Vintage Singer Zigzagger cams or “Stitch Patterns”


Why “Stitch Patterns” I have no idea, but that’s what the cams for the big black zigzagger are called.  The cams for the Swiss Zigzagger, however, are called “cams”, and if you’re wondering where this is leading, all is about to be revealed …

So we have here a picture of the Stitch Pattern set 161008 which I listed on our “Accessories” page yesterday, and it is of course for the Singer Automatic Zigzagger a.k.a. Big Black Zigzagger.  That Big Black Zigzagger can be a model 160985, or it can be a 161102, or indeed a 161157, but they’re the same dog with different spots so it makes no difference here.  As long as it’s big, it’s black, it says “SINGER” on it in gold and it’s a zigzagger, it’ll take those Stitch Patterns.  And hereinafter “Stitch Patterns” will be “cams” because just I can’t be doing with the “Stitch Patterns” all the time.

Now, if you have your very own Big Black Zigzagger, you may well be thinking “Yep, mine came with one of those red cams in it and the other three were in the box”, and you might wonder what was the point of those same cams also being available as a boxed set.  Well, they weren’t.  These red cams are different from your red cams, because your red cams are the red red cams and these red cams are the red white cams.

Confused?  I was too at one time, but it’s actually easy enough to get your head round if you take it slowly.  In the beginning, to coin a phrase, was the Big Black Zigzagger, and it was sold with four red cams.  Those cams are numbered on the back 161000, 161001, 161002 and 161003 and they make stitches called zigzag, blind, domino and arrowhead respectively.

If you turn to page 20 of your Singer Automatic Zigzagger instruction book, you will see that “Additional stitch patterns may be purchased”.  Gosh.  I wonder just how exciting that prospect was in 1955.  Whatever, those additional cams are numbered 161004, 161005, 161006 and 161007, they make stitches called scallop, multiple, walls of Troy, and icicle respectively, they are also red and the part number for the set of four is 161008.  That’s it in the picture.

I don’t know what’s with the “walls of Troy” either, but I do know that the confusion starts with this set, because the cams in it are painted the same red as the four which came with the zigzagger.  No doubt it made sense at the time to have eight different cams all the same colour, but before long Singer decided to introduce first one then two further additional cam sets, and obviously a total of sixteen different red cams would hardly be user-friendly, even if the term had been invented by then.

So what did Singer do?  They did about the only thing they could do, really.  They got some different paint.  The next cam set on the market, which if you start counting from the the standard set was the third, is called Set No. 3.  It’s part number 161076, the cams are numbered 161067 to 161070, and those cams are blue.

The next set to be introduced is called Set No. 4, the part number for it is 161077, the cams are numbered 161071 to 161074 and they are yellow.  So including the standard four cams, that gives us two different red sets, a blue set and a yellow set.

Wait for it …

They then changed the colour of the first additional set from red to white, and called that Set No. 2.  But they didn’t change the numbers on the underside of the cams, and neither did they revise the accompanying leaflet!  This explains why Elsie’s Set No. 2, which I have in front of me as I type, has a red cam on the front of the leaflet, and contains four white cams which are identical to, and numbered the same as, the four red cams in the set in the above picture.

Fascinating though this may be, you’re no doubt eager to learn now the relevance of it to those of us into vintage Singers, so here you go.  If you’re a completist, you need Set 161008 as well as the blue, yellow and white sets because Set 2 is the one referred to in the zigzagger instruction book.  But if you just fancy an extra cam set for the fun of it, that red white set is (or at least ought to be) cheaper than the white white set.

More about red cams as well as yellow ones and about those for the Swiss zigzagger too in another post, but while I’m on the subject of Set No.2, if you know for sure what its part number is, we’d love to hear from you because neither the box nor the leaflet tells us!

Edited to add – Thanks to Heather, we now know that Singer didn’t change the part number when they changed the colour of the red white set.  The white white set is 161008 as well!


3 responses

  1. So Singer made a ZigZag machine as early as 1955! Interesting. I have my mother’s old 1960s grey singer that has cams for the fancy stitches (all black)

  2. Oh thank you kind lady. So they even kept the part number the same! I’ll edit the post now …

  3. Hi Sid, I have the ivory set 2 and the part number for that set is 161008. On my set this number, written on the leaflet, is shown through a little window in the box. I’ll take a photo and e-mail it to you (I have your e-mail address). 🙂 x