Category Archives: Attachments & Accessories

The Singer Blind Stitch Attachment 86649


Picture of Simanco 86649

Here’s a picture which will explain one of the many minor mysteries about vintage Singer attachments.  The Blind Stitch Attachment (Simanco 86649) turns up on the internets relatively often as these things go, but hands up if you’ve seen the box for one before.

Thought so.  We hadn’t either until this one followed us home in a cabinet drawer last month, but now we understand.  That box is so flimp it’s about as much use as a concrete trampoline.  It’s no wonder they’re a rarity 50 years on.

Anyhow, this one’s in Elsie’s collection now, and not because of that tatty old box.  Elsie’s claimed it because this one works reliably.  I don’t know what it is about the blind stitchers, but we’ve found that more often than not, they don’t work properly.  Or if they do, they don’t keep working properly.

The really annoying thing is I just can’t figure out why!  The problem is that every now and then they don’t do the sideways hoppity-skip like they should, and the reason for their misbehaviour is that sometimes that ratchet on the side follows the actuating arm on the down stroke instead of staying put where it was rotated to on the up stroke.  In other words, the ratchet always rotates clockwise on the up stroke like it should, but sometimes it then rotates anti-clock on the down stroke.  Which it shouldn’t.

Taking these things apart, cleaning them and lubricating them never seems to make any difference, and it’s still beyond my powers of reason to work out why, if Singer wanted it do what it’s supposed to do, they designed it quite like they did.

So there you go.

Now you know what the box looks like, and you also know why we rarely sell Singer Blind Stitch Attachments …

The Singer Adjustable Buttonhole Scissors


I haven’t a clue how common Singer Adjustable Buttonhole Scissors are, but it took me a fair old while to track down a nice pair for Elsie.  Here’s the front and the back of the box …

Picture of Singer adjustable buttonhole scissors box - front

Picture of Singer adjustable buttonhole scissors box - back

The scissors themselves are really well thought-out, and they’re made of very good steel so they keep their edge well.  They’re a doddle to use – you set them to the length of cut required in your buttonhole by means of the adjusting screw, and take a test cut in a scrap bit of material to check the length.  There’s a cut-length scale engraved on one of the blades, but as far as we’re concerned that’s more of a guide than an accurate setting.  In the next picture, they’re set to half an inch.

Picture of vintage Singer adjustable buttonhole scissors

Having set them to the right length, all you do then is line them up in your buttonhole and cut.  Carefully …

Picture of vintage Singer adjustable buttonhole scissors in use

In this picture, Elsie’s just about to start the cut.  Hopefully you can see that the cut starts at the “heel” of the blades, and that when the blades have closed by the right amount to give the required length of cut, the adjusting screw will stop them closing any further.

We like ’em.  They really do make buttonholes less fraught …

The Greist Buttonholer


Picture of complete Greist buttonholer model #1

I just put a particularly nice one of these up for sale on the Bits ‘n’ Bobs page, so I thought a little bit of background information might come in handy.

I’m not an authority on Greist, but I do know that the firm originated in Chicago, and judging by the 19 pages of lovely old typesetting about them here, they used to be called Griest!

In later years they produced attachments on a contract basis for various makers of sewing machines including Singer, as will be immediately apparent to anybody looking at this picture who owns a Singer 489500 or 489510 buttonholer (the “Jetson” ones, about which I really ought to do a post sometime).

Anyhow, we’ve got a nice one for sale now in a good box complete with all its bits including the standard template set.  Brian seems to like it …

The aluminium feet


Picture of handmade aluminium presser foot

Yes, that is a very strange presser foot indeed.  And no, I’d never seen anything like it either.

All I can really tell you about it is that it’s one of the two presser feet we found lurking in the base of that machine when we bought it in last month, they’re both hand cut and folded from aluminium sheet, and I have not the faintest idea what they’re in aid of, as folks used to say.

However, knocking one of these up is certainly the sort of exercise I used to get set when training as a precision engineer in my yoof, so my money’s on somebody learning to be a metal-basher of one kind or another.

One thing’s for sure – it’s just taken me nearly 15 minutes to work out precisely what shape you need to cut out of a piece of aluminium sheet before you start bending it into the more complex one of these two, and in what order you do the six folds …

Vintage Singer accessories … and oca


Picture of oca tubers

No, these are not witchetty grubs as eaten by the people who used to be Aboriginies but are now Indiginous Australians, they’re oca tubers as eaten by Elsie.  But before we get to them I have other stuff to tell you.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve put a few more bits and bobs on the Accessories for sale page recently including a Ruby Buttonholer Type RB and a Vanguard Buttonholer.  There’s a Singer Hemstitcher and Picot Edging Attachment 120687 (a.k.a the imitation hemstitcher) listed now, and another lovely Singer Automatic Zigzagger 160985 (the black one).

I’ve also listed a Singer Buttonhole Attachment 86662 with a scruffy box at a good price, and we’ve realised that in fact we have available a choice of these, all of which have been sorted by me and tested by Elsie so there’s nothing between them in terms of how well they work.  This, by the way, is the black version of the cream buttonholer with the red knobs that I’m on about, and the price is entirely dependent on cosmetic condition and how good the box is.

There’s more interesting things heading for that page in the next few weeks including a very nice green-box buttonholer 160506 and a Singer Zigzag Attachment 160620.  That’s the small one you don’t see all that often, which from a distance in bad light looks a bit like the Singer Blind Stitch Attachment.  And we’ve got a couple of those coming too!

I’m a bit busy making a built-in cupboard in the batchroom this week, but I’ve started work on blog posts about tension and about oiling your vintage Singer ‘cos we’ve had requests to do something about those two subjects, as well as more on maintenance of vintage Singers generally.  I was actually trying to finish one about oiling so it could come next, but that’s got put back by what we came home with on Sunday.

Would you believe that on the very day I posted part two of the thing on electrical safety, we bought a 201 with what turned out to be the most dangerous DIY rewire I’ve ever seen?  It’s an absolute classic this one is, so it gets a post all to itself and that’s what I’ve got to finish off tomorrow, so I’d better get the oca done and dusted now …

OK, those things are oca tubers, they’re related to the sunflower, they were one of the staples of the Incas, and they’re about the size of your thumb, give or take a bit.  They’re grown and eaten like new potatoes, except after you’ve dug them up you need to let the sun get at them for a few days to improve the taste, which is reckoned to be like new potatoes with a hint of lemon sauce.

Elsie likes them, but I can’t see the point of them (stuck in his ways is my Sid. E).  Mind you, that’s pretty much in line with the usual household division here where vegetables are concerned.  We’re both huge on beans, brassicas and so on, but when it comes to roots, Elsie gets really enthusiastic about things like turnips and parsnips whereas my own feeling about them is that times are not yet hard enough for me to start eating prison camp food.

Actually, yesterday we dug up the last of Elsie’s Jerusalem artichokes – or to be more precise, we dug up maybe 30% of them and left the rest wherever they’d wandered off to so they spring up next spring and I can kill the confounded things off with my hoe.

The very wonderful William Cobbett at one time famously described the Jerusalem artichoke as “a mischievous weed that Frenchmen and pigs eat when they can get nothing else”, but in Cottage Economy (1829) he offered this priceless advice on the cultivation of it – “It is a very poor, insipid vegetable, but if you have a relish for it, pray keep it out of the garden, and dig up the corner of some field or of some worthless meadow, and throw some roots into it”.

Top man, was Mr Cobbett.  He’d probably have thought much the same about oca.

The Singer Automatic Zigzagger 160985. Also 161102 and 161157 …


Picture of vintage Singer Automatic Zigzagger 161157

I’ve just put another black zigzagger up for sale on the Accessories page, and that’s reminded me to point out something which can get confusing about these things.

The Big Black Zigzagger can be a 160985, or a 161102, or a 161157, and at first glance they all look the same.  But they’re not – they all work as well, but each one is a later version of the other, with either an improved mechanism or one which was cheaper to produce, depending on your personal cynicism quotient.

Muddying the waters still further, the cams for them are made from either aluminium or a heavier zinc-based alloy, and although they’re different if you compare the undersides, the tops are the same and they are in fact interchangeable.

So there you go – you now know more about the black Singer zigzagger than most folk do.  And in our opinion, the amount of practice you have using one makes far more difference than what the part number on it is …

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

The Singer 160847 Multiple Slotted Binder


Picture of Singer 160847 Mulitple Slotted Binder

Alternate view of Singer USA Multiple Slotted Binder 160847

This is the Singer 160847 Multiple Slotted Binder, which is one of those attachments which seem to be fairly common in the US, where it was made and where Featherweight fans seem to be particularly drawn to it.  Over here it’s not exactly rare in the sense that the Penguin is, but it’s certainly not a common attachment.  That’s why we were chuffed to get hold of this rather nice one, also shown here posing for a picture on Elsie’s 221K …

Singer USA Multiple Slotted Binder 160847 photographed on Featherweight

Truth is though, that’s likely to be the only time it gets fitted to a presser bar in this house, because if and when Elsie uses bias binding, it’s ready-made and it’s one width, for which she uses the plain vanilla binder feet.  So, interesting though this attachment undoubtedly is, it’s just not going to get used here for the clever stuff it’ll do like applying two different bindings at once, so we’ve decided that it deserves to go to somebody who will do amazing things with it.  That’s why I’ve just listed it on the ever-changing Accessories for sale page …

The Famous Buttonhole Worker


Picture of Famous Buttonhole Worker with box and instructions

I have no idea at all why The Famous Buttonhole Worker was famous, nor do I know exactly when this fine example of it first saw the light of day.  I can though tell you that it was made by the Lenox Manufacturing Company of Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, and very nicely made too if you ask me.

This one is the latest addition to our collection of buttonholers and as yet we don’t really know much more about it than you do, apart from the fact that the instructions are jolly good.  It must have been a great relief to many to open them and read that “no special skill is required to use the Famous Buttonhole Worker”.

The design of it obviously has a lot in common with the later Singer non-template buttonholers as shown on our Accessories page, and well golly gosh there’s actually an exploded diagram of it in the 1938 Singer Fashion Aids parts book, where it’s referred to as the “Buttonholer 121704”.  But it says neither “Famous” nor “Singer” on the one in the book, which is a bit strange really considering how Singer usually made sure they had the firm’s name on any product they sold.  Perhaps the illustrator just forgot to draw it.

Be that as it may, what you see above is what we got.  What we didn’t get with ours is the little wooden-handled knife with the interchangeable blades for cutting your buttonhole once you’d Famoused it, but we’re not bothered because it seems that the knife wasn’t always included, and anyhow we’re not anal about such things.

So … we know that the FBW begat the Singer Buttonholer 121704, which begat the Singer Buttonhole Attachment 86662 (the black one with the wing nuts), which begat the Singer Buttonhole Attachment 86718 (the cream one with the red knobs), and there the begatting stopped.  At least I think it stopped.  But maybe it didn’t, because I’m certain I’ve seen this device, or something remarkably like it, on the internets recently billed as a Y.S.Star industrial buttonholer!

Whatever, there’s supposed to be another example of the Famous Buttonhole Worker on its way to us this week from the US of A, so no doubt there’ll be more about it in due course.  Maybe a video of Elsie test-driving the thing, and maybe even one for sale …