Singer 237 Fashion Mate Sewing Machine Reveiw

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The Singer 237 was a basic, zigzag, flat bed sewing machine that Singer sold in the later part of the 1960's.  Despite it's humble beginnings, this machine is definitely worth considering as a decent, vintage machine.  It makes a stunning satin stitch. 

   

Let's start with the statistics and features:

  • Cast iron head with some plastic panels
  • Weighs about 32 pounds
  • Side loading, class 15 bobbin (bobbin case position finger at the 1 o'clock position)
  • Uses standard, 15x1, household sewing machine needles
  • Low shank attachments (including low shank buttonhole attachments)
  • Adjustable needle position
  • Adjustable stitch length and width
  • Adjustable presser foot pressure
  • Reverse feed
  • Feed dogs drop (control knob on bed- most models)
  • NO PLASTIC GEARS
  • External light fixture
  • External, belt driven motor  - Great candidate for a "motorectomy" and conversion to treadle.
Over all, The Singer 237 reminds me of many of the Japanese built, side loading, class 15 machines of the same era.

The 237 can  be mounted into a standard Singer table or treadle base, but quite often it was sold with a plastic case as shown below.  Whenever shipping this machine,  it should always be removed from the case, and the machine and case should be packed separately.

These are generally pretty sturdy machines, but there are a few things to be on the look out for when buying these.  for one, the hook race cover is plastic and can crack with age. Sew-classic Parts and supplies has replacement bobbins, belts, needles, bobbin winder tires, race cover, etc...in the Sew-Classic on line Parts and Supplies Store. Other than a good cleaning and oiling, a new belt and perhaps a replacement race cover, these machines generally don't have too many typical problems.  However, it's always a good idea to test out any machine by sewing and winding a bobbin first, unless the seller has already serviced, tested it and is offering a guarantee.  It's not uncommon for a machine of this age to have suffered abuse or even have missing parts- a quick  test sewing will let you know right away if there are any serious issues. 


Above:  Here is the plastic race cover found on the 237 (and the 239)


THERE IS NOTHING INDUSTRIAL ABOUT THIS MODEL. Yep, plenty of eBay, snake oil salesman will market it as "industrial strength". (for more information: Guide to Buying a Sewing Machine on Ebay)

The Singer 239 is the straight stitch version of the 237. 

You can get a free threading diagram here.

More photos:




Below, here is the Singer model 239- the straight stitch only "sibling" of the 237

 
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  • Thursday, February 04. 2010 Moe wrote:
    There is a Singer Fashion Mate that looks exactly like this with plastic gears, I just threw three into the parts pile. I wasn't even paying attention to the model Number. Then a few days later cleaned and oiled the all metal gear version. The Touch and Sew does that, too. Same make and model name, but definetly different in quality. What cues can a shopper use to avoid that
    (assuming in a second hand situation you can't unscrew the top)?
    1. Thursday, February 04. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
        Yep, The 237 and 239 are the only Fashion Mate models that don't have plastic gears.  You have to LOOK at the model number on the machine, or purchase from a reputable, knowledgeable seller/dealer.  I see machines on eBay listed as all metal or metal gears that I know for a FACT have plastic innards.

      If you're looking at a machine in person, then you can always take off the covers and look for yourself.  I keep a screw driver with me when I go to look at machines. Taking off the top is quick and easy- just 2 or three screws most of the time.  



  • Saturday, February 06. 2010 Shana wrote:
    Hi Jenny, and thank you for the excellent review! I got this as my first machine when I started teaching myself how to sew about ten years ago. I'm up to four machines now and this little beast is still my baby.
    It was great ordering from you! I'm glad to see you're going to be stocking that hook race cover--I've always been kinda worried about it
  • Tuesday, February 09. 2010 diana wrote:
    My 237 is named Helen for the lady who owed it for 30some years before it came to live with me. It is my go-to machine for quick jobs and if I could find a treadle base this would be the one I would put in it. The only thing I wish it had is the blind hem function, but I do have other machines that can handle that job. It is an uncomplicated worker that does what is asked of it, and one I would not hesitate to recommend.
  • Tuesday, February 09. 2010 Juanita wrote:
    Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for a great website. It has been very helpful. I run a school and have introduced sewing this year to the 3rd -6th grades. I'm using all vintage machines. Someone just donated a 237 and I realized it could it could be converted to our 3rd treadle. I didn't know what I even had until I got it tuned up. I was going to GIVE IT AWAY!! We now have 66 and 99 handcranks, a 201 treadle, a White Rotary treadle, a 27 centennial electric (donated),a super little Kenmore electric, and a 503 Rocketeer electric. Add to that our 237 zigzag treadle and we can sew anything!! Now we just need a larger room.
  • Thursday, February 11. 2010 Michele wrote:
    I received a FashionMate 237 as my 12th birthday present (in 1973) and it's still going strong. It's a great machine.
  • Wednesday, February 17. 2010 Max Sullivan wrote:
    Thanks for the information you shared that's so useful and quite informative and i have taken those into consideration....
    Max Sullivan,
    Women's Beauty Portal
    Beauty Tips and Advices
  • Wednesday, February 17. 2010 Women's Beauty Portal wrote:
    Cheers for the info. It was a good read.
  • Wednesday, February 17. 2010 Christina wrote:
    I have the 237 Fashion Mate; I got it as a hand-me-down from my Mom, who purchased it on 1-2-1970, according to the tag on the cover.

    There is one major downside to this machine: you can't use twin needles, because the flat side of the needle must face the right. For this reason, it is my secondary machine.

    Another small modification that should be made to the machine if you use it much is to replace the foot pedal controller with an electronic one. I was sewing for hours on end, hemming a slipcover for a very, very large couch. The foot pedal kept getting very hot. I took it to a nearby sewing machine repair shop, and they put in a new controller. (It cost more than 100 dollars--do it yourself if you can!) The foot pedal is nice and cool now.

    When I read that you can do a motor-ectomy to this machine, I got really happy, because I really want a treadle sewing machine. But then I realized why I don't use this sewing machine much--I love my double needles for sewing knits.

    Is there a similar vintage zigzag machine that threads front to back that can be converted to treadle? Could you give a tutorial on the conversion process?
  • Sunday, February 21. 2010 Mary wrote:
    I recently purchased a Singer Fashion Mate 237. It has four differences from the one you have pictured. The pressure foot knob is small metal knob on top left ,there is no feed dog drop knob on the base of the machine, the light and foot pedal are different as well. It offers the zig-zag stitch and change in needle position. It almost appears to be a cross between a 237 and 239. Do you have any ideas where I can go to research this machine further?
    1. Sunday, February 21. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      I'm not sure what information you are looking to research further and obtain. You can look up the serial number on the Singer website  and find out when the number was assigned and maybe where it was made.

      "I recently purchased a Singer Fashion Mate 237. It has four differences from the one you have pictured. The pressure foot knob is small metal knob on top left ,there is no feed dog drop knob on the base of the machine, the light and foot pedal are different as well. It offers the zig-zag stitch and change in needle position. It almost appears to be a cross between a 237 and 239. Do you have any ideas where I can go to research this machine further?"

    2. Thursday, February 25. 2010 Jonathan wrote:
      Mary,
      I have 2 Singer 237s.
      The earlier model does not have a knob to raise and lower the feed dogs. And the pressure foot knob is small and silver. I believe this is the model you have. Mine is a pale yellow with a mustard yellow face plate. I don't know that all the earlier models were this color. But I do know they were sold without the knob to adjust the feed dogs.

      My 2nd Singer 237 model is the later model reviewed here. It's a tan color. It's got the knob for the feed dogs and the pressure foot knob is larger and numbered. Hope this helps.
  • Sunday, February 21. 2010 Jennifer wrote:
    Hello! Thanks very much for the review. My mother-in-law gave us her 237, and I'd like to use it, but the foot pedal was dropped and snapped in half. Any suggestions on what the best replacement part would be, and where I might find it?

    Thanks!
    1. Sunday, February 21. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Any of the controllers available on the Sew-Classic Parts and Supplies on line Shop will work fine with the 237.

      http://shop.sew-classic.com/Foot-Controls-Foot-Pedals-Parts_c9.htm


  • Thursday, February 25. 2010 Jonathan wrote:
    Mary,
    I have 2 Singer 237s. The earlier model is light yellow, with a small metal pressure foot knob on top. It does not have a knob to raise and lower the feed dogs.

    The later model is beige with a numbered pressure foot knob on top and a knob to the right for the feed dogs.

    Hope this helps.
  • Wednesday, March 10. 2010 Jonathan wrote:
    Jenny,
    EXCELLENT review - your photos are beautiful!!!
    The Singer 237 was my first sewing machine and I love it.
  • Sunday, March 14. 2010 jackie crook wrote:
    Hi Jenny, I just purchased a used Fashion Mate 237; There is no manuel so I'm wing'n it;the straight stitch looks like a straight line with dots not a typical stitch. It's hard to describe;What am I doing wrong?? Any info you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Jackie
    1. Saturday, March 20. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      You need to adjust the tension.  http://blog.sew-classic.com/2009/01/13/tension-is-it-getting-to-you.aspx
  • Monday, March 29. 2010 Aja wrote:
    Great website, lots of useful info.
  • Friday, April 30. 2010 Gary wrote:
    http://www.singerco.com/support/serial_2letter.html
    The only info the above website told me about my 237 (ser# ME566287) is that it was made in Monza, Italy, sometime after 1934. Hoping you can find something I don't know about. Thanks. Gary
    1. Friday, April 30. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      You are probably not going to get a specific date that the serial number was assigned.   It's ok, the machine will sew just fine enven not knowing it's birthday. 
  • Tuesday, May 04. 2010 Starr wrote:
    Love your site and the resource it provides.
    Just brought a 237 home and it looks to be a great shape. No manual.
    Now after studying your review I see my feed dogs don't drop. I was planning on using it as replacement for another machine that has feed dog drop. Can I get a cover plate so I could do some limited free motion? The posting here have already helped a lot with understanding this new baby. thanks
    1. Thursday, May 06. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Yes, there are feed cover plates available that you can use on yrou 237 since the dogs don't drop on your model.

      http://shop.sew-classic.com/Feed-Cover-Plate-Universal-fit-Most-Machines-SCP903.htm
  • Saturday, May 22. 2010 Gaer Guerber wrote:
    I now have a Fashion Mate 237 and need a light assembly.

    In the future I am sure I will be needing more parts and would like info on parts sources for this machine.

    Any help would be appeciated.
  • Tuesday, May 25. 2010 Cynthia wrote:
    I'm looking for a machine that will fit in the cabinet of my old Touch and Sew machine and will be good for a hobbyist upholsterer. I'm wondering about the 237. Thank you for all advice, thoughts and considerations!
  • Friday, June 04. 2010 anne hahn wrote:
    have Fashion Mate zig-zag Singer machine model 237. Trying to decide whether to donate to Good Will or sell if it has value. Any suggestions. Thanks.
    1. Friday, June 04. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      This article tells how to determine the "worth" of a sewing machine.
      http://blog.sew-classic.com/2009/06/05/6-steps-of-how-much-is-a-sewing-machine-worth.aspx

  • Thursday, July 01. 2010 Sharon Weaver wrote:
    I bought my 237 at a thrift shop for all of $20. I did a motorectomy and I use it in my treadle stand, it treadles very easily. Its great having a zig zag treadle machine.
    Sharon Weaver
  • Monday, July 12. 2010 Karla Walker wrote:
    Great website and pictures!!! I enjoy reading about others and their Singer 237's. I learned to sew on my mother's 237 in the early 1970's. I now have the machine, plus several other 237's that I picked up at thrift stores. I was looking to have one to use for parts, but they all seem to work, so I've been fixing them up for family members. I do mission quilting (strip piecing) with my church and sew lots of straight and zig lines very fast. I love the 237 stitch and the 32 pounds of sewing machine keep the machine from dancing across the table. I tried to teach my daughter to sew on this machine, but she kept bumping her head on the metal and ending up wearing her bike helmet while she sewed!!!
  • Wednesday, July 14. 2010 Karla Walker wrote:
    I would not pay over xx--but only if the machine works and has a receipt for recent servicing. I have been fortunate to get several 237's in good shape for xx each, including cabinet and/or case, at thrift stores and on Craigslist. The 237 Singer is selling on Ebay for xx and up. With shipping, that makes it at least  xx. If the machine has not been serviced, but is working, I would pay no more than xx. The 237 is a great, mostly metal machine and could become more popular--save for weighing 32 pounds. My mother believes that our original 237 (40 years old and going strong), purchased in the late 60's sold for around xx (in a cabinet). Good luck with your purchase!!!
    1. Wednesday, July 14. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Appraisal services are not really something within the scope of this blog.  But you can get a good feel for the value of a machine by following the steps in this article. http://blog.sew-classic.com/2009/06/05/6-steps-of-how-much-is-a-sewing-machine-worth.aspx

      Thanks
  • Sunday, August 15. 2010 Nicole wrote:
    I have a Singer Fashion Mate 237, that my mother handed down to me. I knew it was a good machine when the servicer tried to buy it from me.

    I'm wondering if there is a ruffler foot I can buy that would work with the machine?
    Thank you.
    1. Monday, August 16. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Yes, a standard, low shank ruffler will work fine.  Contact me directly, and I can get one for you.
  • Monday, August 30. 2010 Annie wrote:
    Thanks for posting this! I've inherited my grandmother's 237 and am teaching myself how to sew with it. So far, I love it! I'm on the lookout for a wooden sewing cabinet like the one I remember my grandmother having, but most of what I've found online is modern and made of other materials. Do you have any suggestions of where I might look?
  • Tuesday, October 12. 2010 Sewer Guy wrote:
    I am also teaching myself how to sew (after three months, I no longer get my finger pricked anymore!) I've also heard that the hook case cover may crack at times. What I like about the 237 is the size and that you can easily carry them! Not too heavy.
  • Tuesday, October 12. 2010 Crazy Dave wrote:
    I am also teaching myself how to sew (after three months, I no longer get my finger pricked anymore!) I've also heard that the hook case cover may crack at times. What I like about the 237 is the size and that you can easily carry them! Not too heavy.
  • Wednesday, October 20. 2010 dutch wrote:
    I have a 237 that needs a thread guide (the one that is attached to the lower part of the needle bar)and the small screw on the needle bar that stops the needle from moving up to far. I can't find these parts on the internet and do not want to go to the service store. Do you have a source for 237 parts? Thank you, Dutch
    1. Monday, November 01. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      You can contact the Sew-Classic Discount Sewing Machine Parts & Supplies on-line shop with parts queries here.
  • Thursday, October 21. 2010 Donna Peters wrote:
    Is it possible or advisable to sew canvas with this machine?
    1. Monday, November 01. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      it would depend on how heavy of a canvas material, the number of layers and how frequently you'd be doing this type of sewing.  For more infformation- try this article:  http://blog.sew-classic.com/2008/11/13/industrial-commercial-grade-professional-industrial-strength--more--sewing-machine-buying-guide.aspx
  • Monday, November 01. 2010 Karla Walker wrote:
    Make sure you have the rcommended needle for the fabric before you try canvas on this machine. I've sewn thick fabric with success, but not canvas. Let us know if it works!
  • Tuesday, November 02. 2010 roberta mosenfelder wrote:
    just got one for free...am researching...am confused..one site calls this a "touch and sew" and another "expert" warned me that they have plastic gears that are difficult to replace..I looked inside..saw some gears..kind of hidden ( greased them) wondering if they had plastic gears that were metal-colored...and why the mis-information ..thanks
    1. Monday, November 08. 2010 Sew-Classic wrote:
      SOME fashoin mate models have plastic gears.  The 237 doesn't have any plastic gears, and it is not a touch and sew.

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