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.
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.