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Looking for a straight-stitch sewing machine? Direct drive motor? Steel gears?
There are a number of phenomenal vintage Singer sewing machines that will fill the bill; 15-91, 15-125, 201-1, 404, and 604 to name a few.
BUT, if you also want a lightweight portable, then the Singer 301 Slant Needle is the machine for you. Especially if you love the Singer 221 Featherweight but want a full-size machine for larger projects. In fact, the 301 is affectionately nicknamed "The Featherweight's Big Sister."
The 301 is the first of Singer's legendary steel-gear direct-drive slant-needle family. Cast in lightweight aluminum, it's the only slant needle that doesn't have a rotary hook placed in front of the presser foot. Instead, the 301 uses the same bobbin as the 221 Featherweight, which mounts beneath the platform to the left of the needle.
The 301 has a flip-up sewing platform extension similar to the 221 Featherweight, and it was designed to be a portable sewing machine. It has a built-in carry handle and was packaged in a distinctive trapezoid-shaped carrying case.
Singer offered the 301 in two versions. The "long bed" version had a longer flip-up table, similar in length to the smaller Featherweight. The "short-bed" version had a shorter flip-up table conforming to the standard dimensions of the 201, 401, & 500.
The long-bed was designed to be strictly portable, while the short-bed could be used as a portable or cabinet machine when paired with a special bracket.
Because it was intended to be portable, the 301 does not have hinge mounts. Which presented a bit of a problem if you want to mount the machine in a conventional cabinet.
Singer solved this problem by producing a funky cradle that clips onto the base of the 301. The cradle has standard hinge mounts enabling the machine to be mounted into a Singer cabinet.
The machine releases from the cradle with the press of a lever, further enhancing it's status as the perfect portable. (See "Rock-a-bye Baby: Singer 301 Cabinet Cradle" for more details. )
Singer also produced a portable table for the 301, similar to the card-table for the 221 Featherweight. But these tables are extremely rare, so happy hunting!
The 301 head weighs a mere 16 pounds, but the overall weight with foot control and motor is closer to 22 pounds. Significantly lighter than the 15-91, which is a cast-iron behemoth or even the 401 which is cast aluminum with a lot of internal steel components.
When it comes to power, the 301 has the gear-driven chops to handle heavy fabrics but is gentle enough for fine dressmaking and quilting too. It's a domestic machine with a .72 amp motor so it isn't meant for day-in, day-out heavy duty sewing but it will do the job beautifully on an occasional basis.
The 301 also features a convenient drop-feed knob for darning or free motion work. Buttonhole and zigzagger attachments are avaiable for additional creative design flexibility.
So if you love the Featherweight but want a larger machine without belts, the 301 is the one for you! Lightweight enough to carry to quilting classes but with heavy duty power for hemming jeans or tackling light upholstery jobs too.
Got steel? The 301 Slant Needle sure does!
OldSewinGear...dedicated to helping you get the most out of your old sewing gear.
Special thanks to readers David, Lisalu, and Ann for sharing experiences and research that led me to make significant revisions to this article in the interests of accuracy and clarity.
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OldSewinGear is the collaborative effort of retired repairman Gary and daughter Barbara. We love old sewing gear and enjoy sharing what we've learned in our vintage sewing machine adventures. We are located in Roseburg, Oregon.