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vintage sewing machines

Singer 201K – An Iconic Machine

Do you love vintage sewing machines – the Singer 201K is one of those iconic models that sewing enthusiasts rave about.

The 201 series comprised of full-size sewing machines mainly made in the USA and UK. They were first introduced in the 1930s and production continued until 1961. Experts often view the Singer 201K as the finest domestic sewing machine ever made, and the models that exist today still work perfectly well – sewing and hemming in the same way they did all those years ago.

The 201 was the most expensive model – according to singersewinginfo.co.uk, the electric model cost £28-11s-6d in 1947. In 1950, for example, the average salary in the UK was just over £100, so the sewing machine cost most than your average worker would earn in three months.

However, Singer was famous for something other than sewing machines, and that was hire purchase. Tailors or seamstresses could buy the machine and pay for it over some years while they made their living from the sewing they did.

The Singer 201K would have been used as a hand machine or treadle for domestic work, but professionals could use it with a motor attached so that the machine could produce more than 1,100 stitches per minute.

Singer produced lots of attachments too – buttonholers, blind stitchers, zig-zag attachments. Professionals liked the large ‘harp’ space, as this made it easy to work with bulky fabrics. It was also an easy machine to use. Needle insertion and threading differed from other models. With the 201K, you had to insert the needle with the flat side facing to the left and then threaded from right to left.

Some of the 201 models (201D) were made in Germany, but the factory was closed at the end of the Second World War, while the 201P models were assembled in Australia from parts made in Singer’s Clydebank factory and bases and cases produced locally.

One of the fascinating facts about the 201K, as noted by sewing enthusiast Alex Askaroff, is that Singer presented the model to the then Princess Elizabeth to mark her wedding in 1947. A Pathe newsreel of the time shows the presents for the royal event, and there is a Singer 201K displayed next to the jewellery and other gifts given to the couple.

As Alex says, a smart piece of marketing on the part of the Singer, as the folks watching at the time must have thought to themselves the Singer 201K was a machine fit for a princess!

We love the Singer 201K, and if you want one for yourself, why not check out one of our fully refurbished models here?

Cleaning your Used Sewing Machine

used sewing machineHave you bought yourself a used sewing machine? Naturally, the ones we sell are top quality items and will last you a long time. But sewing machines need a little love and attention if they are to work optimally and be one of the things you can leave your grandchildren!

Sewing machines will gather dust and tiny bits of fibre. Cleaning them helps performance.

Firstly, read your manual. Individual machines will have different components, so it’s important you clean according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have lost your manual, you might be able to find one online. Search for the make and model of the machine and Mr Google may well provide!

Gather together any tools you might need (a plastic brush, oil, cloth etc.) and turn off your machine, unplugging it too. Make sure the needle is in the ‘Up’ position, and remove the needle and pressure foot holder. Slide off the flat bed attachment, and slide the needle plate cover towards you. There will probably be lots of lint and dust underneath this.

Do brush your machine regularly. Many devices come with a small plastic brush that is used to clean out all the lint and dust that gathers in a sewing machine. If you don’t have one, you’ll find them in specialist sewing shops or computer supplies as they are also used for computers. Tweezers are also useful for removing gatherings of dust and lint.

Talking about computers, you might be tempted to use an air duster spray to blow out the dust – just like the ones that are used for keyboards. They use cold moisture to get rid of the dust, and this isn’t good for the metal parts of your used sewing machine so don’t use them.

Oil the machine precisely as the manufacturer’s instructions tell you. Some machines do not require oiling. Don’t over-oil either, as it will be messy.

Clean small parts at a time. This will help you do it precisely and minimise the risk of damage to your used sewing machine.

Keep your machine covered when not in use. Again, many machines come with a dust cover, and that’s for a reason. Use it to minimise dust build-up.

Change your needles as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Sometimes, this is as little as every four to six hours of sewing.

With any luck, regular care and attention will ensure your used sewing machine is good for years to come!

Antique Sewing Machines – Singer 29K

singer 29k sewing machine

Ever wondered what the deal is with Singer antique sewing machines and the numbers? They refer to the patents. Isaac Singer got his first patent for a sewing machine, and that was Singer 1, and thus each new model was numbered accordingly.

The Singer 29K was originally made for industrial use and was favoured by cobblers and other sewers working with goods such as gloves and bags. The machine’s narrow arm and revolving foot could sew in any direction. It has no underneath feed, instead a foot that walks the work through the machine. The small container in the middle of the machine was for oil to lubricate the thread.

The machine can be used to stitch leather, canvas, blankets, fabrics and other material such as rubber. The recommended maximum thickness is about 3mm. Parts are easy enough to pick up too, and there are lots of films on YouTube showing you how to use the machine to best effect.

The Singer 29K was mainly manufactured in Singer’s Scottish factory in Clydebank. Singer initially set up a factory in Glasgow in the 1860s. The country was chosen as it has iron-making industries and cheap labour. The first factory was near Queen Street train station, but production soon outgrew the premises. Manufacturing was moved to Bridgeton, but again in time, the buildings didn’t meet the requirements.

singer 29k sewing machine

In 1882, George McKenzie opened what was to become the largest Singer factory in the world at Kilbowie, Clydebank. Built above the plant’s middle wing was an iconic, huge clock tower – 200 feet tall, and with the name Singer clearly emblazoned on the front for all to see.

The completed factory covered almost a million square feet and employed some 7,000 employees, producing an average 13,000 sewing machines a week. As it was so productive, the US Singer company set up Singer Manufacturing Company Ltd as a UK-registered business. At its peak, the factory employed 16,000 people.

The factory closed in 1980, and the buildings were demolished in 1998.

singer 29k sewing machine

The pre-1970s Singer sewing machines were built to last. They were easy to use and straightforward. The Singer 29K machine is still being used in leather workshops and cobblers all over the world – an example of just how amazing the antique sewing machines are.

Sewing4Everyone sells antique sewing machines, vintage sewing machines and refurbished models. We have a wide selection of machines available. If you’d like to discuss a machine in detail, please contact us on 01782 943667.

 

 

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