Necchi punching power and Kenmore to pass up....


Dear Brian,
I have been reading your news on the Supernova..I enjoy it...Do you know what is the difference between that and the ultra? Also what is it like as far as stitch quality and piercing power? I am looking at one on eBay it has a free arm..I really need the free arm for detailed small pieces. They are so expensive though and I am on a tight budget. Believe it or not...I love my singer 15-90 this machine is so powerful and precise. I bought it on eBay but it has the flat bed and I want to get something with decorative stitches and an arm like I mentioned. I have been making very heavy burlap bags, totes with beads and linings. they are really cool..but I need a tuff machine. I'd love opinion or recommendation. Nice to see someone under 100 yrs old that thinks its fun to sew..And your sewing room is awesome. I come across machines here and there if you would be interested in trading machines if your looking for something I may come across it..Thanks

Hi There

From what I always felt the ultra was the first of the Supernova series to start getting cheaper components. It's still a great machine but there's nothing particularly "ultra" about it unless you get the free arm which are rare. The stitch quality and piercing power is similar to all the other Supernova machines. Two things that I have issue with. 1st is the motor, it's hard to get to and adjust. I much prefer the open motor design of other vintage machines. I can't tell you how often I want to adjust the motor when sewing heavy materials. Sometimes I like to used a cogged belt. 2. Punching power on these machines is reduced by all the machinery the power must pass through between the motor and the needle. You always want the most direct path if you want to keep as much power as possible at the needle. As far as free arm vintage (which is a difficult find) you could look into a Pfaff 360 series which I find to be a much stronger machine than the Necchi however the embroidery stitches are not all that fancy compared to the Supernova.


Thanks for taking the time to do a great blog. I have to say your blog was the only place I could find any sort of information on a Dressmaker S3000. I'm new to sewing. I currently have zero machines. In all my research I have fallen in love with the machines from the 50's and 60's and I don't even have one yet. The love of my life would be a Pink Necchi Supernova. But until I find her I'm looking at getting a Kenmore Convertible 1980 #158.19800. This would be my first, a learning machine for me. It comes with all the original attachments including the cams and embroidery attachments. It comes in a very nice desk. They are asking $100 but are willing to go down to $80. The motor sounds lovely but the the feed dogs only go back and forth and not up and down. Therefore the fabric won't move. Is it worth the price of $80 because I might need to get it serviced if I can't figure out why that's happening?

I did read your post: Vintage Sewing Machine Addiction - A Survivors Guide. I'm learning a lot about what to look for in a good machine but I'm still unsure about what's a good price. I would appreciate any advise on this for a Vintage Newbie.

Hi there! 

This Kenmore Convertible is a little iffy... This was produced after the heyday of Japanese manufacturing. Likely the feed dogs on the machine just weren't engaged in the one you're looking at. You don't want to get a vintage machine serviced unless it's really a nice machine. They will charge you $80 to dust it out and squirt some oil on it which is more than the machine is worth. Set a budget of $25 for these store brand vintage machines and $100 for better brands. Old sewing machines are a dime a dozen, don't overpay! My friend Dennis in Alabama picked up a Featherweight at a garage sale for pennies, I myself just picked up a Pfaff 1473 CD worth $750 for only $30!

Try and avoid the cabinets, they're just boat anchors in your life and worth little to nothing. Harder to find yet more functional are machines that come with a carry case.

Hope that helps!

bikinis and thinning the herd



I just came across some of your postings on pattern review and really enjoyed them, I followed over to your blog and am reading through it now. I was wondering, on pattern review you created a pattern for a bikini and the album where I think you said you laid out some of the details on how you drafted it doesn't seem to be up anymore. Do you still have that info? I am trying to do my own now and would greatly appreciate any advice you could provide.
All my best,

 Hi There,
I really should go over to PR and check out my reviews to see if links need fixing. I have to admit that after I worked there it's a little hard browsing the site as a regular user again. Lots of.... memories I suppose. That review causes a huge to do over at the PR site where the ladies were totally unprepared for the next generation of sewists and what they might bring to the table. The album is from the way way back and I remember now that I changed the access after I found some of the kids in the after school program googling me. . It's certainly not obscene but my job is hard enough not giving the kids something else to giggle about. Here's the link you're looking for.
Also along this same line I think my video on swimwear elastic is one of my more popular flicks. It's worth a view and it's short.

Good luck!


First of all I would like to thank you for your excellent blog and You Tube Videos. Over the last couple of years I have been educated and entertained by you. I learned to sew from my daughter when she was about 7 ( My mother had previously taught my daughter to sew.) and I spent endless hours at my mothers old Singer 328K making pillows, Dog clothes and Curtains with my daughter.

I have always liked tools, Woodworking, mechanics as a hobby and the next logical step after learning how to sew was collecting sewing machines ( I know that you suffer from the same disease). I now own far too many machines ( 23 domestic and 2 industrial) and need to sell some. I just use my machines for clothing repairs, mostly work jeans and tee shirts ( i;m cheap and make things last forever) and for projects such as upholstery curtains and roman shades. I was planning on keeping one 1960's Kenmore, a Singer 500 or maybe my 403, A Necchi BF, White 499 1.3 amp , and my Singer 301 . I would like to also replace my 2 industrial machines with a walking foot industrial. I was wondering what you thought of my list of keepers for my uses. ( I am thinking of quilting next and maybe trying to learn to sew clothes. )

Thanks for any suggestions and please Keep making the instructional videos and reviewing machines.

Dear Machine Collector,

That's awesome that you're 7 year old taught you. Everyone is always surprised when I tell them that I start kids off at 5. I've found my youngest sewers are also the most serious and dedicated. These kids will spend an entire day with me, that's 7 hours, sewing and sewing and sewing with maybe 15 minutes for a break to scarf down some lunch. I guess sewing is that fun! Anyway as you're giving me the list of machines you're keeping I find myself nodding my head at your choices. A 1960 Kenmore is of course an awesome machine that can be had dirt cheap. The Singers you mention are some of the best that company ever made. The white I'm unfamiliar with but it's likely made in Japan and like the Kenmore. These Japanese made machines were bullet proof and a real joy to sew on, so smooth!'

A walking foot industrial is on my list of machines I'm interested in owning. Actually i'm in the 
 market for a walking needle industrial. My friend Laurence just picked up a treadle which I'm finding extremely exciting. I don't know if there are too many of those industrial treadles available in this area. One of the high school girls who assists me is obsessed now with the Necchi bu I treadled and wants a treadle herself. 

I think your keepers seem good!

Singer 500a with sloppy stitches...


Today I had a revelation and we'll see what people think of it. I get at least one or two questions a day in my email box and I certainly do try to answer most of them. Why am I not putting this information here for everyone to read? Doing a sewing Q & A page sounds a bit overwhelming but I do like the format.

Let's start with this first one, I'll remove any personal identifiers and correct any typos I see fit. I think I'm not going to follow the comments but please fell free to leave suggestions as you wish.

Subject singer slant 500a

Hi Brian,
    I have two vintage singer slants. When I first got them they sewed like a top. I have them serviced regularly about once a year. Now when I sew I spend as much time adjusting the tension as I do sewing. This is not fun. I do mostly quilting, but I also sew all the window treatments for my home. Sewing straight stitches are no problem. I am having trouble with decorative stitches. The bottom thread is loopy or just sloppy or doesn't look like the stitch I'm supposed to be sewing. The top is inconsistent as well. I switch thread weights constantly as I'm using different threads for different techniques on my quilts. I am mostly doing applique but did complete my first machine quilted wall hanging on this machine. I've always loved this machine, BUT I'm falling out of love with it. I've actually had thoughts of selling them both and getting a modern machine. Please advise.

Dear Loopy Sloppy,
Let's assume you know the basics as you've pretty much stated that. I have a few questions to consider. Why would the stitching be fine for straight stitching and not decorative? Do you adjust both top and bottom tension? I wonder if you have dirty tension disks? Is it an issue with stitching speed?
Something I do know of the 500a is that the thread does tend to fall out of the tension disks especially when stitching fast so I used to use an alternative threading technique that helped tremendously. I just happen to have a photo of this in my collection. The thread goes under that post before going around the tension disks. This insures that it will not slip out. Notice that the pretensioner (I have no idea if that's a word or what that's called?) on the right is bypassed with this threading but you can also include it to see what you results might be.
These are great machines but I do find them quirky.  Singer really was being innovative in trying out new ways to do the same old things as far as sewing machines go.  The 500a is an example of their success.

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