Tag Archives: Singer 201K

A vintage Singer 201K leaflet



This is another of Syd’s leaflets which he kindly let me scan a week or two ago, and it’s another one which we hadn’t seen before.  I’ve no idea of its exact date, but a pound to a penny says it’s the second half of the 1930’s.

201_bAt top right of the centre pages we see the stitch length regulating lever in its vertical slot, and to its left the thumbscrew which invariably baffles folk who are new to the 201 and haven’t read the book of words.  The text below that picture explains the mystery …

Perfect stitches of a desired length are made either forward or backward, by movement of the lever “B”.  The figures alongside the slot indicate the number of stitches per inch that the machine will make.  When the top of the lever is moved level with any one of the  figures shown, and the screw “A” is raised an tightened, the machine makes the length of stitch wished for in a forward.  By moving the lever up, as far as it will go, the same size stitch is made backward.

Or, translated for the benefit of readers not used to Singer’s idiosyncratic way of explaining things …

Lever “B” sets the stitch length.  As shown it’s set for the longest stitch, and for normal forward stitching.  As you move the lever upwards in the slot, the stitch length gets shorter and shorter until the lever’s level with that line over the numbers.  At that point, the stitch length is zero, so the work doesn’t get fed under the presser foot.  Keep moving the lever up and you’re in reverse, with the stitch length gradually getting longer.  When the lever’s at the top of the slot, the stitch length is the same as it was when the lever was at the bottom of the slot, but you’re sewing backwards.

The thumbscrew and that curved slot is the clever bit.  Let’s say we want to sew roughly 12 stitches per inch.  We move lever “B” upwards until the top of it’s level with the “12” marking, and off we go.  If we’re happy with that length of stitch, we can then slacken the thumbscrew “A”, move it up that curved slot as far as it’ll go, which won’t be very far, and then tighten it.

Having done that, if we then move lever “B” upwards, we find that it won’t go all the way up to the top of the slot.  It now stops at “12”.  That’s because by moving the thumbscrew like we did, we’ve set the stitch length the same in both forward and reverse.

And that’s all there is to it – the thumbscrew is the means whereby you can set it so that when you want to back-tack or whatever, you just pull lever “B” up as far as it’ll go, and continue sewing with the same length stitch but in reverse!


Top picture on the back page explains feed dog drop, but it’s the wording immediately below the bottom picture that I think is lovely and so very much of its time …

View of the Machine head illustrating its particularly chaste ornamentation

Next week we’ll probably be looking at the third and final one of Syd’s brochures, plus what may or may not be some fascinating facts about the Singer building in London town and what used to be the Singer shop in downtown Tunbridge Wells, whence came this very leaflet we’ve just been looking at.


Another Singer 201K for sale


I’ve put another classic 201K on the Singers for sale page, and this one’s a little bit different …

Picture of Singer 201K sewing machine with accessories

This is the 201K3 which until now has been in Elsie’s own collection of portables.  It’s the one I’ve been under orders not to mention when people asked if we have a nice 201 electric for sale.

However, we’ve only got a small house, and with 6 different treadle machines in it which I can’t see Elsie ever parting with, it’s finally been decided that the time has come for some of her portables to go to somebody who’ll put them to better use.  So this one is now for sale.

It’s a little bit different in that we know its history.   The lady I bought from it had recently inherited it from her Mum, who bought it new in 1948.  Apparently it was Mum’s pride and joy, and it was taken into the local Singer shop for a service every two years without fail.    She made her daughter’s Christening gown on it, and in due course her wedding dress too.

After Mum died, it was passed to her daughter.  It was only brought out once, to make a pair of curtains on, then put back in the cupboard.  And there it stayed until it followed me home.

It’s been checked over very carefully indeed and oiled, and I’ve stripped and rebuilt the motor, as well as replaced the mains leads.  This machine is a really sweet runner, and it has one of the quietest motors we’ve ever come across.  Sure it’s got a few superficial bits of pin rash and the odd tiny dink or two, but nothing that stopped Elsie claiming it for her collection as soon as she saw it.

Its “snakeskin” suitcase-type case is a really good one, and we’re including with it all the bits and bobs which came with it when we bought it – original instruction books for the machine and for the motor, oilcan (empty!), a working Singer buttonhole attachment 86662, and a full set of attachments in their card box complete with the list of contents!

Also included is the Singer rubber mat, but I forgot to include that in the pictures …

Picture of 1948 Singer 201K3

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 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 …