s Singer sewing machine - Hull Museums Collections

Singer sewing machine

sewing machine detail

Singer sewing machines are a common feature of most museum collections, and Hull Museums' collections are certainly no different! Sewing machines were one of the first home labour saving devices to be mass produced and distributed widely, and Singer became a company of international reputation, establishing factories and distributing machines all over the world.


Their popularity and mass production means, beautiful as they are, they are not considered valuable by serious antique collectors. However, they do represent a major feature of domestic life, and their affordability on hire purchase allowed a large range of families across the social spectrum to benefit from quicker household sewing chores.

Our Example

This particular machine is housed in its own bentwood case, and can be dated from its serial number to 1917. It was manufactured at Clydebank in Scotland, the largest sewing machine factory in the world. This 99 model was introduced as a smaller, more portable version of the previous 66 model, but don't be deceived - this is still very heavy! It is operated by turning the handle attached to the wheel, which required both concentration and co-ordination to turn the wheel with one hand whilst guiding the fabric through the foot and needle with the other. Although this is an early machine it is remarkably flexible in its functions.

The instruction booklet outlines how to use all the various additional attachments, provided in the built in box, which included a binder, a quilter, foot hemmer, a braider and a ruffler for different finishing touches. It also provides troubleshooting tips for constant thread snapping, breaking needles and incorrect tension.

This machine was either bought or serviced in Hull, as a receipt left in the box has the address of 'P. Camm, Sewing Machine Engineer, 102 George Street, Hull'. The reverse advertises the sale of new and second hand machines, telling customers that 'Your old machine is worth money! We offer generous part exchange allowances'. Sewing machines were so popular because they provided a quicker way of making and repairing clothes and household items.

The 'Ready to Wear' clothing industry was just beginning in the 1920s, but those with sufficient sewing skills (and less money) would have continued to make their own clothes from patterns of the latest fashions available in women's magazines or by pattern companies such as Buttericks. This machine must have seen many changes in clothing fashions.

Although we don't know what exactly was made on this machine, the last person to use it was probably making something brown - this is the colour of cotton still wound on the undercarriage bobbin!