32.1 New Vintage “Singer 15 clone” machine – Sewcraft

August 25, 2013


Seems like the only time I get to sew now is on the weekends. Crazy busy other times. Trying to keep up with everyone is hard when a lot of my time is at work.

But last week I went shopping! Craigslist style.

*** The problem ***

You see, last Saturday, with the inherited Bernina, I got some bad news.  The machine was going to be too expensive to fix and the parts were going to be hard to find.

The Bernina place was recommending that I not get it fixed.

The Necchi still worked(works), but not well, and not consistently, and not for FMQ without massive fights with bobbin breakage (possibly techinque or thread type??)

Saturday I kept talking on FB about what to do – what to do. Saturday night I was a wreck with possibilities.

Sunday, I did talk to my friend who works in the Bernina shop when I picked up my machine. And my price range is going to be in the “Bernette” style of Bernina machines (it appears that Baby Lock are pricier than Bernettes are from the brief time I saw them).

Sunday a week ago, I came up with a plan, trying to figure out how to save for a ‘new’ machine. Trying to figure out what to do, what events to go to, what to sacrifice.

I was offered two different sewing machines by two different guild members to borrow. And I love the idea, but I am nervous about borrowing. Nervous about a lot of things, but borrowing, I always wonder what to do if it breaks down in my care, if I am treating the machine right… It was an option. A good option, not a great one.

*** The plan for now ***

But then I got a message or two from a podcast friend.  Who looked up craisglist for this area (no she does not live in this area) and pointed me to one of two vintage machines that it’d be worth taking a look at.

The first one was an older blue machine, name I’d never heard of, couldn’t find anything on the internet about. But it was “just like a singer 15” AKA Singer 15 clone.

And the other one was a smaller looking actual singer. With a larger cabinet, three drawers down the side.

Well I wasn’t “looking” for a cabinet, but in my small car was only going to be able to pick up the smaller (and closer) of the two machines.

I was nervous to talk to the seller. I contacted him and he got back to me over 24 hours later.  I was nervous right up until we rang the doorbell (didn’t seem too kooky on the phone).

I had asked my friend what to look for in one of these vintage machines, started to look up info on ‘singer 15 clones’ and found a bunch of info.

*** A few things I learned about Singer 15 clones & vintage singer machines ***

Apparently, there was a lot of machines made in Japan (and some in China I believe) after WWII that are modeled after the Singer 15 machine or maybe it’s the Singer 15-91 machine. This website told me a lot of this info.

And looking around there are A LOT. Many in many different colors (blue is a favorite, so is black). Many different brands are out there, but mostly that was kind of like putting a label on something that was ‘generic’. A generic machine that is every bit as good as the original. Many of them even have larger motors than the original.

There were a few websites with pictures of all sorts of pretty colored Singer 15 clones. With all sorts of names on the front. And this one thread just kept talking about how good the machines really are, and how well they stitched and how easy it was to work with them.

*** The visit ***

There was no belt with this machine, or there was, but it was broken.  I was able to turn the handwheel, and I was able to turn the motor on, even though it didn’t connect with the fabric, it sounded like a good motor.

Flipping to the machine bottom, I could see the bars that turned the bobbin area and the feed dogs were adjustable.  When I turned the handwheel everything seemed in pretty good moving order, minimal rust anywhere that I could see.

Except, there was a rusty old light on it which was probably the grossest part of the whole machine, with a falling off rusty clamp, but that meant – removable!

Everything turned well, I was able to adjust the stitch size plate once I figured out how, threaded the machine (used the diagram in the manual to reference how to do it).

Stitched a line, changing the stitch distance half way through. Was able to get the machine to stay in place by dropping the feed dogs.

All with moving the handwheel back and forth.

I impressed the seller with my ‘new knowledge’ about singer 15 clones.  And the price was right in the range that people suggested in the ‘singer 15 clone’ thread I found.  $20. For the whole thing.

Worth the risk.  Spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out how it was going in the car.  Tilted it sideways which wasn’t ideal for the hinges as the weight was now not normal, but it was going to fit in the car with the cabinet.

*** Getting it home ***

old blue sewcraft sewing machine

So this is her after I removed the light.  The headlamp on the left site, a keeper. and may be my light for this machine for now.

I didn’t know that “oil removes oil” until my podcast friend Tina told me. This actually was taken after I cleaned it up unguided. I got down into a lot of the outside crevices, removed the visible dirt on the outside of the machine, anything I didn’t need to remove pieces to clean.

Sewing machine oil cleaned this machine up pretty well. And a toothbrush, and a toothpick, and a microfiber cloth.

I did have a belt from the bernina that I did steal for this machine, but I proceeded to break that belt right away.  Motor must have been setting too low.

A couple of days later I did get a chance to get a new belt. I bought two, Just in case.

But didn’t set down with the machine to give it its’ ‘take apart’ cleaning & oiling until I saw the video that was made with me in mind that will be a great reference to me and others in the future.

I now know how to take apart the machine enough to oil it.

*** Trying it out ***

It took until this morning to try to sew with it. Now I’m getting a wobble.

I am posting a video about my machine so you can see the issues I am having with the wobble. I don’t know much about video except that it makes me about 10-90 times more nervous than creating audio files. I am putting my first you tube video up with this post.

Please comment here instead of at the youtube channel if you have any advice. I am considering the idea that the cabinet may be the issue rather than the machine itself.

This video reminded me of why I liked podcasting however. Although my stomach is now churning a little bit. Here’s hoping for a good reception. If there is no video about the sewcraft in this post, I took down the youtube video.  Thanks for understanding if that is the case.



  1. You did just fine! I do miss your podcast but totally understand. The machine cleaned up beautifully and as soon as we figure out the shaking, you’ll be good to go for years

  2. I think you’ve done brilliantly, Darla, to sort all this out! Well done. I don’t know enough to offer any advice but I bet someone will.

  3. $20!!! Dang! And such a pretty color.
    I am totally stealing your headlamp idea. 🙂 Brilliant! I don’t have room or $$ for a lamp but I already have a headlamp for running.

    I have no idea about the shaking though.

    PS You should be a hand model! You have lovely hands. 😀

  4. Don’t worry Darla.. What you’re calling a wobble is totally normal vibrations from such a heavy machine. You will get used to it. From what I can see in the video, you have a real gem of a machine there! It’s gorgeous and sews like a dream! Enjoy!
    Thanks for this post and the video. I am going to go watch Tina’s again so I make sure I know what I am doing when cleaning and oiling. Welcome to the vintage club.. as Tina says, these “Old Girls” are just fabulous.

  5. What a disappointment to learn about the Bernina not being a good candidate for a repair, however, you new little machine is so cute looking. I hope it can do many things for you.

    You made a great find on Craig’s list in finding the machine. I looked on Craig’s list for my area and there is nothing wonderful like your machine listed.

  6. From looking at the sewing machine running, it seems to me its normal vibration from a heavy machine in a fairly light weight sewing cabinet. When I used to use a long folding table to sew on, my machine would vibrate a lot more than when I switched over to sewing at my much heavier and sturdier kitchen table. I don’t think its anything to worry too much about and the machine sounds as if it is running smoothly and sewing nicely.

  7. How much does those kind of machines (clone) go for?

    • You’re replying to a 2.5 year old post. This one was 20, and that’s what I believed was average (for clones) at the time. Join the vintage sewing machine group on FB if you’re interested in learning and being a vintage machine owner and you’ll quickly find the common prices.

  8. Did you try adjusting your belt that connects to the motor? You don’t want it super tight then it shouldn’t be too loose either. Hope that helps.

  9. Just got a “mercury” branded japan made “delux 1953” singer 15-90 clone and it also seems to wobble quite a bit. Curious if the actual Singer branded machines from that era do it as well. My machine is in a portable wooden box and has a questionable belt with a kink in it. Im going to replace it inhipes it reduced the vibrations some.

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