So here I am, all excited about my new Kenmore 158.1040 and someone tries to rain on my parade. The audacity!
A certain Curious Kiwi leaves a comment yesterday telling me that my newly-acquired, vintage, 3/4-size zigzagger is just like her mother's old Globe Cub 3, a machine that -- she doesn't say it but I can read between the lines -- is even more adorable than my 158.1040.
Why, if I weren't a gentleman....!
Here is my Kenmore 158.1040, admittedly a little drab, color-wise:
And here's whats-her-name's Mum's creamsicle-colored Globe Cub 3, which was sold in the Australian and New Zealand markets. (Even her photograph is better -- rats!)
To make matters worse, after doing a little online research -- the only kind I do -- I discovered that this little Jaguar/Maruzen-made Japanese machine was also sold in the UK as the Frister & Rossmann Cub, which was cuter still, in a Terence Conran sort of way. By this point, I am choking on my own bile.
Not only that, but on eBay right now, you can buy all of these adorable little Cubs! (Please remember that electrical currents will differ depending on your location.)
Friends, is it me, or is something wrong here?
Now, I've always known that sewing machine models were often made in the same factories using the same (or nearly same) design, and then custom badged by whichever company was selling them. In fact, you can read a very interesting article here about who made which machines for Sears, to be sold under the Kenmore name. This still goes on, of course.
As with so many consumer products, over decades, corporate consolidation takes place (think General Motors) till there are very few independent manufacturers remaining. Did you know that Singer is now owned by the same (belch) private equity firm as Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking? Can anyone say Occupy Wall Street?
Even back in the day, Singer branded the same machines differently for different markets. Remember that Seventies kitsch phenomenon, the Singer Genie?
She was sold in the UK as the Singer Starlet, don't ask me why.
At some point, they even changed her flower-power decals to something more suggestive of shag rugs, soft lights, and Barry White records.
And let's not forget the Mon Ami and Mon Ami II:
Readers, if your head isn't spinning already, I must briefly mention the Post-War Japanese clone phenomenon. This is where America started losing its industrial edge, which is in no way to disparage our friends in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Here's a genuine Singer 15 model (15-88, 15-89, 15-90, and 15-91):
And here are some Japanese clones -- some of which were, apparently, better constructed and engineered than the Singer originals!
These clones still show up at flea markets and thrift stores all the time and can be a great bargain if you're looking for a vintage straight stitch machine. They use Singer low-shank feet and standard Class 15 bobbins, too.
In closing, readers, how are you feeling at this point? Bored? Confused? Weepy with nostalgia? Have you ever sewn on a Japanese clone? What was it like? Do you love clones, if only for the pastel colors?
Did you always know that Sears -- and so many other retailers -- just stuck a badge on machines manufactured elsewhere and called them their own?
Finally, the truth, please: Is the Globe Cub 3 just a little bit cuter than the Kenmore 158.1040?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!