Saturday, August 21, 2010

Babylock Companion 1550...

Yesterday I added to my stable. Babylock isn't a common brand around here - there is no dealer for probably a couple of hundred miles. But this one was in my sewing tech's shop for a long time, and he knew the history fairly well. Originally this machine had snap on feet and when I bought her she had a screw on zigzag foot on, and was somewhat in need of a cosmetic exterior cleaning. My sewing tech gave me a snap on shank, made sure it fit correctly, and then we tried her out. All the original feet were there in the accessory case, all except the original zigzag foot! She also still has her cover plate for the feed dogs and a couple of the original plastic bobbins. It takes the same bobbins that my Elna 2100 does, as well as the same feet. The Elna is also a vertical front loading machine with snap on low shank feet. It's nice to have them share feet, but I bought a snap on Zigzag foot today at Joann's for $4.99 because you really do need an all purpose foot! And I don't want to mess with the screw on foot it had on when traded in. The manual is good, all in English, nicely done and from that I knew that the machine came with a snap on as standard because all the feet it came with snap on. :) Having a 5mm stitch width max, she makes a nice delicate stitch in all the stitches. Nice straight stitch, very very nice - and the back of the fabric stitching looks as nice as the front, which is nice - or is it that the bottom thread looks as nice as the top?! She sews just fine - not the quietest machine ever, but this machine is a heavy solid machine probably from the early to mid 90s. Probably a lot of metal in there. Some quirks of this Babylock that I am not used to - although it has a one step buttonhole, on the other hand you cannot drop the feed dogs. Odd combo of features. There are about 14 stitches and that one step buttonhole. It is an adequate buttonhole, and the functionality is solid and the foot is better than the Janome-Elna-Kenmore and more auto-buttonhole foot you see everywhere. It does work the same - you put a button it the back and that sizes your buttonhole. It works flawlessly, first the bottom bartac, then the left side, then the top bartac and then the right side, and a finishing stitch.The machine has a bit of a clacky sound which my tech said seemed to be relatively common in these Babylocks. A web friend mentioned this also, and she hadn't heard that my tech had said this. So that is a validation - it certainly isn't a problem in the needle-bobbin area. It makes a nice bobbin with a very solid bobbin winding function. The only odd thing that stands out is the accessory case. On the positive side, it is capacious. It is a long rectangle and has a nice deep storage compartment without any division or anything to be awkward when adding items. On the down side, it fits in under the extension part of the bed which removes for a free arm. It is attached in under the extension part and you must detach it to use it and you have to do that before you start to sew because there is no other way to get at the accessories. Another plus though, the storage is right side up and opens on top so things can't slide out at you like they can on some of the cheaper bottom line Janomes and Kenmores of the last several years (the ones that have the accessories in the tube of the extension, not the ones which open out). She's cream with that pebbled finish on top and on most of the body that was popular back in the 80s and early 90s, and she has pinkish to maroon lettering and trim. All in all a lot of fun to get another machine to play with, and a good solid machine.

December 2013 - added a photo of cleaning out bobbin area from the manual after the comment from Angel in the comment section.
You can see in the picture the various parts of the bobbin area. The shuttle race, the hook and the little door thingies.  I sold this machine last year, so do not have the machine to photograph.  Hope this picture will help. click on it to make it much larger. Thanks for the comment!

Here is a link to the threading diagram and you can see the bobbin area and components in that page.

20 comments:

Patricia Hodge said...

I bought this exact machine brand new in 1990. It has always had that clanky sound when sewing-definitely not a quiet machine. One issue I always had was the extension part of the bed (the part you remove) always came off when I carried it. It dropped off once and broke the compartment under there so now it won't stay on. I've been using this machine for over 20 years now and the stitches still sew just as straight as they always did. I actually think it sews straighter than my brand new, top of the line, Brother embroidery/sewing machine. This is definitely one to hold onto.

catspec said...

Thanks Patricia! It is great to hear the good words about the Babylock. I just KNEW it wanted a good loving home when I saw it sitting there in my tech's shop - all unwanted. -=8) So glad you still have yours and they DO make a nice stitch. That's for sure! :)

Amy said...

I just inherited this same exact model. I cannot figure out how to load the bobbin. Any hints or links? Also, mine also makes that same clanky noise.

catspec said...

Amy, there is a threading diagram at the following URL which also shows how to fill a bobbin and how to load it into the machine.

http://www.sewusa.com/Threading_Diagrams/Threading_Pages/Babylock_Sewing_Machine_Threading/Babylock_BL1550_threading.htm

catspec said...

Amy, in addition, I wonder if you are a member of PatternReview.com? There is a lot of information there on a lot of sewing topics, and a thread on this machine as well on the message boards!

http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/sewingclasses/board.pl?t=40670

Agnes said...

My friend just bought a Babylock Companion at a garage sale. I am borrowing it. I hemmed 4 napkins beautifully. Halfway through the fifth, it stopped feeding correctly; instead of advancing, it makes a stitch and goes back. It looks like I changed the stitch length to very fine, but I didn't change anything! Any ideas? I re-threaded everything and tried again, to no avail.

catspec said...

Have you cleaned it - the area of the bobbin and feed dogs does need frequent cleaning on any machine to get out the lint - carefully try and vacuum that out, and then see what the oiling instructions are in the manual, and so on. If this keeps up I would have it serviced by a sewing tech. These old machines are solid and they deserve a good servicing! :) Good luck.

RJJ said...

Hi. This is a total shot in the dark .... I have this sewing machine -- received it new back in 1994 or 1995 and used it a little then, but unfortunately, it's been packed away in its original box ever since. I'm starting to get back into sewing, but am searching for a case for this machine. I've had no luck in finding one specifically for it. I know it would probably fit in one of the "universal" sizes, but I'm interested in the case for protection (dust, etc.) but also transport and I worry about it banging around in a too-large case. Anyway, just taking a chance to see if you use a good-fitting case for yours and if so, where did you obtain? Thanks in advance for any insights!

catspec said...

I have a Brother Universal case that fits my Brother serger and all my sewing machines will fit in there as well. Usually there isn't any wild movement of that heavy a machine in a case, so you'd be good to go - I recommend the Brother Universal case - it is well made and rather cleverly designed - it usually sells for 19 to 25 dollars - HSN, AMAZON, etc.

Becky said...

I received this machine as a gift for my high school graduation in 1994 and have been using it ever since! It is a work horse! Wondering if you have a copy of the manual that you could share?
Thank you!

catspec said...

Becky, The Babylock manual is the same as a SImplicity sewing machine manual as follows: SL9130, 9150, 9240. The contents are identical. I got mine from Simplicity quite awhile back, and they might not have these, but an email to SImplicity or Babylock might help you get a photocopy or at least a PDF. I have given the machine away to a good friend, and it is still working very very well. :) Good luck and many more years with yours!

Angel Milton said...

I borrowed my mother's Baby Lock 1550 to hem a pair of slacks and had one heck of a time with the bobbin seizing up. It didn't leave a pretty stitch on the bobbin side at all.

Afterwards I opened it up to clean and oil. When I took apart the shuttle hook and race, I noticed what appears to be a missing piece. My New Home (bought it new 30 years ago--now there's a solid machine!) has a small removable moon-shaped piece that slides between the shuttle driver and race assembly. I see the space for a similar piece on the Baby Lock, but without a diagram or decent picture of the entire race assembly, I have no idea if the there is a missing part or not. I would appreciate if someone who has this machine could take a look (or even a pic) and let me know.

And for the record, the machine is quieter (still a little clanky sounding) after a thorough cleaning and lubrication.

catspec said...

Angel, thanks for your comment. I will post a picture here in this entry of the page from the manual for cleaning the bobbin area and it has pictures of what you should have in there. Hope it helps.

Laura Mitchell said...

I appreciate your comments about the Babylock Companion 1550. I got one a few years ago. I pulled it out this week and tuned it up and it is working great. I was looking for a manual to know just what I can do with it. I used it for quilting using a straight stitch. It did ok but I wondered if that was too much for it.

Any suggestions for what this machine can do?

catspec said...

Laura, thanks for stopping by! Well, I think this machine could do quilting jsut fine. It is a heavier machine than today's machines and since it is mechanical and simple it should do a good job of quilting. You can probably get a walking foot for it - my thoughts would be that a generic low shank walking foot might just fit well. That would really be good for straight line quilting. When I had this machine I wasn't doing much quilting, so I didn't try it for free motion. No reason it couldn't do that - also could probably do some bags and any garments. :) Have a good time, keep it cleaned and oil the bobbin race as in the instructions in the blog entry. A nice servicing now and then is so good for a machine, and I would recommend it for an older machine you haven't used in awhile.

Angel Milton said...

Hi catspec--I am not seeing the picture you posted. Where can I see it?

catspec said...

Angel...the picture is at the bottom of the blog post.....I added it to this same post...not as a comment. Good luck.

Angel Milton said...

Hi catspec! There is no actual image in the location you specified. I see the description of the image, but no image :-( I even tried two different browsers and got the same [image] with both browsers. I would appreciate if you could repost the image.

Thanks!
Angel

catspec said...

Angel, I have four browsers on this computer and one additional on my work computer. Without being logged in to Google I can see the images in all five browsers. Firefox, Camino, Safari, IE and Chrome. I can do no more, and there is nothing odd or different from the other pictures in the post. I do suggest though that you try and get a copy of the manual if you don't have one. The Babylock 1550 is the same machine as one in the SImplicity lineup, which includes the SL9130, SL9140 and SL9240. You can get this manual online. It is the very same manual as the Babylock one, except for the machine names. Good luck. Another idea would be to take this machine to a sewing tech.

catspec said...

I also added the link to the diagrams on another site.