Thursday, May 20, 2010

1960s Imperial Sewing Machine - (Ruthie)

This is Ruthie, she was manufactured in Japan and rescued from a premature trip to the dump!
She sews fancy zigzag stitches with built in cams.  The cams are selected by using a stitch selector dial and switching the stitch width knob to "F" once the stitch is selected the stitch width is moved back to "O".  She has an automatic four-step button holer on the reverse dial. 
When I brought her home, she needed a good cleaning, was starved for oil, as well as missing her manual and accessories. 
After cleaning and oiling I tried to sew with it.  The stitch selector dial would not turn at all.  At first Ruthie would not sew either, because the bobbin thread was completely pulled through to the top side.  After fiddling quite a while with the top thread tension, there was still no improvement on the stitch quality.  The bobbin tension screw was the problem, it was so loose it could have fallen out on its own.  A couple of twists on the little screw and Ruthie was sewing precise lovely stitches.  The bobbin winder would not turn either, so I completely disassembled, cleaned, oiled and reassembled it.  Now it works perfectly.  A hair-blower and sewing machine oil were used to unfreeze the stitch selector dial.  The oil goes over the froze up metal parts inside the machine, then heat was applied to get the metal really hot.  As the metal expands the oil penetrates the ceased up parts then like magic the moving parts are free.  I had to replace the bobbin winder tire and the light bulb.  Look at Ruthie's stitches!

After I phoned the lady who gave me this machine she dropped off the manual and accessories. 
Ruthie uses high shank feet, standard class 15 metal bobins and regular sewing machine needles.  There are two buttons control the feed dogs for free motion quilting and embroidery.
For more vintage treasures please head over to Colorado Lady's blog


  1. What a great machine, I just love it when these older beauties are made to run again, her stitches are really nice! Have a great VTT!

  2. Wow, what a great snag!! You know we both have a place in our hearts for old machines. Lane

  3. I love Ruthie! She's a beauty! :)

    Happy VTT,

  4. It may have had a few problems, but you still got a real nice deal.

  5. Between your ruthie, Ruby and Big BERtha, there isn't a stitch you can't make!! :-)

  6. I hope Ruthie appreciates all the TLC.

  7. What a fantastic machine..she sews beautiful stitches.. Happy VTT..

  8. I always love seeing your machines and what you can do with them. I think you're some kind of sewing machine whisperer!

  9. Thank you for rescuing Ruthie from the dump and for displaying her for VTT!

    Susan and Bentley

  10. Wow, I'm impressed that you knew all the tricks to get her running again! Congratulations :)


  11. Ruthie is a lovely colour and what great retro design lines. Amazing knobs and levers, looks like you will have some fun with her!

  12. I have the same sewing machine, different name, but the same knobs, casing and embossed numbers underneath. My mom gave it to me last year. She never used it, but as my dad's mom and sister sewed, he bought it for my mom many years ago. My grandmother it the only person I know to have used it.

    My 10-year-old daughter is very artistic, drawing, sketching and painting, but now she wants to learn to sew; says she wants to be a designer. Anyway, is this machine easy for a beginner? My wife wants to get her a cheap, modern machine, but I think this machine is really cool; I'd even like to see if I can learn to do some more simple stuff, like curtains, hems, and who knows.

    Thank you in advance and I hope to hear from you.


  13. Hi Jaime,
    This machine is perfect for a beginner to learn to sew on. Do you have the manual and accessories? It is important to have the manual for the treading diagram, machine maintenance and trouble shooting. I suggest you either clean and oil it yourself or take to a sewing machine mechanic to do it. Where I live the service charge is $49.
    This sewing machine was made in Japan in the early 1960s. It has mostly metal inners that will outlast and outsew a modern plastic machine for decades. The vintage machines are easy to thread and sew with, they can handle heavy fabric like denim.
    If you want to start sewing I suggest you check out Peter's blog at he started sewing in June 2009. He is self-taught and now he makes all his clothes.

  14. Tammy, thank you so much for the advise.

  15. i have a magic dial super deluxe sewing machine with the same knob as ruthie. i have never done those fancy stitches. it seems like a very solid machine. i wish i knew where to hit it with the oil. it sews very well and seldom breaks thread or bungs up the bobbin like my other sewing machine( thompson mini walker)

  16. Hi Robert,
    With mechanical sewing machines, the general rule is to oil all the moving parts where metal touches metal. These machines have oil holes in the top cover and on the flatbed. But in order to keep all those metal dials moving freely it is essential to remove the top cover and apply oil to all the metal places. Each spot needs only one drop of oil unless the machine has dried out completely. If the dials don't move freely then you will need to use the oil and heat technique to unfreeze it. The bobbin hook and underneath the machine require oil as well. This is a wonderful sewing machine have fun sewing.

  17. Hi Tammy,
    Your Imperial looks great!

    Because there is so little info on these Imperials I am collecting Imperial sewing machine manuals for free distribution on the Internet. I currently have two manuals for various models and am looking for more.

    Would you consider donating an electronic copy of your manual to my site, for free download by other Imperial owners?

    Thanks, Don

  18. I just got the same machine willed to me. i need some help with it though, it works great, but there is no manual for it. Do you know where it could get a manual for it? Or even where to get more information on this machine, accessories, etc.

  19. I have an almost identical Japanese machine badged as a St James (it must be older, I think it only has straight and zig stitch). Like anonymous I have no manual either, and it's been very hard to source information. Please consider uploading the manual! It's a beautiful practical machine, I'd love to get the most out of it but I'm having trouble. So good to find this post here, I'm a little bit closer to identifying the St James now :)

  20. hey there I have the exact same sewing machine, except its a different color; do you know were i can get compatible feet for it. When I purchased it from the second hand shop it sadly didn't have the feet.

  21. need the manual for this machine, and my tension regulator is missing parts or broken when i got it, can you please post details picture of your tension regulator assembly so i can compare it with mine please, that would be very helpful . thanks.

    1. Sorry King Ku, I gave this machine away in 2010 and did not make an electronic copy of the manual.

  22. Hey from England - loving the story about the imperial machine and then notice your English Springer Spaniel - I've one the same, liver and white - wonderful dogs x


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