Ah, the Singer 201 sewing machine. Simple, heavy, nearly flawless straight stitching and can be had for less than an elegant dinner for two.
I did not have to look hard to find the ones I now own. Two of them came to me by way of other people and my third was by pure chance at an Estate Sale. The last one had hardly been used, had many parts and accessories and even had the original bill of sale in one of the drawers. I was in heaven. It was like touching a time capsule and then to discover that it could speak to me from the past.
The year was 1947 and Mrs. Sophie Knox purchased her new machine for $274.13, a very large sum of the day. Was it the joy in celebrating the end of World War II? Was it the desire to once again make clothes for pure enjoyment, inspired no doubt by the growing trends towards fuller skirts with yards upon yards of fabric and eventually Dior’s ‘New Look’? She purchased the finest machine there was on the market, complete with all the attachments and every possible accessory.
She lived in a house on a property that was certainly a farm during the mid 20th century. The property still held a barn, a laborers cabin, a chicken coup, a machinery garage, a pond and still several acres that had not been gobbled up by developers. Half a Million dollar homes now occupied her property line. I can picture her sewing in the back bedroom of her home enjoying the sound of the soft click, click, click of this beautiful machine as it diligently stitched it’s seams.
I know no one likes to think of what will happen to their ‘things’ once they leave and I’m sure she never dreamt of all her worldly possessions displayed on her front lawn to be had to the highest bidder. I’m sure she would have been embarrassed to know strangers were going through her things, picking up objects and thinking “what the…?”. But there it was among a collection of wooden hangers and an ironing board. The cabinet closed, disguising its inner contents. The day was slightly wet and still cold being March. I didn’t think I’d wanted to come to the auction, after all, it was mostly men after the tools.
The bidding started at $200. No one. Then $150, still not a peep from the mostly male crowd. The auctioneer said “who’ll give me $100?”! I could tell he was getting frustrated but I wanted to stay and watch. Was nobody interested? You know, sometimes people just like to watch. Finally the auctioneer had reluctantly gone down to $20 and a few paddles flew up in the air! He smiled, the game had begun. To his dismay I was left the only one still in at a paltry $45. To me it was pure joy! Ms. Sophie couldn’t have asked for a better steward of her prized possession.
The Top 5 Reasons Why a Singer 201 Will Always Be A Favorite:
- Value (I bought mine at auction for $45.00)
- Abundance (because it was built so well, and thousands were made during a time where most households sewed, there are thousands available for parts, feet, cabinets, accessories)
- The Goodies (All of the machines came with a standard box of presser feet including a ruffler, hemmer, rolled hemmer, binder, and shirring foot which today if you were to buy each of these feet separately on a quality machine such as a Bernina, plan on spending several hundred dollars. The Bernina ruffler foot alone is $100.00)
- Smooth Stitching (Probably due to its weight this machine is very quiet and the stitching is reliably straight)
- Nostalgia (Owning one is like bonding with a piece of the past. A comforting sense that the previous owner is lingering nearby)
The Ruffler Foot was used to pleat these ribbons that were combined with a button for a First Place Show Ribbon.