Vintage Singer(s)




I’m adding my 2 cents to the great sewing machine debate. Here is my response to the Sewing Machine Meme from Sew Mama Sew.

What brand and model do you have?
I have two machines, both 1950′s Singers. The first is a mocha colored Singer 301 and the second is a black featherweight (221). The 301 weighs in at 16lbs and the featherweight weighs in at 11lbs. The 301 has the same bobbin case as the featherweight but uses a slant-shank instead of a low shank. It is often called the “big-sister” of the featherweight and mine came in a portable case that looks like an old suitcase.



How long have you had it?
I have had the 301 for 4 years and the featherweight for 2 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I recieved the 301 for free from a woman on craigslist (see below). Vintage machines don’t have very regular pricing, but you could probably find a 301 for between $100 and $200. You may find one for much less.

I purchased the featherweight from craigslist for $100 but they more typically cost $200-$400.



What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I sew anything and everything. I have made quilts, clothes, bags, curtians, pillows – you name it. In addition to sewing light-weight cotton and machine quilting I have sewn canvas, heavy vinyl, seatbelt webbing, bike innertube, and sailcloth on both machines. They are troopers.



How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I sew at least a few times a month and sometimes every day. I ask a lot from my machines as far as sewing heavy duty and unusual materials but they don’t show much wear. Both of them had clearly been used by previous owners but are still going strong.



Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love both of my machines but they do drive me crazy occasionally (see below).



What features does your machine have that work well for you?
My machines only do straight stitch (both forward and backward). I have external accessories for zig-zag stitches, buttonholes and a walking foot. Both machines came with a variety of feet, I have only used the zipper foot and rolled-hem foot regularly. The featherweight is not large enough to fit a bed-sized quilt for machine quilting, but the 301 is.



Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Sometimes the tension can be disagreeable. I will get frustrated and stop for the day and often when I come back later and try again everything works fine. I also have problems with skipping stitches on the 301. I have tried to troubleshoot why it skips stitches (changing needles, matching thread and needle, checking bobbin tension) but tends to be rather mysterious.



Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
I posted a want-ad on craigslist for a Singer 301 and was contacted by a woman who had two and gave me one. Thats right, a really nice woman I met on craigslist GAVE me the machine in return for me working to “save the earth from the ill effects of humanity” (which is really what I do already, right?).

I had always wanted a featherweight. I have a nostalgic attachment to the machine I learned to sew on – my mom’s featherweight was her 16th birthday present. My featherweight was another craigslist find – the machine was not listed as a featherweight but I recognized it from the photo and drove down to adopt it from the son of the original owner. His mom ended up calling me later to give me an additional box of accessories she found. I was happy to get a machine that had seen a lot of use but was still in great working order. I have put plenty of hours on it since then as well!



Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
If you have a little patience and a love for vintage machinery I highly recommend getting one of these two machines. They are simple enough to understand and troubleshoot. I don’t know much about other vintage models, but these two both sew an excellent looking straight stitch. They use standard shank styles so you can buy new feet if necessary and featherweights are dearly loved by the quilting community so there are reproduction replacement parts. Along the way I picked up a second 301 that does not run and I’ve been keeping it stored away for spare parts when I need them. A vintage machine is not for everyone though, you have to love the quirks and personality. They sure do look cute sitting on your sewing table though!



What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
I would consider strongly what it is you want to sew and what your temperament is in relation to machinery. Do you need to use a lot of different stitches? Do you want to machine quilt large things? Do you like knowing how your machines work and tinkering with them when things aren’t quite right or do you prefer to treat it like a black box? Knowing some of these answers ahead of time will save you some frustration later on.



Do you have a dream machine?
I had always wanted a featherweight but now I have one! The next machine I want is an industrial machine so I can sew even more ridiculous materials. My apartment can’t handle that now, but someday!

7 Responses to “Vintage Singer(s)”


  1. 1 aija

    I just love all the photos of your machines!

  2. 2 Monica Duncan

    I see that you are able to use a walking foot on your 301. I bought a Singer slant shank walking foot for mine but it won’t work. The foot meets resistance and “twists”. I’ve tried everything to see that nothing interferes with it. I am just wondering if you could give me the part number of the one you have. I will try to find another one but need to make sure it will work! Thanks so much!

  3. 3 JIM Hennessy

    I just found a 221j in a thrift store for $300. Should I buy it ? I would say it in condition 8. Jim Hennessy 301 706 6474

  4. 4 JIM Hennessy

    I decided to buy the 221J. I am getting the bobbin case base finger smoothed out with a dremel #425 rubber wheel with carborundum impregnated because some one had burred it up with a screwdriver.Other than that I think I’m going to enjoy learning to sew on this little machine.Maybe someday the abmatic guy will call me up for a chat. I picked up a 301 mocha like him too. I think I’m going to be an abmatic imitator. Nice blog spot.

  5. 5 Quilting Board

    Looks good.

  6. 6 =Tamar

    A 221 in Condition 8 for $300.00? Congratulations!

  7. 7 Daphne Siegert

    I’ve have a Mocha 301 from my Grandmother which I received in the early 60′s. Been a real work horse. stated out making doll clothes. Where can I find a zipper foot?