Tag Archives: vintage Singer brochures

Another vintage Singer brochure!


OK, this is the last of the brochures which Syd was kind enough to leave with me for scanning, and once again it’s impossible to date it accurately.  My money’s on sometime between 1935 and 1940, but whatever …


What a delight it is to imagine that anybody might really say, by way of everyday conversation, that something “is a real enjoyment”!  Be that as it may, that front cover illustration immediately reminded me of Mrs De Vries, the nosey old biddy who lived next door for much of my early childhood.   She it was whose first words upon being invited into the house for her weekly gossip would invariably be “I won’t take my coat off, I’m not stopping”, and who would still be wearing it (and her hat) an hour or more later after the usual two cups of tea and the slice of stale shop cake that Grandmother always provided for visitors.

She it was too who recklessly walked out of her front garden gate one fine summer morning long ago without checking whether four-year-old me was hurtling towards her downhill at great speed upon his tricycle.  I still blame her for my first broken arm, and have never really got over the fact that the scant sympathy I was getting from Grandmother immediately turned into a major bollocking when I explained how it was all Mrs De Vries’ fault.  But I digress.


I reckon it’s stretching it a bit to describe the D-shaped swing-out thingy on the inside of the left-hand door of a 51 Cabinet as a “commodious drawer”, but it’s certainly handy and we’re big fans of this cabinet here.  The veneer on the front of some of them is really lovely, the treadle mechanism works a treat, it’s a doddle to raise and lower the head, and it’s easy to fit castors to one so you can move it about the place, should you wish.


I’m still not sure when they changed over from cast iron to wooden sides on the domestic tables, but in this brochure we see the cabinet table described as a “new stand with wooden sides”.  And it’s never occurred to me before, but  I wonder why Elsie’s is the only 201 we’ve ever seen in a Cabinet Table.  And why have we never seen a 15 in a 51?


Apparently “Singer Machines on this type of cabinet work form a prominent feature in thousands of homes”.  So I wonder why they’re decidedly uncommon in England now.  Neither of us is certain that we’ve ever seen one!


I’ve never seen a fireplace that close to a wall either, but never mind.  This No.40 Table’s a bit of a rare bird nowadays too, which may well be down to its design being something of an acquired taste to 21st century housewives ( if it’s still permissible to use the term).


And here we have the 201K2 and 201K3 Portable Electrics.  Portable in the sense that it’s not built into in a cabinet maybe, but it might surprise folks used to modern machines to learn that the 201K3 Portable in its bentwood case on the floor behind me now weighs in at 19.1Kg.  That’s why one of the very first things you learn with a 201 portable is to move the thing about as little as possible!

Incidentally, the difference between a 201K2 and a 201K3 is that the former has the direct-drive (so-called “potted”) motor while the latter has the usual bolt-on motor with the pulley and the belt.  And for what it’s worth, I do appreciate just how wonderful the all-gear drive is, but I wouldn’t buy a K2 on the grounds that if the motor packs up, you have a problem.  Replacement motors of the usual bolt-on type for a K3 are all over the place whether used, reconditioned or new equivalent, but good 240 volt replacement “potted” motors are like the proverbial.


“This, the lightest of the Lock-Stitch Hand Machines …” still weighs 14.5Kg in its natty fake snake/crocodile skin suitcase, but of course Singer didn’t tell you that in the brochure!  Interesting that at this period the portables were available in your choice of suitcase-type or bentwood case.


Oh dear, that mirror over the fireplace is way off-centre!  But who cares when by simply fitting a Singer Motor to the machine, one can do “more and better work without fatigue”?  And the friendly chap from the local Singer shop will be delighted to pop round and demonstrate at your convenience too.  I’m sure he won’t say anything about the mirror.


And here’s another rare bird in the UK – the one-drawer drop-leaf table with the bentwood cover and the bigger-diameter treadle wheel for faster sewing.  Again, this is one we’ve never actually encountered in the wild.

scan051And finally, the usual page explaining why you should not be discouraged by the trimming and finishing required to finish your new frock, when you can buy a box of tricks like this and instead “be thrilled with the dainty sewing you can do” with their help.  Quite.

Now, we may not know when this brochure was picked up, but we do know from where …


Yep, from the local Singer shop at 60 High Street, Tunbridge Wells, which just happens to be less than 10 miles away from where I’m sitting.   60 High Street is the right-hand half of what is now a double-fronted furniture shop …

60 High Street

We’re also familiar with The Singer Building in City Road, London, as illustrated on that page above.  And even though most of it’s now a Travelodge (of all things!) it still looks much  the same as when it was built …


If you’re ever in that neck of the woods, it’s on City Road almost opposite the Honorable Artillery Company’s barracks, and you can find it on Google Maps by using the UK postcode EC1Y 1AG.


It looks like the Singer Building did well to survive the last unpleasantness intact – it’s smack bang in the middle of the blue circle I’ve drawn on this map of a small part of London town, and according to a rather remarkable new website called Bomb Sight, those red dots are the bombs which were recorded as having been dropped on that area during the London Blitz of 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941.

And that’s it for this week, folks, except to send greetings from Elsie and me to anyone else who will be celebrating Yule later today.

Have a good weekend!

A vintage Singer 201K leaflet



This is another of Syd’s leaflets which he kindly let me scan a week or two ago, and it’s another one which we hadn’t seen before.  I’ve no idea of its exact date, but a pound to a penny says it’s the second half of the 1930’s.

201_bAt top right of the centre pages we see the stitch length regulating lever in its vertical slot, and to its left the thumbscrew which invariably baffles folk who are new to the 201 and haven’t read the book of words.  The text below that picture explains the mystery …

Perfect stitches of a desired length are made either forward or backward, by movement of the lever “B”.  The figures alongside the slot indicate the number of stitches per inch that the machine will make.  When the top of the lever is moved level with any one of the  figures shown, and the screw “A” is raised an tightened, the machine makes the length of stitch wished for in a forward.  By moving the lever up, as far as it will go, the same size stitch is made backward.

Or, translated for the benefit of readers not used to Singer’s idiosyncratic way of explaining things …

Lever “B” sets the stitch length.  As shown it’s set for the longest stitch, and for normal forward stitching.  As you move the lever upwards in the slot, the stitch length gets shorter and shorter until the lever’s level with that line over the numbers.  At that point, the stitch length is zero, so the work doesn’t get fed under the presser foot.  Keep moving the lever up and you’re in reverse, with the stitch length gradually getting longer.  When the lever’s at the top of the slot, the stitch length is the same as it was when the lever was at the bottom of the slot, but you’re sewing backwards.

The thumbscrew and that curved slot is the clever bit.  Let’s say we want to sew roughly 12 stitches per inch.  We move lever “B” upwards until the top of it’s level with the “12” marking, and off we go.  If we’re happy with that length of stitch, we can then slacken the thumbscrew “A”, move it up that curved slot as far as it’ll go, which won’t be very far, and then tighten it.

Having done that, if we then move lever “B” upwards, we find that it won’t go all the way up to the top of the slot.  It now stops at “12”.  That’s because by moving the thumbscrew like we did, we’ve set the stitch length the same in both forward and reverse.

And that’s all there is to it – the thumbscrew is the means whereby you can set it so that when you want to back-tack or whatever, you just pull lever “B” up as far as it’ll go, and continue sewing with the same length stitch but in reverse!


Top picture on the back page explains feed dog drop, but it’s the wording immediately below the bottom picture that I think is lovely and so very much of its time …

View of the Machine head illustrating its particularly chaste ornamentation

Next week we’ll probably be looking at the third and final one of Syd’s brochures, plus what may or may not be some fascinating facts about the Singer building in London town and what used to be the Singer shop in downtown Tunbridge Wells, whence came this very leaflet we’ve just been looking at.


Vintage Singer UK brochure featuring her with the frock – part two


OK, here’s the rest of that wonderful Singer brochure featuring Ann Droid and her stripey frock, and thanks to Alison we now know that this was almost certainly published in 1951.  Our copy’s somewhat faded in places 60 years on, which is why these scans aren’t all that brilliant …

“Do you prefer cabinetwork of contemporary design?” indeed!  As far as we’re concerned, the best thing about these Cabinets, which we always thought were Tables, is the fact that the legs are readily detachable.  That’s a real boon when the machine you just brought home is in one of these things and you can’t quite bring yourself to take the table down to the dump recycling centre once you’ve taken the head out of it, so the only place left for it is in the attic alongside the other two.

Having said that, Elsie’s determined to get one of them down from the roof soon and take it with us next time we do a boot sale – unless of course by publishing this post I manage to whip up a demand for them that we’ll be pleased to meet.  Which I very much doubt, but I live in hope.

Be that as it may, we’ve now got to the middle of the brochure, and because of the way the centre pages are laid out as a double page spread, it just doesn’t work scanned as two separate pages.  I’ve had to link to it here so off you go now for a squint at that.

As you can see there, we’ve moved onto treadle machines, and the choice of head is simple – would Madam prefer a 15 or a 201?  According to the printed text, the choice of base was equally straightforward – pick one of three variants of the “modern” (i.e. wooden legs) treadle base – 3-drawer, 2-drawer or 1-drawer.

So far so good.  However, the notes added by the salesman (with his fountain pen, of course) muddy the waters somewhat.  Judging by his sketch, he seems to have been offering a 7-drawer with wooden legs, to which his note “NEW £46” seems to refer, and that’s interesting because neither Elsie nor I can recall ever seeing such a thing.  He’s also made a note of a “drop head with iron stand” at £20, which must surely have been old stock because the printed text actually states that the iron legs “have been superceded” by the wooden ones.

His note at the bottom right-hand says “Dressmakers model table top with cover £15”, and I’m not sure what to make of that because “Dressmaker” in this context was usually Singer staff talk for a 201.  Even more puzzling, the top right-hand note says “modern style folding head with 7 drawers £28”, which would seem to relate to that base with the four extra drawers drawn in.  But if it does, what’s with that “NEW £46” above it?

If anybody can shed any light on those notes and/or the pricing, do please let us know, but before we leave the treadles I’ll just clear up one thing.  There was never a 99 treadle.  If you do see one, it’s not kosher.  It’s a DIY job.

OK … now we come to another double page spread, but this one does work as two halves …

Interesting that one of these “full size machines” is the 99K, which is of course a three-quarter size machine!  And how about the claim that they “can be easily carried from room to room”?  A hand-cranked 99 in its case weighs 14.5kg (32lb) and an electric 201’s heavier still at 20.5kg (45lb), which strikes me as a fair old weight for anyone to easily carry from room to room.

And look, there’s that “Brown Mission” again!  If that’s not a daft name for the colour of a wood finish, I don’t know what is.  And was the suitcase-type case really available in grey leather cloth?   If it was, did it look as uninspiring as it sounds?

Whatever, note that the text on the page above says “Normally, these machines are all-electric, fitted with the famous Singer electric motor, Singerlight and Foot Control”, yet the 201 illustrated is a knee-lever machine!

Personally I’m convinced that this brochure is 1951, but here’s your proof that it’s definitely pre-1954.  If it was any later, Stripey would be wanting to show you her new 222, not the 221 shown here.  And at this point I’d better explain for those of you who aren’t Featherweight Fans (or even Pheatherweight Phans) that a Featherweight is either a 221 or a 222.

The 221 was introduced in the mid-1930’s, and Singer eventually made over 1,000,000 of the things.  Then in 1954 they brought out the 222, which is just a 221 with a free-arm and feed dog drop, but they only made 100,000 or so of those, which is presumably why they’re sometimes advertised as “rare”.

Incidentally, many of its devotees think the 222 was the first domestic machine with a free-arm, but they are wrong.  The Elna Grasshopper was the first, by a good 10 years.  But I digress.

I just love the suggestion that a 221 is “easily carried wherever you go – from room to room – on a long trip – or just for an afternoon’s sewing at a friend’s house.”  An afternoon’s sewing at a friend’s house?  Who is the woman kidding?  Or is that code for “so easy to cart about with you to show off to your friends and make them really jealous”?  Whatever, Featherweights are undoubtedly cute and they certainly have a huge following with quilters in the States, but for our money they’re over-rated.  There.  I said it.

Lovely use of Proper English there, and interesting to think that 60 years ago that wouldn’t have been thought in the least patronising.  Or boring.  Back then, Singer were still on top of their game.  They were the absolute masters at marketing domestic sewing machines, and there’s not the slightest hint anywhere in this brochure of the rot which was soon to set in

Oh look – she’s doing that sincere expression again, bless her.

Now, there’s a couple of matters arising from those pictures of the six attachments that were supplied with new machines in 1951 (or thereabouts).  One is that, surprisingly, by this time the ruffler was not one of the standard attachments.  And the other is the quilter.  I really do wish they’d called it what it is i.e. a quilting guide.  So many people seem to think that “the quilter” is some awesome attachment which does something really clever, when all it actually does is allow you, within certain limits, to sew parallel to and at a fixed distance from the last line of stitching in your quilt.

And finally we turn to the outside back cover …

with its cutaway of Mission Control.  Which raises an interesting question – when did Singer shops in the UK finally stop offering the dressmaking courses, and for that matter the finishing service?  If you happen to know, we’d love to hear from you.

Going off at a tangent now, when I first saw Stripey’s frock it immediately reminded me of a silly idea that Kodak UK came up with in the mid-1960’s. They thought it would be fun (or whatever) to have the women who worked in the shops which shifted the most Kodak films wearing very loud blue and white stripey frocks with a yellow Kodak badge on the left breast during the summer film-buying season.

At the time, my mother was one of those women, and I have this vivid recollection of her coming home from work one day with this large brown paper parcel in the wicker basket on the front of her bike.  She was not happy.  It was very nice of Kodak to give her two cloth badges, a pattern and more than enough material for two dresses, but if nothing else, when did they suppose she was going to find the time to make them?

If I remember rightly, she eventually got a neighbour to knock one up, tried it on, decided she wasn’t going to look like a deckchair for Kodak or anyone else, and that was the end of that …

“I am a typical Singer girl”


No you’re not, dear.  You’re Ann Droid, a figment of somebody’s fevered imagination, and you freak me out with your weird expressions, your wooden poses and your eyebrows.  Can’t say I’m a big fan of the frock either, but never mind.

Unfortunately we can’t date this brochure with any accuracy, but I think you’ll agree it has to be 1950’s.  Early 1960’s at the very latest?  Whatever, that very much of-its-time earnest expression coupled with the very properly-worded question on the cover sets the tone for the entire contents, as we shall see …

Good old-fashioned proper English, but obviously written by a chap who always wore his jacket in the office and still wore shirts with long tails and a separate collar.  Arm-bands too, probably.  Horn-rimmed glasses for sure, and always addressed as Mister Jones.   Same seat on the bus into the office every morning, and not much longer to go before his gold watch and his pension.

But wait – what’s that snappy slogan going on there at the end of that block of text?  “Where there’s sewing there’s SINGER and where there’s SINGER there’s service” indeed.  Wow.  Personally I think they should have kicked that idea round the block a few more times before going firm on it, but at least they made the effort to get a bit lively.

And finally we get down to the nitty-gritty.  We learn that the 99K is “the smaller type of domestic machine” and has “proved ideal for normal sewing requirements”.  Gosh, and to think that 50 or 60 years later the very same 99K is regularly touted on Ebay as a “heavy duty semi-industrial” machine.  Maybe they improved with age?

Interesting that the 15K’s “designed for constant hard work in the home … or in the dressmaker’s workroom”, but the best they can say about the 201, which is nowadays considered to be the real workhorse, is that it does tricks by way of reverse and drop feed.

Ooooh look!  The Queen Anne table, as often seen in those Eastbourne living rooms with the the patterned carpet, the Dralon three-piece suite with matching pouffe, the Bontempi organ in the corner and the framed print of Tretchikoff’s “The Chinese Girl” still on the wall above the electric coal-effect fire.

I love the bit about it being “a pleasing piece of furniture with many other uses” when the machine’s folded down and the top closed.  Beyond standing a couple of framed snaps of the grandchildren and/or an arrangement of dried flowers upon it, I wonder what those “many other uses” actually amounted to.

But now we’re talking!  The good old Enclosed Cabinet No.51, which I hadn’t realised was actually available in four finishes, one of which was “Brown Mission”.  Don’t ask us.  We haven’t a clue either.

Whatever the veneer, we like the 51 we do, because it’s eminently practical, it doesn’t take up much space, the treadle action’s nice on it, and it was available as a Convertible on which you can swop between treadle power and electric as the fancy takes you.

Elsie’s just read that last bit over my shoulder and says I shouldn’t big up the 51 cabinet any more in case people think I’m only saying how good it is because we have three spare ones in the house at present and wouldn’t mind seeing the back of a couple of them, but that’s not the case at all.  We really do like them.


More deathless prose from Mister Jones and more of Ann Droid and her stripey frock to come when we do the remaining pages …

Singer UK brochure and price list 1940


Or if not actually 1940, it’s certainly thereabouts.  This comes courtesy of Colette, who very kindly scanned the booklet her Mum picked up from the Singer shop in downtown Pinner when shopping for her new sewing machine …

Singer Enclosed Cabinet no.51

I’m not sure when the No.51 Cabinet was introduced, but it certainly wasn’t long before the start of the 1939-45 war.  Whenever, we like it lots because it’s both compact and very practical, and we usually have at least one of these in good condition listed on the Singers for sale page.  It takes any full-size vintage Singer, the treadle mechanism works a treat, and it can be supplied as it could when new with the option to switch easily from treadle to electric power as the fancy (or the power cut) takes you.

Singer drop-head cabinet table with wooden sides

We often have one of these available too!  This is the standard treadle base which replaced the ornate cast-iron one, and it was available with either three or five drawers.  If it looks to you more like two drawers or four, that’s because Singer always counted the wide central tilt-to-open bit which runs across the front between the side drawers as a drawer.  Which I guess it is, kind of.

Singer One-drawer Drop-leaf table with Cover

I don’t know quite how popular the one drawer table with the bentwood cover was, but you don’t see many of them nowadays.  I could see the point if you could drop your portable into that table top, faff about a bit and start treadling, but you couldn’t, so maybe the idea was to use up a vast stock of bentwood case tops prior to the changeover to suitcase-type cases?

Singer No 40 table

The No.40’s not at all common nowadays, though you do see them from time to time – often in the sort of rooms which still have a dusky pink Dralon sofa, a Bontempi organ and a print of Tretchikoff’s “Blue Lady” on the wall.  What’s far more common is the later, modern version – particularly the one which takes a 99 rather than a full-size machine.

Singer 201K2 and 201K3

This is one of the many things which puzzle me about vintage Singers – why did they run the 201K2 (potted motor) alongside the 201K3 (belt-drive motor)?  I’d love to know what the sales pitch was!  Note that these electrics are knee-levers, which apparently sold well for years despite the somewhat agricultural appearance of the knee-lever itself.

Singer 99K

Here’s the old faithful 99, which they were still making the best part of 20 years after this brochure was printed.  Note that it’s no longer in a  bentwood case, and that you could rent one or have one on free trial.

Have you noticed how in those days you always sewed with your right leg crossed over your left?

Singer add-on electric motor and foot pedal

“Any Singer salesman will gladly demonstrate this motor in your own home on your own machine if you will call or write to the local Singer shop.”  I’ll bet – and no doubt talk you into part-exchanging your old 27 for a nice new 201 while he’s at it.

Note that apparently you don’t cross your legs whilst fitting a motor.

Singer 15K80 on "artisan" base

This is a rare bird nowadays – a 15K on what’s often referred to as the “artisan” treadle base.  This is the base with the bigger-diameter treadle wheel for faster sewing, which I think evolved into the one with the knee-lever presser-foot lift used for the 1200.  And you don’t see many of those either!

Singer attachments in godzilla tin

The standard attachments are shown in this brochure in the black crinkle-finish “godzilla” tin, which raises the question as to which machines were sold with them in the cardboard box instead?  I have no idea, but I do know that we can usually supply full sets in either.

Singer UK price list 1940

Now if this isn’t actually the 1940 price list, believe me it’s as good as.  By this time they’ve moved on from quoting “list price” and “net cash price” to the much less confusing “hire purchase price” and “cash price”, but still with the discount for early settlement.

It’s difficult to give present-day equivalent costs because it all depends on how you do the calculations, but if we take for example a bog-standard 66 in a 5-drawer cabinet table, that’s listed here at £18 13s 6d cash or for our younger readers £18.67.  If we go by the Retail Price Index, that’s £795 today, but if we use instead average wage values, it would cost you £2370.  Either way, it just goes to show that these things were never cheap – and that buying a good one now is a real bargain!