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Need help to ID sewing machine model

cookymom | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on


My mom had a wonderful Singer machine bought in the 1950’s.  It was beige, had no zig-zag and it was wonderful.  I learned to sew on it and when it came time to break up the house, I sent it off to auction.

Now, I have taken up quilting, would like to own a machine like hers and wondered if any one had suggestions to help me identify the model?  



  1. Ckbklady | | #1


    Singer made an awful lotta beige/tan/cream models, but in the 50s? I'm guessing it might be a 301 (which came with or without a zig zag), or maybe it was a Featherweight (model 221 and variations). I hope for your sake that the machine you seek isn't a Featherweight - they've become the ultimate collectible for quilters, and typically cost from $250 -$800 these days. For quilting, I now use a 301 I bought recently in a thrift shop for $15, and it is sensational. A very straight stitch and a friendly rattling noise!

    I'd suggest that you start lurking on eBay - it's a great source of pictures that can aid your hunt. Try typing in "Singer sewing machine" in their search engine and add the word "VINTAGE" or even "AD". Using the word "vintage" will take you to listings of older Singers, whose pics may ring a bell for you. If you include the word "AD" you'll be taken to pages of print advertisements from older magazines, sold singly for framing. There are tons on eBay, and many of the pics show more than one machine model. The vivid pictures will surely help you find your machine quickly.

    I must warn you that hunting for an older Singer can become an obsession! I wanted a Singr 503 Slant-0-Matic Rocketeer for ages, since it looks a little like the Starship Enterprise. (The model came out in 1959 or so, so it may not be the one you used, besides, it's two-tone tan). Oh, I got one alright! But along the way, I ended up with eight vintage machines, all of which are an entirely different aesthetic experience. Hubby just sighs and goes off to his workshop to fiddle with HIS growing collection of tools.

    Actually buying machines on eBay can be a gamble - some sellers don't know how to pack for safe shipping. I always end up tuning up shipped machines or taking them in to my dear, priceless Singer repair guy, who can fix anything. You might do better by putting a want ad on your local Craigslist, so you can examine a machine before purchase and can minimize transportation risks.

    Happy searching! Let us know what machine model it turned out to be!

    :) Mary

    1. cookymom | | #10

      Your email was so helpful.  By hunting the Internet, I have determined the model is a Singer 404.  One is listed for sale on Craig's list right now and I will sew on it Saturday.

      There are Singers on Ebay but the repair shop suggested I buy one I could see and use. 

      Is there a way to test a machine that will make problems show up?   I feel confident about the owner, who is a costume designer.  I have also found a shop that works on old Singers.

      If you have suggestions, please send them on.  I can see this becoming an obsession, too.

      Thank you.


      1. Ckbklady | | #11

        Yippee! You found it!! I'm so pleased for you.

        When you go test the machine, bring these with you:

        A couple of small screwdrivers so you can remove panels and inspect for dust and cracked belts

        A loaded bobbin of the correct size (call your Singer guy to make sure you bring the right size) and an empty one

        One spool of contrasting thread

        A few small pieces of fabric of the kind you typically sew, ranging from thin to thick

        A small scissors

        (Can anyone think of anything I've missed?)

        Your Singer guy can replace anything that's wonky, so don't necessarily turn down the machine based on a fading part or two. Here where I live, my beloved Singer guy charges $90 flat rate for a complete tune-up with all non-electrical parts for free. You may want to call your Singer guy to make sure you know the cost of reviving the machine if it needs work. Also, not all Singer guys will repair electrical wiring. If you know how to replace lamp wire, you can replace the wiring on your Singer, but if not, you may have to add the cost of a small appliance repair guy redoing your wiring. I had a 1936 Singer 99 that needed all new wires, and was quoted $50 to rewire it. Instead I got a wiring book from the library and some advice from a guy at Home Depot and did it myself. It took 20 minutes and cost me $6. You may do even better - newer machines like the 404 are more likely to have healthy wires.

        So take off the panels and see how dusty the machine is inside.

        Then thread the machine with one of your spools of thread, insert your loaded bobbin and see how she does!

        Then remove the thread and bobbin and follow the manual instructions for threading a bobbin. Start loading and watch how evenly it loads. Then thread up the machine and sew a scrap of fabric again. Fiddle with the stitch length and width, and try out decorative stitches if any. Watch how the machine handles thicker fabrics. Notice how smooth the foot pedal is, and how noisy the machine is overall. My 301 sounds like a shaken box of nails when it runs, but it's healthy and terrific.

        You may see things along the way that dismay you, like uneven bobbin loading or wonky stitches, but anything and everything can be fixed or tuned up by your Singer guy - especially the timing of the machine (the necessary sequence of interaction between the needle's movement and the formation of the loop of bobbin thread that, together, forms the stitch). Use the problems you come across as bargaining chips to haggle the machine price, especially if your Singer guy has a higher flat rate.

        I would also haggle if the machine is missing its manual or throat plate or bobbin shuttle or anything like that. Anything that means you'll have to go hunting before you can start sewing should result in a discount. You may get lucky and get a box of attachments - I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

        Yes, finding and reviving old Singers can become an obsession. I have ...ahem... several. Heck, they're cheaper than puppies!

        If you're going to get into the older machine hunt, there are two books you might enjoy:


        THE SEWING MACHINE GUIDE by John Giordano (the "patron saint" of collecting machines! :)

        Have a super time on Saturday and be sure to report in and let us all know here how it went!

        :) Mary


        1. damascusannie | | #12

          I think it's interesting that you call John Giordino the patron saint of collecting sewing machines. I've been a collector for about ten years, belong to several large collector groups and I've never heard of him! I just googled him and I think that he must collect newer machines than we do. For the non-electric machines, Carter Bays and Charles Law are the primary sources for information. Looks like an excellent book for someone who wants to use a vintage (but not necessarily antique) machine.

          1. Ckbklady | | #13

            Hiya Annie!

            Wow - you've got the treadle goggles, on, huh? :) Yeah, John Giordano is a Taunton Press author and collector of newer (say, 1960s + up) machines, not treadles like your 70+ machines (and my one humble New Home), at least, not that he mentions in his book. His little book is a super resource for electric machine collectors to take with them when they go hunting in thrift shops and such. Since cookiemom is checking out an internal drive Singer, I assumed that she is interested in electric machines, and would thus enjoy his book.

            Giordano is a neat guy. I wish he'd write another book - his manual is funny and helpful all at once. It's not about identifying collectible machines, but about choosing, cleaning, maintaining and inspecting machines.

            :) Mary



          2. cookymom | | #14

            Mary and Damascus Annie,

            Carefully drove to this woman's apartment and walked into a room of cigarette smoke.  So I turned around after explaining that I was very allergic to cigarettes and thanked her for showing me the machine.

            So next time, I will ask about smoking in my very first email.

            I did see in a sewing machine shop a feather weight.  With one quilt under my belt,  I 'm not sure I am ready to buy one....maybe later...when I eat, sleep and walk quilts.

            Will look at those books.  I found a site by the sewing machines collectors society that showed many singers and that's how I determined I wanted to find a 404 Singer.

            Thanks for alllll the help.  Cookymom



          3. damascusannie | | #15

            Cookymom: I don't know if you do the ebay thing, but they show up there quite regularly. If you are patient you might get lucky and find one within driving distance. It can be risky having sewing machines shipped if the seller isn't experienced packing them. Craiglist is also a possible source.

          4. cookymom | | #16

            Thanks Annie for the suggestions about ebay and craigs list.   I'm also thinking about talking to some of the older women in my church.  If I'm patient, one will show up.



          5. Ckbklady | | #17

            Oh, I'm so sorry it didn't work out! You will find another. I agree with Annie - Craigslist and local eBay sellers are great sources.

            A Featherweight would be quite a score if the price and condition are right. I haven't seen one around here recently under about $400 (great shape, foot pedal, carrying case and usually manual and an attachment or two) but if you like your Singer guy, a fixer-upper could be a real steal. They really are a quilter's dream.

            Let us know when you find your dream machine!

            Best of luck,

            :) Mary

  2. damascusannie | | #2

    Here's a website with LOTS of pictures of Singer sewing machines. Take a look and see if you spot the machine you remember. If you do, at least you'll know what you are looking for.http://www.needlebar.org/cm/index.php?cat=59Hope this helps.

    1. Palady | | #3

      Thank you so much for the needlebar URL.  It's a gem!




      1. damascusannie | | #4

        Pretty awesome isn't it? Most people have no idea how many different models Singer made over the years.

        1. Palady | | #5

          Being in my 7th decade, browsing the photos of the Singers sparked memories of having seen the models in my 1930's growing years, and on.

          Most of home's of my friends, and certainly those of relatives, had Singer's.



          1. damascusannie | | #6

            I bet it did spark memories! I demo treadle and handcrank sewing machines at quilt shows, historical events, etc and I hear that all the time: "Oh, that's just like the machine I/mom/grandma had." Followed by: "I wish I still had my old Singer." In it's heydey, Singer really did make great machines.

          2. Palady | | #7

            What a neat thing to be able to do - demonstrate old sewing machines!  Are they your's or supplied from another source?

            >> ... wish ... still had ... <<        Can be said about many "older" machines. 

            Have known of instances where a sewist upgraded but then went and bought back the "old" machine that was traded because the newer one fell short in some effrots.

            In the recent past, I had the opportunity to "save" a Singer.  A husband had put it out at the curb on one of his cleaning-out-the-cellar days.  A neighbor spoke to wife and suggested it be taken back in.  Wife did but purely for sentimental reasons.  It had been her sister's.  In conversation explaing this taking-back-in, wife added "it's just a little machine and he doesn't think it can do much."   Husband added "and it's unused.  So we should junk it."  To my query, a description followed. 

            My ears perked up and I asked if I could see it.  Up it came from the basement.

            Sure enough it was a Featherweight.  Needles.  Printed metal container for and with accessories.  Overall excellent condition to look at.  When I mentioned it could bring up to four numbers, husband headed for his computer.  He was quite surprised at his finding.

            Youngest daughter was in company and expressed a desire to have it, even though she lacks sewing talent, because to her it was now an heirloom.  With her interest, I recommended a Sew/Vac store in the area, that does superior work, to service the machine.  I'd expect this was done.

            I offered to teach her to use it.  Which will hopefully happen when I'm next in state.   We each live in different part of the Northeast. 



          3. damascusannie | | #8

            Oh, good grief! Of COURSE it was a Featherweight! I wish this would happen to me! I sew exclusively on "people powered" sewing machines right now, but I'm willing to make an exception of a Featherweight!

          4. Palady | | #9

            Oh - and the manual was intact and in top condition. 

            Can understand your making the exception.  I hope it was serviced, so I could have the pleasure of using it.




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