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.
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.
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.
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.
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: