Weekend Project: Vintage Singer Sewing Machine

This weekend, I was bit by the vintage sewing machine bug! Saturday, I found two very promising machines: a nonworking Singer 328K for $15 with taxes and a semi-functioning Kenmore 1781 for $65 without taxes. As I was actually out of two this weekend house/dog sitting for my Aunt, my "weekend project" had to wait 'til Monday and Tuesday, but fortunately the 328K didn't need much work.

As I said, the 328K wasn't working when I bought it. When the foot pedal was pressed, it would very lightly hum, which I took as a good sign, but unfortunately nothing would move at all! After finding an extremely helpful answer here on Yahoo! Answers, I very quickly discovered the belt wasn't moving at all. After taking the machine apart, according to the instructions given by the best answer, I tried simply repositioning the belt and voila, it instantly started working! :)

After getting it running again, I proceeded to clean out the machine, which fortunately was not exceedingly dirty - I really don't think this machine's been used much at all! After the cleaning came the oiling! After watching Lizzie clean and oil her machine here on YouTube, I decided to be a lot less stingy with the oil and really let it have it! There was runoff, yes, but after running it on full speed and listening to how quiet it was, it was well worth the little extra cleanup!!

Moving on from the cleaning and oiling, I finally tried the machine out with actual fabric and thread. I have to say this was, by far, the most challenging, confusing, and infuriating part of the whole process! After spending way too much time on the tension and presser foot pressure than I should have or wanted to, I finally, finally got it to start sewing well! The tension on this machine is really 'quite' sensitive, but with the proper attention, makes absolutely beautiful stitches, as shown in the last photo!

While it still does need to have the belt replaced, this is an overall terrific machine that would be more than perfect for any beginner or casual sewer! Even though it's already several decades old, it can easily outlast anyone alive today. A real testament to the quality and design of these vintage sewing machines.

Here's a short video showing how well it both runs and sounds. Shot this with my webcam, so the quality's nowhere near as good as I'd like (as you'll see), but you can really hear how beautiful it sounds when it's sewing! Near he end, you can also really hear that the belt needs replacing when I turn the wheel by hand.

Overall, I really like this machine! It looks, feels, sounds, and sews great! One of my absolute favorite features about this machine is being able to have both hands on the fabric when reverse sewing!!! However, there are ultimately some things I don't like about this machine: there's no on/off switch for the machine or for the light; the tension dial is more sensitive than most machines; the bobbin is smaller; and I don't like having the thread spools right on top of the fashion disc cover. But ultimately, I think it's a great machine. :) 

Would love to hear from all of you on your experiences with vintage machines and/or repairing machines!
'Til next time,


  1. I want one!! I think that you are much more spoilt for choice in the US. Here in Aus, its a bit harder to find these gems!

    1. I think that could definitely be true... They're really everywhere here!!! And cheap, too. :) Wish I could ship them internationally, but they're so heavy the shipping would be outrageous!

  2. I have two 328P machines. One was $5 and the other given to me. And then I was able to buy a set of cams. Oh what fun it was trying all of those!
    I also have a 1957 99k, I paid $40 for it and it came with accessories including a ruffler foot.
    And a 1981 Singer which I paid $10 for. And my most recent purchase a Hushmatic 527 for $5.
    So definitely lots of cheap vintage here in Australia.

    1. Sounds like a pretty nice collection! Would love to find a set of cams and accessories for this 328K, but spent way too much money this weekend, haha. And glad to hear y'all can find these wonderful machines outside of the U.S.! :)

  3. What are the advantages of a vintage machine over a modern one?

    1. Well for starters, most all vintage and antique sewing machines are really built to last! Most all of the parts are made of metal, unlike a lot of the plastic pieces in the modern machines. Because of this, they're a lot cheaper and easier to maintain - really, as long as you keep them clean and oiled, you'll have very few problems with them! On top of this, you can generally find vintage machines fairly inexpensively, even in working order! And of course, there's always the satisfaction to be had in saving a bit of history from the dump! :)

  4. I have what I believe to be my Grandmothers 328, exactly like yours, but the manual which is falling apart says it's a P not a K so I'm not sure which it is.
    I have been having problems with the thread snapping all the time and can't figure out what the problem is. It makes sewing infuriating and I often just walk away after cursing it.
    I live in Australia.