Singer 66

IMG_4214No finished garments to show this time, but working on my current project has moved me to post about this lovely sewing machine.

Most of my sewing machines are at least as old as I am. Not that I’m a serious collector; they’re all bought to sew on, not to be part of a collection. In the case of this machine, I was actually buying the cabinet. The seller didn’t even want to bother taking the machine out of it, so this Singer 66 came home with me as a freebie. I oiled it up and it ran, so it stayed. Little did I know how much I’d come to value the throw-away machine.

66s don’t seem to get a lot of praise. They’re common, so they’re not highly-prized unless they have a fancy paint job. And they suffer when compared to machines like the 201; people say the 201 was made for dressmakers and the 66s are for farm wives. I’ve even seen buying guides that say the 66 has no value.

IMG_4217I use all my machines in rotation so that everyone gets exercised. For the project I’m working on now (the “Buttondown” shirt from the 5/2013 issue of Ottobre), it was the 66’s turn. As I was sewing, I appreciated more and more the nice stitch and straight even feed of the machine, so much that I felt it could be trusted to do double contrast topstitching. A machine that inspires that much confidence, how can it be of no value?

Something else I’m loving is the narrow little foot that seems to make topstitching and edgestitching so much easier. I’m not an engineer, so I don’t really know if the narrow foot and corresponding close positioning of the feed dogs is what actually makes the difference. Probably the straight stitch throat plate has something to do with it, too. But look at the difference in the feed dogs between this 66 and my semi-computerized Janome. Does anyone have a comment about the mechanics of the closely-positioned feed dogs?

66 on the left; modern machine on the right

I felt like I owed the 66 a little public apreesh. And I owe it to my own sweet 66 to get it a plate marked with seam guides, so it can stop wearing that blue tape.

If you like to cruise Craigslist for sewing machines, here’s a great blog series: A Visual Guide to Identifying Singers from Crappy Craigslist Photos. The link is to part one of four. Links to the other parts are at the bottom of post #1.

Next time there will be a finished shirt to show you.



16 thoughts on “Singer 66

  1. Robyn, I learned to sew on an old singer in a cabinet. I don’t know what model it was, but I’m going to guess it was built in the late 40’s. This brings back some good memories of that machine. Thanks for the post. The stitching is beautiful, btw.

  2. I learned to sew on an old singer, not sure the model, but it was treadle machine.. Straight stitch only although it would back stitch. Always made a perfect stitch. Always.

    • Bev, this one back stitches, too. But that’s all it does. I learned to sew on my Grandmother’s machine, which I remember being what we now call a Rocketeer. I have one of those, too. As she was a farm wife, I’m pretty sure there was a 66 in Granny’s past.

  3. I have a 66 and it is a nice machine. I do prefer my 201, which is just a slightly more modern version, in my opinion — ie it has numbers for the tension, you can drop the feed dogs, it backtacks. But there’s pretty much nothing you can’t sew on a 66, as long as it doesn’t stretch and you have a buttonholer.

    I made my last shirt on my 201 and prefer as you do that straight-stitch plate and the narrow foot and dogs. It’s an interesting idea to rotate machines. I must do that more.

  4. I still have to get my 27k treadle working (still soaking up the oil!) after many years of rest but my hand crank Singer is a little gem. Singer really knew how to make a good stitch.

  5. I love my 1929 Singer 101, no reverse, but an absolutely perfect straight stitch. I had been looking for a 201, but found this on craigslist for $15, minus the cord, and couldn’t pass it up. I’m pretty sure my Husqvarna machine won’t be sewing this well when it is 82 years old!

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  7. This is the same sewing machine I sew on. My mom taught me how to sew on her Singe 66 when I was in the sixth grade. I am now 60 and just about a year ago set up the machine and started sewing again.

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