Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Herd: Singer 306, 316G, and 319

I hope you are enjoying the pictures of the herd.  I always enjoy seeing other people's herds.  Eventually I plan to get them all into blog format, and then just update the posts as the herd changes.  It's useful to have a visual inventory.

Singer 306W

These are all 1950's cam machines and represent some of the earliest Singers to provide decorative stitches to the domestic sewing machine market.  Reason #1 why I love these machines:  I love decorative stitches.  I love cam machines because all you have to do is pop the cams in and out.  (Cam stack machines make decorative stitches also, but I always have to get the manual out to re-teach myself how to use them.  Not a problem if you only own one machine, btw.)

Singer 306W

They all use the flat black Singer cams, which sit on the front of the machine where you can watch them turning.  Reason #2 why I love these machines:  this is just adorable.  Not to mention that this is the easiest cam system to use that I have ever seen.

Singer 319, reviewed in more detail recently

They are all reported to treadle beautifully, and I have confirmed this on the 306s.  Reason #3 why I love these machines:  everyone needs a treadle-able machine that makes decorative stitches.  I know I do.

Singer 306K

They have the loveliest "song".  All sewing machines have their own song.  Sometimes they howl or growl if they are unhappy, and you had better pay attention to that.  Some just hum quietly to themselves.  Reason #4 why I love these machines:  This class of machine sings "tickety tickety tickety" and it is a very friendly sound, especially when treadling.

Are you ready to rush out and buy one?  Better think again...there are issues.

Issue #1:  The 306 and 319 both take a class 206 bobbin, which is readily available (see links to Jenny or Cindy) but you can't just run out to Joann's to pick some up.  To me this is no big deal:  once you have enough bobbins, you have enough bobbins.

Issue #2:  The 306 and 319 both take class 206 sewing machine needles (see the same vendors).  Also readily, but not inexpensively, available.  A much bigger deal, and one that prevents me from using either of these models as my "go-to" machine.  I'm not a tame and timid seamstress.  I break needles.  I'm willing to attempt to sew just about anything that I can shove under a presser foot.  And in my younger, much stupider, days, I even took the presser foot off at times.  Until I sewed through my thumb.

Fortunately, I discovered the German Singer 316 and it was love at first sight.   The first one I saw was a muscular black one, very masculine. I was lucky enough to buy a mocha and beige one from McKenna Linn, and although I paid more than I have ever paid for any other vintage machine, it cost no more than a low end plastic wonder.  Including shipping.  This is the great secret that vintage sewing machine owners know:  you can get fabulous machines, far better than the most expensive machines being made today, for a song.

Singer 316G, the love of my life

Her name is Brunhilde, the name of one of the Norse Valkyries, and it means "Battle Bright".  Very appropriate given the hand-to-hand combat nature of some of my sewing adventures.  So far she has handled everything I have thrown at her without a grumble, including a couple more pieces of soft sided luggage.  And Brunhilde, the 316, takes a regular class 15 bobbin and regular sewing machine needles.  And that adjustable light!  Gosh, real light, lots of it, and right where you want it, wherever you want it.  Sewing machine light heaven.

You can set the maximum and minimum width of the decorative stitches with the happy-face-elephant-nose thingy.  And it makes me smile every time I sit down at the machine.

Singer 316G in a Singer Hampden Court cabinet--look at all that drawer space!  Look at all that mess!
and now you know how the photo magic really happens.  Cut a tri-fold display board in half (think "science fair" board) and you will have two photo backdrops.

And the motor controller (aka foot pedal) is another wonder.  For the first time I truly understand the meaning of "controller".  I can sew at any speed, including so slow that it is really one stitch at a time, and the machine just tickety ticks along.  No grumbling.  No hesitation.  Ultimate, absolute, instantaneous control.  Kind of like cooking with a gas range after using an electric. 

She does, however, share with the 306 and 319
Issue #3:  the only way to access the bobbin is to tilt the machine back.  What WERE they thinking? 

This is the reason I installed a coil spring belt on my treadle.  When I have the 306 (or, later, the 319) in there I can tilt the machine back to change the bobbin without undoing the belt.

There is another potential issue with the 306 and the 319, and another reason to think seriously about whether you want one or not:
Potential Issue #4:  They may have been re-timed in order to take the common sewing machine needles.  Sounds good, yes?  No, THIS IS A BAD THING.  But it can be corrected.

What does this mean?  I barely understand it myself, but here goes.  A properly functioning sewing machine is a masterpiece of synchronicity.  Think about it:  You've got thread in a needle on the top, thread in the bobbin on the bobbin, and feed dogs pushing the fabric along, and they all have to work together PERFECTLY.  Timing, as I understand it, is the coordination of these three things.

So if you take a machine designed to work perfectly with a certain size of needle and disrupt that synchronicity, you no longer have a machine designed to work perfectly.  It has been messed up.  And sooner or later, you will pay.

If the machine comes with a needle, take it out and put it side by side with a regular needle.  Same length?  The machine may have been re-timed.  Shorter?  It's probably in the original condition. 

My lovely 319 has been subjected to re-timing and now she is sitting around waiting for me to either learn a new skill or spend money on taking her to a technician.  I have gotten as far as reading through the instructions in the service manual, and it sounds do-able.  Stay tuned to this channel for the next thrilling development.  But don't hold your breath while you are doing it.   There are dozens of machines here and I am easily distracted. 


  1. I loved this post. I love your 316G too. I do not have any of these machines, so it was fun to learn about them. Love the lamp on the 316G. Looking forward to your next post!

  2. I absolutely love your "Herd" posts! Frankly, I like all your posts, but it is just so great seeing a herd!

  3. Oh Cheryl I have you beat in the mess department!!!! Mind, I have three poodles, one sewing machine repair shop and one sewing loft. So that means THREE messes.

    I have to find a 316G I am on a mission....

  4. These are impressive!:) I pass two 319s because I am not very enthusiastic about strange needles, but they are a beauty! Living in Germany I see frequently the 316Gs as much as 315Gs. They are very much disputed in auctions just when they come in a case, otherwise, it is quite cheap to get the electric ones in cabinets and even cheaper if it is a treadle. I recently have acquired my first treadle and I can tell: people do not know what they are missig!

    One interesting thing about the 316G/315G adjustable light is, that it is possible that fit to other models! I found one in a Flea Market and it fits good to my non-Singer treadle! I did my happy dance! :)

    Andrea Maria

  5. happy face elephant nose thingy! want, want want! just today, as I was hauling machines around the house, I thought that there is not really another machine on my want list. And then, i w=saw happy face elephant nose thingy! Laura

  6. I have just purchased a very dirty 306W. What is the best way to clean it up. My very havdy son has promised to change out the cracked belts. I know I need bobbins and needles, what else do you suggest!

    1. Shawn,
      In an earlier post I described the cleaning process in some detail. Feel free to check it out here

  7. Rosemary Bolton here:
    Just googling my machine. I have the Singer 316G. It was my mother's. I love this machine sooooo much.
    you can email me at rd . bolton @ comcast . net (no spaces of course)
    I wonder if you know where I can find a new needle plate for my dear machine. I can send you a pic of mine if you like, just because I love looking at yours :-)
    I do not have the light anymore. I am guessing my mother's daughters (myself included) were rather rough with the machine and the light just broke!
    Anyway, Another point. I bought some class 15 bobbines from a place called Sew Classic in Ohio. The bobbins fit too tight... perhaps they sent me the wrong bobbins??
    I am so glad I found your blog. Yes, I also love my elephant nose on my 316G
    I hope you find this comment and write me via email

    and yes, I have a kitty blog, that is who Pierro is :-D

    1. Rosemary,
      Lucky you to have a 316! They are quite rare here in the U.S.

      I checked the needle plate from a 306, a 319 and the 316 and they are the same size and shape and method of attachment. The 306 and 319 are much more commonly available, as are parts for them. Probably the best way is to search on eBay. Try Cindy Peters at stitches in time on ebay. She has a good reputation among the vintage sewing machine collectors. She sells parts taken from broken machines, so you could ask her if she has one of those lights too.

      Jenny at Sew Classic also has a very good reputation. She has reported on the bulletin boards that she did get some bad bobbins in the past, and now she tests each one. Lots of people report problems with class 15 bobbins from Walmart and JoAnns.

      I would love to see your machine! Do you know when and where your mother acquired it?

      Cheryl Warren

    2. Hi I have a 316G, inherited from my mother. She now lives in England. The story goes that she was bought in Germany from the NAFFI by my father (a serving soldier at the time) just after/before I was born, so that makes her around 1957 born. She comes in a 'traveling case', which weighs a ton and could only be used when traveling by train or ship!

    3. I also inherited a 316G from my mother -- it was the machine I grew up with and learned to sew on. Our story is similar to Cally's: My mother received the sewing machine as a Christmas gift in 1956 while our family was living in Germany. My father was also serving there in the US Army. And --- wait for it --- I was born on that very same day, Christmas. I've often wondered which gift my Mom preferred!!

  8. Hi, the 316 looks to be a very interesting machine. Can you tell me if it has a cleated fabric timing belt (like the 206, 306, 319 and 320 machines) or is gear driven (like the 201)? Also, can it take a standard Singer hand crank? The 201 does but the 206, 306, 319 and 320 do not. That is because the motor mounting boss does not sit directly beneath the centre of the balance/hand wheel but is slightly offset to one side. Regards and thanks, Mark, NZ

    1. Mark,
      Yes, it has the cleated timing belt. I don't think it will take a hand crank. I think I tried it once, but the memory, like so many of my memories these days, is fuzzy. It is the same family as the 206, 306, and 319. As far as I know the major differences are that it takes standard needles and a class 15 bobbin.

      thanks for writing,

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hi Cheryl, thanks for your reply. Can you please check to see if the motor mount screw (that holds the motor bracket onto the machine) sits directly beneath the center of the balance wheel or if it is slightly off set. The 206, 306, 319 and 320 motor mount screw is slightly offset from the balance wheel (approx 3/16") and this is why that series won't take a hand crank. I'm hoping that the 316 casting is different in this regard and that the motor mount screw sits directly beneath the center of the balance wheel. I would greatly appreciate if you could check this for me. Regards and thanks, Mark

  10. Hello,

    So I picked up a 316g today at a thrift store, well rather I spotted a cute sewing table, started to play with the top cover. Spotted a nice Singer sewing machine sitting in it's cubby. My friend who I love oh so much paid the 30euro it was and out the door we went with my birthday present! I got it home and into the house. Only to realize there is no pedal attachment for the power cord. My question for you or anyone that might know, is the 301 the same power cord/pedal or is it different? I can only find the 301 cord/pedal attachments and nothing for the 316G. While yes I'm still in Germany and these pop up from time to time, my time here is running out and I'd love to play with my present instead of just having it on display... Any help would be great! Thanks in advance

    Jessi- tagsbyjess (at) hotmail (dot) com

    1. HI Jessi,

      Here in the US the cord and foot pedal for a Singer 306, is a standard singer three prong, that works on many vintage Singer machines. If you can find one of those in Germany, that cord with a 3 prong plug end, and pedal attached, should work on your 306. Not sure of the Euro voltage in Germany. You may need to check the voltage rating on the 306 motor(info should be written on the outside of the motor), and make sure it is okay to use with your electric wiring in Germany. Same with the foot pedal.

      I hope this helps... Elaine in Oregon USA

    2. Whoops,

      Singer 306 and 316 are very similar. check on US ebay, to verify cord and foot control(pedal), that works on these Singer machine model numbers.


    3. Thank you! Yes that does work, for now I'm having a German friend check German eBay for me... It's rated for use in Germany. Looking into Having my husband switch it over to 110 power next summer when we are back in the States! Hoping to maybe run into another machine or two while we are still here!

  11. Hi !!
    Oh im nervous !
    Today i've got my First Singer 316g and I beg you to teach me how to Use it !!!
    I came to Live to Germany and I left my Bernina Back home in Chile and I've got as a Gift this BEAUTIFUL 316 ... Oh its So Gorgeous !!!
    but I cannot make it work after I put the Thread....
    Please Help !!!
    My Kindest Regards from a Chilean in Bremen
    : )

    Verónica M.-

  12. Hi I know I'm a little late to this post but I'm excited that I found somebody that has the 316G! I in no way am a seamstress but my grandmother was and left me this old singer in a beautiful locking cabinet. I'm just wondering if you know any good places online for me to refer to learn how to use it? Because I managed to thread the bobbin and sew a few stitches into some scrap material and then the thread snaps and I'm so frustrated. I would love to be able to learn to sew and I would love to do it with this machine. Any feedback is much appreciated

  13. Hi I know I'm a little late to this post but I'm excited that I found somebody that has the 316G! I in no way am a seamstress but my grandmother was and left me this old singer in a beautiful locking cabinet. I'm just wondering if you know any good places online for me to refer to learn how to use it? Because I managed to thread the bobbin and sew a few stitches into some scrap material and then the thread snaps and I'm so frustrated. I would love to be able to learn to sew and I would love to do it with this machine. Any feedback is much appreciated

    1. Good luck with your 316G! There is not much I can do for you without seeing the machine in person. You can probably find a manual for it online and that may help.

      Obvious question though: how old is that thread? If you pull on a length of it by hand and it breaks, throw it away. You don't need expensive thread btw. I like Coats and Clarks Dual Duty, available almost everywhere.

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  15. Hi I purchased yesterday a Singer 316G needs some loving care and have parts missing. the Bobbin and the bobbin case are missing,.....keep googling nothing comes up..another problem is the bobbin winder..this are the ones to start..can't check how it runs as I will need the bobbin and case...any suggestions were I can get parts?..

  16. The bobbin case from a vintag singer black head#66 sewing machine will work. I have a 316G and it works beautiful. Zigzags flawless!

  17. The bobbin case from a vintag singer black head#66 sewing machine will work. I have a 316G and it works beautiful. Zigzags flawless!

    1. I'm glad you have one of these wonderful machines. Just FYI, the class 66 bobbin you are using is a smidge shorter than the class 15 bobbin, and a slightly different shape. If you need to buy more bobbins I would recommend that you try the class 15 bobbins which are the ones this machine was designed for. But if it is working for you, that's great!

  18. 306W, 306K
    206X13 needles are expensive, but you can use an industrial DBX1 needle as a direct replacement. The DBX1 and 206X13 are identical needles, the only difference being the DBX1 is round shank and not flat like the 206X13. I use a pair of tweezers to oriente the needle using the back scarf, insert into needle holder and Voila! Having a complete range of needles available for this machine means I use it as an everyday workhorse. My bobbin case is the open sided kind that shipped with the machine, it has not been modified further, and I can use the full stitch width without banging the needle into the bobbin. Keeping this machine oiled keeps it super quiet

  19. Hi. I have a 306 in mint condition that was given to me from my grandmother, who taught me to sew on it when I was young. I haven't used it in years so I took it in for servicing. The repairman said it was in excellent condition and it was a very good machine. He cleaned it up and oiled it and I'll be back to sewing on it again in no time.

  20. Hola, I need accessories for this machine, Where I can to found. Thanks


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