Category Archives: Singer 201 (early and later models)

Oiling your vintage Singer – part 2


OK … we’re going to assume here that you’ve de-fluffed your machine above and below decks to the best of your ability, and that nothing of any importance ended up in your Dyson while you were doing that.  You’ve thrown out that tin of horrible 3-in-1 oil that you would have used if you hadn’t had the error of your ways pointed out to you, and you’ve got some loo roll or whatever handy to mop up the drips.  And if you haven’t got the real instruction book made from dead trees, you’ve got a PDF off the interweb so as soon as you’ve taken the bobbin out and unthreaded your needle, you are, as people keep saying, good to go.

Now if it hasn’t already occurred to you that the diagrams in old Singer books are not always clear about where exactly you’re supposed to be poking the spout of your bottle of oil, it soon will.  Don’t worry though, because on a vintage Singer, if it looks like an oil hole, it probably is – especially if it’s on the top of the machine.  And if it isn’t an oil hole, you won’t have done any harm by applying a couple of drops of oil there by mistake.

Ideally you do the top oil holes first with the needle at the top of its travel so the works are best aligned for having oil dropped on them, but how much oil to apply?  The textbook answer is “a drop or two every 8 hours sewing” but that’s a counsel of perfection, so my advice would be to use your common sense and if in doubt, apply too much rather than too little.  You won’t jigger anything up, and the excess will just drain out in the fullness of time.

Incidentally, while you’re concerning yourself with the oil holes on the top of your machine, it might be an idea to check that nobody’s whacked a spool pin into one of them.  The book might not be clear about your oil holes, but it will be clear about where your spool pin(s) should be.

Turning now to the front of the column, if there’s an oil hole on the bobbin winder, it’ll be just to the right of where your bobbin fits on, and one drop in there will do it.  Much more than that risks oil getting on the rubber tyre, which is Not Good.  When you’ve done that, give it a bit of a twirl to start the oil soaking in.  While you’re in the area, if you have the screw in – screw out type of stitch length adjustment, wind that out as far as it’ll go and put one drop on the top of the threaded bit before winding it back in to spread the oil.

If your machine has a cover plate on the back of the column which is held on by a thumbscrew, swing the plate out the way and take a look inside.  Now rotate the handwheel and see what moves and what doesn’t in there.  You might need a torch.  Ideally you want to get some oil wherever two parts move against or rotate in each other, and also on any gears you can see, so give the handwheel a few turns when you’ve done your thing in there to work the oil around a bit.  Don’t forget to put the cover plate back.

Slide your slide plate (aka your bobbin cover) open, and see if you can see a bit of red felt.  Or a bit of felt that might once have been red.  If so, that needs a couple of drops of oil on it, and if your book of words says to oil anywhere else in the bobbin area, that’s what you do while you’re there.  By the way, note that if there’s a hole in your needle plate (the chromed plate on the bed through which your needle pokes), that hole is NOT an oil hole, and neither is/are the threaded hole(s) in the bed a couple of inches to the right of the needle.

And before we move on to furtling behind your faceplate, a couple of notes for 201 owners.  Don’t squirt oil down that oil-hole that’s on the column itself until after you’ve done the underneath (that’s the hole labelled “OIL” I’m on about – the one that’s more or less behind your bottom spool pin).  And strange though it seems, that felt pad inside the chromed thing on top that you twiddle to alter your presser foot pressure is actually meant to be kept oiled.  The theory is that it soaks down and stops the rod seizing up that your presser foot’s on the end of, but personally I wouldn’t bank on that.

Now you need to take off the faceplate (if it’s not obvious, your book will tell you how), and once again see how everything does its thing when you turn the handwheel.  The routine here’s the same – a drop or two on anything that’s moving against anything else, plus a drop on both the presser foot bar and the needle bar.  That’s the rod that goes up and down when you lift and release the presser foot, and the one that your needle’s on the end of.

OK, having put the faceplate back on and checked you’ve done everything on the topside of the machine, all that’s left to oil is the workings down below.  This is a lot easier if you take the machine head out of the base and lay it on its back on several thicknesses of newspaper, but if you don’t fancy doing that, don’t worry.  Just do the best you can with it hinged up as far as it’ll go and propped there by whatever does the job, and take comfort from the fact that most old Singers keep running for donkey’s years despite not having been oiled properly since the Coronation.

If you can turn the handwheel with the head on its back or propped up as far as it’ll go, do that and marvel at the way things go in all directions under the bed when you do.  Once again, the idea is to get oil wherever anything moves against something else, and most of those places are obvious.  Note though that there are rods running left to right which at first glance seem not to move much if at all when the handwheel’s turned.  They actually just twist a bit backwards and forwards all the time, and the way you oil those is to try and get a drop or two right at each end, where the rod stops and a threaded thingy goes into it.

If you’re oiling a 66 or a 99, there’s one particular area where the diagrams are not much help at all.  There’s a couple of steel rollers about 8mm diameter hiding in the works under the bobbin area, and they are not easy to see if your machine’s hinged open in a case or a treadle base.  They’re not easy to photograph in situ either …

So I had to cheat with these two and remove the feed dog and the connection to it so you can see what’s what, and then take the snaps from the back of the machine.  As you can probably appreciate now, those two rollers are not obvious, particularly if you can only see this area from under the front of the machine.

Try and get some oil on them if you can, but don’t worry too much if you’re not sure whether you did.  Truth is most people never go anywhere near them with a bottle of oil.

One last point for owners of 201’s.  You know I said don’t squirt oil into that hole at the base of the column until after you’ve done the underneath?  If you do, the surplus oil will drain down into the cylindrical metal housing round the gears at the bottom of the column, and drain straight out of it when you tip the machine back to get at the underneath.  So for 201 owners, the last job underneath is to get some oil into the corresponding gear housing that’s under the bobbin area, drop the machine down onto its base and then squirt a goodly dose into that oil hole marked “OIL”.

Finally, don’t forget that you’ll need some kitchen roll or whatever under the machine for a day or so until all the excess oil’s drained away.  We also fold a few sheets of loo paper and put them under the presser foot overnight to soak up any drips, then wipe carefully round the needle clamp and presser foot before sewing with some scrap fabric to make sure we’ve got rid of any excess.

Singer 201K treadle, Elsie’s birthday present … and augmented reality


Picture of Singer drawing room cabinet

Hurrah!  Yesterday we finally got a lovely classic Singer 201K ready for sale as a treadle machine, and this morning we realised that we could offer it in a choice of bases!  It’s now listed on the Singers for sale page in both forms, so if  you could fancy a really good treadle machine, do get in touch with us to find out more about this one and the options for it.

Also on the treadle front, here’s a snap of Elsie’s birthday present having an urgent bit of first-aid done to a lifting bit of veneer on its first morning in its new home.  It’s a 1900 Singer Drawing Room Cabinet that’s totally original down to the little patterned carpet on the treadle plate and the 27K which we took out to get it all home safely.  All that’s missing is the knob for the latch which in theory holds the lid closed but in practice serves no purpose we can think of, and the 27K’s belt guard.  And with any luck, an exact replacement for that will soon be on its way from Jay and Sharron in Missouri.

I’ll take some more snaps and do a blog post all about it when we’ve got it a bit more sorted , but for now I’ll just say that Elsie agrees it was well worth the 376 miles drive on her birthday.

Anyhow … every now and then I have to go to Waitrose on account of there’s a few things we use which Tesco doesn’t stock, and when I do, I always pick up a copy of their house newspaper thing.  It amuses us no end, and gives us some idea of what’s currently exciting the chattering classes.

We’ve just now read about “the revolutionary Christmas adverts that open up a magical world of tricks and tips from Delia and Heston” and we’re trying to get our heads round that.  If we understand correctly, you wait for a television commercial, then pause it, show it to your smart phone, then have an “augmented reality experience”.


We don’t have a television set, neither of us understands how you can pause a television program, we both have dumb phones, and although I can’t speak for Elsie, I can say for sure that the last augmented reality experience I had was a good 40 years ago and involved dried mushrooms.

There’s no hope for us.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Singer 201K Mk2 for sale


I listed a nice 201 on the Singers for sale page yesterday, and here’s a few more snaps of it.  This one’s a 1957 201K23, and it’s in a plastic base and case which really doesn’t do it justice …

picture of plastic case for sewing machine

Picture of Singer 201K23 with plastic case and base

Picture of Singer 201K23 sewing machine

Picture of Singer 201K Mk2 sewing machine

The reason for the plastic base and case is that this machine came to us in a cabinet which was fit only for scrapping, we simply don’t have a spare wooden base and case we can put it in, and even if we did, we’d have to put the price up more than we’d want to cover that.  So it’s in a useable base, and the lid’s OK for keeping the dust off even though the catches on it aren’t up to much.  It will however fit straight into the wooden base and case of a 15 or a 66 if you have one you can swap, or alternatively it’ll fit into a treadle base or cabinet.  Come to think of it, we’d be delighted to sell it already installed in one!

As to the machine itself, this one’s a good ‘un, and and as far as I can see all that’s stopping me rating the cosmetic condition as exceptional is a couple of very small dinks in the finish of the bed and a little bit of staining at the very bottom of the column, behind the bobbin spool pin and winding tensioner.  Mechanically it’s in very fine shape indeed, and it sews a lovely straight stitch both forwards and backwards.

The motor’s a really good one as is the foot pedal, it’s got a working Singerlight of the correct type, and the mains leads are new.  We’d like them to be the proper shiny brown oval-section cable but that’s only available from a repro wiring place in the States at a truly outrageous price, so the mains leads on this are round and semi-matt black like we use on black machines.  The motor plug’s brown though!

If you’re in the market for a 201, you won’t need me to tell you how good these things are, and you’ll also know that underneath that aluminium body, a Mk2 is exactly the same mechanically as its classic-shaped cast-iron predecessor.

The Singer 201K – which is which?


We got a query yesterday from Vicky, who asked what the “23” indicates when somebody describes a machine as a 201K23, so I thought I’d answer that here in case it’ll help anybody else.

First off we need to establish that the K stands for Kilbowie, which was the factory in which the machine was made.  Next, we need to understand that a 201 is either an early type like this one

Picture of Singer 201K sewing machine with attachments

or a later type like these two seen here without their bases

Black and brown Singer 201KMk2 sewing machines

The early type is usually referred to as a Mark 1 and the later type as a Mark 2, and that’s good enough for most folks, most of the time.  Where it gets interesting is when you take into account that both types were made in several variants, so here we go with the definitive explanation of Singer 201 model numbers …

201-1 is an early type treadle machine

201-2 is an early type electric with the so-called “potted” motor which drives direct rather than by a belt from the motor to the handwheel (rare in the UK)

201-3 is an early type electric with the usual UK-market separate motor and drive belt

201-4 is an early type hand-crank machine

The later type follows the same pattern except there’s a -2 suffix before the type number and it was never made with the potted motor, so for the Mark 2 machines it goes …

201-21 is a later type treadle machine

201-23 is a later type electric machine

201-24 is a later type handcrank machine

Strictly speaking, the “K” doesn’t form part of the model designation but it tends to replace the hyphen in common usage, so we get “201K4” to describe a Mk1 hand-crank, “201K23” to describe the Mk2 electric that Vicky refers to, and so on.  And don’t worry if that does your head in – I still check with my Little Black Book if I need to be certain about any of them!

Singer 201K for sale


Picture of 1949 Singer 201K sewing machine

Rear view of Singer 201K sewing machine made in 1949

This is a rather nice 1949 Singer 201K hand-crank and it’s the latest machine to go on the “Singers for sale” page.  It’s also missing its bottom spool pin in these pictures ‘cos I forgot to replace it before I took them, but there you go …

Anyhow, having got that embarrassment out of the way, let me say that it’s customary for those flogging a 201, particularly on Ebay, to tout it as a “semi-industrial” machine.  It’s also the done thing to point out how many thicknesses of denim, leather, rhinoceros hide, chain mail or whatever a 201 will “sail through”, but it’s a lovely evening here and I don’t want to spoil it by going off on one about that just now.  Suffice it to say that not so very long ago, it seemed to be only 201s that were hyped up like that.  Now 99’s and 185’s are, regularly, so it’s surely only a matter of time before both the Barbie and the Hello Kitty sewing machines are rated “semi-industrial” too.

The reality of the 201 is that it’s a beautifully-engineered machine which is so well made it’s amazing that Singer could ever sell the things at a profit.  It’s also generally held to be the best domestic sewing machine Singer ever made, it’s true that with the right needle and the right thread it’ll sew pretty much anything you can get under the presser foot, and it was certainly designed to take a lot of use.  But not eight hours a day five days a week use.  For that you still need an industrial machine, and they tend to be bigger, heavier, uglier and a great deal more expensive.

Put simply, if the 201 was a carpet, it’d be rated Heavy Domestic.

So, given that it’s “only” a straight-stitch machine like the 15 or the 66, you can be forgiven for wondering what the big deal is.  Well, to anyone with a precision engineering background who works on sewing machines (e.g. me), the big deal is the all-metal, all-gear drive and a rotary hook.  To most people who use one, the big deal is that they run beautifully, they sew a lovely stitch, they have same-stitch-length reverse, and you can drop the feed dogs on them.

I’ll do a separate post sometime about why the rotary hook of a 201 is an improvement on the reciprocating hook of a 66.  However, die-hard fans of the 15 will already be muttering that what matters more is whether your bobbin’s horizontal or vertical, so for now I’ll just say that I do understand their argument about the 90 degree bend in the thread path, but speaking as an engineer, rotary motion beats reciprocating motion any day.  So there.

The all-metal all-gear drive thing’s a no-brainer though.  “All-metal” is good because metal gears don’t shred like horrible plastic ones can and do.  And as to the all-gear drive, the handwheel of a 15, a 66 or a 99 moves your needle, your feed and your bobbin via an ingenious system of levers, cranks and cams.  On a 201 it’s all done by shafts and gears, which is probably more efficient and is certainly far more elegant from the design point of view.

So it’s all good as far as I’m concerned, whether your 201 be the original Mk1 cast iron one or the later more modern-looking aluminium-bodied Mk2.  Elsie likes ’em too, which explains the presence of the Mk1 in the 7-drawer treadle base in the front room and the Mk2 in the No46 treadle cabinet in The Sewing Room, which in fact she’s using as I type this.  Doing something with a Swiss zigzagger, since you asked.  Which might shortly be for sale …

The identification of vintage Singer sewing machines


Or how to tell t’other from which, as they used to say in Lancashire.  They might still do, actually, but I digress …

If you’re on the phone to somebody who’s put a for sale ad in the local rag which just says “Old Singer sewing machine for sale” or something equally informative, you obviously need to know a bit more about what exactly it is that they found in the attic when they moved in and now think might be Worth A Few Quid.  If you’re lucky, they might have put a picture in the advert.  And if you’re really lucky, it might not be a lot worse than this specially-taken rubbish snap.

Rubbish snap of old Singer sewing machine

Before we go any further, though,  A Word Of Warning.  On a very hot and incredibly humid summer afternoon, I once drove for well over two hours through horrendous traffic to buy a Red Head.  That’s a rare-in-the-UK Singer with distinctive decals which I think are OTT but Elsie thinks are lovely.  I’d talked about it on the phone to the person selling it, and I was fairly sure of its condition.  We’d agreed a price.  When I got there, I was ushered into the kitchen and shown the machine.  It was a clapped out and very ordinary early 66 with the most boring decals Singer ever used, and those in a very poor state.

“Hang on” says I.  “This isn’t the machine in the photo in the advert.”

“No, but does that matter?  They’re all much the same.”

“Are you serious?” says I. “You don’t have the machine you advertised?”

“Well I couldn’t find my camera so I used a picture I found on the internet.  I can’t see it makes that much difference.”

There’s not a lot you can say to that, so I just bid her a cheery “Die soon” and drove over two hours home to Elsie and a large glass of Merlot.  The moral of this story is

ALWAYS ask the advertiser if the picture in the advert is a picture of the actual machine for sale

So, getting at last to the point of today’s epistle, I’ve evolved a standard way of extracting the information necessary to identify a machine on the phone, and it seems to work.  Believe me though the process can be a bit like pushing jelly uphill with a fork at times, particularly if the advertiser’s getting on a bit and doesn’t hear so well, or their attention is split between me, their sewing machine, the television and what sounds like a shedful of kids running amok.

But whatever.  What follows only works for the common domestic Singer machines produced in the UK between around 1900 and the mid-1960’s, and it only enables you to identify the basic type.  If you need to know whether the article in question is a 15-88 or a 15-91, for example, this is not going to help you one bit.  But if you want to know if what they’re selling is a 127 or a 201, or even if you just want to know what Grandmother’s old Singer is, stick with this and with any luck you’ll soon be able to tell.

The person on the other end of the phone needs to be looking at the machine in question as if they’re using it, that is to say with the big wheel end to their right and the end with the needle to their left and no, that’s not patronising.  Always remember that whoever’s looking at it might be completely clueless!  Besides, check out a few snaps of sewing machines for sale and be amazed by how many have been photographed just like that picture above.  So, here we go – but first Another Warning …

You cannot identify a machine by what it says on the cover of its instruction book

Even when the owner swears blind it’s the original one which came with the machine when Mum bought it off Auntie Marjorie in 1953.  I don’t know how anybody’s supposed to actually know stuff like that, but I do know that you quite often find that the owner of a 27 or whatever is totally convinced it’s a 99 simply because there’s a 99 instruction book in the compartment in the base.  Anyhow, here we go …

1.  If you look at the vertical column of the machine, just above the bed (the flat metal base), there’s a round-ish metal Singer badge.   Is there a small rectangular metal plate with two or three numbers and one letter on it just below that badge?  If there is, the number on that plate is the model number and your problem is solved.  If there isn’t, read on.

2.  If the tension adjustment knob (the one with those discs and the springy thing behind it) is on the metal plate on the very end of the machine and it faces left, the machine is a Model 15.  If however the tension adjustment knob is mounted straight onto the black metal of the machine and faces the user, it isn’t a 15 so we need to dig a bit deeper.

3.  It will either be an early machine of the “vibrating shuttle” type which takes a long thin bobbin, or a later machine which takes a round bobbin, so look at the left-hand side of the machine bed.  If it has a small round plate under the needle and two rectangular plates which run from front to back and meet up in the middle, it’s a vibrating shuttle machine.  If instead it has a D-shaped plate under where the needle is and a more-or-less square chromed plate at the left-hand end of the bed, it’s a round-bobbin machine.

4.  If you’ve established that it’s a vibrating shuttle machine, measure how long the bed is.  If it’s getting on for 15 inches, you have either a 27 or a 127.  If it’s nearer to 12 inches, you have a 28 or a 128.

5.  If the bobbin winder thingy on the right is about 2 inches above the bed, it’s either a 27 or a 28.  If the bobbin winder’s higher up, roughly in line with the middle of the handwheel, it’s probably a 127 or a 128.  So for example a long bed machine with a low bobbin winder is a 27, and a short bed machine with a high bobbin winder is a 128.  OK?

(The bobbin winder position isn’t conclusive, simply because there were some transitional models made and some 27’s and 28’s have had their low-level winders replaced by a “high-level” one at some point in their life.  However, if the machine’s got the higher-up bobbin winder and there’s a round metal button on the shuttle carrier which ejects the shuttle when you press it, you almost certainly have either a 127 or a 128.)

6.  That takes care of the vibrating-shuttle machines.  Moving on now to the later round-bobbin machines, if it looks “old fashioned”, it’s all metal, it’s black and it’s not a 15, it’s almost certainly going to be a 66, a 99 or a 201.  Does the spool pin on top of the machine upon which you plonk your reel of thread go into a chromed steel plate about 2 inches long with rounded ends?  If so, it’s a 201.  Specifically, it’s what’s referred to as either a 201 Mk1 or an “early type” 201.

7.  If the machine is black and there’s no chromed plate under the spool pin, is the bed of the machine about 12 inches long?  If so, it’s a 99, which is perhaps the vintage machine most commonly seen nowadays still in reasonable condition.

8.  If the bed’s about 12 inches long but the machine is beige/brown and the oval Singer badge is on the same rectangular metal plate as the stitch length adjustment lever, it’s either a 185 which is OK because that’s basically a tarted-up 99, or it’s a later 275/285 which is basically naff.  The quick way to tell them apart is that if both the stitch length adjuster knob and the lever which raises the presser foot are plastic, it’s a horrible 275/285.

9.  If the bed’s about 15 inches long, there’s no chromed plate under the spool pin on top of the machine and there’s no small plate with a model number on below the metal Singer badge, you have a 66.  That’s the big sister of the 99.

10.  If the machine looks fairly modern, the top of it’s more or less flat, there’s no chromed metal plate with rounded ends under the spool pin but it still says “201K” under the Singer badge, it’s the later type 201 which is usually referred to as the Mk2.

If you’re still scratching your head, odds on it’s a later machine or an industrial, or possibly a 19th Century one.  Most of those will be outside our territory, but by all means send us an email at sidandelsie @ without those spaces if you’re stuck and we’ll see if we can help you solve the mystery.

The original carton!


Picture of vintage Singer sewing machine carton

Yes, it’s that kitchen tablecloth of ours again – but look what’s on it this time!  One day in 1949, a brand new 201 portable left the Singer shop in Bristol in that carton.  Yesterday, 62 years later, that same machine came home with us, still in the same carton …

Cabinets and treadle bases for vintage Singer sewing machines


I really do need to do a whole heap of stuff about cabinets and treadle bases for vintage Singers, but apart from not having the time right now to do it in depth, the big problem I have is making space to take pictures of the ones we have here.  Cleo, Elsie’s 1900 27K treadle, lives right under the window which makes photographing it a bit tricky, and we’d have to move her 1909 66K treadle and rearrange half The Sewing Room to get a halfway-decent shot or two of that.  There’s also the nice Number 46 cabinet in there with Elsie’s 201K/2 in it waiting for me to reassemble the treadle mechanism in it, and come to think of it, that’s actually going to be photographable once I’ve done that.  So there is hope.

Then there’s the convertible treadle base which has moved in behind the kitchen door and is quietly waiting for us to work out what to do about the polyurethane varnish some muppet coated the top of it with.  It’s a shame they did that, and it’s even more of a shame they didn’t clean the top up before they slapped the horrible stuff on.  But the base is a bit special, so it’ll be worth it.

The Number 46 cabinet which is currently serving as a kind of extension to the kitchen table has been there so long now that Elsie will have to remind me what we decided we were going to do with it, and I won’t even mention the 1950’s Singer worktable which followed me home from Essex with a 99 in it and lives in the bathroom now because (a) Elsie doesn’t really like it and (b) there’s nowhere else for it to go even if she did.

Anyhow … here, courtesy of a 1930 Singer catalogue is your common or garden Granny’s treadle base, which is properly called a Cabinet Table,  into which you can fit any full size Singer made before the free-arms that came in around 1965.  As far as we’re concerned here, that means a 27, a 127, a 66 or a 201.  Or a 15 if that’s what you’re into.

Catalogue picture of vintage Singer treadle machine

In case you’re wondering where the fifth drawer is, it’s a long wide one which tilts down across the front.  It’s that plain section of front without a knob in the picture above, below where the machine sits.  There were several variations on this theme, all with the wide centre drawer, but with either one, two or three drawers each side, the latter being the least common nowadays.

The Victorian and early Edwardian bases shared the same cast ironwork, but instead of folding the machine down into the table top and swinging the flap over the hole like in the one above, you disappear the machine on an early treadle by hiding it under a wooden box-type lid which locks down into place (or more usually doesn’t nowadays because nobody’s seen the key since that big party on Armistice Day 1918).  That type’s referred to as a Coffin Top unless you’re in the US of A, in which case it’s a Casket Top.

I’m not exactly sure when the cast-iron legs were finally dropped, but the replacement used exactly the same top and similar treadle ironwork, with the iron legs replaced by relatively plain wooden ones which don’t look as “Granny” but are a heck of a sight easier to keep free of cobwebs.

Elsie’s got one iron-legs and one wooden-legs treadle table in The Sewing Room, and we’ll come back to those once I’ve taken some snaps of them.  We’ll also look at the usual vintage enclosed cabinets.  Judging by the number of them that keep cropping up on Ebay in a terrible state, every house in the north-west must have had one in the front room between the wars with a 201 in it.

Talking of front rooms, the one Singer cabinet we don’t have but really want is the Drawing Room Cabinet Number 21.  They’re not quite as rare as hens’ teeth, but one in very condition is, and to complicate matters, most of the nice-looking ones seem to be in either Cheshire or Welsh Wales.  But we’re determined to track one down.  Many folk think they’re hideous, but we think they’re wonderful, and if you also think that the frontage of St Pancras Station is lovely, you will too.

Here’s an awful video of a lovely example of a what we call a Drawing Room Cabinet but some folks call a Parlor Cabinet, which I thought was a different one, but either way it’s a #21.  Whatever,  if you’re prone to vertigo or to motion sickness, grab a couple of Kwells now.  There’s no commentary on it, and in case you’re wondering, the machine’s a 66K with Lotus decals.

The Singer 201K


Black and brown Singer 201KMk2 sewing machines

I was going to waffle on about the Singer 201K and the difference between the Mk1 and the Mk2, and have a bit of a rant about the way these things are described on Ebay as semi-industrial sewing machines and so on while I was at it, but it’s become obvious that would have been one hell of a long post.  So I’ll do it in stages.

Before I do though, it occurred to me that I had a good opportunity to take a snap of the two different coloured 201Mk2 heads that were available in the UK side by side, so here it is.

The black one is Elsie’s, carefully removed for the purposes of the picture from the treadle cabinet in which it lives in The Sewing Room.  That one’s exactly as brought home from a house in the far east of Essex which had what must be the most awkward access off the road I’ve ever seen in a built-up area, and believe me I’ve seen some.  So you’re driving along a two-lane dual carriageway which has a 50mph limit, in heavy traffic which is averaging nearer 60.  You’re looking for number 312, and the first number you can actually read is 800-odd.  All the houses are identikit 1930’s semis, and they all have very narrow shared “drives” which are about 4 car lengths from kerbside to front door.  The posties must love it.

Naturally you miss number 312, so you drive another mile or so the the lights with the “No U-turn” sign, and do a U-turn back to the roundabout two miles back the way you came and try again.


Then having positively identified the target, there’s the small matter of trying to convey to the driver of the Belgian artic which is right on your tail that you need to stop on the double yellow lines and reverse onto a narrow bit of tarmac.  Yes, it worked in the end, but boy did that truck driver ever get cross.  What a loud horn his wagon had.  But so what.  Have you seen the way they drive in Brussels?  Or at least they did when Elsie and I went through it on a motorbike in 1984 …

Anyhow, getting back on track, the lovely black one is Elsie’s.

That scruffy brown thing is what came home with me last night and spent the night in the bike shed ‘cos it stinks, albeit not as much as the treadle cabinet which it was in does, which is why that’s been banished to the yard for scrapping once I’ve salvaged the useful bits off it.

The machine itself is all there though and will be fine once I’ve eventually fettled it and Elsie’s worked her magic on all the grot.  That’s going to be a slow job, but it’ll have been worth turning up in downtown Catford for last night, too early for the rioting but not too early to be bemused by the sight of about 20 of the Met’s finest who were gathered outside that lovely art deco cinema suddenly start running in all directions for no apparent reason.

’tis a strange world in which we live …

The elusive spool pin


Earlier this year I packed a flask and sandwiches and ventured out into the wilds of East Kent, and one of the things I came back with was a Singer 201 in a treadle base.  It moved in with us partly because it’s the later type 201 with the “modern” shape aluminium body and we didn’t have one of those, but mainly because of the treadle base, about which more some other time.

Like the old girl I bought it off, it looked a bit scruffy and smelled of fag smoke but seemed in good working order.  In fact the only thing actually wrong with it was that at some point in its life, the spool pin had gone missing.  Now the spool pin on a 201 Mk2 doesn’t go straight into a hole in the top of the machine like normal.  Oh no.  Instead, it screws into a hole in a solid steel bush 15mm diameter and about 10mm thick, which fits into a 15mm wide hole in the machine.  And that assembly doesn’t just drop into the hole, it’s forced in under considerable pressure.  It needs tools and some determination to get it out without damaging the machine.

So it’s still a mystery to me how come both pin and bush were missing from this one.  And I still marvel at the way in which somebody solved the problem by taking the other (bobbin-winding) spool pin out the machine base, popping it into a handy oil hole, and whacking it with a big hammer.  Check out the pictures I took when I got it home ...

Back view of Singer 201K MkIIPicture of Singer 201 MkII with missing spool pin bush

So obviously we needed a new bush, which is hardly your run-of-the-mill spare part because after all, why would you need one when it’s a forced fit in the top of the machine body so it’s not exactly likely to drop out?  None of the usual sources could help, and because I wasn’t prepared to modify the machine, it was looking more and more like an expensive custom-made replacement bush- assuming I could find somebody to make one for me.

But then once again the internets came to the rescue, this time in the form of a gentleman who’d read my wittering about the bush (I’m not one for beating about it) on one of the Yahoo discussion groups.  He had too many 201 Mk2’s and was breaking some, so … here’s the elusive spool pin and bush, as kindly supplied by Mr Geoff Egan of Tenby Point, Victoria, Australia, who assures me that he did indeed enjoy the couple of beers he had on me yesterday.

Picture of Singer 201 Mk2 spool pin and bush