Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The search for Portability, two Singers 99K and 185J.

Another title for this post could be "portable is relative".  These two Singers are 3/4 sized machines, and while they are smaller and lighter than their full sized cousins, they are not lightweight.

While I love my treadle, and machines in cabinets for really diving into projects, sometimes I want to sew in a different location.  So I started hunting for a machine that I could move into the dining room, or take somewhere else and bring along a project.

I started reading about the 99 and 99K machines.  The K indicates it was made in the UK, in Scotland.  This is the 3/4 size of the Singer 66.  It takes the same low shank attachments, drop in type 66 bobbin and standard 15 x 1 bobbin.  There is so much information on these relatively common machines, that I won't repeat it here.  A google search will give you tons of info, and manuals are readily available too.

After reading about the 99 and 99K I started stalking auctions,  and soon bought one at a reasonable price on eBay.  It was a good deal because it came without a case or motor - but since I was planning on converting it to a hand cranked machine that was fine.  Here she is

I bought the lovely wood base from someone online.  Unfortunately this was a lesson in buyer beware as far as shipping, the machine was sent in a box with some bubble wrap and no heavier padding.  When it arrived one of the cast iron "feet" was broken off.  

This didn't affect the use of the machine, since you can't sew with this machine without a base.  But it was a big disappointment.  The seller was a general collectibles dealer, and probably thought that cast iron was impossible to break.  In reality it can be brittle, and this box was obviously dropped and that foot poked through the plastic wrap and took a hit.

So look for sellers online that have experience shipping sewing machines.  They can be shipped without damage with proper packing, just ask questions.

But now it lives in a lovely wood base, and I have practically forgotten about the broken foot.  I purchased a reproduction hand crank, but just couldn't get past the quality of the made in China part on a lovely machine like this.  If you are planning to turn one into a hand crank, here is a great link to how to do it: and here is a picture of the mounting you need to have on your machine so you can clamp on a hand crank:

You also have to have a spoked wheel, which you can buy from the sellers who sell the hand cranks.  I put the original wheel back on and plan to buy a motor for this one.

So, portability?  It weighs about 22lbs, so I can lift it but it isn't light.  I don't have a case.  But I can tote it out to the dining room table.  And it makes a lovely stitch, just like the 66.  A real gem of a machine.  They were made from 1911 until 1958, not hard to find and easy to find parts for.  Mine was made in 1951. Grab one if it comes by at a reasonable price.

In the 1950s sewing machines were pouring out of Japan, many in bright colors, and I believe this is why Singer tried to compete by adding some colored machines.  My next 3/4 sized machine was a 185J, made in 1958.  

The J model was made in Canada.  This site has a great bit of info : and here is a little more :

It is a great little straight stitcher, and you have to love the color!  It also weighs about the same as the "portable" 99k.  I found a manual for it, and you can also get the pdf online at the singer site:

It's another straight stitch machine, which takes all the same parts as the 99k and many others.  They were made from the late 50s to early 60s, so there aren't as many around but they aren't rare either.  Great for piecing quilts, and other straightforward sewing, and there are lots of attachments if you want to branch out.

So I had two 3/4 sized Singers, lovely machines, but not really portable.  Next week another "portable" machine.  

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