Antique Sewing Machines
June 10, 2013 posted by littlewhitecottage

How to thread your antique sewing machine…

At the weekend Hubbie took the boys to the local car boot whilst I had to stay at home on the sofa (foot op dictated it) and as usual the boys came back with new bits and bobs they’d haggled for and excitedly told me of the bargains they’d managed to get. Then, quietly, Hubbie came in with a wonderful new little sewing machine. Here she is….


I say ‘she’ out of respect to the many ladies that would have used her over the years.

She is a 1916, Singer 99k which is a 3/4 sized machine based on another Singer model, the 66k. Produced from 1911-1962 they were made to fill a need for a lighter, more portable machine that could be used on any table. The early machines had an adjustable stitch length knob that was turned but there weren’t any numbers to indicate which direction was shorter of longer and some of these knobs were a bit temperamental as Daphne’s (our sewing machine) is! Later 99k’s had a leaver with numbers and the last models had a lever with a separate number scale. The lever machines also had a reverse stitch function if you lift the lever fully to the top and past the scale. If you want to date your machine here is Singer’s own dating link to their website.

If you see a picture on an auction site and can’t be sure what machine you’re looking at as you can’t ‘see’ it’s a smaller machine, look at the gold Singer badge position; if it’s level or near the stitch length adjuster then it’s the larger 66k but if it’s under the stitch length adjuster (like Daphne, see above) then it’s the smaller 99k machine.

Once I’d got over the initial excitement I wanted to see if she worked. The wheel turned well and nothing caught so my next step was to thread her. Now I have another Singer, a 27k machine that I’ve not threaded as I was a little scared but Daphne seemed a friendly machine that wanted to be used so I looked on the internet and found this original manual  from the Singer website.

It was fairly easy to follow but I found some of the diagrams difficult to see as the greyness of the photocopy meant the pictures were quite grainy when you zoomed in. I looked again on the internet and found this fab video that show you how to thread your antique sewing machine which was brilliant. It’s very concise and you can pause it to follow each step precisely.

As there was thread in the bobbin already and I had 3 very excited little boys sat near me we just started sewing once the machine was threaded. To say she worked perfectly is an understatement! A fabulous little straight stitch that is the basis of many a sewing project. The stitch length adjuster doesn’t work but then I wasn’t really that surprised and, to be honest, this doesn’t take anything away from the machine.

Once we’d sewn a few straight lines I noticed the bobbin thread was quite dirty so I decided to change it to new thread but as I didn’t know how to do this I went back to the internet. The same lady who produced the ‘How to thread your machine’ video also produced a ‘How to load thread on your bobbin’ video and once again I followed this and managed to do it.

Once I’d sewn for a little while the boys were desperate to have a go so Henry turned the wheel whilst I held the fabric and he was so excited to see his straight stitch he even took his fabric with the stitching on to bed! Ollie wants to make me a purse and made a little pocket but then it was bed time so he needed to finish it another day. They were both so taken with Daphne that Henry even said ‘I love Daphne Mummy.’ I’m going to set up a little corner in my workroom with a little table and stool for the boys to come and use Daphne whenever they want to as she is safe for them to use – I teach older children to sew using the electric machines and they are perfectly fine but I would now highly recommend these older machine for children to start on. They sew a solid straight stitch, are much slower so there is time to make decisions and they won’t accidentally press the foot pedal and scare themselves with it. It’ll be great for hand eye coordination (which my boys need) and also working with just the one hand as the other is using the hand crank.

It goes without saying that it’s a machine so my boys love the idea of the process of sewing with it. My next step will be to devise some really simple projects that they can learn to use it and then they’ll be off. I would think after a while they’ll be fine with an electric sewing machine too and progress faster with it as they will have all the know how to cope with the faster speed and using 2 hands will be a revelation!

I’ll share any project I devise for the boys. I hope this blog has been useful to have all the information you need in one place.

(Here’s a first project to make with your children using your antique sewing machine)

1 Comment

  • Thank you so much for sharing this!! I just got a 99k singer machine from a thrift shop for $20! Its beautiful, the only thing that needs a little work is the table it sits in and the light. I love it and have already used it for multiple projects but if i hadn’t found your post I wouldn’t have even gotten it going! So thank you thank you for sharing this 🙂 Also, I love your blog name! I have a blog called Kitchen Table Art and I’d love it if you check it out sometime.

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