13 March 2014

1900 Model 27 Antique Singer Treadle: Background and Restoration Part I

When I was growing up my mother had a Singer treadle which she had bought for $5. Before I even hit my teen years though, she sold it to friends of ours who were living out of town on a property, reliant on a generator for their electricity. My sisters and I all have fond memories of that machine, and I think we've all been secretly seeking to replace it in our lives. (Well I have anyway.)

Original eBay photo

When / How Acquired

This is the treadle machine that started my obsession with collecting antique Singer sewing machines. I have no idea what model machine my mother used to have, but this one reminds me of it. I bought it from eBay in 2008, thinking that it would be my one and only treadle. I am still yet to sew on this machine, as my dear husband took the machine out of the case so he could do some restoration work on it for me before I used it. We did polish up the cabinet and clean 50+ years of dirt from the cast iron work when we got it home, and removed the felt that had been wrapped around the arm and used as a pincushion, but that's all we got done at the time. It (the cabinet that is) has been sitting in the corner of my studio ever since, giving me a nice area to display my sewing machine related trinkets. No-one has ever been the wiser about the machine not even being there.

Original eBay photo
Original eBay photo - note the felt wrapped around the arm, full of pins!
According to the eBay ad, at the time that I bought it, the machine had not been used for 18 years, with the original owner being the seller's grandmother. I am honoured to be the new owner of a much loved family machine.

Here's the damage done by the felt 'pincushion' that was around the arm
Machine Sepcifications

The cabinet and the age of the machine attracted me to this machine. It's a gorgeous 7 drawer cabinet table, immediately recognisable as a Singer Treadle. Black cast iron legs and treadle, three long narrow drawers on each side of the cabinet, and one wide short drawer at top. I haven't come across many other cabinets the same as this one, but have found an abundance of cabinets with the same layout but a slightly different finish to the drawers. I did find an almost identical machine (it's a few years older, but in better condition!) and cabinet (two less drawers, but otherwise the same model) here. I got a bit excited to see another blogger with the same machine as me, but alas, she hasn't posted anything more about this machine, in fact, as at the time I wrote this, she had not blogged at all for almost three years.

This is a Model 27 vibrating shuttle machine, decorated with the Sphinx design (also known as Memphis or Egyptian). My machine was one of a batch of 30,100 made at the same time, coming out of the American factory in Elizabethport, Elizabeth, New Jersey.

I love the accessories box too! You just don't see things like this anymore. It is complete except for the screwdrivers. It includes a set of hemming feet, a ruffler, tucker, space for 5 bobbins (came with 4). Apparently the wooden "puzzle" boxes (as they were nicknamed) were only supplied with the Model 27's that were made in America [Reference]. Singer called them attachment cases, and numbered them from Style 1 onwards, mine being Style Number 11.

Original eBay photo
The inside of the puzzle box
The outside of the puzzle box
The original instruction booklet came with the machine as well, but as I mentioned in my previous post, it has been put somewhere safe. It'll turn up again.

Work done on this machine

More than 5 years after purchasing this machine, my husband decided that it was time to start work on the restoration of this machine. Stage one was my Christmas present from him for last year, consisting of stripping the machine back and nickel plating all the external bits that should be all shiny. Here's some before and afters on the nickel plating.

Left: after nickel plating. Right: photo of pieces before nickel plating
Nickel plating results
The nickel plating we had done at Astor Metal Finishes here in Sydney. It wasn't cheap, (it actually cost more than we paid for the machine) but everything looks so shiny and new now! You'd never know that they were the original parts from 1900.

Sphinx design close up
The current home of my machine body: in the garage
With the exception of putting this machine back together and getting it to work again (minor detail really), there are two other major stages in the restoration yet to come. Redoing the black finish, and replacing the decals. We have found a possible supplier for the decals, but the sphinx is not a design that is available yet, so we're playing the waiting game there. I'll let you know details when we have an estimate on the delivery.

Keep an eye out for a detailed look at my other Singer machines:

Overview of my Singer sewing machines

1950 Model 99K Electric

1937 Model 66K Treadle

1953 Model 201K Treadle

1943 Model 221K Featherweight

Singer Model 20 Child's Sewing Machine

Do you have a Model 27 Singer? I'd love to see more! Feel free to leave the link to your related blog post in the comments below.


  1. Hi! I need to see what the internal workings should look like. I have the 27 sphinx a d I removed the back access circular plate and rhe thing is super rusty! The wheel spins now but the sewing machine doesn't go up and down (the arm?) Also a screw is rusted in the side face plate so I'm working on that to see if I can get the needle to go up and down. But I'm not sure where to start in the mechanics. Help?

  2. Have you made any more progress on this beauty? I have one from 1895 I recently rescued, it was in sad shape, covered in rust and dust, but I cleaned her up and she sews beautifully!

    1. Thanks for the comment Faith. Sadly, I haven't gotten much further than this. It has been stripped and repainted black, but that's as far as I've managed for now. It will be done one day, just not yet.