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Singer 281-1

pidjammies1 | Posted in General Discussion on

I recently acquired an old Singer 281-1.  The original motor was wired for 220, 3 phase, 3400 rpms.  We replaced it with a new motor wired for 110.  It runs great.   I ordered a gallon of oil and a service manual.  I love to sew but I have never used an industrial type machine before.  Any  advice for beginners?  I plan to start a boat canvas repair business as soon as I get proficient at using this machine.  I live on the San Joaquin Delta and there is a lot of work out here.


  1. theambassadorroom | | #4

    Just saw your post


    I just found your post from 2013.  I own this machine also and have sewn on it for years.  It is a great one.  I would be interested in a reply if you receive this message.  I am wondering how you are coming with your business and your Singer 281. 

  2. Pattiann42 | | #5

    Singer 281-1

    I know nothing about this machine but can share a few points about sewing for boats.   Test with scraps. 

    You may find that a walking foot will help as they work insync with the feed dogs. 

    Use Titanium coated needles and self adhesive seam tape (tape as well as thread sold at Sailrite) to hold the long strips of fabric (like sails, spinnaker bags, covers).

    Sailrite has a website with free tutorials and videos.  Note the setup with long tables for cutting and support of the long/heavy fabrics.  You may be able to attain a similar set-up with banquet tables and risers to get the table level with the bed of the sewing machine.

    Support (tables) and a walking foot help reduce the strain heavy fabrics put on the feed dogs and the motor.

    Titanium coated needles stay cooler than uncoated needles and do not soften the adhesive seam tape.  I buy mine at Allbrands.com.  Make sure the needle configuration is compatible with your machine as they sell needles for domestic as well as commercial sewing machines.

    Take some time to practice and remember the thicker the fabric the longer the stitch.

    Best wishes in your new adventure.  There is a always a need for someone near marinas who can do repairs like you are wanting to do.

    My "adventure" came about because I sold a vintage (domestic) sewing machine to someone who wanted to do his own repairs but knew nothing about sewing.  Now he does! 

    1. pidjammies1 | | #1

      Thank you

      Your info is very helpful.  It's an old machine that came from a garment factory in SF.  This machine will go through 6 or 7 layers of leather.   They closed the factory, stored their machines in my friends warehouse and never came back for them.  He had about a dozen of them and gave most (all working) of them to a charity but kept this one.  I think the foot it has is a walking foot.  I live in the SF Bay Area and there is a wholesaler in Stockton called Morgans Fabrics who has a very good selection of canvas and upholstery supplies but ordering them online is certainly more convenient.  

      1. Pattiann42 | | #2

        Singer 281-1

        Hopefully this is a walking foot machine, similar to the Sailrite machine.  This feature will make sewing the layers; slippery Ripstop or the heavy canvas much easier. 

        I think you will like the videos and tutorials at Sailrite. 

        1. pidjammies1 | | #3

          Walking Foot

          I'll look for a picture of the walking foot so I can be sure that is what is on the machine.  There may be other parts I will need to order for it too.  I'm anxious to learn as much as I can about  the machine and canvas repair.  I already have 2 jobs lined up. The gallon of oil  I ordered  arrived today and the service manual should be here tomorrow.  Thanks again for your info.


  3. Colorluvgurl | | #6

    singer 281-1 To pidjammies 10/16/13

    Hi, Im looking at purchasing a 281-1 Industrial Singer to use for using to start an upholserey business.  The one I'm looking at also has the number A03577 on it.  Any information on how it's working for you would be helpful.  This machine comes with a industrial table(newer) and is in very clean, all belts and accessories including a walking foot.  Hope your business is thriving!  I'm also in CA.  Hope you see this and respond.

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