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May 13, 2011

(Nearly) Jeans-Free Friday!

Friends, we're off to a late start today, as Blogger has been down all morning.  Yesterday's Jeans Sew-Along button fly post was MIA for a while there, but is back.  (The comments were lost, unfortunately.)

I'm nearly finished with Michael's button fly jeans and we're both very happy with them.  More pics this weekend.

In other news: I have a new sewing machine!  In fact, I topstitched Michael's waistband with it.  Here's the story:

Since visiting Rain last month in his amazing sewing machine workshop/apartment, I've been haunting the sewing machine listings on eBay again.  It's a terrible habit, I know, and obviously has absolutely nothing to do with needing another sewing machine.  I mean, I gave my 15-90 to Rain!

Then earlier this week I got an email from an MPB reader who was in the market for a new sewing machine and asked me what he should purchase.  Since his budget didn't include a serger, I recommended a vintage Sixties or Seventies Kenmore zigzagger for overcasting, and a Singer 15-91 or 201 for everything else.  He found a Kenmore zigzagger locally on Craigslist for something like $30, and he was looking for a Singer on eBay.  Don't you love when people ask for your advice and actually follow it?

Well naturally, all this sewing machine talk got me thinking about sewing machines even more fervently, and I started exploring Craigslist.  On Wednesday, someone near me posted a vintage Singer that looked a lot like a 99K for $20.  Friends, $20 for a sewing machine is the equivalent of free in my book, so I immediately emailed the seller and set up an appointment to pick it up that evening.

Sure enough, the machine was a lovely, dusty, Singer 99K.  The seller, a young woman who couldn't have been nicer, had purchased the machine at a garage sale the previous year but never learned to thread it and bought herself an inexpensive new Janome instead.  She never did figure out it was a 99K or get a hold of the manual.  Kids!

I was only too happy to take it off her hands (before Rain got his greedy mitts on it; he practically lives on Craigslist apparently).  I put the machine in an oversized bag (all 35 lbs!) and carried it four blocks to the subway and 15 minutes later was back home examining my treasure.  Behold!

Readers, I love this machine so.  It was dusty, the wooden box is beat up, and the wires will need to be replaced down the road, but it's a thing of beauty and power.  The 99K is a 3/4 size Singer, nearly identical to the Singer Spartan, which was the no frills version of the 99 (the "K" refers to Kilbowie, Scotland, where it was manufactured).  The 99K came with a lamp and attachments, plus the carrying case.   I always kind of regretted selling my Singer Spartan last winter, but this 99K is even better -- amazing piercing power and a sturdier pedal.

My version dates from 1949 but still has the old screw to adjust stitch length (like my Singer 66) and lacks a reverse.  No matter, I love it with the intensity with which one can only love a vintage sewing machine that cost $20 -- it makes me love me more too!  After a lot of oiling and a few minor adjustments, it was stitching, beautifully, cotton shirting, denim, and leather! 

The 99K is an excellent lower-priced alternative to the 201 and 15-91 models.  On eBay they rarely go for more than $100 and often for significantly less.  The funniest part is that yesterday the guy I'd advised about sewing machines the previous day told me he'd purchased a 99K too!  Spooky, no?

More pics of my new machine here.

Friends, that's it for today.  More jeans talk tomorrow as we wind down our Sew-Along.  (I know -- if only it could go on forever.)

Happy Friday, everybody!


  1. Michael's jeans look great!

    Nice find! I've heard that different models of vintage Singers are more or less common in different areas. It makes sense to me that NYC would have plenty of 99s and fewer full size machines in large cabinets.

  2. Makes me wish I had one. :) And I've been very happy with my Pfaff... In fact, I just finished the overalls. And it wend handily though six or so layers of fabric, because I backed my quilters cotton in bottomweight....

  3. All the sewalong posts have been fab 0- thank you for sharing them with us. Michael's lookin' good in his new jeans (did he get a new haircut/shave just for the special occasion?).

    And... your new Singer is a beaut! How did you go about cleaning her up so good? I bought a Singer handcrank a few weeks ago and haven't gotten around to cleaning her up yet - any tips you can share please :)?

  4. I never clean with anything more than sewing machine oil on a rag, followed by a little white vinegar or diluted rubbing alcohol. But it does the job (well, good enough for me).

  5. Those are some beautiful stitches! By the way, why do you always have leather around, if I may ask? Do you use it only to test out your new machines? I don't think I've seen you make anything from leather.
    I have two 99's - one electric from the 50's in the two-tone case, and one handcrank from an earlier year. I never use the electric one because it seems a little more clattery than my other machines, but the handcrank is set up and my 3 yr old loves to turn the crank and practice running fabric back and forth under the needle. Have you thought about converting to handcrank?

  6. Anonymous, I did think about it. In fact there's a repro handcrank attachment for sale on eBay for less than $30. I'm just not sure it's any good.

    The leather is from an old leather sofa we used to have; I stripped much the leather off, thinking I'd use it for something, but all I ever use it for is stitching samples!

  7. It sews beautifully. Nice score! $20!!

  8. And I love myself less because i don't own one.

  9. Peter,
    I love you machine shopping stories! I am like you, when it comes to vintage sewing machines and I need to control myself not too buy too many! I have a Singer 185K, which is the modern look of the model 99 in the late 50's, but using the same base as the old one. It is clattery for sure, but this makes also the sewing fun!

    The new white jeans turn out great! I was also in doubt about the yellow topsticht, but looks good!

  10. Peter, I have a request. If you have the time one of these days, would you do a fabric store list/review for the shops off 7th? Every time I come to NYC I always go to the same places - Elegant Fabrics, B&J, Paron, Mood - but I'd like to visit some cheaper places and I know you have a few favorite dives. While I love those stores, but they're not cheap and I am always standing around B&J drooling all over the Liberty. It makes them mad.

  11. Hi Peter, too funny--I was after that same woman's machine, but I emailed her after you. Tell the truth I was just after the case, as I recently acquired my first 99. I'm branching out a bit past the 15-91s, 201-2s and 221s.

    I plan to convert this 99 to handcrank, as I have with your 15-90, which I'm getting good use out of. Have been using it to make dog leashes, dog collars and lifting straps. When I get the Vintage Singer blog up and running, I'll post whatever 99 refurb tips I encounter.

    - Rain

  12. Love your 99K! I turned mine into a handcrank for my now 8 y/o daughter!


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