The Singer 201 – Perfection

Singer 201-2 U.S.A.

When the Singer 201 debuted in 1935 it was, and remains as the finest straight stitch machine they ever produced, although one might argue that the 301 was better by virtue of it being lighter and truly portable.

Produced in the United States and England for almost three decades it came in 4 variations; treadle (201-1), hand crank (201-4), motorized (201-3), and with a potted motor (202-2) and aside from the drive mechanism, they were all built to an incredible standard. There was also the model 1200 which was a commercial variant a much rarer variant produced in Germany (201D) and in Australia from parts sourced from the U.K.

Hand lapped bevel gears drive this rotary machine, and while many gear driven machines use grease, the 201 has a brilliant oiling system for all the moving parts. It is a total loss system where new oil flushes the old and there are oil cups under the main drive components to catch any overflow. the only place a 201 gets grease is in the motor tubes or cups.

It was the most expensive machine Singer offered and the base machine cost a few dollars more than a Singer 221, and with a cabinet the price could easily double to close to $300.00, which is over $3000.00 in today’s money. While the prices of the 221 have soared, the 201 can still be found for a very reasonable price unless it is an original hand crank as those always fetch a higher price.

Singer 201 Centennial – treadle

When used in a treadle the Singer 201 is one of the smoothest and lightest running machines ever made, almost dead silent in operation.

Singer 201-4 1949 (England)

Our 201k4 hand crank was made in 1949 and runs as sooth as a buttered kitten on glass.

Singer201k Mk2

In the 1950’s Singer redesigned a great number of their classic machines, and the 201 was no exception, except they were cast in aluminium instead of iron which made them lighter. Most often found in two tone brown, there is a rarer black variant.

The model endured until 1961 and was discontinued due to extremely high production costs, and a move by Singer and everyone else to produce multi stitch machines.

Singer 201-3 1947

This 201-3 was manufactured in October of 1947 and is currently being serviced in our shop, although the external condition was excellent the hook assembly had surface rust so those parts had to be removed for cleaning and polishing. If there had been any pitting we would have replaced the parts as a compromised surface finish will negatively affect the stitch quality and performance of the machine.

If you have never experienced a 201 in person, this is an example of just how smoothly they run, and as this customers machine had a toothed replacement belt, it could have run even quieter with a v belt.

Still… astonishing machines.

Happy sewing.

Singer 115, treadled and hand cranked

Our Singer 115 is one of my favourite machines in our collection, and one of my favourite Singer machines of all time.

Although it looks like the more common model 15, the 115 is a rotary machine which makes it incredibly smooth running, fast, and like the rest, it makes a perfect stitch.

I picked up a 115 for parts and while that machine is still sitting on the work bench in a totally seized state, it did come with a smooth running original hand crank which I decided to add to my treadled 115. It can be disconnected when one is treadling and for low speed precision work a hand crank machine just can’t be beat, and it works so beautifully on the 115.

Singer Featherweight 221 – 1935

What hasn’t been written about the Singer Featherweight ?

This small aluminium wonder debuted in 1933 and at 11 pounds it was one of the lightest, fully functional sewing machines on the market, and over it’s production life, they were sold in the millions (2.5 million) so in most cases, one could never consider them to be rare.

Some variants are rare, like specially badged models, and the wrinkle / blackside and tan coloured models and those can fetch thousands of dollars when they come up for sale.

The early models like this 1935 are a wee bit different as they use a different bobbin tensioner and have a different faceplate, and if this example was 100% original it would have a different upper tension unit. Many were changed to a numbered dial over the years.

The handwheel is a bit thinner and lighter, and I have found the early Featherweights are by far, the smoothest running examples, probably due to new tooling being used and subsequent higher tolerances.

School bell tensioner

People have asked if we are going to add this to our permanent collection but we haven’t decided on that yet, have always said that if I was going to keep a 221 that it would be an early school bell version…

Heavy Metal

Singer 191J – 1959

Folks often say that the the Singer 201-2 is the heaviest domestic machine they ever made and if you ever watched The Dressmaker, you know that Miss Kate could have never carried that machine in one hand like that.

Those folks obviously never picked up a Singer 191J, which makes the Singer 201 look like a lightweight, hitting the curb at 38 pounds in it’s wooden base with the pedal and cord included. With a naked weight just over 35 pounds… they are like a block of solid steel.

The 191J is a rarer variant of the venerable Singer 15, using the same oscillating hook and mechanics, packaged into a sleeker late 50’s body, that looks like a Singer 201 Mk2, which they say was made out of Aluminium recycled from WW2 Spitfires.

These machines were often sold to and used by artisans and tailors due to their rugged construction, heavy duty capabilities, and stitch quality on everything from silk to the heavy materials like the 12 oz denim I sewed a sample on.

Flawless stitching

Potted motor

Like the 15-91, 15-125, and 201-2 these Canadian made machines used a potted motor which is direct drive with no belts so there is no slippage, and no adjustments required.

Ideally one would fit this machine into a cabinet as it is not one I would be taking to quilting retreats unless power lifting is another hobby, at close to 40 pounds all packed up it is more than I am supposed to lift these days.

With all that being said it is a beautiful machine that is smooth, fast, and makes a perfect straight stitch, it also has a bed mounted feed control that can be adjusted to fabric weights and used for free motion work.

Our price for this chunk of steel will be $249.00 cad, with the accessories, case, and manual included.