Tag Archives: Singer 99

I used a 1924 Singer to sew a skirt

I 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 sew a garment with it.

Here’s the machine:

This is a Singer 99 sewing machine, built in February 1924 with a ton of accessories!

The Singer 99 is a smaller and lighter version of the Singer 66.

The skirt is complete, and it was a delightful experience to create it using only a vintage machine and hand-stitching.

What I liked about using the Singer:

  • The moving parts just glide, particularly the hand wheel. When people say “like a well-oiled machine,” this is what they’re talking about. It has a wonderfully smooth motion.
  • It’s gorgeous. It has a shiny black body with elaborate gold detailing and an embossed faceplate. It’s a pleasure to sew with something so pretty.
  • I was able to connect to history in a real way. Although there are many bells and whistles available on new sewing machines to make sewing a little easier, the actual process of creating a garment isn’t really any different now than it was 91 years ago. I enjoyed experiencing sewing just the way people did back in the 1920s.

Here’s a video of the Singer in action:

What I missed about my Fancy Damn Viking:

  • The foot pedal. It was really hard to get used to operating the machine with a knee lever (really, a thigh lever). Ergonomically, I think it would take a while for using it to become truly comfortable, let alone second nature. When I put the Singer on my sewing desk, I unplugged the foot pedal from the Viking but left it in place, so I kept trying to use it out of habit!
  • The reverse button. The Singer is just a few years too old to have a reverse lever on it. Starting and ending a line of stitches was a little cumbersome because at first I opted to flip the entire garment around in order to stitch backward then forward. After a while, I decided to sew forward about a half-inch, then raise the needle, move the fabric without cutting the thread, and restart the seam from the beginning.
  • The presser foot button. I’m now accustomed to using a button to raise and lower the presser foot on my Viking. (There are three different heights I can raise it to!) Using a traditional back lever was not a problem except for its proximity to the exposed light bulb with metal shield on the back of the machine. Ouch, that’s hot!

What seemed to be a drawback but wasn’t:

No zipper foot. At first I was dismayed to see that the Singer did not have a zipper foot among its accessories. Zippers were not yet used in clothing in the 1920s (according to Wikipedia anyway), which explains why it didn’t have one originally. (I could probably buy one that would work.) So, I sewed the zipper in by hand. This is my first time hand picking a lapped application; but in general, I’ve found that hand-sewn zippers are more successful for me than sewing them in by machine. The zipper slider isn’t in the way of a hand needle, so it’s easy to maintain a straight stitching line. I’m not particularly eager to sew another garment zipper in by machine.

Now that the project is complete, the Viking is back on my sewing desk, but I have no doubt I’ll be using the Singer again. I’m thinking it would be wonderful to make a quilt with it.

Next time, I’ll share the project that I sewed with the Singer.

Linen skirt sewn with a vintage Singer

I found an irresistible embroidered linen at Jo-Ann’s a month or so ago.

I thought this blue linen with cream embroidery would make a pretty top.

I thought this blue linen with delicate cream embroidery would make a pretty top.

I really need to start looking more closely when I buy fabric, because when I was prepping it for washing, I discovered that I had actually bought this:

When I was prepping this fabric for washing, I discovered that the fabric wasn't quite what I thought!

Whoa! That was a surprise.

It was really too heavily embroidered for a top, so I decided to turn it into a skirt: Butterick 5737.

I made view A on the left, which I've made twice before.

I made view A on the left, which I’ve made twice before.

I was about 1 1/2 inches short of fabric, so I let the hem of one pattern panel hang off the cut edge. Some of the seams end up on the bias, so I’d have to let the skirt hang and trim the hem even anyway.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to use the 1924 Singer 99 electric for all the machine sewing:

  • Sewing the side seams
  • Finishing the side seam allowances with rayon hem tape
  • Attaching the waistband
  • Sewing single-fold bias tape to the hem edge

The rest I did by hand:

  • Inserting the lapped zipper
  • Finishing the waistband
  • Sewing the hem
  • Attaching the hook and eye

I have found that on embroidered fabric, the embroidered design doesn’t go all the way to the selvage edge. In this case, there was a rather wide area that wasn’t embroidered, so I worked it into my cutting strategy.

I decided to cut the skirt panels so the edge of the embroidery would run along, but not into, the center front and back seams. I also decided to cut the waistband from an area with no embroidery at all.

Here’s a good look at the center front seam:


The edges of the embroidery along each selvage were really different, so this doesn’t look quite as good as I’d hoped.

And the waistband:

Waistband with no embroidery.

There aren’t supposed to be tucks at the center front, but I needed to ease in the skirt panels and tried to do it with pins instead of ease-stitching. You can see how well that worked out.

And here are some of the other details:


Hand picked zipper. (The waistband looks a different color here, but it isn’t.)

The hand picked zipper from the inside.

The hand picked zipper from the inside.


Seam and hem finishes.

Here’s the skirt as part of a whole outfit on Gene the Dress Form:

The blouse is Simplicity 6104 (modified), and the scarf I picked up on sale at Pier 1 about two weeks ago.

The blouse is Simplicity 6104, and I picked up the scarf on sale at Pier 1 a few weeks ago.

Next up, I’m supposed to be recovering the patio dining set cushions.

But I’d rather make a red polka dot top. Who wouldn’t?

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.


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