The Singer 185 Portable Sewing Machine
It's been awhile since I brought home another vintage sewing machine, right? I found this sewing machine in it's little carrying case on the floor of a second hand store hiding beneath a unicycle.
This is a Singer 185 K portable sewing machine. The letter after the number denotes manufacturing location, and the K means this little machine was made in Kilbowie, Scotland.
Apparently, the 185 was an updated version of the tried-and-true 99 model, the first real portable machine introduced in 1911. I guess after manufacturing the 99 for nearly 50 years with no changes, Singer thought it might be good to give it a makeover. The 185's were made from abut 1958 to 1963 and were available with a plastic carrying case. The plastic cases haven't worn well over time, they grow brittle and break easily. But, since the 185 has the same base size as the 99, this machine will fit any wooden case or cabinet made for the 99.
My particular 185 was manufactured in 1960. When I picked her up, I wasn't totally sure she worked because the belt was in shreds! But the machine turned freely with the handwheel, and the motor turned as well.
I replaced the belt and gave her a thorough cleaning this morning. The light on the back of the machine is TOTALLY futuristic looking! On the plus side, the light is in good working order. On the down side, I read online that the funky little bulb inside this light is no longer available, and I'm not sure where to find a new bulb when the current one burns out.
When I tried to sew the first time, the machine wouldn't form tight stitches.
After like 45 minutes of troubleshooting, I figured out that the whole tension assembly had been put together wrong! Just needed to be put together the right way, and she sewed!
My 185 didn't come with a manual or any accessories (although I found a blog posting a nice threading diagram here), but I did happen to find this nifty sewing box, about the same vintage, at the same secondhand store.
It's perfect for holding bobbins and accessories right in the top tray. I found a walking foot, a patchwork foot, bobbins, and a seam guide in my extra parts stash to go with this machine.
They make a nice pair, like they're meant to be together.
This seems to be one of those machines that has a small cult following of people who absolutely love it. Personally, I think my 99 sews smoother and feels more solid than this 185, but it still forms nice, even stitches and works well.
And most obviously, it looks freakin' cool!
Happy to have found her, and looking forward to sewing on her in the future. Welcome home, little green Singer 185!