“ Brand: Singer „
Ah, memories. I can still remember being excited when my grandmother came to live with us for nearly a year when I was six years old. She brought a suitcase full of clothes and a small sewing machine cabinet. Inside it was the first vintage sewing machine I had ever clapped eyes on, my previous youthful experience being limited to the modern marvels in the Singer store window at the mall, and the new wonders owned by friends' mothers.It was a thing of beauty to me, with its sleek lines and shiny black finish. The gold filigree decals looked elegant, and the foot treadle intriguing. I am not certain to this day whatever happened to Granny Sara's machine, but I know the sight of her sat at the machine sewing new dresses for me to wear to school will stay with me forever.
It was this image that reared its head when I first became a mother. Singer had fallen to the wayside after making several bad business decisions and getting sold to Viking Husqvarna, with Singer Sewing Centers disappearing from the town centres. No smaller dealers sprang up to take their place, and so it was when I first went to buy my first machine, the only place I could find that sold them retail was Wal mart. I used my little brother machine happily, and was sad to have to leave it behind when the move to the UK happened, so when I came to expect our daughter, I just KNEW I had to have another sewing machine. By now, we had discovered the joys of the Internet, especially the shopping aspect. eBay was still rather exciting and mostly full of stuff you couldn't really find anywhere else, so once convinced, hubby went abrowsing.
His first offering to me was a Singer Japanese clone of a 15. It worked okay, but it clattered a lot and the stitches were not as nice as they could be despite servicing and various adjustments. I made the fateful remark to him one evening whilst sewing, that it, and my beloved Brother machine, simply failed to somehow recreate that subtle feeling I got as a child watching my gran sew at that old black Singer, and the stitches on neither machine quite up to its par either. Not to say my Brother was terrible, because it wasn't, but the difference was most definitely there.
After sharing the story of that summer and fall of my childhood, he came to a decision, and a couple of months later surprised me with another eBay find he had acquired. It was a Singer 66 in a parlor cabinet, and it was a treadle. The treadle itself needed some repair work though it was still usable, and indeed, been in use right up to being sold. Not wanting to do any further damage, however, he fitted a genuine (well checked over) 1940's black Singer motor onto it so that I could use this beauty until we could find out more about treadles and locate the right parts to restore her full function.
One of the first things we did was look up information online about the Singer model 66. We luckily knew the model number, as the original manual was there with the machine, as well as a plethora of attachments. We also found out from the Internet that the model 66 had been in production since 1900, and finally finished in the 1950's. It was available as a hand crank, a treadle, and an electric machine, with worldwide distribution. The serial number on our machine we were able to look up on Singer's own US website, which told us the approximate date of manufacture and that it was made in Kilbowie, Scotland. If you don't have your model number, that serial number on the little plate on the top bed of the machine will also reveal that when looked up.
The machine is a full sized one and as it is made of cast iron, quite heavy, so best used in a table. Many of the tables serve a dual function as household furniture, so its not as awkward space wise as it may sound. It is a lockstitch, or straight stitch only machine, so it cannot make zigzag stitches on its own. Luckily, Singer thought to sell various attachments and two of them over came this limitation, the zigzagger which allowed for various zigzag stitches including some that are purely decorative, and the buttonholer. These work by the clever use of cams which turn like clockwork and move the fabric to its desired location.The very sturdiness of the machine make it a veritable workhorse, able to sew the finest organdie baby gowns as well as through leather and canvas.
Its lack of electronics and use of simple attachments makes this a very easy machine to learn to sew on, and while I had dabbled with my Brother, I found I truly progressed in leaps and bounds with this machine. The attachments that the machine did not come with, I found easily also thanks to eBay, and all are very easy to use. Admittedly, it does not race as super fast as some of the newer machines, though it can go quite fast, but its the slower speeds which interested me the most. This machine was just as accurate and neat and un prone to thread snarling on go slow as it was at a faster, even speed. The machine purrs rather than clacks, and its actually therefore quite relaxing to work with. Likewise, the more experienced I got, the more I found I could get out of the machine. Freehand embroidery, quilting, you name it. No need for memorising steps to switch gears, turn knobs, or anything else. Simply sit down, and sew. If its a specialty task, insert the right sort of needle, screw on the appropriate foot, and away you go.
Being a vintage machine, occasionally you meet sellers who think they have found a gold mine. Walk away! These are so common, sewing machine places are still (oh horrors!) smashing them up when they get dumped as unwanted once people find they are not the antique find of the century and won't make them rich .Indeed, many of these even pop up on Freecycle, so its well worth a trawl there if in the market for a simple, easy to use machine. Just be aware that earliest models featured back clamping feet, and not ones that fit on the side as usual, so you might have to hunt harder for attachments in that case. All take the very common class 66 bobbin and standard 15 x 1 machine needles.
Remember I said my husband put on a motor? The drive belts on these machines are external, so to motorise one, all you need to do is place an external motor on it along with the belt that goes on to the motor. It as literally a less than 10 minute job. Likewise, you can remove an unwanted motor, and fit an electric version to a treadle stand, looping a treadle belt over the belt drive area by the hand wheel, OR attach an after market hand crank to one. Many people actually prefer the treadling as it provides exercise and uses no elctricity.You can find out more about performing a motorectomy and converting one to people power, or information on repairing the existing treadle mechanism, at www.treadleon.net.
Taking care of the machine is simple. The manual will show you where to place drops of sewing machine oil to keep it running smoothly, and a lint brush will clean out any lint your thread may leave behind as it is pulled through the bobbin case. Other than that, just gently dust it once in a while, and if you need to clean it, wipe it down gently with washing up liquid, followed by some Pledge type furniture spray. Just be careful to not rub or scrub, as the decals will wear off! If the decals are the worse for wear, don't panic. You can actually order repro ones quite cheaply, along with details on how to reseal the finsih if need be. The machines are very popular even today, so its easy and not that expensive to keep it as gorgeous tomorrow as it was 50 or more years ago. If your find doesn't have a manual, you can download one free from the Singer Company's US site, and I would recommend you do so in order to get the most out your machine.
Short name: Singer 66