Saturday, February 16, 2013

Singer 237 Fashion Mate - Refurbish

Singer 237 (Before)
One of my husband's friends was cleaning out his mother's garage and came across this gem. Let it be said that I love just about machine that may come my way, but I have a soft spot for any machine that weighs more than a toddler. Coming in at over 32lb. is this 1960's Singer 237 Fashion Mate that sports an all metal interior. The serial number is MF 220782 and was manufactured in Monza, Italy. If you are looking for a manual for one of these machines (or any other Singer), a pdf can be downloaded for free from the Singer website, here. Just enter your model number.

 As you can see from these pictures, it was in really bad shape when I took the face plates off. I live in an area that has a high moisture content from the sea air. It's my understanding that sewing machine oil will turn brown when exposed to moisture. Add to that the fact that it sat in the same position for over 20 years. The brown oil melted into the bottom of the machine. There was also some rust forming on some of the metal parts of the machine.

I know I shouldn't have done this but I decided to see if it would stitch in the condition that it was in. Sure enough, it stitched great but it sounded terrible. The motor sparked more than I was comfortable with but it didn't smoke.

The first thing I did was head over to the Sew Classic blog to see what I could learn about this machine. It just so happens that I have the 237, which features a straight stitch and an adjustable zig zag stitch. It also has a dial on the bed that lowers the feed dogs. This dial was an addition to the later model machines. One of the only parts that this machine will give you trouble with is the hook race cover which, in the case of this machine, was cracked. The belt and the bobbin winding tire appeared to be in good shape.

I began by dismounting the motor, light and pedal assemblies and setting them aside. There are a number of plastic faceplates on this machine that needed to be removed for cleaning. There are a number of mixed reviews about using compressed air but given the fact this is an all mechanical machine and condition it was currently in, I pulled out my husbands compressor and blew all the dust out of the top of the machine.

When researching cleaners, I got just as many mixed reviews on products as I did on the compressed air issue. I settled on a product called PB Blaster, which is rust inhibiting soak that is used for lubricating, cleaning breaking frozen bolts. I imagine it's similar to WD-40. I got incredible results with this product. Something to be aware of when cleaning mechanical sewing machines with something labeled "lubricant" is that you still need to oil the moving parts and lube anywhere you have metal on metal movement. There are numerous sites out there to help with sewing machine maintenance. I spent about 10 hours meticulously cleaning every part of this machine.

Singer 237 with the plastic face off (before)
After cleaning every surface of this machine, I did some searches on Youtube for how to repair a sewing machine motor. I came across this one here. I took the exterior covers off and removed the spring loaded brushes. I didn't take a picture of this but it looks exactly like the video. After removing the brushes I cleaned the contact areas with rubbing alcohol and sanded with a nearly no grit sandpaper. I put a quarter of a drop of oil on the pulley assembly and put everything back together. I have just placed an order for a new plastic hook race assembly cover.
Filthy Feed Dogs (before)

Even with the cracked bobbin hook race cover being cracked, this machine now runs smoothly and quietly. The sound is similar to a Singer 501 Rocketeer. I am looking forward to using this machine on a regular basis and I am thrilled to add it to my collection.

Additional info: I have enough sewing machines that I really don't need to look at individual manuals. If you have the good fortune to find one of these machines and are looking for a manual, the vast majority of Singer manuals are available for free download at their site:

Vintage White manuals are also available at the above link. I have to assume that Singer acquired White at some point.

A really clear Singer 237 manual is available here for FREE. I can't tell you how many listings on eBay are selling pdfs of publicly available manuals for over $15 each.



  1. Wow, I'm impressed.
    Thanks for the info.

  2. I am too...impressed that is. That's adventuresome! I don't have a lick of mechanical sense and wouldn't have the least idea of how to take the machine apart. One more thing to add to my list of things to try...with an acquired machine!

  3. Thank you 'sew' much for your article. I have the same machine but it is a Merritt made in France but it is exactly the same other than the Singer label. Now that I know it is a Fashion mate 237 I can find out more about it. Looking up the Merritt code didn't bring up any matches. So thanks again, now I can sort out my tension because you kindly posted the manual.
    Karen Sussex

  4. I have my Mother`s 237 she bought in the late 60s a marvellous machine all metal gears instead of plastic. My problem is I took the tension rod on front apart to clean and cannot get the order of assembly right again.. bagh.. the stitch is hopeless at the moment as I cannot get it right. looping underneath garment etc. can anyone help with a diagram of assembly? many thanks

    1. You're in luck. The folks over at the Vintage Singer Group on Yahoo have every adjustment manual and part listing for the all metal gear Singers. You have the join the group but it's worth it.

    2. Many thanks for your link will have a go. I am here in Liverpool-UK
      this is so helpful..

  5. Hi Sara, I am preparing to sell my FashionMate 237 (all metal pieces) tomorrow because we're moving and it's so heavy! It's in perfect condition, and I even have the original manual. Also, I have a hard time reasoning to keep it as my more contemporary machine can do so many more different stitches. I see the care you've taken with yours, and I'm wondering - am I making a mistake? I was going to sell it for $25. Thanks!

  6. Yesterday, I purchased a Fashion Mate 237 at a local thrift store. I found your blog posting while doing background research on the web. Although the machine had a broken needle installed and a sticky sewing action at the store, it looked beautiful sitting there on the shelf so I took a chance. After reading your posting and others, I changed the needle and re-threaded the machine. I have been playing with this machine today and it seems to be running more smoothly as I use it. I plan to use your posting as a guide when I give this machine a thorough cleaning early next year. Thank you for creating an excellent information resource!

  7. My (ex) husband bought me a brand new Singer FashionMate right after we got married in 1970. It cost $77.00 and was my favorite gift from him ever! Still runs like a top, and for the past 5 years or so has lived at my daughter's house where she uses it mostly for mending. Why would she sew when she knows mom will make it for her? duh.

  8. Love this!!. I brought home my 237 that I have named Bianca ('cause she's Italian) 2 days ago. Been looking for a great mechanical for a while. I am thrilled that it has zigzag!!. Mine will need some work too. I love tinkering with these old girls. Soooo excited!!
    Ellen, I am:

  9. I have a question. How did you crack open the plastic around the motor? Thanks.