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Vintage Sewing Machines

Found: Purple Kenmore 158.48!


Hey, remember that time I gifted a pink Kenmore 158.47 to my sister in law, fell in love, and swore I would hunt down a purple one for myself? Well, mission accomplished, folks. Meet my unicorn the Kenmore 158.48:

Isn’t she the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Crazy retro dial? Check! Heavy on the chrome? Check! Purple? Checkity-check! And her cabinet is totally gorgeous, too. 

Ok, so she might have a case of pin-rash. And, unlike the one I restored for my sister in law, this one was pretty freaking neglected and, let’s be honest — beat to shit. Someone ran the bobbin winder without a bobbin tire and made a mess of her paint job. Her motor also sounds a little rough, so I’m not going to put her through her paces until that’s been addressed (read: no touching until I’m a little more comfortable with motor restoration!). 

But! The important thing is that I rescued her and fully intend to spoil her rotten. Starting with a replacement cam set that I found on eBay 🙂 


I need another sewing machine like I need a hole in my head. But, I think this video of my oldest is all the justification I need:

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If this machine could talk, she would have quite the story to tell. I found her on craigslist for $110 — making her my most expensive VSM yet. It’s difficult to find hand crank sewing machines here in the US so I didn’t feel too guilty for paying a premium for her. This particular machine has a few bonus features that aren’t found on more common Singer models, too. For one, it has a stitch-length lever (not a knob!), which includes a reverse (!!!). This machine also has an ejection button for the shuttle, which is super cool.

The gentleman who sold her to me said it belonged to his grandmother and then his mother, both of whom were “master seamstresses.” He insisted that it was a Singer, but lucky for me, it is not 🙂 Of course, realizing what *it is not* is quite different from knowing what *it is,* ha! After hours (and hours) of scanning photographs, I tracked the machine to Germany and then finally identified its manufacturer. As it turns out, this machine was never made for the US market and must have been carried across the Atlantic by one of its previous owners. I am so fortunate to own such a treasure!

This Vibrating Shuttle (VS) hand-crank machine was made by Bernhard Stoewer AG, around 1907-1910. The machine was probably badged, but the decals with the badged name are long gone. Similar machines can be found here: http://www.needlebar.org/cm/thumbnails.php?album=181, http://www.sewmuse.co.uk/german%20sewing%20machines%203.htm, and http://tammyscraftemporium.blogspot.com/2009/11/1910-bernard-stoewer-treadle.html. I suspect that the badged-name may have been removed deliberately during WWII because the surrounding decals are undamaged. The first two photos here are before shots, and they make her look better than she did.

Restoring this machine was challenging to say the least — some parts were broken and the finish was quite damaged. If this machine had a wooden lid, I’m afraid it’s missing too. Unlike other Stoewer bases, this one doesn’t have brackets to support a lid, so maybe it’s not missing? Regardless, it’s evident that the machine spent several decades, if not the the last century, exposed to the elements. Perhaps as a result, the clear-coat was completely shot, though the decals were mostly intact.

To the previous owners’s credit, the machine was well oiled, but that oil also acted like a magnet for dust and grime. She did turn, but she couldn’t make a single stitch and I don’t collect expensive doorstops. I cleaned her as gently as I could (sewing machine oil and soft rags!), but the only thing holding on to the decals was grime … and the grime had to go.

After an overall cosmetic cleaning, I began breaking her down. Where possible, I removed the inner workings and cleaned them with very fine #0000 steel wool and rubbing alcohol. Um, and a metal pick because the grime was stubborn. The rest of the inner workings were cleaned in place using the same method, but I was super careful not to get the rubbing alcohol on the painted parts of the machine. Then I flushed all the oil points with Blue Creeper, and gave her a nice drink of sewing machine oil. The shiny bits were polished with my Dremel and Mother’s Mag & Aluminum polish. The wooden base was restored with Howard’s Restore-A-Finish, and then a generous amount of Howard’s Feed-N-Wax. Hm, that’s like one paragraph of explanation for 140 hours of work! I had mechanic’s hands for weeks!

I had to leave my comfort zone quite a few times on this restoration, including:

  • taking apart the tension assembly
  • repairing/reshaping the tension spring
  • removing the entire presser foot assembly
  • removing and disassembling the hand-crank
  • removing the spring from the shuttle bobbin
  • fabricating new parts (more on that in a minute).

Even when I’m armed with service or adjuster’s manuals I’m wary of those tasks… but um, guys, there’s no adjuster’s manual for this machine. Hell, I didn’t even have a user manual (I do now, please email me if you’re in need!). I used manuals for the Singer 27/28 and Singer 127/128 for reference, but, I digress. My overall tactic was pretty simple: I took a hundred million photos as I went along, and somehow I managed to put things back together correctly. I am not going to ugly-up the place with working photos, but if you’re in need of WIP photos please send me an email!

Thanks to my set of Chapman screwdrivers, I was able to prevent further damage to the screw heads, many of which were partially stripped. PHEW. I don’t know about you, but I never want to track down a replacement screw for something that was machined in Germany over one hundred years ago.

Once everything was cleaned and oiled, I turned my attention to the missing thread guide on the face plate. I bent a cotter pin to match the shape of the missing guide, and used a high heat glue gun to attach it to the backside of the face plate. I was so afraid that the repair would be an eyesore, but it looks fine. You really can’t tell from the front, and it isn’t half bad from the back either.

After two months on the work bench she’s fully restored and in full working order. My daughter is learning to sew and becoming increasingly independent on this machine. She’s working on some improvised quilt squares and it’s just amazing to see her work through the piecing on her own. I’ve also used the machine myself for making my niece a leather purse — I put a low-shank teflon foot on and away she went! The top-stitching really was lovely… until I couldn’t fit multiple layers under the presser foot 🙂

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Overall, I’m thrilled with the functionality of this machine and her place in history. It is clear that this machine was heavily used and central to someone’s livelihood, but she wears it well. I do wish that I had been able to do better by her cosmetically. If I win the lottery, she might become a candidate for a custom paint job. Maybe she would enjoy her new lease on life in royal purple with silver decals?


The right tool for the job


I treated myself to a set of #9600 screwdrivers from Chapman Manufacturing for my birthday, and I just have to take a moment to sing their praises. I should have purchased a set for myself ages ago! These tools are such an improvement over the enormous collection of screwdrivers I had amassed (read: stolen from the garage and squirreled away in the sewing room). But, before I go on, I’d like to add that these are all my own unbiased opinions. I don’t have any affiliation with this company, other than my new love-affair with their products 🙂

What makes me so giddy about screwdrivers, you ask? Well, these bits are engineered to properly fill the screw slot. You can see a great visual of this difference on their website, here: http://chapmanmfg.com/pages/insert-bits. The bit shape means that 1) it transfers the force more effectively to the screw 2) less force is necessary to turn the screw and 3) it is less likely to damage the screw head. Those three things are so so important to vintage machine restoration, but I think any sewist could benefit from them. So many of my VSMs came to me with damaged screws — heck even my modern machines’ show some damage from repeated assault with a traditional screw driver.

When my set arrived I jumped for joy because, well, *pink.* But then I got down to business and put it to the test. There is one machine, a little Singer 20 clone by GRAIN, that I have been working on for over a year. It has remained frozen despite my best attempts with penetrating oil and a hairdryer… until now. I combined the right bit + the “midget ratchet” and pop! I was able to remove the stubborn screws with ease, and without damaging the irreplaceable screws. From there I was able to give it the rough cleaning it so desperately needed. I’m happy to report that the machine is turning freely now, and awaiting her cosmetic spa-day.

And the icing on top? Chapman is a woman-owned company, and their tools are American Made from American Made materials. They’ve won multiple Green Circle Awards from the DEP. Their grounds are even a NFW certified wildlife habitat. And there are cats and the cutest dog in the shop! That’s a lot of icing in my book 🙂

And if you’ve read this far, thank you for bearing with me through my dork fit. Every once in awhile you come across a tool that revolutionizes things, and they deserve to be cheered on. And if you’re interested in purchasing your own set, I found mine here: http://chapmanmfg.com/collections/slotted-flathead-sets/products/9600-starter-slotted-bit-set.

Happy sewing (and tinkering)!


Hello blog land!

So I had another unplanned blogging hiatus. Whoops. I assure you that I’m still sewing up a storm. If you miss my ramblings, please come join me on instagram! I’m so much better about sticking photos up there!

Last night I sat down to sew on my Brother Select-o-matic, and I was reminded how much I adore this machine. Every time I use it I fall more in love with it. It is smooth, consistent and reliable — every damn time. It doesn’t throw fits. And it makes the most charming and satisfying purr when its running. Seriously, it’s my sewing nirvana. I also get a fair number of emails about this gem of a machine, so I think it’s time for a little update.

The most common question I get about this machine is “hey, how can I take the darn top off?” Such a good question. The machine is sort of a puzzle box, so let’s start with a diagram:

Now the trick:

  1. Set the Indexer Knob to zero (do this by turning and holding the Switch Over Knob to the right while you manipulate the Indexer Knob)
  2. I also think it helps to put the Stitch Selector Knob at #1, but perhaps I’m superstitious.
  3. Once those knobs are set, the Indexer Knob will release itself so it can be removed
  4. Twist the top of the Indexer Knob while holding the bottom/flatter part still. It should screw right off.
  5. Now unscrew the top screws which are holding the top on. It should look something like the photo to the right. –>
  6. Now lift the top up. How about that?! Now you can clean the cams and make everything spiffy and new! And here’s a sneak-peak at what you’ll find under the hood…

Next most common question: where can I find replacement parts? Good news here, folks. This machine was based on the patents for a Singer 15 so it’s super easy to find reproduction parts. Happy little list with links below: 

And the best part about publishing my dorkiness for all to see? Readers are kind enough to send me photos of their machines! Thank you for sending your photos and letting me share them!

This is Lindsey’s beautiful Brother Select-o-matic HZ3-B1 in beige/pink and gunmetal gray.   

Allison from https://www.allisondillard.com/ shared these photos of her Riviera branded machine:


If you have a photo you’d like to add, please send me an email or post a comment. I’d love to share more of these beauties!

On the work bench: Kenmore 47


Yes, this is another post about vintage sewing machines. Sorry, not sorry 🙂 I know, I know, VSM restoration is threatening to take over the blog. I just can’t stop myself. I love bringing these old ladies back to their former glory. I’ve run out of room, but that didn’t stop me from snatching up this craigslist beauty. She made an awesome surprise for sister in law 🙂

Before + After Front - Final

Before + after back - finalThis is Annette, named after her former owner, “Antoinette,” who was a seamstress herself, and the wife of a sewing machine mechanic. Her husband was also a World War II vet. How do I know? Because among the notions were a bunch of needles stored in an old MRE pouch. I think it was hot cocoa at one point? Hard to say, haha.

Anyway, Annette is a Kenmore 47 (Kenmore 158.470) Kenmore 47, Center locked needlemade by the Maruzen Co. between 1958 and 1962. She is a midcentury modern beauty, featuring a great big retro dial, lots of chrome, and an awesome rose pink and peach paint job. She has a center locked needle for straight stitching (i.e. not left-homing machine) which is rare in a Japanese machine like this one. She will be a great multipurpose machine — equally competent at both 1/4″ and 5/8″ seams.She uses cams for decorative stitching, but does not require a cam for zigzag sewing (genius I tell you!). She is a high shank machine, but she is *not* a “Kenmore super high shank” machine, which is good because she only came with a zigzag foot. Oh, and she’s an absolute TANK of a machine. She weighs around 37 pounds!

Working on this machine has been a true pleasure — it is clear that she was loved and meticulously maintained during her working years. Unlike older Singers with their clear coats and delicate decals, the finish on this machine is tough as nails. She’s basically a car. No fancy cleaners (or hours of gentle polishing!) required. A little Simple Green, Barkeeper’s friend, and some car wax and she looks as good as new on the outside. The insides however, were a bit of a different story. Her straight stitch mechanisms were smooth, but the cam selector was frozen solid. Like, so frozen I was afraid that I was doing something wrong with the selector knobs — there was that little play in the zigzag mechanisms. I picked up a bottle of “Bluecreeper,”which is a super thin penetrating oil that that the VSM community raves about. I started with a few drops of Bluecreeper and let it sit overnight, but it didn’t do Kenmore 47, frozen camstackmuch. So, I did what any reasonable person would do. I doused everything that looked suspect and left it to sit for a day.

About 24 hours later, I nudged the zigzag arm and OMG.IT.MOVED, leaving behind a nice bit of golden fossilized oil. A few more drops of BlueCreeper and the zigzag mechanisms were moving freely. Lucky for you readers, I memorialized that moment with a photo! But seriously, it was so gratifying to get her moving again. I also used Bluecreeper in all the oil ports to flush the gunk, and followed that with BlueCreeper’s new SMO. Now everything turns smooth as glass, like even smoother than my vintage Brother. I’m officially a BlueCreeper convert, and plan to treat all my other VSMs to a day at the BlueCreeper spa.

Kenmore 47, top opened

Annette is missing some extras — her cams (Kenmore B type), and her attachments (save a buttonholer that was thrown in with the notions) were no where to be found. Bummer. It was also time for a new belt, a new pedal, a new power cord, a new light bulb, and a new bobbin tire so I ordered those from Sew Classic… only to realize that her bobbin case was broken, too. A few other items jumped in my cart on the second order, but that’s a blog post for another day. Luckily, I picked up this machine and cabinet for $35, so having to spend a bit on extras isn’t a huge deal. I think this little restore will come in around $100 (ok, maybe $150), which isn’t too bad given what a great machine she is. You cannot buy a machine of this quality today, and even if you could it would cost a fortune.

Kenmore 47, cam door open

LKenmore 47 cabinet, restoredastly, there was the cabinet. The sad, albeit original, Sears cabinet. You know how I love to save things, but this one nearly ended up in the trash. It is not solid wood, and the laminate was in *bad* shape. It was peeling, bubbling, permanently stained with grime, and even gooey in places. Ew. Plus, the legs were shot and in need of serious repair. I can’t bring myself to paste a picture of its hideousness here, but if you absolutely must, you can check it out at this picture (and that’s AFTER a serious cleaning, so gross!). This was a rare instance where a paint job was completely necessary. My dear husband adopted the cabinet and did an amazing job refinishing it and rebuilding so it could, um, stand. He power sanded the heck out of it and primed it with a tinted oil primer before painting. The high gloss black is seriously fantastic. New hardware was obviously a must as well. A gold star for my partner in crime for an awesome job and for helping us divide and conquer on this project. Thanks to him, we totally made a gifting deadline <3

Kenmore 47, restored by Stitchified

And so there you have it, folks. One newly restored Kenmore 47 in rose pink nestled in a sleek black and chrome cabinet. Totally drool-worthy. I absolutely adore her and saying farewell is going to be hard. I already got the stink eye from my husband when I mentioned how hard it would be to part with her, so there’s no turning back now, haha. I’ll get to visit her in her new home, and I’m happy to gift her to an aspiring VSM sewist 🙂 Here’s to another 50 years of sewing for Miss Annette! Linking up with Finish it Up Friday with CrazyMom Quilts!

(I can’t help but casually mention that Miss Annette has a twin sister, the Kenmore 158.48 in lavender/lilac. I’ll be fanatically hunting one, I mean, um, “keeping an eye out” for one to add to my personal collection. Shhh, don’t tell hubby!)


The herd is growing again!


Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

I love vintage sewing machines. Their all metal construction, brilliant engineering, and retro lines make me swoon. I wish I could bring home every vintage machine I come across, but I’m pretty much at capacity over here. So I’ve tried to be selective and hold out for the perfect vintage zigzag machine. And that is why I pretty much imploded when I came across a craigslist ad for this beauty — my dream vintage zigzag machine, a Brother Super Select-o-matic or Brother HZ3B3 Model 100. It took a week to coordinate the sale, but it was so worth it. Restoring it took a couple of weeks, but I’m so in love with her now that she’s finished!

Before picture from craigslist ad

Before picture from the Craigslist ad. Such a dirty girl <3

The seller was an absolutely lovely woman. If we had had more time I could have spent hours talking to her! She explained that the machine had belonged to her late mother in law and hadn’t been used in years and years. Another fun fact? This beast is H-E-A-V-Y. In its solid 8 drawer cabinet, the machine easily weighs over 100 pounds. I’m sure my husband and I were quite the picture maneuvering this behemoth out of a second floor bedroom, but we succeeded.

Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

Action shot: cabinet restoration

I spent two weeks restoring the cabinet, which was definitely showing its age. It took over a dozen coats of Tung Oil and a lot of elbow grease, but it looks a million times better. It is still a little weathered looking, but I love it. It’s the perfect vintage piece to ground an otherwise bright space.

Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

The machine itself was really very clean inside, but the outside? Not so much. There was a lot of odd yellow staining. And.it.was.stubbon.  Given its age, I assume that it was nicotine staining? I used a lot of Qtips and barkeeper’s friend to remove the stains and polish the chrome. Unfortunately, I took off a little paint getting rid of the staining. I feel pretty badly about that, but I couldn’t leave it as it was either.

Originally, it had been wired with a knee control, but the lever was very squeaky and the cords felt brittle. So, I picked up a new cord block and switched over to a shiny new foot peddle. Once the machine was thoroughly cleaned I oiled it well — it’s been purring like a kitten ever since.

This machine is seriously fun stuff. It looks like an old vintage car with its powder blue paint job and shiny chrome knobs. But what really puts it over the top is the red “Switch Over Knob” which spins as it does the embroidery stitches. Totally gratuitous and squeal worthy! I’m adding a video because it really is too cool not to share.

A video posted by Jen (@stitchified) on

But she isn’t all looks, no, no. This baby sports a 1.2 amp motor — that’s twice as strong as my Janome Horizon. When you put the pedal to the metal, there is a slight but noticeable breeze — it seriously feels like it might take off and I love it! It goes through leather, vinyl, and canvas like butter. She uses a standard class 15 bobbin, so finding replacement parts (if I ever need them!) will be easy. I also love the way her gib pops open with a “snap-out race hook,” no screwdriver needed. It makes removing stray threads a snap (literally!), instead of a nightmare (ahem, I’m looking at you little Featherweight). I can’t wait to make bags on her! Or you know, maybe sailboat sails. Just because I can.

Linking up with Finish it Up Friday!

Pop out race hook

Genius engineering at work: Snap out race hook on the Brother Super Select-o-matic

As a PSA, I’m going to include some more nitty gritty info about this machine. There is very little info about this model on the internet, and I couldn’t find a manual anywhere online. The manufacturer didn’t even have a manual for this model, though they did provide a manual for an earlier model. So, feel free to stop reading here, though you’re welcome to dork out with me below 🙂


This machine is a “Brother Super Select-O-Matic” aka “Brother HZ3B3 Model 100,” and was manufactured by Brother in Japan, likely in the 1960s. An earlier version of this machine, “the Select-o-Matic” had a differently shaped Stitch Width Window which was located further to the left. A later version, the “Brother 210” is also similar, but replaced the Stitch Regulator with a reverse button, did away with the separate Stitch Selector Knob, and flipped the bobbin on to the horizontal axis. There is a great blog post about the 210 (and related machines) by Brooke at Custom Style here.

Like other Japanese made machines of the time, these machines were sold as badged machines in the US. That is, the seller’s brand was added on top of or in addition to “Brother” once the machines arrived stateside. As a result, this machine and other “Select-o-matic” models were sold under dozens of brands including Atlas, Wizard, and Coronado just to name a few. Crazy, huh?

As you might imagine, badged machines are notoriously difficult to track. They all have different model names, and even the manufacturer didn’t keep track of serial numbers or production years. I was very fortunate to find the original manual and warranty card in one of the cabinet drawers. I am uploading a copy of the manual (here: Brother Super Select-o-Matic Manual) and created a little diagram below to help explain how this machine works. I also found a Ruffler in the accessories box, complete with instructions. Here’s a copy of the instructions for that, too: Brother Ruffler Attachment – Manual.Diagram Brother Super Select-O-matic, by Stitchified

The machine has three modes: automatic zigzag, semi-automatic, and manual zigzag. The modes are accessed by manipulating the Switch Over Knob (Pull out for automatic and semi-automatic zigzagging, push in for manual zigzagging). The automatic mode is very familiar for modern sewists. In automatic mode you select your settings, and then the machine sews a given stitch (straight or zigzag). But the semi-automatic and manual modes? Whoa, baby. In those modes, the user *manually* swings the Needle Position Knob from left to right in timing with the Stitch Width Window to produce custom embroidery stitches. No, I’m not kidding you. It’s insane.  To quote the manual in all of its vintage glory:

“The variety of zig-zag designs that can be made on this machine by simple manual manipulation is unlimited. It depends entirely on the creative ability of the operator and the skill acquired in timing the movement of [the Switch Over Knob] with the stitch width.”

Well, thank you 1960s for the condescension. I’m not ashamed to admit that this operator has not acquired this skill. I’m seriously awful at it. Haha 🙂

Alright, that’s all the info I have. If you read this far thank you for indulging me and my dork-out session!

Happy sewing!


Update June 2017. I’ve created an update with some FAQs here: http://stitchified.com/2017/06/09/brother-select-o-matic-update-and-faqs/


My new sewing room


When I first started sewing a few years ago, I would setup shop in the office. Every night I would put away my (crappy! infuriating!) computerized Singer sewing machine and tidy up my mess. Back then, all my fabric fit in one box (haha!) and I would work on one project at at time (LOL). So keeping things tidy was really very manageable.

But within a year I caught the quilting bug, and my fabric collection had became an unwieldy stash. I purchased a big girl sewing machine, and then a smaller Janome for travel, and then a Singer Featherweight. Around that time I started taking over the dining room. For awhile I was diligent and put everything away at night, and then um, I wasn’t. All my sewing stuff piled up with intermittent spells of “Oh my god, company is coming! Hide it all!”

Recently my husband pointed out that “there sure is a lot of dining room furniture in the sewing room, why is that exactly?” It was hard to admit that the dining room had finally lost the war, but it really had. And so, about three weeks ago, we officially began converting the space to a sewing room. Life changing! For the first time ever I can actually see what I have! Sitting in this space makes me so happy, even if it is a work in progress. Shall we take a mini tour of the place so far?

Sewing Room

First up we have a set of three BILLY bookshelves (from IKEA), which are sitting on (still-need-to be-painted) risers so they sit flush against the wall. This set is enormous and gives me plenty of room to display my fabric, fabric cutters, books, pincushions, and my favorite vintage toy sewing machine. I plan to add a curtain for some of the lower shelves to help hide the unsightly side of sewing (I’m looking at you fabric cutters!). And, of course, there is the obligatory craft room TASTRUP rug and little wooden mannequin. They make me silly happy!

I have to say, IKEA really is an awesome one stop shop for organizational goodies. While I was there I picked up a bunch of little organizer baskets and a 4 gallon KNODD bin, which is perfect for storing my unsorted scraps in. I also picked up an ALEX cart which holds all my WIPs, rulers, etc. Organizational bliss, I tell you!

There is still a lot to do in this space. For one, I need to retro-fit one of these sewing cabinets to fit my Janome Horizon. Once that’s done, the cabinet will get a fresh coat of creamy white paint and we’ll be good to go. The other sewing cabinet is newly refinished and houses my new-to-me vintage zigzag machine. More on that in a future post!

I also have plans to add a design wall to this space. I’ve been wanting a design wall for ages, and can’t wait to build it! I also hope to squeeze in a peg board to help organize some of my tools. And then there’s the matter of an old treadle machine that followed me home — I need to find a place for her to live in this new space, too. Maybe then she’ll get some much needed attention, haha.

Ok, there we have it — One WIP sewing room! Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced!

Happy sewing!