Tag: singer 15-90

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.

Read more

Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 2

Here is the second installment of my continued effort to restore my Singer 15-90 sewing machine, part one can be found here.

The 15-90 is an interesting machine because the electrical system is not built in. So it’s only a matter of a couple of screws and poof you have no trace of electric power. I knew that my machine needed electrical work because the first time I plugged it in the motor was running but couldn’t turn the belt and the foot pedal wasn’t consistent. The lightbulb however worked great.

So the next task on my list for restoring this machine was to take apart the electrical system to see what is going on. First up was the light fixture:

My light fixture is not in ideal condition… it wasn’t a factory standard to tie these on. I cut the string and removed the electric tape and saw that the light fixture attaches to the machine body with two small screws:

As you can see one of the holes on the light fixture body is broken, I don’t know if I can substitute a different screw to fix it or if it will have to be replaced. I looked all over the internet but I couldn’t find anything that described how to remove the light cover to change the bulb or clean the glass (the 15-91 has a different and easier set-up) So here is my trial and error guide to:

How to Take Apart the 15-90 Light Fixture

First up since the fixture is completely covered I would undo the two small screws holding the light to the machine so it is easier to work with. Next on both sides of the cover are these thin metal pieces with ridges at the top:

These must be bent and lifted away from the cover, I stuck a screwdriver into the ridges on the end and they came up just fine. With those metal pieces lifted away the cover will come off in your hand. Then you have this:

To remove the lightbulb press it down into the base and turn it counterclockwise. To replace the lightbulb line up the notches, press it into the base and turn it clockwise. The cover can be pulled apart so you have this:

As you can see my pieces are in need of some cleaning. To put the light fixture back together, reassemble the cover by sliding the glass into the metal cover and snapping them back into the black cover. If you put the metal back first the glass will not fit. Hold the metal rods apart and put the cover onto the lightbulb and snap the metal rods back into place. The light fixture can then be screwed back onto the machine and it’s good to go.

To continue taking apart the electrical I unscrewed the motor from the machine body:

It is horribly dirty and grimy behind the motor and if you look close at the connections the insulation has crumbled away leaving exposed wires, here is a close up:

With the motor unattached the 3 pin terminal (where the power cord plugs in) on the side has to be unscrewed and you can lift away the entire electrical system. Here it is laid out:

I took apart the 3 pin terminal to see how my components were connected, besides all the exposed wires, I saw both the foot pedal and motor wires were barely connected/falling off the terminal. As you can see in the picture on the right insulation was just crumbling off the wires.

So I will need at least a new power cord, insulation for the exposed wires, and then I can plug it in again and see where I am at. I am hoping the poor connections indicate that once reconnected it will work fine… fingers crossed. For now I am going to work on cleaning and oiling the machine. I should be able to get it sewing by manually turning the wheel until I can order all the parts I need to make it electric-powered again.

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 1

I have recently been given a 1948 Singer 15-90 Sewing Machine (original post here) and being the information hog that I am have been researching the 15-90’s for hours on end. It is pretty fascinating stuff, but I have had problems finding info on the 15-90 specifically. Apparently they’re identical to the earlier 15-89’s but electric and identical to the latter model 15-91 but with a different motor. What I really need is the original instruction manual, which would give concrete particulars on things like the motor not to mention threading and notions. Singer’s website has a free manual download for almost every machine they made, unfortunately they don’t have mine. Everywhere else I’ve looked lists the 15-90 under the 15-89 manual, main problem of course is the 15-89 wasn’t electric. Oh well I suppose I will eventually break down and buy one-off eBay.

As far as getting it running goes, I’ve dismantled the shuttle completely and cleaned all the rust off the components.

I also discovered that the bobbin that was inside the machine is the wrong kind (it’s a 66 but the machine needs a 15). So far it looks like the motor is the only thing wrong. The wheel turns fine, and moves the needle up and down without hitting the bobbin case. I think the mechanical parts will just need to be cleaned and oiled. The motor is another story, I will be taking it apart next. If it turns out to be un-fixable I might convert the machine to a hand-crank instead of messing with a replacement motor.

For anyone else looking for info on the 15-90’s I recommend the 15-89 or 15-91 manual which has the same threading as the 15-90 and can be downloaded free off Singerco.com. I also recommend the Vintage Singer Group Handbook which has great general info on cleaning, restoring etc. you can get it by joining the yahoo group Vintage Singers. It’s a total pain to join their group, but apparently that’s vintage sewing machine forum protocol, I am in the middle of jumping through hoops to join Needlebar.org. I understand wanting to maintain a solid community but come on do you really need to force members to write an introductory post before they are allowed to even read other threads? Do ya?

UPDATE: I have finished restoring my Singer here are the links to the other posts:

Part 2: Assessment, light bulb tutorial, and electrical diagram

Part 3: Disassembly of machine, cleaning, reassembly

Part 4: Tensioner reassembly

Part 5: Fixing the electrical components

Part 6: Last adjustments and replacements

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! 

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.