In this video threading guide, I’ll be showing you how wind the bobbin, how to prepare the shuttle, and how to thread the Singer 128 and Singer 127 sewing machines. If you have a knee pedal version, I’ll also show you how to to install the knee bar lever. I’ll perform the demonstration on my model 128. The model 128 can be considered the little sister of the model 127, which is the same machine except at ¾ the size.  There are another pair of similar machines, model 27 and model 28, which are often confused.  If you’re not sure which one you have, scroll to the bottom of this post for an identification guide.

My Experience with the Singer 128 Vintage Sewing Machine

I’m going to be honest with you: I purchased this machine purely for the aesthetics.  It came in the bentwood case, and the decals, despite not being in the best shape, really appealed to me.  It features the “La Vencedora” decal style.

Here is a photo from my Instagram account from Christmas, where you can see the machine on display.  (You can also see the tree skirt that I have a tutorial available for right over here.) Even when it’s not Christmas, I had it on this hallway table.  Eventually, we renovated our living room / kitchen and we replaced the wall where the table was with a passthrough window.  We no longer had room for the hallway table and the machine ended up going into storage.

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I had never actually used the machine that entire time. In fact, I hadn’t even tried threading it. So this month, I pulled it out and tested it, to see if the machine worked at all. I was happy to see that after threading it, it sewed easily.  I only had one problem, and unfortunately, the problem still persists.  Sometimes when I press the knee bar, the machine resists starting to thread.  It feels like it’s not catching the motor.  I think it could be a problem with the belt.  However, when I manually turn the handwheel a few stitches then press the knee bar, the machine starts going.  It’s something I’ll have to experiment with some more.

Video Transcription

Now I’m going to include a text-copy of the how to thread Singer 127 or Singer 128 video above.  However, I truly recommend following along with the video because I show close ups of all the steps.    Don’t forget to make it full screen!

Installing the Knee Control Lever Bar

If your version of this machine includes the knee pedal, the case includes a handy storage area for the knee control lever bar. Simply push the lever into the hole, lining up the flat edge with the corresponding shape inside the hole.  Easy peasy. To operate the knee control, simply press your knee or thigh to the right against the lever, and the machine will start stitching. The harder you press, the faster you will sew.

How to Wind the Bobbin

  • Release the balance wheel by holding it and turning the stop motion screw toward you.  This will cause the needle bar to stop moving up and down while you wind the bobbin.
  • Push the bobbin winder pulley against the hub of the balance wheel.  Now when you turn the balance wheel toward you, the bobbin winder will spin.
  • Place the spool of thread on the spool pin, draw the thread to the thread guide at the top of the face plate, then guide the thread through the metal thread guide at the base of the bobbin winder.  Guide the thread up through the fork.
  • On the left side of the bobbin winder, there is this knob that you can pull out.  Pull the knob out, slide the bobbin inside the cups, and release the knob. It will hold the bobbin in place.  
  • This part is a little tricky, but the goal is to get the thread held in place between the end of the bobbin and the right cup.  The tension will hold the thread in place. Snip the dangling thread and press the pedal to start winding the bobbin. The winder will move back and forth.  Don’t over-wind the bobbin.
  • Once you’re done, snip the thread, remove the bobbin by pulling the knob again.  Remember to set yourself back up for sewing by putting the bobbin winder back into its non-winding position and re-engaging the balance wheel by holding it and turning the stop motion screw back away from you.

How to Thread the Shuttle

  • Holding the shuttle pointy side down, slide the bobbin inside with the thread drawing out toward the right.
  • Place your left index finger on the end of the bobbin and draw the thread down into the long slot of the shuttle, as far as it will go.
  • Then draw the thread straight upward and under the tension spring.

How to Install the Shuttle

You can access the shuttle and bobbin area by sliding the metal plates.  

With your threaded shuttle, insert the shuttle into the shuttle carrier, pointed end facing the front of the machine.  Leave at least three inches of thread leading out from the shuttle and close the slide plate, leaving just enough room for the thread to easily draw out from below.

How to Thread the Machine

  • Make sure that the thread take-up lever is at its highest position.  
  • Place the spool of thread on the spool pin and draw the thread to the thread guide at the top of the face plate.  Lead the thread down between the tension discs, from right to left, then guide it up through the little wire spring.  
  • Continue leading the thread up into the hole on thread take up lever,
  • Pull the thread to the eyelet on the face plate, then down to the lower wire guide on the needle bar.  
  • Thread the needle from left to right.
  • Before you can sew, you’ll need to draw up the bobbin thread.  Hold the end of the needle thread and turn the balance wheel toward you until the needle moves down, then back up to its highest point.  You’ll see a loop of bobbin thread. Pull both threads toward the back of the presser foot.
  • You’re ready to sew!

Model 127 vs Model 128?  Or Model 27 vs Model 28?  Which is which?!

I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post that you can follow along with threading instructions for the Singer model 127 or Singer model 128, and that the difference between the two is just size.  How can you tell which is which?  Or is the machine you have actually one of these machines?

Prior to the late 1950’s, most Singer sewing machines did not have a model number on them, which can make it tricky to figure out what you have.  Where I live in Canada, it’s pretty common to find Singer 27, 28, 127 and 128 sewing machines donated to the thrift stores. I’ll tell you about the key features that will help make it clear which model is which.

You can identify the 27, 28, 127, and 128 Singer sewing machines by two main features:

key features of Singer 27, 28, 127, 128 sewing machines

  1. These machines feature trapezoidal access doors on the head of the machine.
  2. They have two long flat slide plates that run the whole depth of the bed.  When you slide the plates open, you can see that it contains what is called a vibrating shuttle. The tall, skinny bobbin is placed inside the bullet-shaped shuttle, and it moves, or “vibrates”, in a circular arc.

bobbin case singer 128

The model 127 is a modernized version of the 27, and the model 128 is a modernized version of the 28.  The 127s and 128s have the handy shuttle eject button (I’m a fan of that feature!).

If the bobbin winder is is located near the bottom of the machine by the bed, it’s a Singer 27 or 28. However, if the bobbin winder is located near the handwheel, it’s a Singer 127 or 128.

The 27 and 127 are full size models and feature a bed just under 15 inches wide. The 28 and 128 are ¾ size models and feature a bed just under 13 inches wide.

Something to keep in mind is that while the bullet-shaped shuttles may look similar at a glance, they aren’t actually interchangeable between the two pairs of model generations.  

Which of these machines do you have in your vintage sewing machine collection?

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