10 April 2014

1953 Model 201K Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

When / How Acquired

This machine is an eBay purchase from December 2013. My husband's new hobby seems to be trawling through eBay, Gumtree and any other site he can find, looking for machines to add to our (MY) collection. Within the same week we came across two machines that were going cheaply, and picked them both up on the same day.

I had to rearrange my studio to fit this one in, and the other pick up of the day lives at the end of our hallway at the front of our house.

We purchased this from a young guy on eBay, who was selling it on behalf of his mother. It had belonged to his grandmother (his mother's mother), and was obviously a much loved family machine. I am honoured to have given it a new home.

Machine Specifications

Singer's 201 is a rotary hook machine. This model was widely considered to be the best machine of it's kind made by Singer. I keep finding reviews all over the place that rave about how good they are, especially for heavy duty sewing. Think leather, multiple layers for corsets etc. I really need to allocate a project to sew exclusively on this machine!

Mine is a 201K, which just means that it was made in the Kilbowie factory in Scotland, the same place as my 66K and 99K. This is the only one of my Singers that you can sew in reverse. To go in reverse you move the lever to the upward position. And then quickly remember that you have to move it back again. All while keeping the treadle going! Women sure had to be mutli-talented to sew before electric machines were widespread, kind of like patting your head while rubbing your tummy, but more complicated.

This machine was one of 40,000 ordered into production on December 15, 1953. Since that was so late in the year, I'm guessing it probably wasn't finished until 1954.

The decals are the so called 'paperclip' pattern, in remarkably good condition.

"Striated" faceplate
Threading a bobbin
The machine is housed in an Art Deco style cabinet. It is most likely in original condition, with the lacquer a little fragile in some places. After a little investigating with my friend google, I discovered that the cabinet is an Enclosed Cabinet No 51, which I discovered in my searchings here. When you open out the cupboard door, the left hand lid sits on top as the extension table. Very handy.


There's even a place to hold your oil in the cabinet!

The machine came with an assortment of feet and some spare bobbins as well as the original instruction booklet, which I plan on scanning so I don't ever need to look through the original again. The feet that were included with this machine were (L to R), a ruffler, an adjustable hemmer, a binder, an edge stitcher, a gathering foot, and a foot hemmer. I am planning a separate post on each of the feet that I have, when I can work out how to use them.

There were a few other assorted things with the machine, but they didn't
belong with this machine
The needle is inserted with the flat of the needle to the left, and is threaded from right to left, which I would have found out sooner if I'd read the manual. Just goes to show that even if you think you know what you're doing, you should always read your manual first!

Work Done on this machine

We (OK, by 'we', here I mean my husband) fitted a new leather belt on the machine. We tried to get it going, but (again, mainly due to not reading the manual) couldn't get it to work properly. It turns out that to start with we had it in reverse, and of course, not threaded properly.

Oiling the machine
My father whilst he was staying over Christmas last year gave the machine an oil and a good clean. After doing a test sew, he also adjusted the tension on the bobbin. An eighth of a turn was all it took to get the tension just right, and the stitches are now perfectly formed! Both forward and reverse.

Dad also took the needle plate off to take back to his place to remove the tiny needle marks that were just at the edge of the needle hole (I get a lot of those on my Janome 1600P - I'm always getting into trouble from my dad!). It all looks great now.

Keep an eye out for a detailed look at my other Singer machines:

Overview of my Singer sewing machines

1900 Model 27 Treadle

1950 Model 99K Electric

1937 Model 66K Treadle

1943 Model 221K Featherweight

Singer Model 20 Child's Sewing Machine

Do you have a Model 201 Singer? I'd love to see more! Feel free to leave the link to your related blog post in the comments below.


  1. Had a fun evening reading about all of your machines. I have a 201K and recently got a 15K. You can read about my 201K here - http://www.thingsforboys.com/2014/09/vintage-singer-201.html

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Your machine looks great too. Do you think you'll stop at just 1?

  2. Hi, Andrea. I recently acquired a 201K in the same cabinet as yours - so beautiful! I don't know much about it, so please bear with me. It appears as though mine was converted from treadle to electric at some point, however, there are no power cords to turn it on. In addition, all of the treadle parts inside the cabinet are gone. Do you know where to find replacement treadle parts? Or how I can update the motor with one suited for use in the US? Any tips are greatly appreciated!


    1. Hi Kelly,

      I'm in Australia, so don't know of any specific places you could look in the US. I would try searching eBay though, there's always people selling absolutely everything on there! Good luck restoring your machine to it's former glory.

  3. Hi Andrea, I am looking at purchasing a machine the same as yours, even the cabinet is the same! I too have heard that this was the 'workhorse of the singer mahcines', so am keen to purchase it. The one I am looking at is only treadle operated, but I really would love to convert it to electric. I am hoping that someone will be able to help me find out where to do this. I live about an hour out of Sydney, so hopefully this won't be too hard.
    Thankyou for your blog post about this. I found it really helpful.
    Shaz xx

    1. Hi Shaz, good luck with the purchase of your machine. Ask around with sewing machine repairers, you might get lucky and find one who is an Antique enthusiast and can help you with an electric conversion.

  4. What an gorgeous machine! I've just found a 201 going on eBay (a slightly later model though I think), and this post has definitely convinced me to try and nab it! Getting a vintage machine is proving a little intimidating for me as I know very little about various makes and models, but this post has helped a lot :)

    1. Thanks Maddy, I'm glad that my post helped you make up your mind. Personally I can't resist a good vintage Singer, but I think I may have hit my limit, as the only place I really have left to put another one is in my bedroom.

    2. Oh, and I forgot to say, until I bought my second vintage Singer, I didn't know anything about them either. I started doing a lot of research then. It's amazing what information you can find on the internet.

  5. I have one that was my mums and it still works and is in great condition. How much are they worth? Grobby21@hotmail.com

  6. I am looking at a very similar one! It is priced at $350. I have no idea of its worth. Is that a reasonable price? It looks to be in mint condition!