Lada T132

 

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A ¾ size, relatively lightweight free arm machine that does embroidery stitches. Not a unique recipe. What makes this machine stand out is it was produced in a soviet dominated Czechoslovakia in the sixties. A recipe you might think for poor design and quality. Especially since, for me at least, Lada is associated with cheap 1970’s cars from Russia. That’s what I thought; and I was wrong.

Elena Emblen has a great blog and she owns a Sewmaster T132 and has posted a lot of information on it. I’ll try not to repeat the content of that here.

The particular machine I got was badged Cresta and had been in one ownership from new in 1970. It had been well looked after – there isn’t a single needle mark on the needle plate. Pictures in this post were of the machine in the condition I received it.

It was complete with nearly all its original accessories and the manual in the original suitcase style case. It was pretty gummed up, but was fairly easy to get going again and needed no major work. The main concern was the timing belt, which was 2/3 split. I bought a replacement, but it didn’t fit well so I’ve done a holding repair on the original.

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This machine was a refreshing surprise. The quality of both the design and construction is high. It has features equal to the western European machines of the period and it is clear from lots of nice little touches that a lot of thought went into its design. It’s practical and easy to use. The nice touches include a knob that adjusts one of the feet for levelling the machine on an uneven surface, separate sockets in the back for the foot controller and power cables, switches for light and power and a nice bobbin winder with a clutch that disengages the motor with a hinged arm to hold the thread in the right place. Having to swap cams to change fancy stitch is easy enough – and with a fixed zig zag cam in the machine, zig zag is always available.

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Stitch quality is pretty good. Downsides are few – when used as a flat bed you need to take the table off to change bobbins and the table is high, making it awkward as a flat bed. The door for the bobbin case is also the full height of the machine – good for access as a free arm, but means you couldn’t install the machine recessed into a table without having to take the whole machine out to get to the bobbin. Best used as a free arm. Access to some of the mechanical parts in the arm is difficult for cleaning – and on mine it has a habit at the start of a seam when “cold” of the zig zag mechanism going stiff and not sending the needle full left. I think that issue is to do with internal friction around the cam mechanism. I haven’t got to the bottom of that issue. The timing belt, for which there’s no identical replacement available is another issue. Elena and others have had success changing the timing belt to one with a different profile. I tried that on my machine but the internal friction that resulted just locked the machine up. There may be an issue that the belt length on some machines is different to others. That is still being investigated. For now I’ve reinforced the old belt with duct tape as a temporary measure.

 

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The T132 can produce more stitch types with its interchangeable cams (I have 17 of the original 18) than my Bernina 807 free –arm and is pretty similar in terms of size. The Lada is not as good in terms of stitch quality or the “feel” of using it compared to the Bernina, which just oozes quality, but it gives it a run for its money and does the job well, is easy to use and has a “friendly” feel about it.

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I do find the “straight stitch cam” a bit weird, but it certainly works, locking the machine into straight stitch nicely.

I have produced a part complete service / repair guide for this machine which can be downloaded here.

Updated post here:

12 comments

  1. I think one of the best testimonies for Lada’s quality is that the bulk of their production was parts for Pfaff and Husqvarna rather than their own machines. Some people even thought that Lada belonged to Pfaff.

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  2. Elena,
    Interesting. Looking at bobbin cases for my machine, the closest I’ve seen, with a “four o clock” layout, seem to be very similar to Pfaff bobbin cases for the 230/260.
    Do you know any more about the history of Lada?!
    Dan H

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    • When I got my Sewmaster some years ago, I contacted Sewmaster which is a shop in Reading, and it still exists (www.sewmaster.co.uk). It is a family-run business, so the current head asked his father who imported these machines back then. The father told me they came from a Pfaff factory in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and everyone was very impressed with the quality. He wasn’t surprised I wanted to use it. But it turned out that Lada was not a part of Pfaff, it just seemed that way due to sheer volume of Pfaff orders that they had, which is what the Sewmaster people saw (did you notice that all the labelling inside the machine is in German, not Czech?). Pfaff and Husqvarna have been cooperating for a very long time already, and many of the parts in their rotary machines are the same or similar, and many are made by Lada in Brno. 🙂

      Lada was formed in 1919, so well before any WWII fallout – see needlebar.org/nbwiki/index.php/Lada.

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  3. Hi Dan,

    I am going to buy LaDa but they person that sale to me doesn’t have manual. Do you know where can I find manual? Thank you

    Plaa

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  4. Original time belt for LADA 132-3 is here: http://www.sicistroje-obchod.cz/23-remeny-na-sici-stroje/137-remen-lada-50-zubu-49086/ 4$

    Eastern Europe was also a good machine Lucznik (Poland), Veritas (East germany), Minreva (Czechoslovakia)

    Chajka (Russia), Nicoleta (Romania) not good

    I have Lada 132/3.
    Czech republic (Czechoslovakia) was before 1989 an industrial power.
    After 1989, most of the crucial industry was destroyed. Lada Sobeslav also does not really exist. The factory was demolished as the rest.

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  5. Pavel,
    Thanks for all this information – much appreciated. I think you made similar comments on Elena Emblen’s site and she responded, based on experience with her early 132/3 machine and my later one, that the timing belts are slightly different (longer) on the later models and that drivebelt for sale is for early models. I’m not sure how she worked that out. To my shame, my Czech is non-existant, but we do have some friends at Praha Dolni Pocernice who could order me a belt to try out.

    Regards
    Dan H

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  6. Hi Dan, were you able to use any non-Lada presser feet on this machine? According to Elena Emblen, “standard” low-shank feet do not fit. Have you perhaps manufactured an adapter like you did for your slant shank machine?

    By the way, the levelling fourth foot at the base of the machine is nice, but is made of a hard material and transfers vibration and noise into the table top, where it resonates. Putting soft rubber under the foot made the machine so quiet! 🙂

    Oh and if I may ask, does the stitch length lever on you machine stay put even without being secured by the thumbscrew? Is the lever spring-loaded to return from reverse on its own? Mine is just stiff and stays put and I don’t know if it’s supposed to be that way, because I’ve been unable to access its mechanism to un-gum it like the rest of the machine.

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  7. Jana,
    My machine came with a full set of accessories, so I haven’t even tried to use any alternative presser feet with it.

    I’ll have a look at the lpastic on the adjustable foot on the bottom of the machine to see if I can improve that. My stitch length adjusts by screwing the end of the lever in or out – I don’t move the lever up and down directly.

    Regards,
    Dan H

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  8. Hello, I have also found a good very complete Lada 132-3 but unused for a long time and typically gummed up. Suspect around the hook/bobbin case assembly. Have placed the machine near a radiator to warm it and may try a gentle hair dryer on a few key points. But any advice of where this machine ‘sticks’ and how to free it would be appreciated. The gearbox driving the unusual hook/bobbin case appears stuffed with grease so I do wonder if this grease may have hardened? Like others have written it is a well made machine and rather compact perhaps due in part to allocated restricted space living being common in the former CSSR. Brno was once known as the, ‘Manchester of Czechoslovakia’ because of its textile factories so perhaps a fitting place for the manufacture of sewing machines 🙂

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    • Rob,
      Greased areas are unlikely to be where it’s sticking. I wouldn’t bother with heat unless things get desperate.
      Needle bar is number 1 priority followed by the needle mechanism behind the front plate, followed by the main shaft. Be wary of the main timing belt. My suggestion would be to sue rubbing alcohol / surgical spirit on all the joints – small quantities as it’s good paint stripper. Put that on and let the machine sit for a couple of hours. Then start using qtips/cotton buds to remove the old oil and add more surgical spirit. Gently the mechanism and don’t force anything. It will free up.
      Good luck!
      Dan H

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