Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lovely Singer 301

Right now I am in the middle of two sewing projects:  one) a dress for me and two) a small autograph quilt for a sick classmate of my daughter's.  I wish I were the type of person who finishes one project before beginning another, but I am really short on THINKING time, and I need all my brainpower when I sew. I started the dress several weekends ago but have not had a chance to finish it.  The quilt was something I had been cogitating on -- my daughter and I thought it was a good idea, it's just that I have never done something exactly like this so I was not sure if I was biting off more than I could chew.  The verdict is still out on that.  Anyway, because I didn't want to totally dismantle my dress project, I decided to use a different sewing machine to piece the quilt.

I am using my Singer 301, a precursor to my singer 401.  It is a gear-driven straight-stitch only machine from the early 1950s.  It is also portable.  I love my 401 (blogged about here), but the idea of having a portable machine also appealed to me in the event I ever wanted to sew on a retreat or something (which so far I have not done).  I LOVE the look of a featherweight and seriously thought about getting one for my daughter (I didn't -- I got her a Kenmore 1030), but featherweights are highly prized and quite pricey around here.

The 301 appealed to me because it is a slant needle machine, so the feet (at least the straight-stitch ones) are interchangeable with my 401.  And the 301 is a full-size machine.  I trolled craigslist for awhile since that's where I found my 401.  But I also belong to some vintage sewing machine yahoo groups, and one day there was a post that someone in my area was GIVING AWAY a 301 if somebody would just go get it.  So I contacted the lady and ended up driving about 30 minutes to her house, where she had this lovely black 301 in a cherry cabinet.
It had once belonged to her aunt and had been well-taken care of, but she didn't have a place for it anymore and if I didn't take it, she was going to give it to the thrift shop.  Since she twisted my arm ;) I took the machine home.  I felt a little sheepish telling my husband about it.  I was pretty confident that he (or really anybody else I know except for a few of my internet friends) would not understand why I wanted another machine, but I thought "what would make me happy if I didn't have to worry about what other people thought?", and no money was involved, so I put away my false guilt and brought the machine home.

Like I say, she was well-taken care of and required a very minimal tune-up.  I did order a new electrical cord from Sew-Classic.  If you need vintage machine parts I can highly recommend Sew-Classic.  Also The Sew Box carries quite a variety of feet and other supplies.  In addition to supplies, both of these sites carry helpful information for vintage machine owners.

Here are some of the 301's features.  This is the throat-plate.  The feed dogs are slightly narrower than on a zigzag machine, which can be good for piecing with precise seam allowances. Last summer I made a dress for my daughter with lots of ribbon trim that had to be stitched close to the edge.  I did all that part on this machine and it worked beautifully.
The mirror image makes it hard to photograph
The carrying handle stores flat against the top except when you need it up, like here. The machine itself pops right out of the cabinet if you want to take it to class.
Here are some parts that came with her.  From left to right, a bobbin (this is NOT interchangeable with the 401 -- 301s and featherweights have the same bobbins), an edge stitch foot, a hemming foot, and a gathering foot.
You lift up here to get to the bobbin.
The bobbin case is vertical rather than horizontal, and the feed dogs can be lowered, both of which are supposed to aid in free motion quilting or embroidery.  I have yet to try either of those things, but at least now I've got what I need to do it.
Sorry about the blurriness
This is the stitch length selector and bobbin winder.
She didn't come with a manual, so I downloaded one in a PDF file and printed it off.
She is a very quiet machine with a very solid feel.  Sewing on her feels good.  And she's so pretty!
I know it's kind of geeky of me, but I feel very fortunate to have two great vintage machines like the 301 and 401. (My daughter's little Kenmore is great, too, but that's for another post).  I'm trying hard not to become a collector, although I do have to admit I also have a Singer 66 treadle.  But that belonged to my granny and will be a huge refurbishing project one of these days.  And if I see a featherweight in the wild that's in my pitiful price range, I won't pass it up.  (And if anyone else wants to geek out about their sewing machine or some other appliance, please do so.  It will make me feel better about myself:)


  1. I can tell that you love her! Have you given her a name? My friend Suzanne of At Home With the Farmer's Wife loves her vintage sewing machines, too. She named one of them Beverly. What a bargain your 301 truly is. I think God just wanted to bless you.

  2. She is a beauty, Angela, as is her wonderful polished cherrywood cabinet! And she looks beautiful to sew on and spend time with which in my book is important. Can make all the difference to how a project turns out. So glad you didn't pass up the opportunity to acquire her - in my experience one always regrets missed opportunities like that and it's always too late to change one's mind by the time it's sunk in that Not Getting whatever it was, was a Bad Mistake! Sorry to ask an ignorant question but is she electric? My grandmother had a very ancient hand operated Singer - I don't know what model - and I am wishing I had asked my mother if I could have her when she was clearing things out but I have missed the boat as it has crossed the sea to Malawi or somewhere via a charity that supplies sewing machines to African communities where electricity is erratic or absent. I console myself with thinking of an African lady sewing away happily when otherwise she couldn't and once my Elna gets her spare part I too will be back sewing! (Had to order the spare from Tenessee, would you believe, because nowhere in the UK could come up with anything remotely useful) Do post a pic of your dress and quilt in progress. What a lovely idea to make an autograph quilt. Happy Sewing! E x

  3. That is just much fun!! You have given it a wonderful new home and it will be such a delight using it. Hey if my mom can have 17 or more machines, than what is two!!! It is truly beautiful.
    I have a is a total machine in my mom's commercial sewing machine, so I sure can't say anything about two machines.

    Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy........don't men have more than one gun?

  4. I love that you were given this gift...and I love that it is a "she"...and I love that you know exactly what "she" does best and use it for such things.

    And I am chuckling over Janette's comment about men and guns. :D With my husband, it is tools. And I always say that mens' hobbies are more expensive than women's.

  5. What a wonderful sewing machine! How lovely to have one that is a beautiful piece of furniture in it's own right, as well a useful thing to make dresses on. I've never come across an autograph quilt, so i look forward to seeing that when it is finished.

  6. This is a gorgeous machine!!! I can understand why you love it so much! I'm really attached to mine as well, but it's not half as beautiful as yours and also a lot younger... :)

  7. You are so fortunate to get that machine! It is really a gem! Where did you find the printable manual? I'm asking because I need a manual for my Featherweight.

  8. what a gorgeous machine - I especially love that you actually use it!

  9. Sorry I think I lost my post. Anyway I just got my mom's 301A with cabinet and I am in love with this machine. It is so true they don't make them like they used to. As for having more than one machine, its always handy to have a spare machine just in case one starts to act up. I have 3 machines now and each has it's own purpose. But hands down the 301A beats my new Pfaff and long arm Pfaff. Enjoy, this machine will last many years to come.


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