Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Singer Machine

This baby is the newest addition to the "herd". She joins my Bernina, Singer 185J, and Singer featherweight. That does not include my serger and coverhem machine, either.

I found her on Craigslist ($50) with the help of a friend, who shall remain anonymous. ;) She came with the cabinet (which looks like a small desk) and almost all the attachments and manual. No buttonholer or walking foot, but those will come later.

She needed a VERY good cleaning. This is a "before" picture. She's on my cutting table where I gave her the spa treatment (to coin a phrase).

This is the "after" picture. I wonder if you can tell the difference, other than the light is on. Oh well. Take my word for it, she was filthy! She had sat a very long time in the garage of the previous owner. She certainly purrs right along. And power? You got it, baby.

When my husband picked her up for me, he spoke with the male of the house. He said his wife really used this machine and sewed all the kids' clothes on it and his shirts. I got the impression that he bought it for her new. The couple are in their mid-70's now. The Singer website is of no use as all "NA" serial numbered machines are listed as being made in 1951. But I doubt this is the case with this one. I've seen people advertise 1956 and 1958 models.

And this...is what came out of her bobbin area! Can you spell Y - U - C - K??

I thought of putting it on my spinning wheel and getting a skein of yarn out of it, but hey...I don't own a spinning wheel. So into the garbage it went. Good riddance. I will be taking very good care of this machine and it will, no doubt, outlast me.

Well, sorry this is so short, but I wanna go play with her now. Take care!


Gwen said...

Congratulations on your new addition! I'm sure the 2 of you will be very happy together... ;)
Have fun!

Rhoto said...

ANOTHER baby? My, oh, my!! Aren't YOU "busy"!!
Congratulations on a great find!!
Soft hug,
Rhonda in Montreal

Scott said...

Any updates on your 401A? I am curious what you like and don't like about it. I just got one off CL and am in the process of cleaning and adjusting it. Mine moves smoothly, but I don't yet have the proper bobbin to see how it sews.
Scott in LA

Donna Hodgson said...

Scott in LA.
I like it because it's a machine that will do anything and everything and I can fix/service it myself.
I don't like how it sounds when it sews. Maybe I need to take more of it apart and maybe it needs some DEEP cleaning. It sounds like it grinds to me. My 185J is MUCH quieter and sews like butter.

You'll need to get metal class 66 bobbins for your 401. Cheap on eBay. I bought 20 for about $6.00

Advice? Don't get plastic bobbins. A friend's 401 ate hers.

Question: Why is your blog on private? I would like to see your blog, pretty please. Thank you.

Scott said...

Donna, my 401 purrs like a contented cat, so there must be something in yours that is a little out of whack. On the other hand, the day after I bought my 401 I went to buy a 185J w/ cabinet for $20. But it wasn't in great shape and didn't sound smooth at all so I passed on it. One reason I was interested in the 185J is because of your blog. Too bad the machine I saw wasn't as good as yours.

Thanks for your suggestion of metal 66 bobbins. I will go that route. However, just FYI there is an online Singer expert (Terry) who recommends plastic bobbins for the 401. He says that the bottom ring in the middle of the bobbin protrudes w/ age and catches the thread after it leaves the hook causing stitch problems. He sells the plastic bobbins on his site. That said, he later found that he had to file or sand down the plastic bobbins to allow them to spin in the Apollo style bobbin case. I had a similar experience with plastic bobbins I bought for a Singer T&S 778. I had to file down the edges or they would bind in the bobbin case. Some I had to throw away. The older plastic bobbins I had were fine.

Here is one of Terry's links.
See "Tip on Bobbin Usage for all Slant-O-Matic"

I suspect that the metal bobbin will work fine as long as the ring is smooth. If the bobbin shows signs of wear, I'll throw it away.

Finally, my blog shows as private (sorry) because I don't have one, just a Gmail account.

Scott in LA

Donna Hodgson said...


Thanks for explaining the situation with your blog. As you might have seen in my lastest post (rant), I was unhappy with several people who contacted me this week wanting manuals. But you've proven that theory wrong. Thank you.

I've heard all about that bobbin case thingy and the metal bobbins not working as well as the plastic. I'm not convinced. I use both class 66 in my 185 AND the 401. No problems whatsoever. I guess it's simply a matter of how long the machine has been used. I strongly suspect that my 401 hasn't been touched in 20 years. That being said...it took quite a bit of oiling/lubing to get it running.

But I'm worried about that whining sound. It actually sounds like I need to take the stack cams out and clean them up. Like when they're slowly spinning while the machine is running. It just seems like that's the location of the "noise". Others have told me their 401's are noisy and others, like you, say they just purr. Now, my 185...THAT purrs! I've put the 401 on the floor and put the 185 back up on my table. I prefer sewing with it for right now.

Maybe I need to ask the experts on the Yahoo group vintagesingers about that noise and taking the stack cams apart. Ah well...maybe another day.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Advice please. My wife purchased a $99.00 ...mart Singer plastic piece of junk. Would a 401 or 401A make a good machine for her to learn on? She wants to sew little girls & ladies simple dresses and quilt tops maybe? Thanks billnrhea@juno.com

Margaret said...

To the person who wants a Singer for girls' and womens' dresses & quilt tops, a featherweight would be much easier and straightforward to learn on. It doesn't have the versatility of the 401, but is not so confusing.

Anonymous said...

I learned to sew on my mom's 401A. Latere it broke and I have picked one up second hand for myself. If it makes noise don't just oil it, my mom said oil any thing that moves except the gears and use the sewing machine grease on those. If it has set for a long period then you may have to do this more then once. Probably not for the new sewer but great for us old timers. NO BELT and will sew anything, plus with the fashion plates it will sew so many different stiches. I have purchased every one I find at sales, fix them us and so far have not found a bad one. Take care though, tech said motor costs $200 to replace if it goes out

Amanda said...

I just received this same machine from my dad... his neighbor was going to throw it away! After googling, it's apparently one of the more valuable vintage machines. Lucky us!

Ginette said...

Thanks for sharing about your newest addition. I inherited my Singer 401a from my grandmother and am still learning about it (I'm a novice). I tend to do a project, then not use it for a long time, get it all ready to go again, then it starts smoking. Whoops! Forgot to oil it. But I hear it's a great machine so I feel very lucky to have it. I plan to keep it forever!

lil k said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lil k said...

Hello I'm new to the sewing world and I just received a 401a machine. It wasn't purring like a kitten so I've taken it a part and am currently putting it back together. I got it all back together but the bobbin case holder, I cannot get it back into it's proper place so it just continuously knocks out the bobbin case. Any suggestions? Please and Thank you.

Scott said...

Hi lil k,
Chances are you didn't reinstall the position bracket correctly. The position bracket holds the bobbin case securely if it is properly installed under the position bracket spring. The position bracket must be held at a high angle, say 45 degrees, to slip it under the lip of the "hidden" spring. If you know what you are doing it takes just a few seconds. The Yahoo Group "vintagesingers" has photos in their Files (Files > 401 403 404 500 503 Information > 401 position bracket) showing the solution to your problem.
Scott in LA

angelica said...

i just inherited a 401 from my fiances family, i know you dont know me but i dont know thing one about this machine, there is no manual and i would really like to treat it right and use it well but i dont know where to start i am sure it needs some cleaning its been sitting in a GARAGE! of all places google brought up this blog and i was hoping that you would be a kind soul and maybe give me some pointers my e mail is aeflanagan88@gmail.com
also i have not used a sewing machine in 10 years, i, like the needles it came with, am rusty any advice would be appreciated thank you