Singer 301 Sewing Machine

For many years I have believed that the Singer 301 is the best sewing machine ever.  Of course, it’s just a straight stitch machine — no embroidery, no fancy stitches, though there is a zig zag adapter.

If I come across a machine that causes me to change my mind, I will let you know.  Most everyone reading this blog has a sewing machine and probably 99.9% of you love the machine you have and think it’s the best one out there so this is not a debate about the best sewing machine.  Like so many things in life, what’s best for one isn’t necessarily best for another.

I have a Bernina 930, a 1230 and a 1430 (and I’m not even sure about the 1430 – I think that’s the number but I haven’t used it enough to even know and it’s in a box, not even unpacked since the move).  I do have the 1230 set up and I mostly keep the walking foot on it for bindings but I have two 301 machines set up in the sewing room and one set up in the house so I think that speaks volumes about my favorite machine.

The reasons I love the 301:

  • With a little effort, very affordable machines can be found.  I believe I paid $35 for two of mine (that’s $35 each) and both included nice cabinets.
  • Short of abuse, there’s so little that can go wrong with these machines.  They’re gear drive so there are no belts.
  • They’re the kind of machine that Vince can take completely apart and put back together again (not that I would let him) but the newer electronic machines, I wouldn’t even want him to take the cover off those!
  • They make a perfect stitch!  Tension, stitch length . . it’s all perfect!
  • Many of them are in cabinets but they also have a handy carrying case, with a nice, sturdy handle.  The machine weighs about 16 pounds so it’s very portable.  The Featherweight is about 11 pounds but I find I enjoy sewing on the 301 so much more than I do on the Featherweight.
  • The feed dogs can be dropped on the 301 for free motion quilting or darning.  They cannot be dropped on the Featherweight.

The 301 does not have:

  • Knee lift – I’ve never used mine on the Bernina so I don’t miss it but for those who use it a lot, the 301 doesn’t have it.
  • Automatic needle threader – I’ve never used that feature on my Bernina so I don’t miss it.
  • Needle Up – I sometimes do miss that the needle always stops up but with a little practice and paying attention, I know where to stop the foot pedal so the needle almost always stops up.

The 301 is a “slant shank” machine.  Singer made the high shank, low shank and slant shank.  I’m not sure why there were three versions but they all require different feet, though there are some adapters that can be used to make some of the feet fit different machines.

A lot of the 301 parts also fit the Featherweight — bobbins, bobbin case, throat plate.  But, the Featherweight is a low shank machine and the 301 feet do not fit the Featherweight.

For my 301, there are two 1/4″ feet that I like.

I like this one if I’m doing paper piecing mixed in with traditional piecing.  On the rare occasions when I’m doing something besides patchwork, I’ll use this foot.  I find that I get just a smidge over 1/4″  if I use the edge of this foot on the edge of my fabric.  The throat plate lines do include a 1/4″ line so it’s still easy to get a perfect 1/4″ seam either by using the throat plate line or building an “guide” with tape.

The main foot that I use for piecing is the knife edge foot.

I like this foot a lot for several reasons:

  • It feels very sturdy and never seems to jump seams or veer off towards one edge.
  • The center opening is larger and I have a better view of my stitching.
  • See the two little red lines on left edge?  The one right at the needle lines up exactly with your stitch so if you want to stop right at a certain point, it’s real easy to see where to stop.  The line towards the front of the foot lines up with 1/4″ from the edge of your piece.  If you’re going to miter a corner and want to stop 1/4″ from the edge, you’d stop stitching when the edge of your fabric meets that first line.

This foot sews fine over paper when I’m using the Triangulations paper but if I were sewing something that needs a 1/2″ or 5/8″ seam allowance (can’t remember the last time I needed that), I wouldn’t use this foot.

There’s also this little magnetic guide:

It’s great if you have a very narrow foot but it bumps into both of the 1/4″ feet that I have.  Because the machine is aluminum, the gizmo does not “stick” to the machine, only to the throat plate.  The throat plate is not large enough to accommodate it if I try to extend it out past the 1/4″ foot and it turns in and just doesn’t work but if you don’t have a 1/4″ foot, and do have a narrow foot, you could use something like this.

If you don’t have a special 1/4″ foot, no matter what machine you’re using, figure out where that mark needs to be.  The easiest way I’ve found is to stick a clear acrylic ruler under your presser foot.  Gently, my hand, bring the needle down to where it’s right on the 1/4″ mark, then mark the edge of your ruler with some kind of tape . . anything you can use as a guide.  There are all kinds of products available for purchase but I try to find something around the house.

These little Post-it tabs work great. Stack 3 or 4 of them up and they make a nice little edge.

Or, remove the back pace from a pad of Post-it notes and stick them down.  If they lose their “sticky” after a while, peel off the back sheet and you have fresh “sticky”.  Just be sure it’s genuine 3M products, ok?  :)  (For those who don’t know, Vince works for 3M.)

Happy Sewing!  :)

Comments

  1. 1

    My mom has stock in 3M so of course she’s delighted when I use 3M products, but I use them because they are the BEST! Be it tape, Post-It notes, plastic window insulating kits, Command hooks; you name it, 3M is the brand I buy because it out performs all the rest.

  2. 2
    Denise Fischer says:

    I love 301s too! I have about 5 of them, but only use 2. Another similar machine that is great is the Singer 401, it has zigzag, I have my mother-in-law’s machine and it is the best stitcher ever. I taught my daughter-in-law to sew on it and now she has her own. She will not give that machine up for anything!

  3. 3

    I also have a 301 that I don’t use often. After your recommendation I’m pulling it out of the closet. Do they make a walking foot that fits it?

  4. 4

    I love the Singer 301 machines! I have several. They were all found at yard sales! 26 yrs. ago I went to a Singer store looking for a sewing machine for my daughter. The sales woman pointed to a used 301 and said it was the best machine in the store—better than any of the new machines they had! I bought that 301 that day and it’s still going strong at my daughter’s house!

  5. 5

    I have a 404, but it is very similar to the 301, a slant also. I was wondering where you got your knife edge foot from, I need one :^).

  6. 6
    Marquetta O. says:

    I bought my 301 on Ebay last week and I’m in love with it. Best stitch I have ever seen!

  7. 7

    Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing! (I used to live in MN)
    Hugs

  8. 9

    I love my 301, too, but I did pay a bit more than that for it, and I think it weighs more than 16 pounds, but that could be from hauling the entire box and packing up 3 floors when I bought it! =) It has a nice clanky metallic sound when it sews, that I really like. I also love my old Viking 500, even though I have the Bernina 135 QE, and mostly let other people sew on it. That Viking has been around the country with me, several times. =) I really like the 301 and the FW, both, though. I don’t think you can beat them for even stitches.

    • 10

      The machine itself weighs 16 pounds. The carrying case increases the weight. Mine doesn’t make a clanky sound . . it’s much quieter than my Berninas.

  9. 11
    Diana in RR Texas says:

    The extra command backs work well also, another good 3M product!

  10. 13

    are the feet Singer feet?

  11. 15

    That’s what i learned to sew on, although my mom’s was black. It makes a wonderful stitch. Someday it will be mine, but I’m in no hurry. My mom can’t see well anymore, but my dad will open the cabinet and use it to mend his jeans. :-)

  12. 16

    Hi Judy,
    The Singer 301 is as you say it is “The Best Sewing Machine Ever” and you are absolutely correct. It is such a wonderful machine I devoted many years of research to create a website about the Singer 301/301A. If your readers would like more information please go to http://www.singer301.com to find out history, technical, years of issue and so much more….
    Regards, Ray

  13. 19
    Debi McIntosh says:

    Thanks for the tip about the post it notes Judy – I have a Husqvarna Viking and if I use the knife edge foot by the time I position my needle the feed dogs don’t actually feed the fabric that well. I like it for the accuracy though. The feed dogs work much better with an open toe foot but I’m always worried about watching the edge of the fabric so I will try the post it note with that foot!! woo hoo. thanks

  14. 20
    Pat in Nebraska says:

    I have two 301s I found about fifteen years ago within a month of each other. The first $40 didn’t stitch but I could see why; when they cleaned it the didn’t get the shuttle run put back together correctly. A month later the same place had the second machine. It stitched fine (it hadn’t been cleaned) and they charged $50 for that one. I was delighted to get them both and each New Year I celebrate by oiling up the one and trading out to the other.

  15. 21

    I have a 301 on my want list. I love my 930 Berninas though, yes plural have my original and a spare. Also an 801 Sport Bernina that I take to classes. Smaller but lighter. Have a Bernina 150, Viking 1100 has lots of stitches, featherweight, and just bought an old 707 Bernina. Sweet little machine and it was cheap, so had to get it. grin. Can never have enough machines -right? Now if I can find a 301 and a treadle, I will be in sewing heaven.

  16. 22
    Cathy Stoddard says:

    I am a die-hard Pfaff girl – have probably 10 or 12 of them with four of them later models but still made in Germany before the company went to pot. I do have three 301s, two black and one LBOW (light beige and oyster white). I read, love sewing history, the slant shank was developed to aid in the sewing of parachutes and other military items in WW2. Not sure how accurate that is but I liked it.

  17. 23
    Ava Crotinger says:

    I recently found a Singer 401A just like the one my mother had (and now my sister has). It works wonderfully and makes me happy every time I look at it. I’m glad to see that I’m in good company with my love of sewing machines. Seems like one just isn’t enough.

  18. 24

    Funny thing that you mention your 301….that’s the machine I’ve been using this past week. I got it for $99 AFTER I paid full price for my Featherweight. If I’d gotten the 301 first I wouldn’t have bothered about the FW. The only foot I have is the first one in your photo. At the WI Quilt Expo a dealer had a FW running with a zig zag attachment. I wonder if that would work with the 301? I will have to explore further. These old Singers were used for tailoring and fancy dressmaking! I think a good analogy would be that you can create a banquet fit for a king with a frying pan on a two-burner stove if you know what you’re doing. You can sew show-stoppers on a vintage Singer.

  19. 25

    I have a 301, my only machine now, and need to try and fmq. How do I set it up, adjust for that? Thanks.