Tag Archives: Singer Swiss Zigzagger

Vintage Singer “Stitch Patterns” and Swiss zigzagger cams – cont’d


Elsie ‘s been rummaging about in The Sewing Room again and has discovered some spare red cams for the big black zigzaggers.  Funnily enough, I had a rush of blood to the head and a bit of a tidy up of my desk yesterday, and I found a few more of them lurking down the side of the printer, so I’ve added them all to the “Accessories” page.  So, if you need any red “Stitch Patterns” to complete either the standard set or the same-as-the-white-ones set (Set No.2, part no. 161008), drop us an email and we’ll gladly see what we can do for you.

That set of 10 cams for the Swiss zigzagger with the snail shell (160991) is probably for sale too, but frankly we’re still trying to decide what we want to do with it.  We normally just see if we can remember what an item cost us, then add a modest profit to cover our time doing whatever it took to get it ready for sale, but sometimes the figure we come up with does leave us wondering.

This set of Swiss cams is a good example of where our difficulty lies.  Given that anything which supplements my state pension is most welcome, common sense says we should do the obvious and put it on Ebay.  The problem is, though, that Elsie and I don’t see the blog and the sales we make through it as a money-maker (which is probably as well, because it certainly isn’t), so if we put it on Ebay, one of our readers will probably miss out.  And we’d be happier if that didn’t happen.

So what to do?  Who knows, but while we’re still prevaricating, if you fancy a perfect set of nice shiny cams for your Swiss zigzagger, you could do a lot worse than make us an offer for this one.

Anyhow … talking of Ebay and Swiss zigzaggers, we’re much obliged to Alice for drawing our attention to three that sold recently on Ebay UK.    The first of those was a 160991 with a full set of 10 cams, a less-than-perfect snail shell, no instruction book and an 86663 feed cover plate (complete with clearly visible rust) instead of the correct one.

The second was a 160990 with its instruction book and the correct set of 5 cams, but its box was broken and it too had an 86663 cover plate, albeit one seemingly without the rust.  Lest you be wondering, the significance of the 86663 is that it’s the really common cover plate that was supplied with buttonholers like the 86662, and although it’ll work OK with the zigzagger, it won’t fit in its box!   Only the correct one will.  That’s why the Swiss zigzagger cover plate is unique to it.

The third example was what looked to be a very nice 160991 complete with good snail shell and all its cams.  This one didn’t have its instruction book, but it did have the right cover plate.

Now, what I found most interesting about those three Ebay listings was firstly that a seller’s happy to sell, and buyers are willing to buy, a Swiss zigzagger with a cover plate which won’t go in the box.  Next, neither Elsie nor I could confidently have said which of those three would go for the lowest and for the highest price.

And we certainly wouldn’t have predicted that they would sell for £100, £114 and £137.93 respectively …

The studio, buttonholers, a 201K, the harmonium. And logs.


picture of Singer 201K23 in beige/brown

Detail picture of Singer 201K23

Detail photo of Singer 201K23

Detail of Singer 201K23 stitch length regulator

Well, I finally finished the bathroom cupboard and between us we got it painted (magnolia – we’re not very adventurous where decorating’s concerned).  No sooner had the paint dried than I set up the studio i.e. put the board over the bath, spread out the white hotel tablecloth on it, plonked a sewing machine on top and started snapping away.

And when I came to open the files in Photoshop, I discovered that oh poo the new magnolia-coloured “wall” was now producing a colour cast.  Long story short, the studio has now moved into our bedroom.  The board and tablecloth which sat on the bath now sit on top of The Harmonium, as the later Singer drawing-room cabinet is referred to (‘cos we think it looks like one when the machine’s down and the top’s over), and as long as I time the picture-taking to avoid the direct sun which comes in around noon at this time of year, I have better light now as well as more room to move.

Anyhow, these ‘ere snaps fresh from the new studio are of a really nice 201K23 which we’ve now added to the “Singers for Sale” page, and I’m not saying anything more about this machine now lest I be inclined to go off on one about the way 201’s are hyped up on Ebay.  Having said that, though, I can’t help wondering how come an identical machine to this one seemingly in similar cosmetic condition but with a scruffy case lid has this very evening sold on Ebay for £170!

Whatever, we finally realised over the New Year that we do indeed have a surfeit of buttonholers (you can say that again -E), so I’ve just added a Singer 160506 (the one in the green plastic case) with extra templates, and before much longer I’ll be adding still more to the “Bits ‘n’ bobs” page.

There’s another Swiss zigzagger listed now too, by the way, and I must say you’d be hard pushed to find a better one either here or in the States.

Finally, having for the last two months been burning a load of timber we scrounged from a building site, last week we managed to clear enough space in one of our log sheds for a couple of loads of proper logs from our friendly neighbourhood log lady, and we finished stacking those this afternnon.

In case you ever need to know, I can now tell you with some authority that an average pickup load of mixed hardwood logs cut at 10″ and split consists of about 330 logs, which when stacked one row deep along a wall amounts to 33 square feet of logs, or a stacked volume of 0.7 cubic metre.  And round our neck of the woods, that’s very close to 25p a log, which I guess seems expensive – until you weigh up the advantages of heating by woodburning stove …

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