I haven’t the faintest idea why Singer decided in 1958 that it would be a good idea to start sending machines out with a light-coloured textured fabric stuck to the sides of the wooden base, but I do wish they hadn’t. 50 years on I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a 185K with a base that looks good . Most of them look pretty dreadful nowadays, and that’s a shame really, because it’s a sweet little machine …
So nice is it, in fact, that we’re happy to offer a good 185K for sale if the base is better than most. This particular machine is a good one, and the base, though somewhat scruffy, is better than most, so I’ve just listed it on the Singers for sale page!
Despite looking like the kid sister of a 201 Mk2 (or if you want to be specific, of a 201K23), the 185 is actually just a 99 that’s had a make-over. Mechanically it’s still a 99, it’s still got a cast-iron body, and there’s still no plastic in it anywhere apart from the spool pin on some of them. In other words it’s still a “proper” Singer, and any attachment that works with a 99 will work with a 185.
It’s got the reverse facility like the later 99’s, and it shares with the very late 99’s the plug-and-socketless electrics i.e. the foot pedal and the mains lead on a 185K are permanently wired into the motor. Depending on your viewpoint, that’s either a retrograde step taken to save Singer the cost of fitting the special motor plug and socket, or it’s a big improvement over having two components which were perhaps liable to accidental damage.
One thing you can’t argue with though is the fact that when properly set up, a good 185 like this one does sew a lovely straight stitch. And given just ordinary care and a drop of oil every now and then, it’ll go on doing that for at least another lifetime.
Finally, though, a warning. Don’t confuse the 185 with the 275 which replaced it and which looks at first glance very much like it. It’s not. The oscillating hook of a 275’s driven by a horrible rack-and-pinion type mechanism, which from the engineering point of view is naff to say the least, and from the user’s point of view is both noisy and liable to cause vibration. (There was also the 285, which you don’t want either because it’s the same dog with different spots. A 285 is just a 275 with a plug and socket on the motor.)
If you want the authentic modern small portable electric with which to make that smart knee-length sheath dress with the “oh-so-neat” three-quarter sleeves while listening to early Cliff Richard records, the one you want is definitely the 185K.