The Singer Swiss Zigzagger 160990 and 160991


Seeing as how Elsie was faffing with her Swiss zigzagger yesterday afternoon, we did this little video of it being used as a basic zizgzagger …

Sorry that’s not up to much and it finishes a bit quick, but I haven’t quite perfected the art of shooting video with a professional stills camera which I have to focus manually.  It’s also a bit awkward for Elsie to treadle properly when she has to budge over ‘cos I’m in her way with the camera, but enough of the excuses already.

What is this Swiss Zigzagger thing and why is it a Big Deal?

Picture of vintage Singer Swiss Zigzagger 160990

That’s a Swiss Zigzagger.  To be precise, it’s a Singer Automatic Zig-Zag Attachment 160990, although you can’t tell that from the picture because it could just as well be a 160991 without its snail shell.  And I do realise that sentence makes no sense at all to most folks, but stick with us dear reader and it soon will.

So called simply because they were made for Singer in Switzerland, Swiss Zigzaggers are a bit special for several reasons.  They’re compact, they’re beautifully made, they work really well – and they can sell for silly prices.  I’m pretty sure the last one I noticed on Ebay UK sold for £96, and in the States there’s currently a choice of three with Buy It Now’s of $205, $355 and $405.  What price those will actually sell at is anybody’s guess.

Back in the real world, if the thing looks like the one in that picture, it’s most likely to have 160990 stamped on its bottom.  I was going to say that’s the common one, but Swiss Zigzaggers of either flavour aren’t exactly common, so let’s just say it’s the usual one.  It should come in a neat pale cream plastic box with a Singer badge on top, and be accompanied by a T-shaped cover plate for your feed dogs and the attachment screw for that, the book of words, and five small flat metal cams.  Here’s a picture of three of those cams, with a 5 Euro cent coin for comparison …

Picture of cams for Singer Swiss Zigzagger 160990

Incidentally, that’s not a 5 Euro cent coin because one wishes to give the impression that one is just back from ones villa in Escroquer-les-Nouveaux-Riches, rather that the self-service checkout in Morrisons gave it straight back to me this morning when I put it in thinking it was a penny.   But at least The Voice of the Checkout just said “Please insert more cash” and not “Please do not try to swindle the store”.  Anyhow, it was the only coin in my pocket when I took the snap.

Now, if you’re after a Swiss Zigzagger and you see one offered at a good price because there’s no cams with it, bear in mind that those cams are only required for doing fancy stitches.  Not everybody who has one to sell realises that!  A Swiss Zigzagger without any loose cams is still a beautifully-made attachment that does a very nice plain zigzag stitch using the built-in one, and that stitch is adjustable for both bight and stitch length.   That’s how Elsie’s using hers in that video.

So that’s the 160990 – it looks like the one in the picture, it says 160990 on its bottom, and it left the Singer shop with a set of 5 cams.  The 160991 usually looks like the one in that picture too, and you can guess what it says on its bottom.  It was sold with a set of 10 cams though, and when new it had an off-white plastic snail shell on it which I’d love to show you a picture of, but our own 160991 is shell-less so I can’t.  If you’re really curious about what it looks like, there’s a bad picture of one on the cover of the 160991 instruction book, which you can download as a PDF from here

Whether those snail shells tended to break easily or just fall off and get lost I have no idea, but nowadays it’s rare to see a good 160991 for sale complete with its shell.  That’s why when you do, it’ll usually be expensive.  Very expensive if it’s in really good condition in a nice box complete with all its bits and bobs, because you’re in Serious Collector territory there for sure.

To recap, it’s a beautifully-made attachment that’s easy to use and it works very well indeed.  It should come with either 5 cams if it’s a 160990 or 10 if it’s a 160991, but those cams are only needed for the fancy stitches (I’m including blind stitching in that, by the way).  Without cams it works as a plain and simple zigzagger with adjustable bight and stitch length.  And I nearly forgot a really useful trick it does – you can lift up a lever at the back of it and disengage the zigzag if you need to revert to straight stitch for a bit!

Edited October 2012 to add that we have a mint set of all 10 cams available, also a couple of 160990 zigzaggers – maybe even some spares.  Please email us with your wants – it’s sidandelsie at btinternet dot com


4 responses

  1. Yep, that red knob does seem to be a bit fragile. We’ve certainly had one with it broken.


  2. Huh. I thought this looked familiar, so I poked around in the drawer, I bought one of these 160990 zigzaggers for something like NZ$5, with the cream coloured box and three cams, about a year ago. I couldn’t get the hang of it straight away and never tried properly (shame on me). Mine is missing the red knob on the front — think that might be causing a problem? I had no idea what it was meant to look like so didn’t know something was missing.

  3. I am so glad to have found your website. I have a Singer Swiss Zigzagger 160991 with the cream colored shell, 10 cams, the box, the T-shaped cover plate; but no instructions. I was very glad to be able to download the instructions. Thank you very much, what an informative website.