Monday, April 28, 2014

Two Unusual Treadleable Singer Zigzaggers

(all the model numbers slung around in the discussion below are Singers)

Singer 177C

I don't usually bother with freecycle sewing machines, because there are no pictures and usually the model is not mentioned.  But this time the ad mentioned a Touch N Swear with accessories, and I need slant shank accessories for a 301 I am preparing for sale.  Ad said she had two machines, both broken.

So the woman dragged the useless plastic crap (with a nice Singer box of accessories, and a buttonholer) out of her car and I thanked her and put it all in my truck.

Then she pulled out the usual beat up vintage case that obviously weighed 40 pounds out and was astounded when I got all excited about it.  I was even more excited when we opened it up and discovered a Singer 177C.  First one I ever saw, and I had heard of it for the first time only a couple of weeks before.

The 177 was made in Brazil between 1972 and 1975.  It is an all metal* zigzagger, in a dark beige pebble finish.  It has a small metal motor controller of what I think of as the "gas pedal" style.  I'm sure there's a technical term for it.  It's my favorite Singer controller type--easy to use and NOT plastic.

*it's all metal as we usually mean all metal, meaning all metal gears.  The bobbin shuttle gate is plastic, just like a 237.  I've never had any trouble with this part with the half a dozen 237s that have gone through my hands.

It is obviously meant to be an economy model
  • no light
  • feed dogs do not drop
  • they did not bother to paint the motor to match--it's black
  • I'm very motor-ignorant (more later) but the motor strikes me as a bit wimpy in use

It was dry as a bone, linted up under the needle plate and in the bobbin area, and very sluggish as a result.  After a cleaning and oiling it purrs like a kitten.

A kitten, or maybe a nice domestic cat.  Definitely not a tiger.

Came with a manual in great condition, too. Lovely stitches, including a very nice satin stitch.

More details about the 177
  • class 15 bobbin
  • takes regular needles
  • low shank
  • tensioner on the nose, like a 15

It will take a reproduction hand crank and spoked wheel--I did test this.  Treadlers take note:  It can be treadled.  There aren't a lot of zigzag Singers that can be treadled.

Here's what might have led to the previous owner's diagnosis of "it's broken".  The bobbin loads in the same direction as a 221 or 301, which I think of as "backwards" to the normal way a 15 bobbin loads into the bobbin case.  It threads from right to left, also like the 221 or 301.  If you did either one of these wrong it would indeed not work.

I love it.  In the world of beiges, this is an attractive shade.  It's styling is simple and sleek.  It does a great job of the two most important stitches--straight and zigzag.  This is the perfect type of machine for a beginning sewing person--simple and easy to use and almost bulletproof.  Its the type of machine that always sells well.

I liked it so much that I bid on, and got, another one from  This one has a very squeaky motor, and sadly I STILL have not learned to "do" motors.  Someday.  Really.  However since it is treadle-able that should not be a problem.  Remove motor.  Store it in the big pile of removed motors that some day I will practice motor maintenance on.

I've gotten pickier about the machines that I buy because I really don't want to keep a house full of sewing machines, but I do still enjoy rehabilitating them.  This means that they MUST be sale-able or donate-able.  And if I don't believe in the machine, then I don't want to sell it and I certainly don't want to donate it.  I will have no problem giving the 177 a recommendation for regular household sewing.  Looking for something to repair boat sails with?  Maybe not this one.


Singer 223

Another recent super find was a Japanese Singer 223.  I've got one in the permanent collection and in January I found one more.  I sold it within two weeks, pretty much right after I finished cleaning it.

feed dog drop

This is my ideal of a sewing machine for a beginning garment sewing person.  Or an experienced garment sewing person.  Or any sewing person.  Why, you ask? Because it is

  • one of those all metal built-like-a-tank machines
  • class 15 bobbin system
  • feed dog drop
  • zigzag
AND the real killer feature
  • blind hem stitch

Here are the instructions for operating the blind hem stitch:  Off.  On.  See photo.

Of course, the whole trick is in folding the hem that you are stitching, but I'm sure there are sewing bloggers out there or on youtube if you need to know.  It's a nifty trick.

The zigzag width dial controls the width of the blind stitch also.

This is why these machines are easy to sell:  they are easy to use.  Stitch width, stitch length, and in this case an on/off switch for the blind hem.

Unless you are into decorative stitching, the only three stitches you really need or will use (in my undoubtedly arrogant opinion) is the straight stitch, the zigzag, and the blind hem stitch.  Tell me if I'm wrong.  But then tell me the percentage of time you use the whatever else stitch and why you use it.  Cause maybe I am missing something here.

My beloved 316G, Brunhilde, bit the dust in the middle of a project.  It's the motor, which moves my need to learn basic motor stuff WAY up the list.  I didn't have to think for a second about what would temporarily replace it in the studio.  I reached for my 223. 

A year and a half ago I took the trusty 223 (for the blind hem stitch) over to the DDs house.  We made lined window panels for her entire house.  It was a great mother/daughter project.  And the 223 had no problem sewing through multiple layers of heavy materials.  It feels like a powerful machine.  

We took over her entire living room and temporarily transformed it into a sewing studio.  I took over the steam press, the 223, my largest cutting mat, a standing light fixture, and all the other little things like scissors,  thread, etc.  DDA is not usually a sewing person.

But she temporarily became one, as she used great grandma's Singer 66 treadle to hem the panel linings.  It's the first machine I restored, and I was thrilled when she wanted it for her house.


  1. I guess I will have to keep an eye out for a 223. Do you know of any other vintage machines that have a blind hem stitch included?

    1. (I also replied to Kate privately)
      The 223 has at least one sibling, reportedly with cams, but I have not found one--yet!
      I have one postwar Japanese machine waiting to be restored that also has the blind hem stitch. But this is a very unusual feature to find and I am always excited when I see it.

      The Singer 457 should be avoided--it looks almost identical to the 237 but has plastic gears inside, either already broken or waiting to break.

  2. Don't bother restoring the old external motors. Replace them. It is easier and the new motors are quieter, IMHO. You may need to learn some basic wiring skills to outfit them to your machines, but I recommend new over hours of restoring old. AMHIK. Of course, since potted motors are not now available, you may need to learn how to do those. Nice machines.

  3. I have a 237 around here somewhere, hiding behind my other vintage machines I'm sure lol. What treadle base do I need to put the 237 into?? Thank you!! Amie

    1. Your 237 will fit into a standard Singer treadle. I have bought more than one (OK, 3) for $25 (and have also paid more if I liked the machine in it). If it says "Singer" on the irons, there is an excellent chance it will fit. The very oldest Singers might not (especially if the opening for the machine is shaped like a fiddle!) and I have heard that there is a treadle for the 3/4 size machines, but I have never seen one. If you measure the length and width of your machine and take those measurements with you that should ensure that you get one that would fit.

      People usually ask a lot more than $25 but if you live in a city of any size and are patient, a good deal will probably find you sooner or later,

  4. I had a chance at a T&S on Friday. They asked what I'd offer for it (didn't turn). I told them I wouldn't even offer $5. I already had 2 machines in the car, that had a chance (rusty, frozen METAL machines). Now, to figure out how to sell some of these repaired machines I have.

  5. Hmm, I am starting to think that the 223 might be a good addition for my wonderful 15-91 and an old industrial. I need something that can do zigzag, some light quilting and that blind stitch looks pretty good too. I do not want one of those flimsy plastic machines - nothing like a good metal machine!


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