Tag: sewing machine

Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 6

This is the last installment in my series on fixing my 1948 Singer sewing machine, because it’s completely restored! You can check the earlier parts by clicking the links: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

All I had left after part 5 in which I restored the electrical system, was to buy a new belt and install it. When purchasing a replacement belt for your machine it’s important to measure the old belt to make sure you get the right size. For the 15-90 solid hand-wheel model the belt size is 15 3/8 inches.

First thing to do is loosen the screw(s) holding the motor to the machine, and remove the old belt:

Here is my machine without a belt:

Next slide the new belt on to the hand wheel, make sure the belt is sitting in it’s groove under the hand-wheel cover. You can see the belt in the picture below, it has stamped white lettering on it:

Slide the other end of the belt onto the motor and re-tighten.

Once I got the belt on there, I plugged it in and it worked great! I sewed a bunch of seams into some scrap muslin:

For a free sewing machine that didn’t run, I can’t believe how smoothly the restoration went. Here is the break down of what I spent on it:

Cleaning stuff: Kerosene (Lowes): $10.78 and Murphy’s Oil (Home Depot): $2.99

The machine was missing it’s spool pins, felt pads and bobbin winder tire. I got replacements for all of these in one package on eBay: $5.75

New belt (shop.sew-classic.com): $9.14

Sewing machine oil (Walmart): $3.49

To repair the electrical stuff I bought heat shrink: $5.91 and ring terminal connectors: $2.39

Total: $40.45, not bad considering the cheapest I’ve ever seen a working 15-90 go for is $100, and that’s without adding in shipping costs.


You can see it’s extremely dirty, the light fixture is tied on with string, the belt and bobbin winder tire are crumbling away from the machine, and of course it doesn’t run.


Beautifully restored, working, and super shiny for being 63 years old. It makes me so happy to see it sew. I can’t wait to actually make something with it!

I am going to be editing all the posts about this machine into a more succinct and user friendly tutorial on how to restore a 15-90 and similar machines. As always if you are trying to restore an old Singer, leave me a comment I would love to hear about it.

UPDATE: How to Clean & Restore Vintage Singer Sewing Machines the eBook is now available in the Zounds Shop! Save and print all of the information you need to fix your machine! 

Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 5

This will be my next to last post in my Singer restoration series, because I’m almost finished! Last night I repaired all the electrical components, with a lot of help from my husband Matt. If you haven’t yet read the other posts here is part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

My machine’s wiring was in terrible shape. When I first plugged in the machine the foot pedal wasn’t controlling the motor, the motor was running off and on, but the light worked. The first thing I did was dismantle the electrical system, the 15-90 is unique because the electrical system is removable, here is the diagram of the electrical components on the 15-90:

Once off the machine I inspected the wiring. Basically the motor and light had crumbling insulation, which meant exposed wires, and the foot pedal’s ring connector wasn’t attached anymore. You can see all the damage best on this picture of the 3 pin terminal:

Supplies for repair:

To re-cover the exposed wires we used heat shrink, which is plastic tubing you can cut to size and shrinks tight when heat is applied. Technically you are suppose to use a heat gun, but a lighter works just fine. We started with the motor, here it is before:

One side was completely exposed, the other had crumbly old insulation still intact. I stripped away the old insulation down to about an inch from the motor.

Matt then covered the wires in electrical tape, then heat shrink tubing and applied heat.

Here is the completed repair to the motor:

We followed the same procedure for the light’s wiring:



The foot pedal repair was a bit more complicated, here is the wiring before:

I stripped the old insulation down an inch or so and Matt clamped on a new ring connector. We tried at first to re-use the old ring connector, but the wires were soldered/melted into it. So in the middle of the project Matt ran to Wal-Mart to buy clamp on ring connectors. If you need to use new ring connectors use the 3 pin terminal to determine the correct size. You could also solder the old wiring back together.


At the other end of the foot pedal the connections were solid, but there was a little wire poking out, which I covered with a small piece of heat shrink.


To finish I re-connected all the ring connectors on to the 3 pin terminal, here is a technical drawing of the correct order from the 15-91 adjustments manual:

Pin 1(yellow): foot pedal and light fixture. Pin 2(black): foot pedal and motor. Pin 3(red): motor and light fixture

We plugged the power cord in and everything worked, light came on no problem and the foot pedal once again controlled the motor! I put the whole electrical system back on my machine, and it looked great. I need to order a new drive belt before I can test its sewing abilities but I don’t foresee any problems.


This machine has come a long way from the thrift store trash it was before. In my next post I will be purchasing a new drive belt and doing some sewing with my completely restored machine.

Having problems with your own vintage Singer? I’m no expert but I would love to help you puzzle out your problem just leave me a comment.

UPDATE: How to Clean & Restore Vintage Singer Sewing Machines the eBook is now available in the Zounds Shop! Save and print all of the information you need to fix your machine! 

Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 4

This post is my latest update for my restoration attempt on my 1948 Singer sewing machine. Here are part 1, part 2, and part 3. So to quickly recap, I have removed all the electrical components on my machine, I have also taken it completely apart, cleaned, polished and put it back together. I don’t think that any part of the machine is especially hard to put back together and so didn’t go into great detail about it, however I am making an exception for the tensioner. I had quite a few problems with it but today I finally squared away the silly thing.

First I haven’t covered yet that after I had the machine cleaned up and back together I oiled it. It is important to oil the machine after a total tear down cleaning because there is (or at least should be) no old oil left to lubricate the parts. Only use sewing machine oil and do so according to your manual.

Okay so to take the tensioner off the machine simply turn the thumb nut like you are adjusting the tension to the left and keep turning until it is off the machine. You can then clean it thoroughly. Here are the components you will have:

The 15-89, 15-90, 15-91 and probably others I don’t know about all have the same tensioner any of their manuals will tell you how to put everything back together, but not very clearly. Here is what you should be starting with:

Here are the two illustrations you will need to put the tensioner assembly back together both from the 15-91 manual (sorry I don’t have my own pictures to go with this, it’s a two hand job):

To begin take the thread guide plate (L) and slide it along the tension rod (N) making sure to slip align the lug (M) into the recess (P). If done correctly the guide plate will not be able to turn. Next slid the tension releasing pin (J) through the middle of the tension rod (N). I found that a small screwdriver works best for this. Next both tension discs (H) are put on the rod with their flat sides together. Place the indicator (G) on the rod with the open side facing out, with the + and – signs facing the sewer. Next is the spring (F) which fits inside the indicator, and the stop washer (D) will fit on top of that with the extension (S) facing out. Then place the numbered dial (C) against the stop washer (D) with number two against the extension (S). Lastly compress the numbered dial (C) so you can screw the thumb nut (A) onto the tension rod (N), before it’s completely tightened slip the pin (B) into on of the holes around the numbered dial.

See, super easy 🙂 After then tensioner is back together, lower the presser bar, and turn to 0, from there you can thread it and test it out. If the proper tension hasn’t been achieved a myriad of adjustments you can make which I won’t online here but can be found in either the 15-89 or 15-90 manuals downloadable for free off Singer’s website here.

My tensioner worked just fine!

This means that my machine is now operational, but still not electrically powered. All the electrical components will be my next hurdle and hopefully part 5 will end with an up and running sewing machine!

UPDATE: How to Clean & Restore Vintage Singer Sewing Machines the eBook is now available in the Zounds Shop! Save and print all of the information you need to fix your machine! 

Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 3

As you could guess from the title, this post is part 3 of my restoration of a vintage Singer sewing machine. Part 1 can be read here, and part 2 here. Quick recap, I researched this machine ad nauseam, to discover it was in fact a 15-90, made in 1948, and had a removable external electrical system which incidentally needed work. Then in part 2 I removed and took apart the electrical components and was left with a non-powered machine in desperate need of cleaning.

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Sewing Book Score and Another Vintage Singer

In another bout of my family being wonderfully supportive of my addiction to vintage items, and project supplies, my grandmother (who is an amazing seamstress) was cleaning out her sewing room and offered me my choice of her extensive reference book collection before she donated them to Goodwill.

When I got to her house there were piles 15 books deep, some new some old. Among the most interesting that I took: Several government sponsored pamphlets printed in the 50’s on clothes making, the book “Couture Sewing Techniques” which I have checked out of the library several times, a 70’s book of men’s fashions which features drawings of funkadelic men’s suits… I could go on and on. As soon as I got home I wished I had just taken all of them, or at least 10 more.

While we were going through the books, she casually mentioned that she had seen on my blog that I had a gotten a vintage Singer and would I like another one. I thought my head would explode, besides being a piece of my family’s history (I learned to sew on it, my mom and aunts sewed on it, my grandma, my great grandma and so on sewed on it) the table is gorgeous, it use to be a treadle so the legs are iron, and the machine is running and in pristine condition. She pulled it out to show me and it went like this:

Grandma: “I don’t know if you would like it, it’s awful heavy and the table isn’t in the best-

Me: “Yes… I want it”

Grandma: “See here the top’s faded, and this drawer here has been broken since I was a kid, but it run-

Me: “I want it… yes I will take it, I will bring Matt and a truck to pick it up… yes”

She wasn’t kidding though, this thing is crazy heavy, its got a solid wood body, iron legs and the machine itself is really just a chunk of steel. I checked the serial number and it was made in 1938. I have done a bit of sewing with it, mostly just test lines to make sure I know how to thread it and that the tension is adjusted right. Below are some shots of it in my project room the last one is the sweet metal attachment tin that came with it.



Thank you Grandma!!!

1948 Singer Sewing Machine

My aunt had this lovely machine dropped on her doorstep as a poorly thought out prank. So she didn’t want it and very sweetly gave it to me… she even brought it over to my house! Anyway I’ve identified it as a 1948 Singer 15-90. It’s in need of some lovin’ and plenty of CLR, but I can’t wait to take it apart and get it working again. I also want to re-finish the cabinet, but I think I might be getting ahead of myself… my kitchen is still not setup. Here are a couple of glamour shots of the machine, the first (and possibly cutest) is Todd inside the table when I turned my back for a minute.