The Little Sewing Machine That Could

I mentioned in my last post that I bought a Singer 99k with a hand crank for my daughter. She is still too little to reach the pedal of a treadle sewing machine and is scared of electric machines, so I thought a hand crank might be good, since I’m trying to get my kids hooked on sewing as young as possible.

I have a reproduction hand crank that I put on my antique Singer 127 vibrating shuttle sewing machine. I had my daughter try that, but it was a bit of a stretch for her to reach the hand crank, she found the lack of reverse frustrating, and the hand crank handle fell off after a few minutes. I think the handle is just pressed into the hole – I don’t think anything actually broke. The gears grind a bit at a certain point in the rotation, too. I just don’t understand the mindset of the people who manufacture junk like this. I glued the handle back on with JB Weld. Hopefully it will stay on now.

reproduction hand crank

I figured a three quarter size sewing machine would be good. When I saw a Singer 99k on ebay that came with a vintage hand crank, I bought it, hoping the hand crank would be better than the one I have. I was so excited to find what I was looking for at a semi-reasonable price I snapped it up despite the fact it was sold by a new ebay seller and the shipping charges were a bit steep.

No matter how many times I keep telling myself not to buy sewing machines on ebay, I keep doing it. Maybe these pictures will deter you from making my mistakes.

Here’s what the box looked like before I opened it. The box was thin cardboard, and the contents was shifting around, not packed tightly.

Unpacking Singer 99 1

After opening the top, I found this. Obviously none of the money I paid for shipping was used to pay for packing material. They put a little bubble wrap around the outside of the case. The metal accessories were just tossed in with the sewing machine.

Unpacking Singer 99 2

When I took out the sewing machine, you could see the rubble the case was reduced to.

Unpacking Singer 99 3

The wooden sewing machine base was broken, but amazingly the sewing machine itself appeared to be fine! It probably had a few new scratches and scrapes, but it had quite a few scrapes to begin with.

Unpacking Singer 99 4

I sifted through the rubble and found all of the pieces to the wooden base. I inexpertly glued them back together, so it works, but it’s lost any value it might have had as a collector’s item.

Singer 99 broken base

I’m overly optimistic when it comes to vintage sewing machines. I keep thinking – it’s so fun, you just clean them up, oil them, adjust the tension, and they run like new! Some of my machines were like that, but this one actually had a couple of things wrong with it. For a while I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to fix it, but eventually I did. The spring that holds down the presser foot had broken and the upper tension release lever was bent so it was jammed against the side of the tension release pin. Oh, and the upper tension knob was rotated sideways. I finally figured out how to fix it all. The Tools for Self Reliance Sewing Machine Manual is a great resource for DIY refurbishing of Singer models 15, 66, 99, and 201. I could have saved myself some time if I had finished reading it before working on this machine.

I was able to bend the tension release lever back into place and re-align the upper tension assembly, but that left the broken spring. I looked for used ones for sale, but the only one I could find was from a machine 30 years older than this one. I didn’t really want to pay money for an even older spring and wait for it to be shipped, so I decided to try to fix the spring.

I found a machine screw that just fit inside the spring and glued it in place with JB Weld. After it hardened most of the way I cut off the end of the screw, leaving just a little sticking out of the broken end of the spring and glued the other section of the spring onto it.

fixing 99k presser bar spring 1 fixing 99k presser bar spring 2

The next day, I installed it, and it worked perfectly. Here’s where that spring goes:

Here are some before and after photos. They’re always so much more dramatic when the sewing machine is dirty to start with.


Singer 99 before 1


Singer 99 after 1


Singer 99 before 2


Singer 99 after 2

I ordered a replacement slide plate after the pictures above were taken. This little machine sews quite nicely now. And perhaps most importantly, my daughter loves it! I was worried after all this she might not even be interested in it, but she’s very excited. The sewing machine is set up in her room, and she gave it a good night kiss before bed. Today I helped her sew a dust cover for it with this machine.

Singer 99 stitching

My son is feeling a little left out, and wondered why his sister got a “new” sewing machine and he didn’t. I told him that the treadle Singer 252 that is set up in my overflow sewing area can be for his use whenever he wants. I guess it’s not quite the same as having a machine purchased and fixed up specifically for him, though.

Posted in Vintage Sewing Machines
3 comments on “The Little Sewing Machine That Could
  1. So glad you were able to put all the pieces together. Your daughter has a beautiful machine there now!


  2. michelle says:

    It seems to me that sewing machines are like rescued pets they give back tenfold any love you expend on them and just keep on giving so its worth all the work lol


  3. Sue says:

    You have done a wonderful job of restoring this beauty and your daughter will treasure it her whole life. It’s value now goes beyond financial worth, but I know what you mean about eBay, I bought a vintage machine that wasn’t worth what I paid. I still use it but I’m always disappointed with it.


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