Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thinning the herd - Guess Who Got Voted Off the Island?

Yes, I must share the bad news, we may soon be losing part of the family.  I need to downsize this collection before it gets out of hand and through the process of elimination I have decided that my 201 will probably be the first to go.

Recap of the inventory:
 Singer 201-2

Classic Singer favorite and usually regarded as one of their finest machines and I can understand why.  The stitches are sheer perfection and this machine runs so smoothly and quietly it is a joy to use.  It has the horizontal rotary hook configuration which means drop-in bobbin (Class 66).   An occasional searing of the flesh is the payoff for the lamp located on the front of the machine.  Tension is located on the front as well.  This machine is installed in a cabinet now and I rarely bring her out to play anymore because truthfully I enjoy sewing on my other machines more than this one.

Singer 15-91

The Runner-Up in the full size, mid-century, straight stitch Singer category.  I'm not sure why this machine gets second billing because to be honest, she is faster and more powerful than the 201.  With a vertical, oscillating hook this machine isn't quite as smooth and quiet but it stitches much faster and with more assurance (it will plow through anything without complaint - up over thick seams and down the other side with no hesitation). The upper tension is located on the faceplate making threading somewhat awkward. Inserting the vertical bobbin (Class 15) is no big deal once you've done it several hundred times.  :)
But above all else, this machine belonged to my Mom and was handed down to me.  She absolutely stays.

Singer 221 Featherweight

There just isn't anything to say about a Singer Featherweight that millions of people don't already know.  The Perfect Portable and all that.  Cute factor off the charts.  This 1956 model is a beautiful, shiny specimen.  There is some slight wear to the front edge decals which makes it "okay" to actually use this machine.  Her case, manual and accessory box are all in excellent condition and she has all the toys and goodies.  A little black box full of fun!  She stays.

Singer 221 Centennial Edition

This one is all that and a bag of chips!  Which is to say that not only is she a beautiful machine - nearly pristine in every way - she has the blue 1951 Centennial badge for Singer's 100th Year.   She is too beautiful to actually use and strangely enough she doesn't sew nearly as fast as my other Featherweight and I have never been able to figure out why.  (That is the subject of a previous entry.)  This one is for Show, not for Sew.

Singer 503 "Rocketeer"

This machine will never win any prizes for straight stitching among its peers (although I suspect it can sew circles around many machines made today.)  But it is, quite simply, one of the coolest sewing machines I've ever seen.  Its not my fastest, most powerful, or best straight stitching machine.  But it is my only zigzag model and it has 20+ cams for decorative stitches.  This is also my only mocha machine - everyone else is Classic Black.  He stays if only to do the tasks that the others can't do and to make me smile when I look at him.

Singer 301

This one just joined the family last week and is now my favorite, bestest, most wonderful fantastic machine EVER!!  Why didn't anyone ever let me in on this secret?  I have never particularly coveted a 301, I figured it was just another variation on the theme and I didn't perceive that it had any outstanding feature other than being a bigger edition of the Featherweight.  WRONG!  Don't let the folding bed and carrying case fool you into thinking that this is just an overgrown cousin of the darling, dainty Featherweight (like I did.)   Let your Featherweight do her thing - charming machine that she is - and show her off at your quilting classes.  But for real sewing oomph, snatch up one of these if you are ever lucky enough to find one.  

Let me try to explain it this way:

Take the smooth sewing action of the 201 with it's rotary hook, the speed and power of the 15-91 with it's vertical bobbin, the portability of the 221, and the slant shank of the 503. Wrap them all up into one and you now have this ultimate machine.  It really does have the best of ALL features from my other machines.  And it is the hands down winner for speed.  None of the others even come close...


A while back I did a speed test of all my machines then I compared the 301 and the results were stunning. In 15 seconds (at 12 sts/inch), the machines stitched the following number of inches:

Singer 201 - 11 inches

Singer 221 (1951 model)  - 13 inches

Singer 503 - 14 inches

Singer 221 (1956 model) - 18 inches

Singer 15-91 - 19 inches

Singer 404 - 24 inches

Singer 301 - 31 inches !!!!   That is nearly THREE TIMES faster than the Queen of Machines!

Now I will concede that there is undoubtedly some variation among individual machines - obviously between my two 221's there is quite a difference.  But for the 301 to reach speeds DOUBLE the average of all the other machines, that leaves it the indisputable champion.  

UPDATE:  The 201 has gone to a new home.  The new owner tried her out and loved her.  She wasn't too concerned about the speed, but she was VERY impressed with how quiet this machine is and how beautiful the stitches are.  (I have to admit that yes, this is the quietest sewing machine I have ever heard.)  She has been teaching her daughter to sew and found that the cheap modern machines were only causing frustration because the stitch quality wasn't good.  This machine will totally meet her needs.  It doesn't need to do 1500 spm, it just needs to be simple to use and give a good quality stitch.   I am very happy that she found a machine that meets her needs and will be used and loved. :)


  1. You just made me fall in love with my 301 all over again!!!

  2. I just found your blog. I sew every day on my 401A (Roxie) and love it so I nearly felt defensive at your praise of the other machines. I sew a lot of vinyl and fake fur and Roxie just mows over it and quickly. I also have my grandmother's Centennial 221 that I really need to get better acquainted with...everyone says it made the best buttonholes ever. Looking forward to reading more...

    1. I didn't have a 401 when I wrote this, but I do now. It's a super machine and it *ahem* has taken the place of my 503, which I have since sold. (Do you feel better now?) :)

    2. Best machines ever.... 403A. Special, 404, and 301A.

  3. Great info, really enjoyable to read !

  4. I just bought a commercial Singer251-2 already have a 251 and it also sees like a charm. Has a bunch of feet with it and I can’t wait to do some quilts

  5. Finally feeling that 400 magic, MKB? More attractive than 500 series (arguably) and heavy duty. Not as fast as 301 but more powerful and a good sample should beat all others in your collection. The real prize is a a 403A, though, as it is less complex and temperamental than the 401 and not as delicate as 503. My only machines are (2) 301s and 403 and 404. I do like the 201-2, 15-91, 66, and 99s that have moved on. And my expensive Featherweight left to finance three of the ones I have kept. My go to for 90% is the 404 with Duck Canvas, etc. and my black 301 ismy favorite to look at.

    1. If you read later posts, I really did get into the 401 and along with the 301 is my main machine. Perfect straight stitcher + perfect all around machine. I briefly had a 403, then sold it, but I agree that it is a great machine, as long as you have all the cams, you have most of the stitches of the 401 without the convoluted dial system and camstack. Thanks for the comment!