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Oct 20, 2011

Send in the Clones

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.

Kenmore 19112:

Janome 11554:

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.

You can read more about Japanese clone machines over at Jenny's Sew-Classic blog and at the Vintage Sewing Machines blog.  It's a fascinating topic.  You can view (many) more clone pics here.

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?


Happy Thursday, everybody!


  1. Hi Peter!

    Your Kenmore is lovely, but the others too... Here in Germany we had the same model, I muss say, and it is known as "Privileg Compact", sold by the house Quelle. There are two diferent models, the earlier looks much the same as your Kenmore, but all in oragen color, our beige and orange color. You can find easily the pics in the internet! They are not rare, but they are really cute! Then, enjoy your aquisition and be happy! :)

  2. LMAO can i offer you some Mylanta for that reflux problem of yours haha

    I have one of those Japanese clones...a beautiful black lacquered old gal that my mother had forever. Mine is a 'Standard'. Sadly the motor went bunk a while back and i haven't found anyone who can do vintage repairs yet. During the 60's when my parents were moving between countries, the wooden box was damaged in customs. Mum replaced it with an ugly green hard plastic box/casing. I've since taken it out and will eventually have it restored and put back into a wooden case. That machine, when it worked, was lovely to sew with. I'll never get rid of her.

  3. Suzi, you can buy a replacement motor on eBay and attach it yourself, most probably.

  4. I like yours better. Hate that orange color on the clone. Brings back memories of the sixties-seventies (sst, I'm not really really that old).

    Jan-Theo / NL

  5. thanks Peter, i'd love to have a go...or more realistically persuade my OH (an electrical engineer) to have a go LOL
    i'll go check ebay for model 15 singer motors :)

    I gotta say my Standard is a beauty; even if she has no value she has the most beautiful decoration; pretty scrolls and birds; very ornate. I love her; she was the first adult sewing machine i ever used as a kid...not that my mum let me on her that often.

  6. Can I just drool over all the pictures instead? It--almost--makes me want to blow this month's fabric and pattern budget on a new-to-me sewing machine! But hey, my Pfaff still works fine, so I'm firmly telling myself that no matter how pretty and shiny they are, I don't need them!

  7. A rose by any other name? I still like yours.

  8. Aww, it really is so adorable. But think about how sick and tired you would get of that sweet, melony orange after a few months. And the other machines would pick on it, and probably call it mean names.
    Best to stick with yours, which is very cute but can hold its own against the ranks of the utilitarian machines in your home.

  9. I have a made-in-Japan machine branded by Montgomery Ward from 1952. I bought it about 25 years ago when I didn't know any better and paid way, way, too much. It looks a lot like the Singer look-alike models you show here. Mine is in a wooden cabinet and has a knee pedal and had the original owner's manual with it. I really should pull it out and fiddle with it to see if I can get it work better -- it needs to be cleaned and oiled and adjusted. Until then, my year-old Kenmore/Janome does a decent job.

  10. I've fallen in love with the old machines, just because they're so gorgeous. I think the orange sherbet colored one is nice. Now if I only had room for all of them. :( Anyway to satisfy myself a little, here's a pinterest page on old machines: Hopefully it will give you a little virtual pleasure.

  11. There, there. Love is not a competition, eh? There is always a market for reliable, small, basic portable machines and you have a beauty! And you don't need a transformer to use it! I got to sew on a borrowed Elna Lotus a few years ago--a wonderful thing while staying in a tiny apartment with no room for anything. It was plain colors too, but sewed like a champ. K in O

  12. I prefer the understated charm of your two-toned tan Kenmore. But I really enjoyed the post and the history of sewing machine marketing-- I will keep my eyes open for the clones.

  13. Hi Peter,
    Your Kenmore is a splendid machine. I have owned several Japanese clones. Currently, I have a 1956 Domestic Automatic by White, it has a dozen coloured plastic cams to make decorative stitches. The clones are fabulous stitchers and come in a variety of colours. I'm lusting for a hot pink Brother Festival which to date, I've only seen photos of. Jenny at Sew Classic had a gold one (Monarch?) it was awesome! Enjoy your Kenmore it will most likely outlast us all.

  14. Wayyyy cuter, Peter! If it's any consolation, at the time your 158 was manufactured, Sears often set higher standards for manufacturers that produced the Kenmore product. That was in the days when their R&D dept answered only to the office of the Chairman. Once that changed, so did the quality of Kenmore. On the bright side, these other machines would look real cute side by side by side.

  15. Ah, beauty and or cuteness is in the eye of the beholder. What caught my eye on YOURS...was the beautiful shiny dial on top of your machine. I think yours is a lot more Chic...I loved your topic today and thanks for doing all this research and put it at my fingertips!

  16. Oh I'm sorry Peter, I didn't mean to snob your machine ;) I do think your machine is as cute too and those shiny dials do make a girls heart flutter but there is always the first love, and mine is orange and cream.

    Really interesting research about the clone army of machines, bring them on, spread the clone love.

  17. All is forgiven, Kiwi. Just be careful next time...

  18. Bored? Are you kidding, this is right up my alley! I love old sewing machines and have a small collection to prove it. I have the 158.1040 but would love to add one of those little Cubs to my herd.

  19. Peter, I forgot to mention that I wrote a full review on the Kenmore 158.1040 if you are interested.

  20. I just read it -- wonderful blog you have there, Stitch Nerd!

  21. Don't forget that the clones came in a multitude of wonderful colors--greens, blues, pinks, cream colors and various combinations!! I have several in my laboratory right now, waiting surgery to turn them into hand cranks. For suziwong66, that's a cheap and easy fix. Or you could just attach a new motor, but what fun is that? I have always coveted a Genie, just for her looks, but have never found one in my local haunts.

  22. I should have specified the CLASS 15 clones came in many colors. . . .

  23. Well, your machine is more......masculine

  24. I love how the Singer Genie floral pattern is so reminiscent of the fab shirt that Peter wears in the business card at the top of the blog!

    The creamsicle cub is cute, but you have a way better floral embossed carrying case than the cub.

  25. Normally Peter, I just lurk but my conscience got the better of me and I just had to confess that I always knew Sears' secret. My first sewing machine of my own was a Kenmore. While mom was fighting with her new fangled Singer back in the 80s, I was sewing on my problem-free Kenmore. I used that machine for 25 years with only one repair. My Kenmore serger (fingers crossed) has been zooming along for 20 years. (I believe one of mine was made by White and the other by Necchi). I also confess to knowing that Whirlpool is behind the Kenmore washers and dryers. Again, yeah, mine have been pulling heavy duty for years with no problems. Hmm. Now that I think about it, the sewing table came from there too. Go figure. Love the Singer Starlet.

  26. I would have to say Peter that your machine is even more adorable. I do have my bias, since my mother had the same machine when I was growing up and I do remember coloring in the roses on the plastic case with a yellow crayon. But your machine was designed by Charles Harrison an award winning African American industrial designer and was a part of the Smithsonian pectoral review.
    You sure do know how to pick’em.

  27. Thanks, John. Great info! (I love when readers do independent research.)

  28. Well, that's my Mon Ami II...
    I also have more Mon Ami.... Did you see them?

  29. Hello, Peter, I realize this post is nearly 2 years old, but I came across it since I'm now looking for a Kenmore 158-1040. Do you still own it and love it? Did you ever end up owning any of the 'cubs'?

    1. Yes, I still have it! No 'cubs though...

  30. How can I find the clone of my Necchi-National Machine, it was made in japan in the 1950's but i'm sure its a clone of something else.


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