tea and a bikkie.

I chatted with Nerdy Hubby and he reminded me that I had said I didn’t mind if this machine ended up as my sacrifice, something on which to experiment and learn a bit more without ruining something that cost me 10 times as much.

He was right, I was just feeling disappointed because she looked like such a cutie and I was hoping for another triumphant vintage machine buying win.

So I went back into my room and took a better look at those random metal bits.

That’s when it clicked!

There was a thumb screw…and a metal disc with a funny cut out that had a thread hole…they fitted together. I took them over to my 201 and peered inside the slot…yup, pretty sure that’s two parts found!

Perhaps this miserably beat up looking accessory tin is actually a Magic Tin!

I imagined my repairer/restorer guy popping bits in it as he found or salvaged them with the intent to put it all together once he had everything and now I can finish his work!

Ok, maybe that’s going a little too far…

There wasn’t any sort of extra washer for the tension assembly but I bet I can buy one of those cheaply online and maybe after I learn a bit more about the model I could find a sort of exploded parts list to help me work out the other bits and bobs and what else I am missing.

I was feeling happier already.

To the Internet!

As you might imagine, a company name like “Universal” is extremely difficult to Google and since we are talking pre-internet the only way I could probably find out more is to look it up old-style hard copy in a old company register somewhere.

What I did learn is that this style of Japanese manufactured machine is more commonly referred to as an HA-1 Generic or a Singer Class 15 “clone”, clone is in quotation marks because it isn’t an exact copy, although many Singer parts are interchangeable.

A cheeky visit to the Singer ID website and I also discovered that the closest Singer my machine represents is a 15-30.

I also learnt that there are over 5000 different “brands” of these clone machines that were made in Japan by more than 15 different companies. During the 1930s a combination of weak yen and trade restrictions meant it was cheaper to produce machines locally and their domestic sewing machine manufacturing began.

After WWII there were a lot of people looking for work, plenty of idle machine shops and Singer’s patent had expired, manufacturing of these machines (most commonly based on the Singer 15 & 99 class machines) increased in earnest and Japan began to export.

Some machines were given American or European sounding names to appeal to the overseas markets and they didn’t just come in black. They came in metallics or flat colours of pink, green, blue, yellow and more! They were well made and often ran more quietly and smoother than their Singer equivalents. Any retailer could purchase a clone machine and have it badged to sell under their own brand.

Here is how I imagined the story of my machine went:

Mr (or Mrs) Entrepreneurial Kiwi thinks these new fandangled sewing machine things seem to be pretty whiz bang popular! They decide they better get on board and start their own sewing machine company pronto. Ohh but those pretty black Singers are quite expensive! There must be a market for a cheaper machine…hmmm…those Japanese ones seem like quite good quality, I’ll ask them to badge some up for me. I’ll call my new company Universal Sewing Machines, it sounds like a quality international brand and it will be a difficult name for a  collector to Google in the future!

I’m off on an imaginary sewing tangent again, sorry, let me backstitch… ;)

There is the plan, it is a “best case scenario”, fingers crossed kind of thing, please excuse me while I share my nerdy little flow chart:

This is not going to be a quick project for me. Instead it will be something to tinker away at over the next few weeks and months but, having said that, I most definitely do not want this to languish into years. So, I’ll keep you posted :)

I am also working on a new page for my top menu that will mention each of my machines (modern & vintage) and their stories/links to posts as they crop up, I’ll let you know when it is live.

Thanks for reading! :)

They are multiplying, all the better for taking over the world (*evil laugh)

footer_kiwi with needle1

My new old toy

Since my first proper taste of owning a vintage sewing machine* I’ve been keen to get a few more to tinker with. There are a couple of specific models I am looking for so I keep my eye online for when one pops up in my area that I can hopefully afford.

Singer 201K-3

Buying an old sewing machine off of TradeMe (the NZ equivalent of eBay) can be a bit of a gamble. The machines that sell cheaply (i.e. within my budget) often only sell low due to the seller having no clue about the machine at all. Either there is a very short description,  no machine name or code, suspect suggestions that it may work, or the worst photos in the world…sometimes all of the above.

I’ll give you an example: I spotted a cute little vintage machine for sale, the description by the seller was very short (“I think it goes?”) and they only uploaded two photos, both of which were of the back of the machine tightly wrapped in it’s cords and hiding most of the identifying markings. My interest was piqued however as it was a different looking beast from the usual vintage (i.e. often not “vintage” at all) machines that go up for such low prices. I was about to ask the seller for a front facing photo when I noticed someone else already had, “Can you please upload a photo of the front of this machine?” to which the seller had replied, “Sure, what is the front?”

Sigh…

The comment response was, “You pick it up and TURN IT AROUND”…Needless to say they never uploaded the photo and I let it go to someone else.

While trawling TradeMe on a bad TV night last week I spotted this groovy looking Singer 328P Style-O-Matic for $30, closing in 1 hour and, even though this model is not one of the ones I crave, for some reason I wanted her. So I threw on a bid with 5 minutes to spare and won with no competition. I think you will agree, for $30, from an obvious non-sewer, “it appears to function” (I am guessing they wiggled the handwheel a bit), this is what I mean by “a bit of gamble”!

On enquiry about pick up and payment I was instructed to leave the money in the letter box and the machine would be at the top of the stairs. The seller clearly had no desire for any face-to-face interaction. Later, after a different day was decided upon, she told me she would leave it in the back of the station wagon at the bottom of her driveway. I felt like I was going to a dead drop and I wondered what would happen if I showed up and it was stolen…in the end I showed up later than expected and the seller must have had to go out, for there was no station wagon to be seen. Instead I found the machine hidden under a tarp in the driveway with a handy and hastily made cardboard sign reading “sewing machine” on top!

Anyway, it certainly looked ok, so I left the cash and hefted it into my car.

When I got it home the first thing I did was give it a good clean – and then I explored the little cardboard box that came with it:

The advert stated “No extra feet” but I count three here (zipper, button & hemming), plus 6 “fashion discs” (one in the machine, I call them cams) and six bobbins. They also said the clips on the case were broken but they are not. With this much luck already I was doubting the machine would actually sew!

So I plugged her in and was rewarded with a glowing light bulb. I have never threaded a vintage machine before so I consulted the handily included instruction booklet and set to work. Winding the bobbin went smoothly enough and then I began to thread.

I put the bobbin in first, top loading, another first of me, but it went in ok. The bobbin assembly was a bit wobbly and it looked like the tension screw was mostly undone…a sign someone had been fiddling with it? I’d come back to that after I tested the rest…

When I got to the needle thread tension dual I was a bit confused about where to run the thread, the diagram is very general, turning the tension knob felt…not right…and there also didn’t seem to be any markings relating to the tension numbers.

Are you kidding me? There are three discs behind that knob to choose from!

Sigh! So I consulted the older 201 and sure enough there was a -|+ marking above the tension numbers. A closer look at 328 and I found the -|+ marking upside down, someone had definitely been fiddling…not a good sign…so, with nothing to lose (really) and secure in the knowledge that after I stuff it up completely the Internet would tell me how to make it right again, I promptly disassembled it.

Then I started the reassemble, not that tricky really, I used the 201 as a guide, they are very similar.

So I didn’t need the Internet in the end, I worked it out by myself which is much more satisfying isn’t it?

Another squinty look at the threading instructions and I worked that bit out too…A new needle and she was ready to go!

We started on a zig-zag stitch since I didn’t check the stitch width setting first…not bad…from the front…

…oh but the back! Oh dear! Sad Kiwi!

I might have panicked just a little bit. After some thinking I revisited the bobbin case and, following the instruction book, I tightened up that screw, testing and tightening some more until…

Huzzah! Line after line of beautiful, straight, and tension (almost) perfect stitches.

:D

Then it was time to play with the cams:

I stitched up a little swatch for future reference:

She can do a lot of modern sewing functions that I didn’t expect too: Button holes, left-centre-right needle position, and she can even run two needles!

Phew! A gamble that paid off. This little retro cutie is hard-working and very tough, she is a bit different to all the black curvy Singers out there and has her own distinct personality. I’m glad I took the risk and picked her up.

I can easily see myself building a small collection of vintage machines, I’d love to learn more about how they work and a tiny bit of restoration. I have always enjoyed pulling things apart and learning how they work, which is a good thing, because I’m going to impose a fairly strict rule on myself, that they must function, or at least be DIY repairable, and I really shouldn’t buy a new one until I get the last one going, or at least the correct parts on order.

The Internet did come in handy for teaching me that the Singer 328P was produced out of the Penrith factory in NSW, Australia, that is what the P denotes. They began production in 1959 assembling 201P machines and later added the 227P and the 328P to the line. The grey plastic base was made locally and is specific to the Australian (and therefore NZ) market.

I was hoping for a more specific manufacture date but when I finally located the serial number the Singer website merely gave me a bracket of 10 years, 1957 – 1967. ISMACS suggested a smaller range for the K (Kilbowie factory) model of 1963-1965…hmmm…I know it was after 1959 and my serial number is early VA series so I could guess it could be around 1963 as well…Who knows?!

For future reference, if you are struggling to find the serial number on a 328 or similar, here is where I found mine, you can’t even see it in the picture, but trust me, it’s there:

Serial number location – Singer 328P

So, there she is, my new old toy.

I’ve given here a nick name already too, The Tractor, said with absolute affection, here is why**:

Mechanic Husband commented that “it sounds like she has a diesel knock!”

*FYI I have a replacement belt on order and Electronic Husband booked in for re-wiring the plug ;)

**I was still playing with the tensions when I made this video, that’s why it looks like I am pulling on the fabric, because I am! Also, she does sew at a constant speed, not in this video because a short cord meant I have the foot pedal up on the table and I was driving it with my right hand, which is tricky.

footer_kiwi walking love copy

Quick Update on the Singer’s identity

My new 'baby'

(and I’ve decided she needs a name…one will come to me eventually, just like Scarlett’s did)

Thank you for all your tips on locating the model number. I used the Singer Machine Serial Numbers page first to discover that she was made in 1954.

I also found the Singer 160th Anniversary site where you can also enter our machines serial number and get a cute commemorative  certificate.

Next I worked through the questions in this Singer ID website to discover it is a 201K, but I wasn’t 100% convinced becasue my machine looks slightly different to the one shown on their website.

Singer Model 201K

Then I discovered ISMACS International (International Sewing Machine Collectors Society)  and their Singer Sewing Machine Serial Number Database, which not only confirmed her as 201K  but also told me she was one of 60, 000 made 26 February 1954.

Wow, she’ll turn 58 this year!

A little bit more online snooping taught me that the ‘K’ stands for Singer’s Kilbowie factory in Scotland but mechanically all 201’s are more or less the same and the picture I saw above is most likely a post-1954 model which got a re-styled body and new paint job.

The sub-models for those who are interested are:

  • 201-1 (treadle)
  • 201-2 (geared machine with potted motor, mostly made in USA),
  • 201-3 (external motor and belt)
  • 201-4 (hand-crank)

So I think that means my machine is a 201K-3 (because it definitely has an external motor and belt drive) but the good thing is I managed to find a free pdf manual and even a wiring diagram which means her days of sitting in the corner and gathering dust are numbered.

Keep your fingers crossed, one day she will sew again!

PS: all the above links have been added to my Online Resources page for future reference

PPS: If you missed this sweetie’s story or want to see more photos you can check out my previous post here.