Sunday 11 March 2018

New sewing machine!

Well, new to me.

I’m just back from my annual trip to Somerset. Sadly the atrocious weather last weekend meant that I only managed to get down there in time to see the final show of the Majma dance festival, but I’ve still had a fun week, and made an exciting purchase.

Driving from the M5 to Glastonbury I passed several signs for an antiques fair at Shepton Mallet, taking place this weekend. Vintage Gal has posted about some of her fabulous finds at these fairs, so I was thrilled to discover that I could actually go to one.

There were only a few textile-related stalls, but I did still manage to find a couple of 1970s Style patterns, some vintage metal lace and two lots of hat veiling, and some lovely sparkly buttons.

Not exactly a wasted trip, then!

And then just as I was about to leave, on one of the outdoor stalls, looking a bit sorry for itself and getting damp in the rain, I found this.


It was the case which caught my attention; I saw vintage film footage of these being moulded at last year's Plywood exhibition at the V&A. When I opened the case I found that the machine already had both a needle and a bobbin in place, so to the bemusement of the seller I threaded it up with a spare bobbin, and tried sewing round the edge of my handkerchief! It worked, I’ve wanted a hand-cranked machine for a while, and it clearly needed someone to rescue it from damp and neglect. . .

More ooh!

It’s quite worn in places and is clearly older than my mum’s 1953 Singer: it is plainer, and the section for the bobbins etc. has a wooden lid instead of a metal one. I guessed at 1930s because not many were made in the 1940s - the Clydebank Singer factory mostly went over to war work. Armed with the serial number, I went online to investigate, and found this helpful site.

The all-important (and wonkily stamped) serial number

I was, quite simply, stunned. My 'new' machine was made in 1917! No wonder it looks a bit worse for wear. And it’s still in working order (although to be fair there’s not a lot to go wrong). Clearly Singer had never heard of the concept of built-in obsolescence.

Essentially it’s the same model as the 1953 version; which is useful as this one doesn’t have an instruction booklet.

Mum's (now my) machine in its case

There does seem to be a wealth of information about 99K Singers online though, so I can give it a thorough clean and tidy up. And then, of course, I want to make something with it.

Although the 99K was designed to be 'portable', this really just means 'not attached to a treadle mechanism'. One thing it is not, is light. Casually swinging the case while strolling along, à la Kate Winslet in The Dressmaker, is not going to happen!

Erm, no (image © Universal)

While writing this post I realised that I now own four sewing machines. Some people might regard this as excessive. I am not one of these people. I am just unreasonably excited!


  1. Thanks for the memory my Mum had a 1953 Singer with the green case I learnt how to sew on this one I think the tricky bits were mush easier with a hand machine

    1. You're welcome Jean. I learned to sew on Mum's Singer as well. It had been converted to electric, but that was far too fast for me at first. Initially I used the machine with a clothes peg clamped onto the wheel as a 'handle'!

  2. Oh no, I only realised the antiques fair was on midway through Sunday. It would've been lovely to see you. Well done for rescuing that beautiful Singer, what a find! I used to have one, which was probably from the 1930s, and one in its original table, but had to sell them when I was really broke. I will definitely replace the hand crank one at some point as its such a lovely thing to own. Enjoy yours! xx

    1. Thank you Cate. I'm really looking forward to making up one of my older patterns as it would have been done! xx

  3. Looking forward to hearing/reading the next instalment! And I'm so glad you mentioned the ease with which Kate Winslett saunters into town carrying a great piece of cast iron in a plywood box in one hand and a very full suitcase in the other. Oh - and a handbag.

    1. Thank you Kate. I certainly didn't carry this machine from the stall to the car park with anything like the same élan!

  4. Pretty sure that in that movie the sewing machine was not really in the case, just a prop cos I used to have an electric one and it was definitely a two hand job to pick up and carry!

    1. Quite. If that was a real machine then Kate Winslet must have muscles like Popeye!