88 years old and still sewing strong

A delightful work colleague and friend wanted to give her grandmother’s old sewing machine a good home. She had no idea what it was but offered it to me. It was in a locked case whose key was long lost. I was thrilled to take it, sight unseen. But when I managed to open the lock with a random desk key (a letter opener works even better), what a discovery! I am grateful beyond belief. This is the machine in question:

Beautiful, no? Look at all the goodies it came with.

The surprise machine turned out to be a Singer 99, built in February 1924. It operates with a knee lever, has an attached light and is one of the earliest models of electric sewing machines made. Check out that bentwood cover. Gorgeous! Here’s a closer look at all the accessories it came with:

This was all hidden inside. Can you believe there's a ruffler attachment? A clip inside the bentwood case holds the green accessory box. The little green book is the instruction manual. It was found under the machine, which tilts up from the wooden base, revealing storage underneath.

My friend had no idea what model and year it is, but it’s amazing what you can find on the Internet. Here are the resources that helped me identify my new machine.

I used this site to determine that it is a Singer 99:


You simply look at the features and styling of your machine and answer the questions until you narrow down what model it is.

Here’s the Singer resource for looking up the serial number to determine date of manufacture:


The Singer 99 sewing machine is a three-quarter-size machine that reviews say is an excellent piece of equipment. I put some Gütermann on top (the bobbin was already in place) and used the instruction book to see how to thread it.

Darn if the thing doesn’t work perfectly! It’s straight stitch only, but what a treasure! Even the light works. I’d never used a knee pedal before, but it’s convenient and easy to operate.

One of the things I love about sewing is that it is a very old craft form. The process of sewing — how a dress is made, how a mechanical stitch is made, the need for hand sewing — hasn’t changed much at all since sewing machines were invented. New machines have a number of bells and whistles for convenience (and I love my Viking for them), but a seamstress from 1924 would recognize what I do today. And I’d recognize what she did. Especially if she were doing it on a brand new (to her) Singer 99 sewing machine.

Yes, My Friend, your grandmother’s sewing machine has found a good and appreciative home. Thank you so very much for thinking of me.



6 thoughts on “88 years old and still sewing strong

  1. Karen January 17, 2012 at 8:32 pm Reply

    How lucky you are. It looks like the Singer I learned to sew on. My mother had her Singer machine electrified. My grandmother only sewed on a treadle Enjoy


  2. […] 88 years old and still sewing strong (jmsewingstudio.com) […]


  3. […] was gifted a 1924 Singer 99 electric several years ago and recently had it serviced to be sure it was in good enough shape for me to […]


  4. Elizabeth September 14, 2016 at 11:55 pm Reply

    I recently found your blog from the Curvy Sewing Collective. This Singer 99 is my Grandmother’s sewing machine!! I watched her sew on it a couple times. She ran a grocery store, no time for sewing but she mended everything herself. I begged my Dad (her only child) for it when she died. I was 20, now I’m 59. I’ve treasured it but never dared try it until I saw your posts on it! My maternal Grandmother was big on sewing everything, her Singer Treadle from the 30’s was her favorite. I have several plus her original that was not converted to electric. I’ve used them a lot! But now I am going to actually try using my 1924 model! Thank You for sharing! (((HUGS)))


    • Jeanne Marie September 15, 2016 at 12:35 am Reply

      Elizabeth, since this post, I’ve had it serviced (no parts needed!) and even used it to make a skirt. It’s a wonderfully smooth machine. The knee lever is a little challenging to get used to, but I will definitely use it again. There’s something wonderful about going old school every once in a while. If yours is in good shape, definitely use it! Thank you so much for stopping by.


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