Tag Archives: Vintage Singer cabinet tables

Singer UK brochure and price list 1940

Standard

Or if not actually 1940, it’s certainly thereabouts.  This comes courtesy of Colette, who very kindly scanned the booklet her Mum picked up from the Singer shop in downtown Pinner when shopping for her new sewing machine …

Singer Enclosed Cabinet no.51

I’m not sure when the No.51 Cabinet was introduced, but it certainly wasn’t long before the start of the 1939-45 war.  Whenever, we like it lots because it’s both compact and very practical, and we usually have at least one of these in good condition listed on the Singers for sale page.  It takes any full-size vintage Singer, the treadle mechanism works a treat, and it can be supplied as it could when new with the option to switch easily from treadle to electric power as the fancy (or the power cut) takes you.

Singer drop-head cabinet table with wooden sides

We often have one of these available too!  This is the standard treadle base which replaced the ornate cast-iron one, and it was available with either three or five drawers.  If it looks to you more like two drawers or four, that’s because Singer always counted the wide central tilt-to-open bit which runs across the front between the side drawers as a drawer.  Which I guess it is, kind of.

Singer One-drawer Drop-leaf table with Cover

I don’t know quite how popular the one drawer table with the bentwood cover was, but you don’t see many of them nowadays.  I could see the point if you could drop your portable into that table top, faff about a bit and start treadling, but you couldn’t, so maybe the idea was to use up a vast stock of bentwood case tops prior to the changeover to suitcase-type cases?

Singer No 40 table

The No.40′s not at all common nowadays, though you do see them from time to time – often in the sort of rooms which still have a dusky pink Dralon sofa, a Bontempi organ and a print of Tretchikoff’s “Blue Lady” on the wall.  What’s far more common is the later, modern version – particularly the one which takes a 99 rather than a full-size machine.

Singer 201K2 and 201K3

This is one of the many things which puzzle me about vintage Singers – why did they run the 201K2 (potted motor) alongside the 201K3 (belt-drive motor)?  I’d love to know what the sales pitch was!  Note that these electrics are knee-levers, which apparently sold well for years despite the somewhat agricultural appearance of the knee-lever itself.

Singer 99K

Here’s the old faithful 99, which they were still making the best part of 20 years after this brochure was printed.  Note that it’s no longer in a  bentwood case, and that you could rent one or have one on free trial.

Have you noticed how in those days you always sewed with your right leg crossed over your left?

Singer add-on electric motor and foot pedal

“Any Singer salesman will gladly demonstrate this motor in your own home on your own machine if you will call or write to the local Singer shop.”  I’ll bet – and no doubt talk you into part-exchanging your old 27 for a nice new 201 while he’s at it.

Note that apparently you don’t cross your legs whilst fitting a motor.

Singer 15K80 on "artisan" base

This is a rare bird nowadays – a 15K on what’s often referred to as the “artisan” treadle base.  This is the base with the bigger-diameter treadle wheel for faster sewing, which I think evolved into the one with the knee-lever presser-foot lift used for the 1200.  And you don’t see many of those either!

Singer attachments in godzilla tin

The standard attachments are shown in this brochure in the black crinkle-finish “godzilla” tin, which raises the question as to which machines were sold with them in the cardboard box instead?  I have no idea, but I do know that we can usually supply full sets in either.

Singer UK price list 1940

Now if this isn’t actually the 1940 price list, believe me it’s as good as.  By this time they’ve moved on from quoting “list price” and “net cash price” to the much less confusing “hire purchase price” and “cash price”, but still with the discount for early settlement.

It’s difficult to give present-day equivalent costs because it all depends on how you do the calculations, but if we take for example a bog-standard 66 in a 5-drawer cabinet table, that’s listed here at £18 13s 6d cash or for our younger readers £18.67.  If we go by the Retail Price Index, that’s £795 today, but if we use instead average wage values, it would cost you £2370.  Either way, it just goes to show that these things were never cheap – and that buying a good one now is a real bargain!

Cabinets and treadle bases for vintage Singer sewing machines

Standard

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.