Comparing the Singer 15-91 and the 201-2 Sewing Machines

What’s the difference between a Singer 15-91 and a 201-2?  I am asked this so often, that I felt it deserved it’s own article.


Here is a brief comparison between the Singer 15-91 and the 201-2 with explanations of what these similarities and differences really mean in practical application.

Here is how they are the same:

  • Cast iron body

  • All metal innards

  • Gear drive, potted motor. - In fact they use the exact same motor.

  • They use the same needle and on both machines the needle is inserted with the flat side to the left and threads from right to left.

  • Straight Stitch only with true reverse feed

  • Feed dogs drop

  • Use low shank, screw-on feet and attachments

  • Tons of room around the needle bar to see the work at hand.

  • The weight about the same (30 lbs.)

  • The machines are of the same quality. There is no difference in stitch quality.

A Visual comparison:

(click to enlarge)
 Photobucket Photobucket
(click to enlarge)
Here is the 15-91 and a page from a Singer brochure.  And here is the 201-2 and it's section on of that same, vintage Singer brochure.

Here is how they differ:

The hook type:

The 201-2 has a full rotary, horizontal hook with a drop in bobbin

The 15-91 has a vertical, side loading oscillating hook.

Yeah so? What does that matter??

The thread on the horizontal hook must make a 90 degree turn in the stitch process that is not required by the vertical hook orientation. This makes the 15-91 a bit easier to set up for heavier threads and more suited to free motion work, such as free motion quilting. In my opinion the hook design on the 15-91 is one of the most forgiving units ever designed.

The horizontal hook on the 201-2 means that you can just drop the bobbin in from the top. The rotary hook is a little quieter and smoother than the oscillating hook.

With the rotary hook, there are a series of gears that transfer the movement from the main shaft to the workings underneath. These gears create a bit more friction (by design) than the linkages used in the 15-91 oscillating hook set up. So, I find that the 15-91’s are, by virtue of their design, a slightly “freer” machine. In theory, this would suggest that they might provide more piercing power, but I have not noticed a difference in application.


The 201-2 uses a class 66 bobbin, and the 15-91 uses a class 15. Both are very common and easy to find. The class 15 bobbin holds more thread.


On the 201-2 the light is at the front of the machine and for the 15-91 the light is at the back.

Harp size:

The 201-2 has a slightly larger harp by a little bit. I have sewn some bulky items with both, and didn’t notice any real difference in practical application.


Usually, the 15-91’s can be purchased for less than the 201-2’s. When these machines were sold new, the 15-91’s were also priced just a bit below the 201-2’s. The 15-91 was nick named the “farmers wife’s machine” and the 201-2 was tagged the “dressmaker’s machine”.

Looking  for more details and information about either model? How about a free instruction book or user's manual to download?  Here ya go!

Singer 15-91 Review on the Sew-Classic Blog

Singer 201-2 REview on the Sew-Classic Blog
More info on an INSTANT marked needle plate for any vintage machine!



  • Trackbacks are closed for this post.
Page: 1 of 1
  • Sunday, January 18. 2009 CJ wrote:
    Thanks for that great explanation Jenny. The only really difference I was aware of was of the hooks.

    In my Bernina's, I favor the oscillating hook machines, but chose the 201 even knowing it was a rotary hook, because so many said they preferred the bobbin set up.

    I'm sure I would have been thrilled with either if they both stitch as beautifully as my 201 does.
  • Saturday, January 24. 2009 Robin Denning wrote:
    Oooh, I love all the interesting things you post!! I hereby nominate you for a Kreativ Blog Award!

    Someday I will have a vintage beauty like the 15-91 or the 201. gorgeous.
    1. Saturday, January 24. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      An award?....awhh...shucks... Thanks Robin!
  • Saturday, February 28. 2009 jennylou wrote:
    i thought there was a difference and bought both...

    if you had to choose only and let go of the other, which would you keep?

    "Neither" is not an option =)
    1. Saturday, February 28. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      It boils down to the type of sewing you will be doing and personal preference.  Fortunately, there is no bad choice between these two machines.
  • Tuesday, March 31. 2009 William Mohr wrote:
    I have a lightly used 201-2 in excellent shape, that I am thinking of using for use on fabrics like vinyl cloth, canvas, or ballistic-nylon. This is to try out some ideas I have in the design of tool pouches and organizers.

    This machine S/N AH957165 was serialized on Dec 5, 1948, 16 days after I was born!

    I have a little bit of dated sewing experience, so, I am looking for some advice on the selection of proper foot attachments, and techniques that I should use on this machine.

    I need to attach edging material, double-stich areas for reinforcement, select durable thread for harsh environments and use.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    1. Tuesday, March 31. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      To get to know your machine better and the best ways to use it and the attachments, you should start by reading the manual.  Your local library should have a nice selection of books about sewing and sewing techniques for beginner through advanced sewists. 
  • Tuesday, March 31. 2009 William Mohr wrote:
    When I first saw your photo of the Singer 201-2 in this blog, I thought it was exactly like the machine I have.

    On closer inspection, I noticed that my machine has a bright engraved chrome plate under the spool pin that does not show on your photo.

    Does this depend on the machine production run or is my model just a slight variation of the 201-2?
    1. Wednesday, April 01. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      There were slight cosmetic variations over the years.  Not a big deal.   There are some folks that prefer the scroll face trim over the striated, but that is strictly a person taste issue.  There is no substantial difference between the 201-2's regardless of the look of the various trim pieces. 
  • Friday, July 17. 2009 Rick Engel wrote:
    Jenny I just want to say I thoroughly enjoy your website and all it has to offer. I am a bit of a collector and must say that my 1941 Blackside Singer 201 (and blackside attachments) will be with me forever. I refurbish and sell them as well and am surprised how much easier it is to sell a 201 -vs- a 15-91 . Personally (other than my Blackside) I find the 15-91 every bit the equal. And now after reading your reviews I understand why.
    Again, I really enjoy the engineering aspect you provide and feel you have an incredible amount of insight to provide on making these nice. Everything old can be new again. All the best to you and your family.
  • Friday, August 28. 2009 Carol wrote:
    Thanks for your site. I read the difference between a 201-2 and 15-91. Is there a difference between the 201 and 201-2?? I am looking to buy a Singer, but am confused about 201 and 201-2 models. Thanks
    1. Saturday, August 29. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:
      Yes, and no.  201 is the main model number (like "15' on the 15-91).  There are several sub-models of the 201.  If you go to the bottom of theSinger 201 Sewing machine review on my blog, you wil find a list of the sub-models and a brief description of each.
  • Friday, November 13. 2009 Robert wrote:
    I'm going to reveal a secret to you I probably shouldn't. One of the best places I have found to get old sewing machines and sewing machine accessories is a place called GoodWill This is a website where Good Will stores from across the nation sell some to the neatest stuff. This is one of my favorite websites because they alway have tons of stuff that is hard to find and really neat. It's amazing what people consider useless and discard, some real treasures. I probably should not have told you about this website because I'm sure I'll end up bidding against you. However, I'm hoping that I am helping some really nice stuff that is found on this website to find a home where it can be treasured and appreciated. Thanx Again, Robert

Page: 1 of 1
Leave a comment

Comments are closed.