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Thread: Singer 223

  1. #1
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    West Texas

    Singer 223

    My friend has a 201, which she likes, but she is looking for a second machine and needs the zigzag feature. She is looking at this Craigslist ad:

    Please give me your opinions about a Singer 223 -- its positive and negative qualities, as well as anything you notice about this particular one being sold in the ad.

    Also, I am interested in any other recommendations for a vintage metal machine with zigzag capabilities.



  2. #2
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    I know nothing about a 223. I don't think it's real common, though.

    My personal experience has been great with the 400 and 500 series machines. I would look for a 401, a 403, a 501 or 503. They are pretty common, the cams are easy to find, they are easy to work on, the parts are easy to find and the feet and accessories are common as well. They are all slant shank machines. There are usually one or two on craigslist most days here in DFW.

    A downside to the 500 series (called the Rocketeer) is that the nose plate is often missing or broken, as is the flip up lid. They are not replaceable. So, if appearance is important, don't buy it. If it's not important, you can get them real cheap.

    The 403 and 503 do not have built in cams, so you have to insert a cam to get it to zigzag. They are usually easy to get going, though. The 401 and 501 have the built in cam stack and often take a lot of cleaning and oiling to get them working properly. There are tutorials on this site should you run into that problem.

    A word of caution - always sew on the machine before you make an offer. The first vintage machine I purchased was a touch and sew. It was all set up with a piece of fabric with stitching on it was under the presser foot. When I got it home, it didn't work. The fix was simple. It could not have worked at all and I wouldn't have know it, though.

    Last edited by bkay; 01-07-2019 at 06:32 AM. Reason: spelling

  3. #3
    Junior Member RotaryQueen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    San Diego, CA
    Cheryl has a great blog post about the 223 (scroll down).


    She says it is easy for a beginner to use. A basic zig zag machine with blind-stitch added. It is very heavy but that is true of many vintage machines. I have bid on several and even won one 223 on shopgoodwill but the one I won they lost in the wherehouse! I have seen them occasionally on craigslist but I have other zigzag machines that I really like (singer 237, several Kenmore 158.xxx models) so not looking for one anymore. But it sounds like a good option if you can try it out, the price is reasonable ($50-75), and the weight is manageable.

    Edit: I just looked at the ad link. I noticed the cabinet looks good, but the top is usually the worst part and I didn't see it closed. The paint is chipped all along the front of the machine bed. If that is not going to annoy your friend, then offer less because of that. And why is the sewing light laying on the bed instead of in the back? Probably not a hard fix, but reason to offer less. It's dirty and no mention of manual (easy to find as a download) or attachments (takes standard low shank). All reasons to offer much less than he is asking.
    Last edited by RotaryQueen; 01-07-2019 at 10:49 AM. Reason: Additional input

  4. #4
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    The cabinet looks nice on the 223. These all metal machines are usually worth the chance of a diy fix up. It takes a class 15 bobbin case which is easy to find (it look like it might be missing, or possibly in the cabinet drawer). The construction looks very sturdy and cabable on this model. Machines with CB hooks like thise can have very neat zigzag and satin stitching, but hard to know until you have tried it. It's a simple machine with zigzag, blind stitch as the only stitches besides straight stitch. This is usually not a disadvantage, it makes the mechanical parts simple and reliable. I would guess it's a work horse of a machine. I payed around $80 for my 201, a straight stitch only model and the cabinet needed a bit of work to look nice again too.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    I have a 223 and it's one of my favorite machines. Very smooth and quiet and sturdy! It's all metal and weighs about 37lbs so the cabinet is a plus. I picked up mine at a local thrift as a machine to keep at my daughter's but loved the way it sewed so much, I ended up with it at home. The foot controller is like mine and since it's a carbon stack type, it does tend to get warm if you are sewing slowly for extended periods. I have an electronic replacement controller to install, just haven't gotten around to it. AndyTube on YouTube has a tutorial on how to refurbish this type of controller if needed.
    Pluses on this machine are: all metal, smooth, quiet sewing, standard class 15 bobbin and standard needles. Simple bobbin winder. Easy to find and install belt. (I think this machine can be treadled in a Singer cabinet) Standard Singer tension unit so it's easy to fix/replace it need be. Low shank feet. There is a free download manual at https://www.singer.com/support. Just type 223 in the search box and choose " 223 sewing machine" in the search results.
    Minuses: it's heavy so not really portable. It doesn't have a removable top "lid" but does have a large access panel in the back for oiling, it also has a removable panel to access the needlebar area. Other than that, I got nuthin'!

    The machine pictured looks okay to me, the insides don't look over oiled, and the paint chips on the bed edge look like what I call honest sewing wear, not abuse. And the wiring looks okay from the pics, but give it a good going over anyway. The unattached lamp unit should have a bracket attached to it (or to the machine) that screws to the back access panel. Since there's no pic of the back of the machine, check to see the access panel is actually there to cover the back of the machine. The bracket screws to the lamp at both ends, so if the bracket is missing, you could fabricate one, but the back panel is important.
    Holler if you need pics or more info for your friend. I paid about $35 for mine with no cabinet and it was a deal. (senior discount!) The $100 price is decent for a machine and cabinet.

  6. #6
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    West Texas
    Thanks to all of you. My friend has seen the machine in person, and the light has been remounted. There were other problems though, and she is still considering it.

  7. #7
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Blog Entries
    I have two 223 machines. Very nice well made and can treadle or hand crank. They do straight stitch, zigzag and a blind hem. Mine need to go.
    Never let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

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