Singer invented much of the technology used in sewing machines from the 1800s up to the present day! For example, Singer’s famous 301A has a lightweight aluminum body and also uses the brand-new concept of a slanted needle. If you’re interested in this unique mid-century sewing machine, you probably want to find out all about the Singer 301A history, value, and reviews!
The Singer 301A sold from 1953-1957 and remains popular today for its precise stitching. It features a lightweight aluminum frame and straight stitching. The 301 models also introduced Singer’s revolutionary slant shank system that used a slanting needle to create a new sewing method.
In this article, you’ll learn all about the history of the Singer 301A. You will discover the key features of this famous Singer model. Finally, you will find out how much this model costs today!
History of Singer 301A
Founded in 1850 by Isaac Singer, the Singer Company made domestic sewing machines popular in the United States. Over the years, the company launched many technological innovations that drove the sewing machine industry globally. On top of that, Singer dominated the world market, selling more sewing machines than all its competitors combined!
Though Singer made thousands of excellent sewing machines models literally, the 301A model stands out for two reasons.
First, the 301 and 301A bear a close resemblance to one of Singer’s earlier models. Singer invented a wildly popular model in the 1930s called the Singer 221, or the “featherweight.” This innovative sewing machine had a small body and an aluminum frame instead of the cast iron that everyone in the world had used to make sewing machines up to that point.
In fact, the 301 and the 221 even use some interchangeable parts, such as their bobbins!
The Featherweight remains extremely popular among sewers and collectors today as the first portable sewing machine. While the 301 has many unique design features, it features an aluminum body just like the Featherweight. The 301 models have a larger frame, but they still qualify as portable!
The second major factor that helped the 301 models stand out was their timing. After WWII, many American and European sewing machine manufacturers continued to sell old models designed before the war.
At the time, this made sense. Some of the manufacturers had to reconfigure factories that had been used for war efforts. Others just had a tough time competing with the post-war boom of sewing machines made in Japan.
In contrast, Singer used the innovative 301 to launch its return to the global stage after the war. Bringing out new technology when other companies struggled even to produce old models was a bold move.
But Singer had something special to celebrate. In 1950, the company reached its 100th anniversary! The unique, innovative 301 models commemorated all that the company stood for in the sewing machine world.
What is a Singer 301?
The Singer 301 is a straight stitch machine with a lightweight aluminum body and a slant shank foot system. It was the first sewing machine to use a slant-needle design and the first domestic sewing machine with all its moving parts concealed inside the body.
The slant shank means that the needle bar and presser bar incline forward at an angle, with the top farther back from you as you sew. This provides better visibility of the fabric as you stitch!
Singer patented its 301 model design in 1944 but did not manufacture the first models for sale until 1951. The Singer 301 sold from 1951-52, at which point the 301A took over and sold very successfully from 1953-57.
The 301 piloted a brand-new type of sewing machine technology. The company essentially redesigned the way its domestic sewing machine model operated from scratch for the 301! For this reason, the company made a small batch of test models in 1950 and tested them for several months in-house before going to production.
What was so different about this machine? It used something called a slant shank foot system. This means that the needle comes down at an angle instead of straight lines on this machine.
A few years later, the Singer 401 earned the name of the “Slant-O-Matic” for using this creative technology!
The 301 also has accessible parts and very simple inner workings. It is a straight-stitch machine, unlike the 401. This means that the 301 has a simple, sleek design with no complex cams to enable fancy stitching.
On the downside, this also meant a short popular life for the 301 and 301A, as zigzag machines like the Singer 401 essentially made the 301 models obsolete later in the 1950s.
Despite that, the 301 models remain popular today for anyone who values vintage sewing machines. They also continued to sell to schools and educators for quite a while. The simple, accessible design of the 301 made it ideal for students to learn on!
When was Singer 301A Made?
The Singer 301A first sold in 1953 and remained in production through 1957. Though it did not have a long sale life, it reached great popularity at the time.
This full-sized machine weighs only 16 pounds, thanks to its aluminum body. It also has a rotary hook system that allows super-fast stitching of up to 1,600 stitches per minute!
The cool thing about this is that the 301 does not have a special motor. It just has a sleek, streamlined design that allows really precise and fast stitching!
The 301A came in either creamy metal, gold, or light brown. Sometimes it also came built into a standard Singer table, including the “Queen Anne” or No. 40 cabinet.
In the 1950s, the 301A with a cabinet and all its accessories sold brand-new for $348. This might not seem like a lot, but if you adjust that to today’s pricing, it would cost about $3,150!
Singer 301 Vs Singer 301A
The only difference between Singer 301 and Singer 301A is the factories that built them. The 301 models were tested and built at Singer’s giant factory in Elizabethport, New Jersey. The slightly later 301A models were built at Singer’s factory in Anderson, South Carolina.
The Singer Company bought a large facility outside of the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1872. At the time, this factory outshone any other sewing machine manufacturing facility in the world!
During both world wars, this facility produced weapons and ammunition instead of sewing machines. In 1945 it resumed domestic sewing machine manufacturing.
Then in 1950, Singer built a brand-new facility in Anderson, SC. Because the company had so many locations by then, Singer began using letter designations to indicate the factory that made models. The “A” in the 301A stands for Anderson, SC!
Despite this, the 301 and 301A are literally the same machine. They use the same manual and have all the same parts and features.
Is the Singer 301 a Good Machine?
The Singer 301 and 301A have many of the hallmarks of good vintage sewing machines, including precise stitching and reliability.
Sometimes referred to as the “Featherweight’s big sister,” the 301 class machines were the first full-sized portable domestic sewing machines ever made, complete with a carrying handle on the top!
Then again, sometimes the 301A gets negatively compared to the 401 class models, which rapidly outshone the 301s. The 401s have automatic zigzag stitching capability, while the 301 does simple straight stitching.
The 301 class machines also do not have super powerful motors. The .72 amp motor used in these machines can power through some heavy material, but these machines are not industrial-strength workhorses that can sew through canvas or leather.
The 301 does contain solid steel parts inside, unlike the cheap plastic of modern machines!
Plus, the 301 offers high-speed precision stitching. It also has a slanting needle that lets you see your work more clearly. It has a drop-feed knob that lets you move the feed dogs for different kinds of sewing.
The 301 has a unique value to sewing enthusiasts because it revolutionized sewing machine technology. Many 301 models also remain highly usable today, given the proper care!
The bottom line is that the 301 and 301A usually rank as good vintage sewing machines.
Singer 301A Value
You can typically buy a Singer 301 or 301A for about $150, but the price can rise to $300 depending on the machine’s condition and its attachments. In general, there is less demand for the class 301 models than for the 221 Featherweights, which typically sell for a minimum price of $350.
Vintage sewing machines have some collectibility, but only very rare models get the sort of cult following that causes a price to skyrocket. The Featherweights come pretty close to this because people love them so much for actual sewing! The 301s, sadly, never quite became a big thing with collectors.
So, in terms of monetary value, the 301A does not demand a high price. In terms of utility value, many modern sewers find it highly effective!
The value of any vintage sewing machine also depends heavily on its condition. If you can find a Singer 301A in mint condition that runs smoothly, has received regular servicing, or even has a certification from a Singer repair shop, you can expect that lovely girl to cost closer to $300 than $150.
On the other hand, if you stumble across a rusty, disused lump of metal sitting outside at a jumble sale, you better steer clear! Unless you know a lot about preserving and retrofitting old sewing machines, you will probably never be able to make that poor machine shine again.
Singer 301 Attachments
Though the Singer 301 models only sew a straight stitch, you can find some fun attachments to give them special abilities. For example, the slant-shank buttonholer designed for the 301 models can make five different types of fancy buttonholes!
The buttonholer looks a bit like an old-fashioned black stapler. To use it, you attach it to the sewing machine following its instruction booklet. It comes with a throat plate cover that lets you mount everything to the machine.
Singer made several other attachments specifically for the 301 as well. These include a ruffler, an edgestitcher, a binder, a gatherer foot, and a narrow hemmer.
You can find these for sale on Etsy, Singer’s website, or specialty sewing parts sites. Typically, an attachment like the buttonholer will only cost you about $25. The good thing about a model that never got super famous among collectors is that you can buy all its parts and pieces quite cheaply!
Singer 301A Parts
You can easily find replacement parts for the Singer 301A by searching online sellers on Etsy or browsing specialty online stores such as the Featherweight Store. Vintage sewing machines like the 301 often run for decades without a hitch, but even the most durable machine needs attention regularly. Your 301A may need a simple fix, such as replacing the lightbulb.
If your machine needs gears or drivers replaced, or the motor seems to have an issue, you may want to take it to a certified Singer technician. On the other hand, if you just need to plug in a new cord or foot pedal, you can buy the part online and do the work yourself to save time and money!
Other easy fixes include putting in a new spool pin spring or bobbin case tension screw. Many online vintage sewing machine stores also sell cleaning kits or special brushes and oils for maintaining your vintage 301A.
As a final note on 301A parts, you should always give your machine a thorough cleaning before giving up on a part. Maybe lint has clogged something that should move freely. Sometimes grime builds up inside old machines that require regular oiling. You might just need to clean everything out to get it running smoothly again!
Singer 301A Manual
You can download the Singer 301A manual here for free. One of the cool things about vintage Singer sewing machines is that you can pretty much find any information you need online for free, including the owner’s manuals!
Partly this is because so many American sewers use vintage Singer sewing machines to this day. The SInger COmpany also does a good job providing support and customer service even for their old models. The company values its heritage and has a good reputation for making older information and parts accessible to customers.
So, why do you need the manual? Sewing machine owner’s manuals provide lots of key info on how to clean and use the machine. For example, this pamphlet will tell you which moving parts to oil regularly. It will also tell you how to insert a new needle or adjust the feed dogs.
Of course, you can often look up a Youtube clip to demonstrate some of these techniques, too. But nothing replaces the manual, which is your sewing machine reference bible to refer back to time and again!
Remember that the Singer 301 and 301A manuals can be used interchangeably, as they refer to the same machine!
Where to Buy a Singer 301A
You can often find Singer 301A models for sale on eBay or Craigslist. You can also go to brick-and-mortar vintage sewing machine stores near you or haunt your local thrift and antique stores to see if you can spot a 301!
Today, most of you probably do a lot of your shopping online. While you can find a few specialty vintage sewing machine sellers online, you will mostly find yourself weeding through “junk vendors” who bought an estate sale and post everything on eBay or Amazon. FOr this reason, you should request a video demonstrating that the machine runs before you make a purchase!
Keep in mind that some unscrupulous sellers also use the excuse that something is vintage to mark the price up to ridiculous levels. Know your price point before you start shopping–the 301 models typically don’t sell for more than $300.
Besides price, the main thing you want to focus on when purchasing any vintage sewing machine is its condition. Do the decals and decorations look pristine? If it comes in a wooden cabinet, is the wood smooth or chipped and scarred?
Most importantly, is the machine rusty? Does it have frayed wiring? Do your best to inspect everything as much as you can using the product photos and description.
If you get the chance to inspect the machine in person, try turning the handwheel. The needle should go up and down and the feed dogs should move back and forth with every turn of the wheel. This way, you can test the basics without even plugging in in the machine!
The great thing about buying a vintage Singer made during this era is that you can easily find needles, bobbins, bobbin cases, and attachments for it at a fairly low cost. Of course, as you now know, you can find information on the owner’s manual quite easily, too!
Singer 301A Review
The Singer 301A is a class 301 model made in Anderson, SC at Singer’s 1950s facility. The 301 models were Singer’s first slant shank machine with a slanting needle providing more accessible sewing. The 301 models were also Singer’s first full-size portable sewing machine with an aluminum body.
Today, you can expect to find vintage 301A models selling for $150-$300. These models remain popular because of their precise sewing and durability. They also offer a lightweight alternative to Singer’s older cast-iron models like the class 15 sewing machines.
Is the 301A the right vintage sewing machine for you? This depends on what kind of sewing you do regularly. The 301 can accomplish most basic garment sewing and is strong enough to handle basic quilting.
That said, if you want a lot of fancy embroidery stitches or an automatic zigzag feature, you should look to Singer’s later models. The 301A is rightfully famous for its wonderful straight stitching, but it only offers straight and reverse stitching.
Finally, the 301A marked a big milestone in sewing machine technology development. For that reason, if no other, many sewing enthusiasts find a special place in their hearts for this unique Singer machine!
Singer introduced the 301A model to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary in 1953. This stellar straight-stitch sewing machine launched Singer’s proprietary new slant-needle design. It also featured the first-ever full-sized portable body!
Today, the 301A remains popular among seers for its ease of use and reliability. That said, it is not a hot collector’s item and will not have a high resale value.
Have you ever used a Singer 301A? What was your favorite thing about this vintage sewing machine? Leave a comment below to let us know!
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Monday 25th of October 2021
My husband and I bought one when we were first married 50+ years ago. I love this durable machine. It only sews straight stitches but it has lasted us throughout our marriage. We bought it used in Seattle for $20. Best money we've ever spent!