Singer 66

May 27, 2012

Hi everyone! I can’t contain my enthusiasm, so I have to share this purchase I made with you…

It’s a Singer 66, and the first antique sewing machine I’ve owned. I’ve been teaching myself to sew for a few years on a machine that I think is from the seventies. It works fine, but lately I’ve been admiring vintage sewing machines more and more… and becoming increasingly curious about what it’s like to sew on one. I love Peter’s blog over at Male Pattern Boldness and seeing the different machines he finds and fixes up. I suppose I can owe it to him that I took the plunge and bought this machine after seeing it on Craig’s List.

As you can see, this machine needs a lot of cleaning. Happily, though, all the parts seem to operate quite smoothly. It even came with most (or even all?) of the original parts. Check this out:

I haven’t actually tried out any of these attachments yet, nor have I even threaded the needle and given it a go. I’m going to try to give it a thorough cleaning first, which it really really needs. It has been in a smoking household for many years, and I’m not sure if all the grime is from that or from something else. It’s pretty dirty though. I used Peter’s helpful list of vintage sewing machine resources as a starting point for the cleaning process. You can find it here.  I also found this amazing website: My Sewing Machine Obsession, which has wonderfully detailed photos, diagrams, and instructions detailing how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble several types of vintage sewing machines. Elizabeth of My Sewing Machine Obsession recommends using Dr. Bronner’s almond oil soap because it is very gentle, and cleaning the outer body of the machine with q-tips – so I started on this yesterday. Here’s a quick before and after…

Getting this far took a lot of q tips and the better part of the afternoon. I guess I have my work cut out for me! I won’t go on for too long here, in case not everyone is interested in seeing many many photos of this lovely new acquisition of mine. But if you are interested, I am going to try to document the whole clean up process over at my blog: errantpear.blogspot.com. Feel free to drop by!

  1. Hi there!

    What a beauty! I’m sure you already realise to go extra careful over the decals – some products can silver out the gold. The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine group on Yahoo Groups has some great tips on cleaning. Try everything they say first on a discreet area because what works for some doesn’t work for others… (namely me…).
    You can also probably find the slide plate to cover the bobbin case on Sew-Classic.com. And be glad you have tonnes of attachments, bottom clamping feet aren’t that easy to come by.
    Welcome to the madness that is vintage sewing machines!
    Jordan (Singer – 99, 221K1, 319K, 15 Handcrank soon to be treadle. Elna Supermatic 72, Lotus 35).

  2. Lovely job you’ve done so far cleaning your new baby! I’ve used baby oil for cleaning, too, with soft old t-shirts for the areas where you won’t put decals at risk. However, the box of attachments you have isn’t likely to fit this machine. Some of those that I can see are top-clamping, like the White, New Home and National machines of the time.

    Your 66 is an early one, with attachments that clamp on the back of the presser bar, unlike the later short shank style that clamps from the side. It’s said to be easy to convert back-clampers, if you can get a side-clamping presser bar from a donor 66. This opens up a whole world of short shank feet that are currently available, such as hemmers, rufflers, tuckers, and darning feet, in case you wish to get into quilting. Enjoy!

  3. This is gorgeous, I especially like it when you discover all the little bits and pieces. I recently saw a machine (I have too many to buy another) and when I opened the drawers there were little notes about resizing, etc., on extremely old paper, along with rusty pins, etc., its almost like a diary is being kept. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with XMX

  4. Wow…I have my great grandmother’s machine – just the same as yours, from 1927, and still sews beautifully. She bought it second hand during the depression to make a little money fixing people’s clothes. I also have a singer industrial plain machine from 1947, and an elna lotus tsp from the early 70s.

  5. I have this same machine! A dear friend gave it to my mom when I was young, and my sister and i used to sew on it. Now I just have it in my home for decoration. I do not know how to thread it, as we have no book for it. If you happen to have a book I”d love to see how to thread mine so I can enjoy it again. Happy sewing!

  6. I just inherited my great grandmother’s machine, same as yours, Singer 66 “Red Eye”. It was her mother’s machine, so it is really my great great grandmother’s machine! When I was explaining it to my son it was so weird to say, “This sewing machine belonged to you GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDMOTHER!”

    On the grime: Only the men in my family ever smoked, and they were only allowed to smoke outside, in the barn, or in the truck, but never in the house. My machine also has that grime on it, so it may be something else.

  7. For anyone who is interested in restoring or learning about very old sewing machines, this Singer manual is a great resource by a great charity
    I have 2 red eye Singer 66 machines, and one is a back mount like this. Another came out of a relative’s basement after several decades, and with the tension mechanism replaced, sews a perfect stitch!
    Congrats on your lovely score (the decals are beautiful) and have fun bringing her back to life and use.

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