During the “glory” days of Singer sewing machines, Singer produced the Model 201 from the 1930s to at least the 1950s. It was their finest (and highest-priced) machine. Thousands of these machines were produced, and most of them still sew as fine and tightly today as they did when they were first produced.
Research the Singer 201 and you will find more than one reference indicating that the 201 is the best sewing machine Singer has ever made. While I can’t say the same authoritatively (I haven’t tried every Singer machine ever made!), I haven’t found anything about the 201 that would cause me to disagree with that statement.
I really appreciate the good mechanical and electronic devices. I like old Hammond clocks and organs, old tube amps and guitars, old sports cars, gadgets and gadgets like that. About 10 years ago (in a fit of midlife crisis) I bought a used Porsche 944. When I sit in the Singer 201 and press the pedal, I have a feeling very similar to what I have when driving down the highway in Porsche at too fast a speed: the smooth, comfortable feel of machinery working perfectly.
I compare it to a Porsche, and have seen others compare it to driving a Ferrari! It’s quality American iron from the days when that really meant something!
Singer produced at least four different versions of the 201:
201-1 – Pedal version
201-2 – Encapsulated Gear Driven Motor
201-3 – Outboard and Belt Driven Motor
201-4 – Crank (original factory, no later conversion)
The 201 is robust and heavy machine – not portable at all! This isn’t a slim, sexy sports car, it’s a sleek, luxurious full-size grand touring sedan! It is built to last, but needs maintenance to function at its best. You will need to grease it regularly and also grease the gears from time to time. You can unscrew the circular silver plate on the back of the machine to reveal the gears and grease points. Use regular Singer sewing machine gear grease (not oil!). Use sewing machine oil only at recommended lubrication points. This rotary hook machine uses a class 66 bobbin (means very little vibration, excellent stitch quality, and easy to find bobbins).
The machine is easy to thread and use. The fact that some of these machines are 80 years old and still outperforming modern machines is a telling point – they’ll probably last at least another 80 years! Keep them good and they’ll keep sewing, well, longer than you or me probably!
One of the reasons the machine is so easy to use is that it is a straight stitch only machine. A single stitch … but a beautiful and perfect straight stitch! You won’t find yourself “fighting” 201 like you would low-end plastic machines – less time fighting means less time fixing and redoing problems and less frustration!
Even though the machine is only straight stitch, Singer and other vendors made a host of accessories that offer a world of possibilities: free-form embroidery, buttonholes, zigzag, blind hem, pretty much anything you want from a workable quality sewing machine.
Best of all, prices tend to be really low (supply and demand: Singer made billions of these machines!). You will often pay far less than you would for a plastic import that can deservedly die after a few weeks or months of sporadic sewing, and you will get a sewing servant for life.
How should I see the Singer 201? Well, think of the Porsche / Ferrari analogy, except cut the price to less than $ 100! This machine purrs like the well-crafted piece of machinery that it is. It feels “quality”, if you know what I mean. This machine will definitely be on your “guardian” list.