Stitching Through Time: A Legacy of Craft with Singer Sewing Machines

Everyone knows Singer sewing machines, they used one in school or grandma had one. Learn how Isaac Singer made his brand synonymous with sewing machines.

We were not a Singer sewing machine household and I didn’t sew on a Singer until the late 90s when I bought a used Singer Merritt 2404. However, if it wasn’t for Isaac Singer and his business partners sewing by machine might not be as woven into the fabric of society as it is today. Let’s learn more about the man and the company that everyone thinks of when you mention sewing machines.

Singer sewing machine history

In 1851, Isaac Singer founded the Singer Corporation. Five years later, in 1856, the company was renamed the Singer Manufacturing Company. Finally, in 1963, it became known as the Singer Company. In 1853 they made 810 sewing machines 20 years later in 1873 they made 232,444 machines. Singer sewing machines were on their way to being the best-known brand of sewing machines ever. Isaac Singer’s ruthless tactics in the sewing machine market wouldn’t fly today. His company, Singer Manufacturing Company, had a nasty habit of deliberately destroying trade-in sewing machines made by competitors.

Singer Sewing Machine Myths

Prepare to unravel the tangled threads of Singer sewing machine lore. They were not the first sewing machine. Elias Howe patented the first lock-stitch sewing machine and he and Issac Singer went to court over it. According to Joan Perk, a patent sharing agreement was finally reached among the major sewing machine companies so they could continue to make sewing machines.

The popularity of Singer sewing machines spawned a misconception: “All sewing machines were made by Singer!” But that’s simply not true. While Singer enjoyed immense success and market dominance for a long time, numerous other manufacturers have always existed and thrived in the sewing machine industry. There have always been multiple manufacturers of sewing machines. Singer has never been the only one. Also, while no one can deny the popularity of the Singer sewing machine it was also never the best on the market. Issac Singer was focused on marketing and affordability, not innovation. I like to think of Singer sewing machines like the Ford truck of the sewing world. Ford trucks are fairly dependable, they’ll get the job done, but they don’t have the style of GMC or the towing capacity of Dodge.

How Isaac Singer Turned His Company Into A Household Name

The simple answer is he surrounded himself with really smart people. Isaac Singer was busy, well getting busy, he died in England because he was in trouble in the USA for bigamy and had fled the States. Singer had used lawyer Edward Clark to file patents and made him a business partner. This was probably because Isaac couldn’t afford to pay Clark for his services.

Clark is the one responsible for the rent to own program. Sewing machines were 25% of an average annual salary at the time. That would be around $26,000 in 2023, most of us would need to make payments in order to buy one. Singer offering that payment plan meant more people could afford one of their sewing machines. Clark also built The Dakota in NYC.

Singer also used a trade-in option later on. You could trade in any sewing machine for a new Singer. Many of those traded in machines were destroyed because Singer didn’t want competitor machines on the market cheap. Now there were shops that didn’t destroy all of the machines but it was unwritten company policy to do so. Several people who worked for Singer in the 50s and 60s have said this in various online groups over the years.

Singer Sewing Machine Specific Model Posts

These are the dedicated posts to specific models of Singer sewing machines.

Singer 24 – We call this our ticky-ticky machine because that’s the sound it makes. This is a chain stitch machine and was marketed for both domestic and industrial use.

Singer 27 – The Singer 27 class of machines includes both the 27 and the 127.

Singer 28 – This was Singer’s first attempt at a portable machine. It’s slightly smaller than the Singer 27 and was available in a carrying case. I wouldn’t want to carry it far though.

Singer 101 – This was Singer’s first machine that was designed for electricity.

Singer 301 – The 301 takes the same bobbin as the 221, Featherweight, sewing machine. If you need one there are links to them in the blog post. The 301 is also a slant shank machine if you’d like to know more about those feet check out our slant shank sewing machine feet post.

Singer 306

Singer 500A -Sometimes referenced as The Rocketeer the Singer 500A is one of the last all-metal sewing machines Singer made. It takes cams to make decorative stitches and is a slant shank machine, like the 301.

Singer Merrit 2404

Repairing and Maintenance of Sewing Machines

Some of the posts are general sewing machine repair posts and some of them are specific to Singer sewing machines. Most vintage sewing machines all work in a similar fashion so there is little need to get brand specific.

Oiling Sewing Machines – We have two posts, what you need to lubricate your sewing machine and a general overview of sewing machine oils.

How To Clean Tension Disks

Rewiring the machine – We have put all of our rewiring posts into one single post now.

Replacing Sewing Machine Belts – First up we have how to measure your sewing machine belt, then we have a post on how to replace electric sewing machine belts and one on replacing treadle sewing machine belts.

How To Time a Sewing Machine

Basic Sewing Machine Repair – We’ve put all of our basic sewing machine repair information in one post. This has everything from removing rust, cleaning the inside and outside of the machine, and more.

Cleaning Godizilla Finishes – Since the crinkle finishes are different this is a separate post.

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FAQs About Singer Sewing Machines

When was my Singer made?

You will need your serial number to figure this out. We have a complete guide on how to find your Singer sewing machine serial number. Once you have your serial number you can use the ISMACs serial number database to find the day that your serial number was allocated. It doesn’t mean it was made that day but it would have been made pretty close to that.

Where was my Singer made?

Each Singer factory used a letter designation. I have all of those listed under the factories section of our Singer Sewing Machine Models by Year post.

Do old Singer sewing machines have value?

They do have value. They aren’t going to make you rich though. Most machines are going to be worth about $100. A 221 Featherweight is going to go for a little more because of the demand on the market for them. A 222 Free Arm Featherweight will bring $1000 or more because they are truly a unicorn in the Singer sewing machine world.

What is the most sought-after Singer sewing machine?

The 221 Featherweight is the most sought-after machine for the general public. Die-hard collectors though want the 222 Free Arm Featherweight because so few were made. There were 2,089,917 regular Featherweights made while only 103,900 of the free-arm featherweights were made.

How Many Singer machines were made?

Currently, there are 434 documented Singer sewing machine models. There is a good chunk of time missing in the list when Singer was changing hands in the 80s. All efforts have been made to document all of the machines made.

Vintage Singer Sewing machine information