Category Archives: Treadle sewing machines

How to fit a handcrank to an early Singer 27K treadle

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Here’s a picture of the drive end of Elsie’s old faithful 27K, which was made in 1900 and still resides in the ornate drawing room cabinet* in which it left the shop 112 years ago.

Now, if you’re really into the old Singer stuff, I bet you got as far as “made in 1900″ in that sentence and immediately said to yourself “Ahah!  So it hasn’t got a boss for a handcrank!”.  And if you did, I bow down before your awesome knowledge of such arcane stuff.

If you didn’t, and you’re not entirely sure what a “boss” is in this context anyhow, look closely at the right-hand side of the column of this particular 27K, and hopefully you’ll be able to see that there isn’t the usual sticky-outy bit to which a hand crank or indeed a motor can be fitted.  That’s the “boss”, or rather it would be if this machine had one.  Later 27K’s do have one, but only a real vintage Singer geek could tell you when they changed from bossless to bossed.  The best I can do is say that in 1900 at least some 27K’s didn’t have a boss but by 1903 they all did.

So, should you wish to fit a hand-crank to one of these fine old treadle machines, how might that be done when there is no apprarent means of attaching one?  In theory it’s easy – all you need is Hand Attachment 81712, as shown below together with a bobbin winder assembly which wanted to be in the picture too …

Once you have your Hand Attachment 81712 to hand, as it were, it’s simply a case of undoing one screw and removing the belt guard from your early 27K, then fitting the handcrank by clamping its mounting bracket round the collar onto which the belt guard was originally fixed.  It’s a job which requires nothing more than one ordinary screwdriver and five minutes of your time.

The problem is of course that you first need to acquire your Part No. 81712.   Which was only made for the very early 27K.  And then apparently not in any great quantity.  So they’re a bit thin on the ground.   I’ve no idea how many of them Singer actually made, but I do know that the Hand Attachment had been officially declared obsolete by 1906, so it’s perhaps not surprising that 105 years later, most folk have never heard of it.  Certainly this is the only one that Elsie and I have ever actually laid hands on.

Given its rarity, it’s got to be a symptom of something or other that having completely forgotten we had this one, I found it yesterday under a pile of stuff alongside the dead printer which I’d finally decided to take down to the dump recycling centre.  Be that as it may, given that Elsie’s 27K in the drawing room cabinet is in its original state and it’s such a delight to treadle, there’s actually more chance of me mastering the art of knitting than there is of us ever needing to use this particular bit of kit, therefore one complete Hand Attachment 81712 is now listed on our Bits ‘n’ Bobs page!

So now somebody, somewhere is wondering “OK, that takes care of a handcrank, but how do you fit a motor?”.  The answer to that is “with great difficulty”, which as far as I’m concerned is just as well because I really can’t imagine why anybody might want to vandalise a very early 27K by motorising it …

And … just as I was about to publish this post, an email came in from Lulu alerting me to a listing on Ebay UK of a rather unusual treadle machine …

I was interested to see that the drawer pulls on this one are different to those on Elsie’s early drawing room cabinet, and that the mat on the treadle plate is a different design too.  The real surprise though is the 28K.  I’ve never seen a 3/4-size machine of any flavour in a drawing-room cabinet before.   It’s obvious from the other pictures in the listing for this one that it’s a DIY job and an old one at that, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work just fine.  And I love the way the handcrank’s still on it …

* If you’re in the US of A,  for “drawing room cabinet” read “parlor cabinet”.
Edited 2nd October to add – thanks to Linda and Heather, I now know that Singer did indeed supply the 28K in a Drawing Room Cabinet!

The Singer convertible treadle base and motor controller 194386

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And before I go any further, let me say that we’ve never been sure of the correct designation for the base shown in the following pictures.  If you happen to know and can point us in the direction of the relevant brochure page or whatever, we’d love to hear from you! 

OK, you can ignore the incomplete 66K which I plonked into this base just for the picture, because it’s only the base with which we’re concerned here.  And yes, I totally agree with you – it would have been nice if whoever covered the top of this one with a coat of varnish had at least tried to quieten down those watermarks first.

But never mind.  We happen to like these particular bases, and not only because of the very neat way in which the larger of those two inset sections of the top lifts off to form the extension.  Mainly we like them because more often than not, they still have the bits on them which you need to make them convertible, in the sense that you can fit an electric head to one and then have the option to treadle it or use the motor as the fancy takes you.

If however the motor controller’s been removed from one of these bases, it’ll be just like any other late-type treadle base underneath.

If all this is new to you, note that that picture’s taken from the back of the base, simply because it’s easier to see how the Pitman rod (note technical term) connects the treadle plate to the crank, so as to make the wheel go round.  What you see in that picture is what all these later domestic treadle bases look like – allowing for the fact that this one hasn’t got a belt on it!

If we look up from that angle and move round to the front of the base then hang a sheet over the back of it while we take some snaps, the underneath looks like this, which I admit is kind of boring.  However …

While that’s fine for treadling your full-size (eg 15K, 66K or 201K) vintage Singer, what to do if you want the option to use an electric machine in this base?  Well, you could just fit the head into the treadle base, plug in your machine plug and use your foot controller like you do with the machine on the kitchen table.  But it will immediately become obvious that you can’t put the foot controller where it needs to be because the treadle plate’s in the way.

What you need is …

That’s Singer Motor Controller 194386, that is, with the correct bracket to fit it to the later-type treadle bases (as opposed to the ornate cast-iron ones, which need a different bracket), together with that curly doohickey at bottom right.

The 194386 is to all intents and purposes a normal foot controller with its button on the top replaced by a metal tongue with a hole in it sticking out of one end, as you might be able to see above. The hole at top left of the cover is the cable entry, and we will very shortly see what the doohickey’s for.

So OK, let’s say you’ve found yourself one of these treadle bases, and you rather fancy putting your 201K electric in it so you have the option of either mains or people power.  What’s involved?  As far as I recall from the last time I did it, this is what’s involved …

1  Check that you have the bits shown above, and also the black metal plate which goes to the right of the machine bed and fills the 45mm gap which would otherwise exist.  You can see that plate in the top picture, but what you can’t see is that there are three holes in it – two for the treadle belt to pass through and one for the lead to the motor controller.  The plate screws to the underside of your machine bed, so you finally get to see what those two threaded holes at the far right of your machine bed are for ;)

2  Screw the plate to the machine bed, put a rubber bush in the hole through which the mains lead will go, and fit your machine head to the base via the pins of the hinges, just the same way as it fits in its wooden base.

3  Make absolutely certain that you tighten the grub screws onto the pins of those hinges.  Then check again that both are secure.  If you don’t, guess what can happen the first time you lower the machine head into the base.

4  With the mains disconnected from the wall socket, open up your existing foot controller and disconnect the two wires of the lead which goes to it.  Put both terminal screws back so you don’t lose them, then put the case back together.

5  With the mains still disconnected, plug your machine plug into the machine, and pass the lead you just disconnected from your foot controller down through the hole in that side plate.

6  Open up your Controller 194386, pass that lead through the hole in the cover, and fit the two wires to the terminals of the controller just like they were on your foot controller.

7  Now fit the 194386 to the treadle base by means of its bracket and the three screws, comme ça …

8  Undo the nut at the top end of your Pitman rod and disconnect the rod by simply twiddling it until it comes away from the crank

9  Hook the hook of the doohickey through the hole in the tongue projecting from the bottom of the controller, from back to front.  Hold the doohickey there, screw the Pitman rod into it as far as it will go, then tighten the nut up against the bottom of the doohickey …

10  Check that when you press on the treadle plate, the tongue is pulled out of the motor controller and that when you release the plate, the tongue retracts.

11  Now try it with power on, and with any luck you’re in business.  Note that you can to some extent adjust the slope of the treadle plate when it’s at rest by screwing the Pitman rod in or out of the doohickey.

12  If you’re sure that everything’s to your liking, tidy the excess mains lead out of the way for now, then power up and see how it goes.

13  When you have the electrical operation sorted, get yourself a nice new treadle belt and fit it.

14  Turn off the power.  Disconnect the Pitman rod from the doohickey, re-fit it to the crank on the treadle wheel (screwing it in as far as it’ll go), pop the belt into the groove behind your balance wheel, ease the belt onto the treadle wheel, and savour the joy of sewing with a treadle machine.

And that’s about it.  Unless you’re used to sewing by both mains and people power, it’s probably best to live with the electrics like this for long enough for you to know for sure that you’re going to keep the machine in this base.  Then you can get rid of the excess length of mains lead and tidy things up – and that’ll be another blog post sometime!

Vintage Singer Treadle for sale – plus losing your good looks due to the ironing

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Sorry about this rather naff snap of it, but here you see the 1930/31 Singer 66K in a three-drawer Cabinet Base which was up for grabs on our “Machines” page at a bargain price, provided you can collect it.

But why, pray, is it such a bargain?  Because somebody has at some point stripped the top and re-finished it, so that’s now paler than it was originally, and there’s an area of the top above the left-hand drawer which needs some magic doing to it – unless of course you cheerfully accept that as part of the machine’s character, and you’re not bothered much anyhow because it’s covered up when the machine’s in use.

OK, and if the truth be known we need the space rather urgently too, because the house keeps getting smaller, seemingly irrespective of how much stuff we chuck out.  If we can find a new home for this 66 treadle, we can move stuff about in the kitchen so we can then move into it the stuff which should be in there anyway but is currently in the bathroom because there’s nowhere else for it.

The space problem’s been exacerbated this week by the arrival of Elsie’s new 60-year old Acme wringer, for which I spent a happy hour or so this afternoon fashioning a new grip for the handle out of a piece of the blue plastic water pipe which I scrounged from a building site a couple of years ago to make hoops from for the bird netting on the allotments.

I was suddenly struck with a thought about this wringer, so I checked with Wikipedia to see if a wringer is still a wringer if you’re American, and apparently it is.  However, as most Brits over 50 will know, in this country a wringer is also a mangle, as opposed to a mangel, which is of course simply the short form of mangelwurzel, a bulbous root vegetable which all cows are apparently programmed to like when it’s chopped up with a root-cutter or a spade, even if they’ve never seen one before.

Now, I seem to remember reading somewhere once that in America, a mangel is a field beet, but what I didn’t know until today is that a mangle is what we over here call a rotary iron!  And thanks to the miracle of the internets, I now know that in 1946, the ladies of America were in danger of losing their good looks due to the ironing they were doing.  Fortunately though, their salvation was at hand … thanks to the folks at Ironrite 

Incidentally, Elsie wasn’t impressed by that commercial.  She says that if the ironing was making the women of America lose their looks and spoiling their disposition, all they needed to do was get their husbands to do it in future.  And in case you were wondering, the Singer in that film is a 201 …

Buttonholers, zigaggers, foot controllers and a Lotus treadle

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Just in case you rarely venture onto the Bits ‘n’ Bobs page, here’s a quick update so you know what you’re missing.

Seeing as how in the last week we’ve sent a Singer USA 160985 zigzagger (that’s the big black one with the four red cams) to Birmingham, one of the big Ruby buttonholers to Canada and a Singer 160506 buttonholer to Germany, we’ve been toiling by night even as by day to replace them with more goodies for your consideration.

I’ve just listed a good Singer 161157 zigzagger, which is the third and final version of the one which started out as the 160985, another big Ruby in very fine condition, and another one of Elsie’s favourite buttonholer, the 160506.

There’s also a nice Singer 485910 buttonholer which is perhaps more common in the US than it is over here, a particularly good example of a Precision Built Button Holer B-3 in a nice tin (and unusually, this one’s complete with all its bits), as well as a bit of a rarity called the Zick Zack Kuli Rändelapparat.

Rounding off the new listings is the standard vintage Singer button-type foot controller.  Hoorah! I finally remembered to mention that we can usually do you a nice one of these at a sensible price, and maybe even offer a choice of black or brown.  Actually, now I come to think of it, maybe I ought to do a post about them on the home page  before long?

On the Singers for Sale page we’ve added this gorgeous 1920 Lotus 66K treadle, which Elsie was all for keeping because it’s a lot prettier than the 1909 one in her harmonium (or, if you prefer, her later drawing room cabinet) …

Picture of 1920 Singer Lotus decal 66K treadle

In the end though, and unusually for us, common sense has prevailed.  The Lotus which is in Elsie’s harmonium’s been in it for 102 years now so it really ought to stay here, and there’s no way that Elsie’s going to part with her favourite cabinet.  Besides, as far as we can tell, this Lotus has always been in this base, so they ought to stay together too.  And besides again, Elsie finally admitted the other night that perhaps (just perhaps) I was right after all, and we really do not have the space for her to add yet another machine to her collection.

I did intend to update you with the latest developments on the bicycle front but that needs pictures, which will have to wait until the snow and ice has gone from the lane.  So more on our bikes anon …

Singer 201K treadle, Elsie’s birthday present … and augmented reality

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Picture of Singer drawing room cabinet

Hurrah!  Yesterday we finally got a lovely classic Singer 201K ready for sale as a treadle machine, and this morning we realised that we could offer it in a choice of bases!  It’s now listed on the Singers for sale page in both forms, so if  you could fancy a really good treadle machine, do get in touch with us to find out more about this one and the options for it.

Also on the treadle front, here’s a snap of Elsie’s birthday present having an urgent bit of first-aid done to a lifting bit of veneer on its first morning in its new home.  It’s a 1900 Singer Drawing Room Cabinet that’s totally original down to the little patterned carpet on the treadle plate and the 27K which we took out to get it all home safely.  All that’s missing is the knob for the latch which in theory holds the lid closed but in practice serves no purpose we can think of, and the 27K’s belt guard.  And with any luck, an exact replacement for that will soon be on its way from Jay and Sharron in Missouri.

I’ll take some more snaps and do a blog post all about it when we’ve got it a bit more sorted , but for now I’ll just say that Elsie agrees it was well worth the 376 miles drive on her birthday.

Anyhow … every now and then I have to go to Waitrose on account of there’s a few things we use which Tesco doesn’t stock, and when I do, I always pick up a copy of their house newspaper thing.  It amuses us no end, and gives us some idea of what’s currently exciting the chattering classes.

We’ve just now read about “the revolutionary Christmas adverts that open up a magical world of tricks and tips from Delia and Heston” and we’re trying to get our heads round that.  If we understand correctly, you wait for a television commercial, then pause it, show it to your smart phone, then have an “augmented reality experience”.

Gosh.

We don’t have a television set, neither of us understands how you can pause a television program, we both have dumb phones, and although I can’t speak for Elsie, I can say for sure that the last augmented reality experience I had was a good 40 years ago and involved dried mushrooms.

There’s no hope for us.

Have a good weekend, folks.

The Singer Enclosed Cabinet No.51

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Picture of Singer Enclosed Cabinet #51

I’ve been meaning to mention for ages that thanks to Colette having kindly scanned for us a Singer brochure which her Mum picked up around 1940, we now know for certain that what we thought was Enclosed Cabinet No.46 is in fact Enclosed Cabinet No.51.

It looks like the bloke in the Singer shop who wrote “in New Enclosed Cabinet 46″ on the receipt we have for a 201 in one of these was simply having a brainfart, so I’ve edited this post accordingly.

Sorry for the confusion :)

The Singer Enclosed Cabinet No.51

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Before we get to the nitty-gritty about this cabinet, I must apologise for these less than wonderful snaps of it and get the excuses out the way.  The Sewing Room measures 7ft x 9ft, it has a small window in the narrow end opposite the door, and right now there is this cabinet plus two treadle machines in it.  There’s also baskets of fabric, a large bean bag (I have no idea why), Stoner’s bean bag (awaiting repair) and six other sewing machines in their cases.  So there is not a lot of room.  Hence these very wide angle shots …

Picture of Vintage Singer cabinet no.46

Picture of Singer Cabinet no.46 with Singer 201K Mk2

So OK, that is Elsie’s 201K21 (that is to say, 201K Mk2, treadle version) in her fairly dark Cabinet No.51, and yes Hawkeye I do know there isn’t a drive belt on it.  There will be when I get round to it.  It’s on The List.

This thing measures 21 inches wide by 17 inches front to back, and it’s the Singer standard 31 inches tall.  To go from closed to ready to rock, you open the front doors first because the left-hand one supports that flap, which you then simply swing over from its closed position.  And as I’m sure you’ve already worked out, that adds 21 inches to the left of the base, so if you’re going to put one of these in an alcove, you need a minimum width of 42 inches.

Having opened the doors and turned the flap over, you’re left looking at this …

Picture of top of Singer Cabinet #46 with machine down

except of course there will be a drive belt in place on yours.  All that’s left to do then is lift up that hinged flap in the foreground, grasp the arm of the machine, swing it upwards away from you on those hinges you can see at the back, drop the front flap back down, and lower the machine into position.  C’est un doddle, as the French say.  There’s even a big spring thing lurking under the cabinet top which takes some of the weight as you raise and lower the machine.

Picture of drawer of Singer Cabinet no.46
That really neat tray with the swing-out drawer (for want of the proper word) under it lives inside the left-hand door, and is well handy.  It’s also a headscratcher if you’ve never seen a picture like this before, because the spring catch which holds it closed is quite strong and it’s not at all obvious how it opens up.

And now to the treadle mechanism, as seen below …

Picture of interior of Singer cabinet #46

What we see here is the treadle plate at the bottom with the horrible brown rubber mat on it which is always rock hard from age, and at the top is a nicely varnished bit of curved plywood with a metal edge.  That’s a typical Singer touch, that is – it’s to stop any oil dripping down inside the cabinet (or worse still onto your legs).  It’s even hinged at the front and suspended from the machine base at the back by a bit of chain, so it rises and falls as you raise and lower the machine head.  Neat or what?

The thingy with the small wheel in the top right is the bobbin winder on the folded-down 201, and that rod is what is properly called the pitman rod, the bottom end of which is fixed to the back of the treadle plate by a ball joint.  The top end of the pitman rod is normally connected to the crank of the treadle wheel, which hopefully you can just make out behind all that other ironwork (most of which is the skirt guard).  That’s how the up-and-down motion of the treadle plate is converted into circular motion of the treadle wheel, around the circumference of which the drive belts passes to drive the machine head.  Or would if I’d got round to re-fitting the one on this machine.

However, as you can see, the top of this particular pitman rod is not connected to the treadle wheel.  It’s connected instead to that brown metal box, which is seen more clearly in this snap …

Detail of speed controller in Singer cabinet #46

The brown metal box is the Singer Sewing Motor Controller, and the pitman rod actually connects to the slidy-in-and-outy bit at the bottom of it, by means of which the controller does the controlling of the motor, assuming of course that one is fitted to the machine in the cabinet.  Now, if you’re one step ahead of me here, you’ve already realised that this is very cool indeed.  Yep, the treadle plate either drives the machine, or it acts as a foot pedal to control the speed of a motor attached to it, depending on what you connect the top of that rod to.  And changing it over is no big deal at all.

So that’s the Cabinet No.51.  I’m not sure what the colour choice was in the local Singer shop, but nowadays you see them in anything from a light oak to a very dark oak, and they are certainly very sturdy, well made bits of furniture.  They’re also heavy.  Elsie and I can cart one up the stairs between us if we take our time, but they’re a bit awkward to get in and out of the back of the car.  If you do ever move one by car, don’t forget to take the head out of the cabinet first! And at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s a good idea to fit castors to a No.51 once you’ve got it home and sorted to your liking!

Although they’re at least 50 years old, these cabinets are more common than you might think, and indeed it often seems to me that every second household in south Wales and in the north-west must had one with a 201 in it in the 1940′s.  They do tend to have their share of scratches and scrapes, as well as the almost-inevitable water rings on the top where the plant pot with the aspidistra stood on it, but you’d be surprised what you can do with those wood restorers they sell in B&Q.

Points to watch if buying at auction or particularly on Ebay include check whether all the treadle mechanism is still there and avoid one if it is but it’s rusty.  If a cabinet’s got that damp at some point in its life, odds on there’ll be some veneer lifted somewhere or maybe even rotted.  Also watch for strained hinges on the top flap caused by repeatedly lowering it without the left-hand door open under it, and doors that don’t close properly because one or both of the (very long) hinges is stuffed.  One other thing – when checking out any enclosed cabinet with a view to purchasing it, be prepared for it being really grotty inside and having a strong pong when you open it up …

Singer Cabinet No.51 will take a 15, a 66 or a 201 of either flavour, and we usually have one available at a sensible price which is clean and tidy but perhaps still has scope for improving the surface finish.

Cabinets and treadle bases for vintage Singer sewing machines

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I really do need to do a whole heap of stuff about cabinets and treadle bases for vintage Singers, but apart from not having the time right now to do it in depth, the big problem I have is making space to take pictures of the ones we have here.  Cleo, Elsie’s 1900 27K treadle, lives right under the window which makes photographing it a bit tricky, and we’d have to move her 1909 66K treadle and rearrange half The Sewing Room to get a halfway-decent shot or two of that.  There’s also the nice Number 46 cabinet in there with Elsie’s 201K/2 in it waiting for me to reassemble the treadle mechanism in it, and come to think of it, that’s actually going to be photographable once I’ve done that.  So there is hope.

Then there’s the convertible treadle base which has moved in behind the kitchen door and is quietly waiting for us to work out what to do about the polyurethane varnish some muppet coated the top of it with.  It’s a shame they did that, and it’s even more of a shame they didn’t clean the top up before they slapped the horrible stuff on.  But the base is a bit special, so it’ll be worth it.

The Number 46 cabinet which is currently serving as a kind of extension to the kitchen table has been there so long now that Elsie will have to remind me what we decided we were going to do with it, and I won’t even mention the 1950′s Singer worktable which followed me home from Essex with a 99 in it and lives in the bathroom now because (a) Elsie doesn’t really like it and (b) there’s nowhere else for it to go even if she did.

Anyhow … here, courtesy of a 1930 Singer catalogue is your common or garden Granny’s treadle base, which is properly called a Cabinet Table,  into which you can fit any full size Singer made before the free-arms that came in around 1965.  As far as we’re concerned here, that means a 27, a 127, a 66 or a 201.  Or a 15 if that’s what you’re into.

Catalogue picture of vintage Singer treadle machine

In case you’re wondering where the fifth drawer is, it’s a long wide one which tilts down across the front.  It’s that plain section of front without a knob in the picture above, below where the machine sits.  There were several variations on this theme, all with the wide centre drawer, but with either one, two or three drawers each side, the latter being the least common nowadays.

The Victorian and early Edwardian bases shared the same cast ironwork, but instead of folding the machine down into the table top and swinging the flap over the hole like in the one above, you disappear the machine on an early treadle by hiding it under a wooden box-type lid which locks down into place (or more usually doesn’t nowadays because nobody’s seen the key since that big party on Armistice Day 1918).  That type’s referred to as a Coffin Top unless you’re in the US of A, in which case it’s a Casket Top.

I’m not exactly sure when the cast-iron legs were finally dropped, but the replacement used exactly the same top and similar treadle ironwork, with the iron legs replaced by relatively plain wooden ones which don’t look as “Granny” but are a heck of a sight easier to keep free of cobwebs.

Elsie’s got one iron-legs and one wooden-legs treadle table in The Sewing Room, and we’ll come back to those once I’ve taken some snaps of them.  We’ll also look at the usual vintage enclosed cabinets.  Judging by the number of them that keep cropping up on Ebay in a terrible state, every house in the north-west must have had one in the front room between the wars with a 201 in it.

Talking of front rooms, the one Singer cabinet we don’t have but really want is the Drawing Room Cabinet Number 21.  They’re not quite as rare as hens’ teeth, but one in very condition is, and to complicate matters, most of the nice-looking ones seem to be in either Cheshire or Welsh Wales.  But we’re determined to track one down.  Many folk think they’re hideous, but we think they’re wonderful, and if you also think that the frontage of St Pancras Station is lovely, you will too.

Here’s an awful video of a lovely example of a what we call a Drawing Room Cabinet but some folks call a Parlor Cabinet, which I thought was a different one, but either way it’s a #21.  Whatever,  if you’re prone to vertigo or to motion sickness, grab a couple of Kwells now.  There’s no commentary on it, and in case you’re wondering, the machine’s a 66K with Lotus decals.

The Singer 201K

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Black and brown Singer 201KMk2 sewing machines

I was going to waffle on about the Singer 201K and the difference between the Mk1 and the Mk2, and have a bit of a rant about the way these things are described on Ebay as semi-industrial sewing machines and so on while I was at it, but it’s become obvious that would have been one hell of a long post.  So I’ll do it in stages.

Before I do though, it occurred to me that I had a good opportunity to take a snap of the two different coloured 201Mk2 heads that were available in the UK side by side, so here it is.

The black one is Elsie’s, carefully removed for the purposes of the picture from the treadle cabinet in which it lives in The Sewing Room.  That one’s exactly as brought home from a house in the far east of Essex which had what must be the most awkward access off the road I’ve ever seen in a built-up area, and believe me I’ve seen some.  So you’re driving along a two-lane dual carriageway which has a 50mph limit, in heavy traffic which is averaging nearer 60.  You’re looking for number 312, and the first number you can actually read is 800-odd.  All the houses are identikit 1930′s semis, and they all have very narrow shared “drives” which are about 4 car lengths from kerbside to front door.  The posties must love it.

Naturally you miss number 312, so you drive another mile or so the the lights with the “No U-turn” sign, and do a U-turn back to the roundabout two miles back the way you came and try again.

Twice.

Then having positively identified the target, there’s the small matter of trying to convey to the driver of the Belgian artic which is right on your tail that you need to stop on the double yellow lines and reverse onto a narrow bit of tarmac.  Yes, it worked in the end, but boy did that truck driver ever get cross.  What a loud horn his wagon had.  But so what.  Have you seen the way they drive in Brussels?  Or at least they did when Elsie and I went through it on a motorbike in 1984 …

Anyhow, getting back on track, the lovely black one is Elsie’s.

That scruffy brown thing is what came home with me last night and spent the night in the bike shed ‘cos it stinks, albeit not as much as the treadle cabinet which it was in does, which is why that’s been banished to the yard for scrapping once I’ve salvaged the useful bits off it.

The machine itself is all there though and will be fine once I’ve eventually fettled it and Elsie’s worked her magic on all the grot.  That’s going to be a slow job, but it’ll have been worth turning up in downtown Catford for last night, too early for the rioting but not too early to be bemused by the sight of about 20 of the Met’s finest who were gathered outside that lovely art deco cinema suddenly start running in all directions for no apparent reason.

’tis a strange world in which we live …

Convertibility

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Except that’s the wrong word, because apparently “convertibility” refers to the ease with which a currency or a security can be traded for another.

So it looks like there isn’t a handy word to describe the ease with which Singer sewing machines of the 1900′s to 1950′s can be converted from hand-crank to pedal power to electric and back again, which is a bit of a shame really but there you go.  Despite the lack of a word, though, it’s still surprising what you can do with these things.

Take the model 66 that’s on the kitchen table right now waiting for a final polish before we sew it off ready for sale.  In its present form it’s a hand-crank portable, which is to say that you turn the handle to sew, and when you’re not sewing, it lives in a case.  Twenty minutes work will turn it into an electric portable, powered by a refurbished Singer motor of the correct type, controlled by either a period Singer foot pedal or a modern one.  Or we can fit a good quality modern Japanese motor instead.

If you fancy pedal power though, an hour will see that same 66  fitted into one of the two types of treadle base we currently have, and if you want to cover both bases, the machine can go into a treadle base but still retain its electric motor.  The same goes for any of our 66′s or 201′s (and indeed for the 27/28′s and 15′s which we don’t get involved with).  Versatility or what?

In fact the only variant we can’t actually offer at present is a 99 treadle.  But we can put a 99 in one of the tables made specifically for it, into which it folds away when not in use …