Category Archives: Singer 66 and Singer 99

The identification of vintage Singer sewing machines


Or how to tell t’other from which, as they used to say in Lancashire.  They might still do, actually, but I digress …

If you’re on the phone to somebody who’s put a for sale ad in the local rag which just says “Old Singer sewing machine for sale” or something equally informative, you obviously need to know a bit more about what exactly it is that they found in the attic when they moved in and now think might be Worth A Few Quid.  If you’re lucky, they might have put a picture in the advert.  And if you’re really lucky, it might not be a lot worse than this specially-taken rubbish snap.

Rubbish snap of old Singer sewing machine

Before we go any further, though,  A Word Of Warning.  On a very hot and incredibly humid summer afternoon, I once drove for well over two hours through horrendous traffic to buy a Red Head.  That’s a rare-in-the-UK Singer with distinctive decals which I think are OTT but Elsie thinks are lovely.  I’d talked about it on the phone to the person selling it, and I was fairly sure of its condition.  We’d agreed a price.  When I got there, I was ushered into the kitchen and shown the machine.  It was a clapped out and very ordinary early 66 with the most boring decals Singer ever used, and those in a very poor state.

“Hang on” says I.  “This isn’t the machine in the photo in the advert.”

“No, but does that matter?  They’re all much the same.”

“Are you serious?” says I. “You don’t have the machine you advertised?”

“Well I couldn’t find my camera so I used a picture I found on the internet.  I can’t see it makes that much difference.”

There’s not a lot you can say to that, so I just bid her a cheery “Die soon” and drove over two hours home to Elsie and a large glass of Merlot.  The moral of this story is

ALWAYS ask the advertiser if the picture in the advert is a picture of the actual machine for sale

So, getting at last to the point of today’s epistle, I’ve evolved a standard way of extracting the information necessary to identify a machine on the phone, and it seems to work.  Believe me though the process can be a bit like pushing jelly uphill with a fork at times, particularly if the advertiser’s getting on a bit and doesn’t hear so well, or their attention is split between me, their sewing machine, the television and what sounds like a shedful of kids running amok.

But whatever.  What follows only works for the common domestic Singer machines produced in the UK between around 1900 and the mid-1960’s, and it only enables you to identify the basic type.  If you need to know whether the article in question is a 15-88 or a 15-91, for example, this is not going to help you one bit.  But if you want to know if what they’re selling is a 127 or a 201, or even if you just want to know what Grandmother’s old Singer is, stick with this and with any luck you’ll soon be able to tell.

The person on the other end of the phone needs to be looking at the machine in question as if they’re using it, that is to say with the big wheel end to their right and the end with the needle to their left and no, that’s not patronising.  Always remember that whoever’s looking at it might be completely clueless!  Besides, check out a few snaps of sewing machines for sale and be amazed by how many have been photographed just like that picture above.  So, here we go – but first Another Warning …

You cannot identify a machine by what it says on the cover of its instruction book

Even when the owner swears blind it’s the original one which came with the machine when Mum bought it off Auntie Marjorie in 1953.  I don’t know how anybody’s supposed to actually know stuff like that, but I do know that you quite often find that the owner of a 27 or whatever is totally convinced it’s a 99 simply because there’s a 99 instruction book in the compartment in the base.  Anyhow, here we go …

1.  If you look at the vertical column of the machine, just above the bed (the flat metal base), there’s a round-ish metal Singer badge.   Is there a small rectangular metal plate with two or three numbers and one letter on it just below that badge?  If there is, the number on that plate is the model number and your problem is solved.  If there isn’t, read on.

2.  If the tension adjustment knob (the one with those discs and the springy thing behind it) is on the metal plate on the very end of the machine and it faces left, the machine is a Model 15.  If however the tension adjustment knob is mounted straight onto the black metal of the machine and faces the user, it isn’t a 15 so we need to dig a bit deeper.

3.  It will either be an early machine of the “vibrating shuttle” type which takes a long thin bobbin, or a later machine which takes a round bobbin, so look at the left-hand side of the machine bed.  If it has a small round plate under the needle and two rectangular plates which run from front to back and meet up in the middle, it’s a vibrating shuttle machine.  If instead it has a D-shaped plate under where the needle is and a more-or-less square chromed plate at the left-hand end of the bed, it’s a round-bobbin machine.

4.  If you’ve established that it’s a vibrating shuttle machine, measure how long the bed is.  If it’s getting on for 15 inches, you have either a 27 or a 127.  If it’s nearer to 12 inches, you have a 28 or a 128.

5.  If the bobbin winder thingy on the right is about 2 inches above the bed, it’s either a 27 or a 28.  If the bobbin winder’s higher up, roughly in line with the middle of the handwheel, it’s probably a 127 or a 128.  So for example a long bed machine with a low bobbin winder is a 27, and a short bed machine with a high bobbin winder is a 128.  OK?

(The bobbin winder position isn’t conclusive, simply because there were some transitional models made and some 27’s and 28’s have had their low-level winders replaced by a “high-level” one at some point in their life.  However, if the machine’s got the higher-up bobbin winder and there’s a round metal button on the shuttle carrier which ejects the shuttle when you press it, you almost certainly have either a 127 or a 128.)

6.  That takes care of the vibrating-shuttle machines.  Moving on now to the later round-bobbin machines, if it looks “old fashioned”, it’s all metal, it’s black and it’s not a 15, it’s almost certainly going to be a 66, a 99 or a 201.  Does the spool pin on top of the machine upon which you plonk your reel of thread go into a chromed steel plate about 2 inches long with rounded ends?  If so, it’s a 201.  Specifically, it’s what’s referred to as either a 201 Mk1 or an “early type” 201.

7.  If the machine is black and there’s no chromed plate under the spool pin, is the bed of the machine about 12 inches long?  If so, it’s a 99, which is perhaps the vintage machine most commonly seen nowadays still in reasonable condition.

8.  If the bed’s about 12 inches long but the machine is beige/brown and the oval Singer badge is on the same rectangular metal plate as the stitch length adjustment lever, it’s either a 185 which is OK because that’s basically a tarted-up 99, or it’s a later 275/285 which is basically naff.  The quick way to tell them apart is that if both the stitch length adjuster knob and the lever which raises the presser foot are plastic, it’s a horrible 275/285.

9.  If the bed’s about 15 inches long, there’s no chromed plate under the spool pin on top of the machine and there’s no small plate with a model number on below the metal Singer badge, you have a 66.  That’s the big sister of the 99.

10.  If the machine looks fairly modern, the top of it’s more or less flat, there’s no chromed metal plate with rounded ends under the spool pin but it still says “201K” under the Singer badge, it’s the later type 201 which is usually referred to as the Mk2.

If you’re still scratching your head, odds on it’s a later machine or an industrial, or possibly a 19th Century one.  Most of those will be outside our territory, but by all means send us an email at sidandelsie @ without those spaces if you’re stuck and we’ll see if we can help you solve the mystery.

Singer 66 and Singer 99 slide plate – how to remove and replace it


The slide plate is the chromed steel plate which slides open to reveal the bobbin in its carrier.  Some folk call it the bobbin plate but it’s not – it’s the slide plate, and judging by the number of vintage Singers out there without one, a lot of people force it off, can’t get it back on, and lose it.  Here’s how not to do the same thing yourself.

For starters, let’s see how to remove it, and in the process, discover why you can’t (or at least shouldn’t be able to) slide it right off …

Picture of Singer 99K slide plate partly open

There’s the slide plate slid open a bit, in the same way that you’d slide it open to change your bobbin.  To take the slide plate off, you need first of all to turn the machine’s handwheel towards you until the needle is at its highest point. Then, lift the end of the plate which is nearest the needle up a bit (like 3mm or 1/8th inch) against the pressure of a spring which you can’t see.  This works best if you only open the slide plate 1cm or so like in that picture, but the main point to watch is that you don’t pull it up any higher than you see in the picture below.  All you’re aiming to do is slide the plate over the other one.

Picture of Singer 99K Slide plate raised for removal

There’s actually a bit of Photoshoppery in the picture above because in reality, the plate will only stay like that with your finger holding it up.  Anyhow, it’s this next stage which sounds a bit of a faff (or if you’re German, a pfaff) but it isn’t really.  Actually doing it is not complicated at all.

Having lifted the end of the plate up a bit, you now need to keep it raised while with your other hand you push the plate towards the needle.  What you want is for the slide plate to ride up, first over the other plate (the needle plate), then as you keep pushing it along, over the first feed dog it comes to, like this …

Picture of Singer 99 slide plate slid forward onto feed dog

While you have the plate in that position,  the other end of it will look just like in the picture below.

Picture of Singer 99K slide plate and retention spring

And there you finally see what holds the slide plate in!  Yep, it’s that double-ended spring.  See how the two grooves in the underneath of the slide plate fit over the ends of the spring?  No?  OK then, just for you …

End view of Slide plate of Singer 99K and spring

Now you’ve seen that and you understand how it fits in, it won’t come as any surprise at all to find that if you push the slide plate just another 3mm or so towards the needle, the back end of it clears the spring …

Picture of Singer 99 slide plate removal

Et voilà – you’ve successfully removed the slide plate of a Singer 99 (or indeed a 66 ‘cos it’s just the same)!

Picture of bobbin area of Singer 99K with slide plate removed

And at this point I should have taken another snap to illustrate why when you slide open the slide plate normally, you can’t slide if off the end of the machine.  But I forgot to.  No biggie though – if you turn your slide plate over, you’ll see the reason.  That’s right – those grooves which fit over the ends of the spring don’t go all the way along the underneath of the plate, which is why you have to take it off the other way like you just did.

Replacing the slide plate is easy.  Drop it in place (the right way round) with the end nearest the needle over the feed dogs, and line up the grooves in the other end with the ends of the spring, like this …

Picture of Singer 99 slide plate replacement

then wiggle it over the spring ends like this …

Photo of Singer 66 or 99 slide plate replacement

and then keep pushing towards the end of the machine until it drops into place.  Job done!

Finally, a Dire Warning.  Here’s a picture of the magic spring with that arm thingy swung out of the way so you can clearly see the screw which holds it in place …

Picture of Singer 66 and 99 slide plate spring retaining screw

Judging by the size of that screw head, you would think that it’s on the end of a fairly normal kind of a screw.  But it is not.  Oh no.  Not at all.  That screw is a really skinny little thing, which is very easily snapped off by the over-enthusiastic application of a screwdriver.  When it snaps, it can be a real PITA to extract in order to replace it so that the spring is held in place and your slide plate will stay put.

If that spring is loose on your machine, take it very easy indeed when tightening that screw …

Vintage Singer 99 handcrank – times two!


On Saturday I bought two more machines – a 99K handcrank from a lady in a bungalow in Kent, and a 99K handcrank from a lady in a bungalow in Surrey.

Both machines turned out to be from the same production run of 35,000 Model 99’s, which was commissioned at the Kilbowie factory in Scotland in June 1938.

I wonder what the odds are on me picking up two machines from that one batch on the same day 73 years later,  and then finding that out of 35,000 identical machines numbered from 854677 to 889676, we have two here with serial numbers which are only 197 apart …

Cabinets and treadle bases for vintage Singer sewing machines


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.

Catalogue picture of vintage Singer treadle machine

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.

That “K” suffix


Just so you know, the difference between a Singer 66 and a Singer 66K is the same as the difference between a 99 and a 99K, or indeed a 201 and a 201K i.e. nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.

There is no difference at all.  All that “K” suffix does is tell you that the machine was made in Singer’s Kilbowie factory in Clydebank, Scotland.

At one time, Singer had factories all over the planet making basically the same models, so depending on where it was made, your Singer Model 15, for example, could be a 15K (Kilbowie), or a 15E (New Jersey), a 15A (South Carolina), a 15SJ (Quebec) or perhaps even a 15P (Podolsk, Russia).  And even if you had one of each of those, you still wouldn’t have a full set.

What there is a difference between is machines with different numbers after that suffix.  Those numbers tell you what the variant is, for example a 201K1 is a natural-born treadle machine, whereas a 201K3 is a portable (or more accurately where the 201 is concerned “portable”) electric.

So there you go.  The “K” just means it’s a home-grown Singer.

Get into model numbers any deeper than that and you’re entering anorak territory …

Vintage Singer sewing machines for sale


Just by way of an update for you, I’ve added another Model 99 portable to the “Singers for sale” page today.  This one’s a late type electric portable, so if you’re after a Singer 99 we can now offer you a choice of hand-crank or electric!  Also on the same page is a gorgeous hand-crank Singer 66 portable, complete with original bentwood case in very nice condition indeed.

There’s at least one more Singer Model 99 in the pipeline to add to our stock of vintage hand-crank sewing machines for sale, and in case you’re wondering, the rather laboured wording of this post is intended to appeal to the great god Google …