Today's contestant is the ever-popular "How do I drop the feed dogs for free motion embroidery or darning?"
That is an excellent question. Some machines make it very easy with a clearly labeled knob or lever. Other models like to play hide and seek with the drop feed feature.
First of all, it's a good idea to find out if your machine HAS a drop-feed feature. Basic models such as the 221 Featherweight, 99K, and 185K don't have a drop feed, so you can save yourself the hassle of looking.
But many of the full-size Singer models DO have drop feed; it's just a matter of finding it.
"How do I drop the feed dogs?
Singer 15-91 Drop Feed
Singer's 15-91 is one of the "hide and seek" models. If you have the manual, it tells you where to find it, but it's not obvious when you're looking at the machine.
You have to tilt the machine backwards to access a knob located beneath the machine. It isn't marked, but it's located at the front left underneath the machine, as indicated in the above photo.
(Singer could have learned a thing or two from the Japanese on this one. The Toyota-built Morse 200 pictured at the beginning of the article has a drop feed feature that is a thing of beauty and easy to find! The Japanese didn't just clone the Singer 15, they improved on it!)
Singer 201-2 drop feed knob
Depending on the year of production, the screw may be chrome-plated or WW II-era "Black side."
You'll find the drop feed knob in this same location on Singer's 15-125 and 201-2 models.
Singer 301 drop feed knob
Singer 301 Slant Needle has a different drop-feed location. It's still underneath, but you don't have to tip the machine up. Instead, you flip up the end table and the drop feed knob is located just to the rear of the bobbin case. It isn't labeled, but it is a little easier to find.
Singer 401A throat plate position lever
Singer did a better job of labeling on the 401 and 500 slant needle machines, but still missed the mark in user friendliness. The "Throat Plate Position" lever is located at the front of the sewing platform right next to the spindle for bobbin winding.
It's easy to find, but nothing to get excited about, because it isn't really a drop feed feature.
Singer 401A needle plate in darning position
Rather than drop the feed, the lever raises the needle plate above the level of the feed dogs so that fabric slides freely. It works ok, but it's a little funky because it creates a harsh edge to hook things on.
Singer 411G darning collar
Singer attempted to mitigate the weak design by including a nifty rubber collar on the 411G, but never included it on the Anderson-built machines. The rubber collar helps a bit, but a true drop feed feature would have been nicer!
Singer 306 darning needle plate
Singer took a completely different approach on other machines, such as the 306.
Rather than messing around with levers or knobs, they simply included another needle plate with a raised portion that rode above the feed dogs.
So if your Singer doesn't have a drop feed adjustment, check to see if there's a darning needle plate available.
Still wondering how to drop the feed on your machine? If you have the instruction manual for your machine, look under "Darning" to see if there are instructions for dropping the feed dogs or elevating the sewing surface.
Have fun with your game of hide and seek. But remember, these old machines play to win!
Happy Sewing! Barbara OldSewinGear...dedicated to helping you get the most out of your old sewing gear.
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.