Singer 201 – The Best Sewing Machine Ever Made

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During the “glory” days of Singer Sewing Machines, Singer produced the model 201 from the 1930’s to at least the 1950’s. It was their finest (and highest priced) machine. Thousands of these machines were produced — and most of them are still sewing as finely and strongly today as they did when first produced.

Research the Singer 201 and you’ll find more than one reference stating that the 201 is the finest sewing machine Singer ever made. While I can’t authoritatively say the same (I haven’t tried all the machines Singer ever made!), I haven’t found anything about the 201 that would make me disagree with that statement.

I really appreciate fine mechanical and electronic devices. I like old Hammond clocks and organs, tube amplifiers and vintage guitars, vintage sports cars, gizmos and gadgets like that. About 10 years ago (in a fit of mid-life crisis) I bought a used Porsche 944. When I sit down at the Singer 201 and press the foot pedal, I get a very similar feeling to that experienced when cruising down the highway in the Porsche at a way-too-fast speed — the smooth and comfortable feeling of machinery performing perfectly.

I compare it to a Porsche — and I’ve seen others compare it to driving a Ferrari!

Singer produced at least four different versions of the 201:
201-1 – Treadle version
201-2 – Potted motor and gear-driven
201-3 – External motor and belt-driven
201-4 – Hand-crank (original factory, not later conversion)

The 201 is a sturdy and heavy machine — not a portable at all! This is not a slim and sexy sports car — it’s a full-sized, classy and luxurious grand touring sedan! It’s built to last — but does need maintenance to perform its best. You’ll need to oil it regularly and also grease the gears from time to time. You can unscrew the circular silver plate on the backside of the machine to reveal the gears and the greasing points. Use regular Singer Sewing Machine gear grease (not oil!). Use sewing machine oil only at the recommended oiling points. This rotary hook machine uses a Class 66 bobbin (means very little vibration, great stitch quality, and easily found bobbins.)

The machine is easy to thread and easy to use. The fact that some of these machines are going on 80 years old and still outsewing modern machines is a telling point — they’ll probably last at least another 80 years! Maintain them well and they’ll keep sewing — well, longer than you or I probably will!

One reason 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” the 201 like you might battle with low end plastic machines — less time fighting means less time fixing and redoing problems and less frustration!

Even though the machine is straight stitch only, Singer and other vendors made a host of attachments that offer a world of possibilities — free-form embroidery, buttonholes, zig-zag, blindhemming — pretty much anything you want from a quality sewing machine is easily achievable.

Best of all, prices tend to be really low (supply and demand — Singer made zillions of these machines!). You’ll often pay way less than you would for a plastic import that may die a deserved death after a few weeks or months of sporadic sewing — and you’ll gain a lifelong sewing servant.

How should you view the Singer 201c Well, think back on the Porsche/Ferrari analogy — except lower the price to less than 0! This machine purrs like the well-crafted piece of machinery it is. It feels “quality:, if you know what I mean. This machine will definitely be in your “keeper” list.

Curious — check out the Singer 201 in action!

About the author: Joey Robichaux rides the System’s Consultant Road Warrior circuit and also operates the popular free sheet music website, “Free Sheet Music Downloads” at; he collects vintage sewing machines and reviews them at Sewing Machines and Sewing Projects.


Frequently Asked Questions

    How often do I change sewing machine needles and oil machine?
    I just got a new Singer Inspiration 4206 and want to make sure I maintain it correctly. The instruction book says HOW to change needle, oil, brush it out, etc, but doesn’t say how often.

    • ANSWER:
      A needle a project is not a bad rule of thumb… more often if the sewing starts to seam wonky, or if you hit a pin (or the needleplate or presser foot!).

      Here’s what a needle that has been used awhile but still feels sharp looks like under magnification:

      I do a light cleaning (brush and vacuum, not compressed air) every day I sit down to the machine. I do a deeper cleaning (pull the needleplate, etc) at the conclusion of every project. Sooner if I’m working with something like Minky, which sheds like crazy.

      I oil a machine that needs it at least once a week — sooner if it sounds dry. Personally, I’d call 1-800-Singer and ask how many hours of stitching time between oilings do they advise?

      Always remember to use real sewing machine oil. 3 in 1 oil and similar turns into a gooey mess you have to pay to have removed, and WD-40 is a solvent, not a lubricant. Last time I was in Walmart, they had a 3 or 4 oz bottle of Singer sewing machine oil for — that’s a lifetime supply to most people.

    If Hillary has such a “well-oiled machine” behind her does it need an oil change?
    I don’t get this perception that she has this big tank behind her ready to crush all?

    What exactly is it and has Obama managed to circumvent it?
    Katelyn-If you read my profile you will see that I’m a huge Clinton supporter. My intention by this question is to hi-light the silliness of this perception, that somehow she has this huge steamroller behind her. Don’t read more into the question than is there.

    • ANSWER:
      Terms like the “Clinton Machine” and “Clintonistas” puzzle me, particularly when they are used by those in the media who should have a strong understanding of how politics work. While the Clinton’s have certainly met and worked with a lot of political people over the years, I know of no evidence that it is an “organization” or machine. In fact they were never warmly or fully accepted by the Washington establishment, being from the “little Southern state.” I suspect the terminology is just more of the same anti-Clinton bias that permeates not only the Repubs but, inexcusably, the media in general.

    a machine make waste vegetable oil change biological diesel oil?
    a machine can make waste vegetable oil change biological diesel oil,who know which company produce this machine,if u know ,pls tell me ,thx very much

    • ANSWER:

      Pick one!

    How often do you change needles, and oil and clean your machine?
    I’m curious, especially among the experienced sewers out there. How much do you use your machine (hours per week/month, whatever) and how often do you oil it and/or clean it yourself? How often do you take it in for service?

    I’m wondering because I’m reading the official guidelines about oiling, cleaning and service, and I’m wondering if anyone really follows them? Do you really change your needle after every project? If yes to all of the above, do you notice a difference?


    • ANSWER:
      I change the needle when I need to — i.e., when it’s bent or dulled, or when I’m using a different type of fabric than the one the needle was made for.

      I oil and dust inside my machine after every 6-8 hours of use. I should also dust inside it when it’s been sitting idle for a month or more, but rarely remember to do that one.

      The machine runs much more quietly when properly cleaned and oiled. I don’t take it in for service at all, but have learned to do some of the adjustments myself.

    I have a Yard Machine 675 series. I am changing the oil…is there an air filter to change on it?

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear…it’s a lawnmower.

    • ANSWER:
      If you mean two stage snow thrower, no there is no air filter. Not much dust when blowing snow.

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