Grit Blogs > Show Me the Good Life

Old Sewing Machines: Working Treasures

JudyAnyone who sews, whether a prolific seamstress, or someone who needs a sewing machine for mending a torn seam or hemming a pair of pants now and then knows the value of having a sewing machine that will make a great seam without causing you to pull your hair out just to get it to stitch!

Through the years I've come to realize what a treasure the old sewing machines are. My very favorite machine is the Singer 301. Singer-Sewing-MachineProbably the most popular of collectible sewing machines is the Singer Featherweight. Singer-Featherweight

Both the Featherweight and the 301 are fantastic machines, and in my biased opinion, two of the best machines ever made. The 301 weighs approximately 16 pounds vs. the 11 pound Featherweight. The 301 is gear driven vs. the Featherweight being belt driven.  The feed dogs can be dropped on the 301 for free motion quilting, whereas the Featherweight feed dogs cannot be dropped. Both can come in a convenient carrying case, though the 301 machines were often sold with a cabinet instead of a carrying case. Both only do a straight stitch, though there is an attachment for the 301 that allows it to make a few decorative type stitches.

Almost all of my sewing is done on the 301. The stitch quality is always perfect! There's nothing that can go wrong with either a 301 or a Featherweight that my husband cannot fix, and he is not a sewing machine repairman!

Due to the Featherweight being in such high demand as a collectible, they're often very expensive. In our area, the 301 machines are more readily available for a reasonable price. I've seen them from $30 to $150.

And, if you're a serious lover of sewing machines, you want to be on the lookout for a treadle machine. I have this White model that works great. I don't use it but my grandma had a Singer treadle and she taught me to sew on that old treadle. If ever we're without power for an extended amount of time, you can bet this machine will be sewing up a storm! Treadle

When you find yourself in the market for a sewing machine, the new ones are shiny and make lots of stitches you may never use, and the cost of new machines may cause you to do a double take.  Don't overlook an older model machine, especially those made in the 50s.  They're definitely worth having.

robyn swaim
3/11/2013 5:17:47 PM

Did you ever find a manual for your 301?


hazel carter
1/18/2013 9:47:19 PM

I call my Singer 503A my "workhorse." I'll never part with it as long as I'm alive. It weighs a ton, unlike my light-weight Viking Lily. Don't get me wrong. I love my Viking. But when the newer machine develops a problem I know the Singer will always work. It has cams for the various stitches. I had the opportunity a couple years back to add to my collection of cams. I think I now have just about every one made for the 506A. I bought mine in the 50s. With a 3-yr. old I was beginning to saw a lot of little dresses for her. I rented another brand for awhile until our friend switched to selling Singers. I've never regretted buying my Singer. For several years I made just about everything that my kids and I wore. I stopped short of underwear! My kids were the best-dressed until they got old enough to feel ashamed of "Ma Made."


godoodlesnquilt
1/12/2013 9:24:30 PM

Great article Judy!!! I am looking as you are aware for a 301 now..you are a huge help as always!!!


kathryn ryan
6/26/2012 9:07:46 PM

I want to try my hand at sewing and was going to buy a new machine but after reading your article I've decided why bother. I have a 301 sitting here that works and trust your advice since your evidently a veteran at this stuff. But I dont know how to set it up. :/ Could you possibly tell me where i can get a manual for it?


kathryn ryan
6/26/2012 8:59:00 PM

Very helpful. Thank you ^_^


mihaylahawkins
6/9/2011 6:21:06 PM

Hello Judy, I love the information in your article about old Singer sewing machines. I wonder if the The Treadle sewing machine you show us in above picture is for sale,and how much would cost? I would like to buy it for my mother. My name is Mihayla Hawkins, e-mail mihaylahawkins@yahoo.com Thank you so much, I'll be waiting for an email from you. Best regards.


nelda
3/14/2011 8:56:50 AM

I have just inherited a White sewing machine model no 1265...what can anyone tell me about this machine? What is the current value of this machine? My sewing machine is in pristine condition, it's color is the popular 1960's teal/aqua color. It was originally purchased on 2/3/67.


rodeo princess
6/30/2010 6:19:11 AM

Back in August 2009 I wrote a blog about an old sewing machine right here on Grit: http://www.grit.com/Domestic-Episodes-of-a-Rodeo-Princess/Threads-of-Memory.aspx We have a few old ones, all from the fifties. I have a picture of one over there, and it is amazing how different the machines that were manufactured just a few years apart can look!


gloria
6/25/2010 6:51:54 PM

I have always wanted a Featherweight sewing machine!! Ever since I was 15 a friend of mine let me use hers and we made all kinds of things with it, even beautiful wedding dresses and veils!!Although it only did a straight stitch we were able to figure out a way of making it do some sort of zig zag if we moved it fast enought back and forth sideways. I am always on the lookout for one for myself now that I am 50 and own the top of the line "Bernina does everything" sewing machine!I love to sew and have 5 machines of my own and do all kinds of sewing with them including smocking and machine embroidery. One of those little machines would be so nice to take with you on your travels, and if you are like me, you never want to be without your machine even when you go camping!!Thank you for this article it reminded me of how much I want one and how much I would love a good old fashioned treadle machine, oh, not as a piece of furniture but to use everyday!


s.m.r. saia
6/2/2010 5:39:09 AM

I have a Singer treadle!!!! It's beautiful, and when it was given to me (it belonged to my grandmother) I was told it was still fully functional, but honestly I've never used it for anything but furniture. I also have two other electric and more modern (by which I mean maybe 1950s...) Singers that fold down into small tables; I don't know if these work, the most use I've ever gotten from them is to use them as nightstands for a tall bed. I would love to learn how to use them. I just don't have the faintest idea. I really enjoyed this post. You made me feel like I have treasure! Maybe I should pull one out and give it a shot....


nebraska dave
6/1/2010 5:35:50 PM

Judy, hey I think I have an old sewing machine down in the basement. My wife was under the mentorship of a seamstress and bought an old standard Singer in a standup piece of furniture similar to the one you have in the picture of the trundle machine. Hers was electric and not a trundle though. I haven’t thought about that machine in years. It was a bullet proof machine according to her mentor. There must be a knack to learning to sew as my wife just couldn’t get the art of sewing learned. She finally gave that up and became pretty good at ceramics and other crafty things. Even after eight years her presence still permeates the house in good ways. I don’t know what model or type it is. All I know is that it is a Singer. You know I think anything made in the 50s was made with better quality than today. It’s difficult to find anything that’s made with metal and not disposable. As for me I don’t have any desire to sew and should really get rid of the machine. I have a place here in town that collects old machines and he could tell me what it’s worth. I’d be willing to even give it a good home if it could be used again. I hope all your sewing turns out wonderfully well. Thanks for sharing your machine knowledge.