Are you lucky enough to own an antique sewing machine? Is it the Singer 30K? Lucky, lucky you…
Before we explore this iconic model, let’s take a look at the man who gave it his name – Isaac Merritt Singer (pictured left).
Born in 1811 in New York, Singer was an inventor, actor and businessman. (And a colourful character by all account as he is thought to have fathered at least 24 children with various wives and mistresses).
Singer is best known for making important improvements to the design of sewing machines and he founded the Singer Sewing Machine Company. His machines were popular because they were practical, suitable for home use and could be paid for in instalments.
Singer expanded into Europe, setting up a factory in Clydebank, Scotland in the 1880s which was controlled by the parent company. Singer became one of the first American-based multinational corporations. By 1885, Singer’s Kilbowie Factory was the largest one in the world. It could manufacture 8,000 sewing machines a week, employed 3,500 people and its machines were sent around the world.
The factory was bombed and extensively damaged during the Clydebank blitz in 1941. The factory eventually closed in 1980.
The Singer 30K model is a chain stitch miniature sewing machine which was introduced in 1912, with the company commissioning 5,000 machines from the Kilbowie factory. Another 10,500 were commissioned between January and June 1913, but production then stopped. The antique sewing machine 30k has 75 component parts, all specifically designed for this model. It weighs about 5kg with its cast iron base and is 12 inches long. It takes the same needle as the Singer 24.
The machine is well engineered and solidly built, and it’s also bigger than the other miniature Singer model 20. The basic Singer 30K had a base that could be screwed or clamped to a table. For extra money, people could add an ornamental base to make the machine portable. These are very rare.
There is speculation that the Singer 30K was produced to temporarily fill a gap in production at Singer’s huge Clydebank factory. Singer already produced a chain stitch machine (the 24) so it seems peculiar that they chose to do another one.
The factory switched to arms production during the First World War, so this too might have contributed to the cessation in production. Nowadays, the machines are rare – a real example of an antique sewing machine collector’s item