Green Singer 185J Sewing Machine – A Review (updated 12-1-11)


  • All Metal Gears
  • Top Loading Bobbin
  • Reverse Stitch Lever
  • Stitch Regulator and Feed
  • .75 Amp Motor
  • Pretty Green Color
  • Uses Class 66 Bobbins and Standard 15×1 Needles
  • Low Shank Foot

The Singer 185J straight stitch sewing machine pictured on the front page of my blog is a great little machine.  My machine was built in Canada around 1958-62, my manual reflects a date of 1958. This little green machine makes a really good straight stitch, in my opinion it is very close to the Singer  Featherweight (221K).  The stitching is really consistent, no loose or uneven stitching here.  This sewing machine is an all-metal gear driven mechanical sewing machine so maintaining this one is very simple.  The manual provides diagrams showing the oiling points of the machine.

My machine has the original case, however the previous owner seems to have spray painted it.  I am guessing that the case was really dirty but I would have preferred the original color regardless of how dirty it may have been.  The base of the case where the machine sits is also broken so I hope to be able to replace it one day with another original.  This machine also came with its original green foot controller.

The feed dogs on this machine cannot be dropped for free-motion sewing or drawing.  😦  Not a biggy but it is nice to have.  This machine  has a reverse stitch lever; handy for fastening a seam.  You just lift it up all the way for reverse stitching.  It uses Class 66 bobbins and Standard 15×1 needles sizes 9 through 21.

The great thing about the stitching on this machine is that you can make the tiniest stitches on it at the 15, 20 and 30 mark.  For basting use the 6, 7 or even 8 length.  Here is a photo of the stitching on jersey, not the greatest example due to the fabric but still visible.  The wonkyness is all me, just trying to show you the different stitch lengths.

I believe that the purchase of a machine like this back in the day included a box of attachments like this one.


Here are some close up photos of the zipper foot.  This is an original Singer Zipper Foot, it is a low-shank adjustable, and it has openings for both left and right sewing.




Based on the manual pages pictured below, I am only missing the cleaning brush.

The feet that came with the machine were a hemmer foot, a binder, and a zipper foot.  The box also included a seam gauge, a sewing machine oiling tube of Singer oil and a cleaning brush.

Here is a close-up picture of the very easy to use bobbin winder.

A good motor is important when sewing heavier fabrics.  The Singer 185J has a .75 amp motor which can handle sewing silk to denim fabric and even plastic.  I am sure you could sew on leather every now and then as long as you use the correct foot, thread, foot pressure and stitch length.

My 185J did not come with its original green belt.  The previous owner replaced the belt at some point with this type of belt which I have not seen for sale anywhere, it measures about 3/16″ wide.

The belt has all these other additional numbers:

If the belt on your machine is missing, local Vac & Sew shops carry them and they will know which belt you need by providing them with the type of sewing machine (Singer 185J, etc.).  If you are shopping for one online, you should have the approximate size of the belt you need by measuring.  For the Singer 185J, you should shop for a V belt.  You will need some twine or a thin string.

Cut a piece that is about 17 inches long then put the piece of string on the flywheel where the belt would be located.

Wrap the string around the flywheel and the around the motor steel pulley as pictured below.

The length of the string should give you an approximate belt size.  The belts can be found online as I’ve seen them listed on ebay, etc.  I really cannot recommend a specific seller as I shop locally for most sewing machine parts but belts should cost less than $10 each.

Like many vintage sewing machines with all-metal gears, this little machine is a bit on the weighty side.  If you are looking for a vintage lightweight sewing machine to take to your sewing classes or group, you may need a different machine.  Take a look at my review on my Kenmore 1040 here.

This is a 3/4 sized machine so if space is an issue in your home the Singer 185J will not take up a whole lot of space.  Take a look at the next couple of photos to get an idea of the size.

Top View

And of course, the booty shot.

As mentioned on the features list above, this is a straight stitch machine so if you are looking for decorative or buttonhole stitching this machine does not include either.  However, a vintage low shank buttonholer attachment could work just as well on this machine.  There are also vintage zig zag attachments out there on the web for sale that may be used.  I have a small collection that can be viewed here on my Vintage Sewing Machine Attachments page.

View my post about how to thread the bobbin case on this machine here.

I recommend this sewing machine to anyone looking for a really good straight stitcher and also to those that are begginner sewists looking for a super easy to use and maintain vintage sewing machine.  This machine is over 50 years old and still running smoothly.  I ♥ it!

The following are helpful diagrams for threading the upper thread & winding a bobbin.

24 thoughts on “Green Singer 185J Sewing Machine – A Review (updated 12-1-11)

  1. I have to say I love my 185j. I bought it at an Estate Sale for $20. It is perfect for the projects that I do. I’m not a seamstress, so straight stitch is all I need. 🙂 I just love my old Singer.

  2. I’m brand-new at sewing, (Next week, first lesson: “turn on the machine and learn the parts”) and this is the model I have! This was an extremely helpful post, especially since I didn’t get a manual or extra bits with mine! Thank you very, very much for the information, I now know what needles I need!

  3. My Singer is a touch different but has the same metal plate attached with “CAT. NO. RFJ8-8”. My original green belt has dry rotted and frayed. Where can I get a new one. I noticed that one on your machine is black. It is new?

  4. Thanks. The updated was fantastic and definately gives me someplace to start. Your site is great and I will be back in the future.

  5. I recently bought one of these on ebay and it didn’t come with any of the original feet. I’d like to buy a zipper foot but I’m new to sewing and all of the terminology confuses me. You mentioned that it uses a low shank foot- is that all I need to look for or do I need to worry about how it attaches to the machine as well?

    • Hi Margo,

      Somehow I missed your message, but hopefully you found what you needed but here is the info anyway. Yes you need a low-shank zipper foot for this machine and it is very easy to attach to your machine. I updated my review with close-up photos of the zipper foot (photos have a yellow background).


  6. I was given one of these machines just a week ago. I love it! The small 3/4 size is so handy! Mine needs a slide plate, bobbin ring and spool pin, but has the original wiring and foot pedal in great condition. Until I received this machine I’d never seen one, but now I’m a great fan! Wonder if I could find another?!!!

    • Hi Alice,

      Lucky you that it was gifted to you! You may find some of those missing parts on Ebay. I am sure you will come across another one of these green machines as there are many floating around. 🙂

  7. Hi, I purchased a Kingston, Japanese made clone of the Singer 15, which is teal? colored. The stitch regulator will not stay in place, but moves and gradually goes to the center and sews really short stitches. I have cleaned and oiled it well. Any suggestions as to what could be wrong with it? Thanks a bunch and I love your site! Amazing job on painting the red machine! I love the pink machines!

    • Hi Gloria,

      I have not had this issue with any of my sewing machines but the screw that holds the lever in place may just need to be tightened.

      On some vintage machines, the lever is sometimes connected to a cam block which is held by a screw that can be reached by taking off the hand/balance wheel. One has to remove the wheel, and hopefully see the screw that should be seen going into the upright of the arm. Tighten it may fix it. If you are not comfortable with taking apart your machine, I would take it to a repair tech.

  8. Was just given one of these but with no manual or accessories. Your post is *super* helpful, thank you!!

  9. Hi, I have this sewing machine, and I have been sewing with it for a little bit. The only problem is that it does not wind bobbins… I think the rubber black ring that supposed to rub against the wheel is too big or something, and it does not turn…. do you happen to know where i can get the right size for this machine?? thank you!!

  10. so excited that you posted this! just found one of these adorable machines. it needs a little love but works otherwise and the motor still seems strong (original belt!) i can’t seem to get the bobbin thread to “take up” and i have plenty of experience with older machines. any advice? any chance you could photograph that page of the owner’s manual? ( i tried to find one online, but couldn’t) no problem with the upper thread and such…pretty standard. love your site!

  11. Just found your blog 🙂 My husband picked one of these up for me on Freecycle months ago, and I only gave it a quick turn on at the time. But today, annoyed with my modern Singer & vintage Riccar (needs a timing adjustment?) I plugged this baby in. Can’t wait to clean it up and make some solid stitches, and only wish I had a case for it. Thanks for linking to the manual, as well. Some joker is trying to sell PDFs on ebay, when they are free on Singer’s website!

    • Hi Lavender,

      Unfortunately, locating an original carrying case for this little green sewing machine is so hard to find. Happy to provide links to free manuals, I feel the same way. 🙂


Comments are closed.