Friday, April 22, 2011

Singer 401A

I have adopted a lot of sewing machines over the years. It was always fun to see if they worked, then clean and oil them, and make them purr. Most of them have left me to live with other families. I try to leave them when I see them now, but it is still hard, when I find a good deal on an old classic workhorse, to talk myself  into leaving it. I did leave a 401A in a cabinet with all the accessories where we found it, just a few weeks ago, but low and behold, another one was at another store, in a cabinet, but without the accessories, just waiting to go home with me, at an unbelievable price. Seeing two in one day, well, I thought it must have been a ‘sign’ or something, and well, I have spent more on a snack sometimes. I have a ‘few’ (quit laughing, girls who know me) sewing machines, but I did not have this one. I left the cabinet and brought home the machine.

             401a 001

This morning, I gave it a bath and a good oil and lube. These old machines have a history, and I wish they could talk. The lady who owned it was a smoker. I know this, because there was nicotine near the base, below the stitch lever, probably where her ashtray sat. If you look close, I couldn’t get it all out of the crevices, but she did take good care of this machine. Cosmetically, it is in good shape, with no visible marks on the paint. It lived in a cabinet, so she probably lovingly put it down and out of harms way when she finished sewing with it.

I also believe it was an older lady who owned the machine. Why do I say this?

           401a 002

There are four different colors of thread which I pulled off the bobbin. Back in the days of the depression, ladies did everything they could do to save money. They used every little bit of everything they could to get by. When the economy looked up, it was hard for them to break that habit. (We could all learn a few things from these ladies, but NOT this thread trick!) The green was the very last color she wound on the bobbin. The black thread was actually two pieces of thread, both very short.  When you think about it, by the time you pull it up through the throat plate, pull it out enough to sew, and then quickly run out, just how many stitches did that woman actually get? But I do understand. Sewing with pieces of bobbin thread had to be a pain though, because you could be happily sewing along, and OH CRAP! I just ran out of bobbin thread! have to stop, take the bobbin out, find the new end of the thread, and start all over again. (This method would definitely NOT work on a quilting frame…just sayin’!) You know, the stitch quality probably wasn’t that good either, being that the shorter pieces were ‘hand wound’ onto the bobbin, rather than tightly wound (gee, I know some people who are ‘tightly wound…ok, getting back to my original thought…) by the machine. Over the years of adopting sewing machines, I have seen a LOT of bobbins like this.

                     401a 003

I did have to adjust the top and bottom tensions once I got it all cleaned up, but as always, these 401A machines are a dream. They are just as strong and go just as fast as the newer ‘semi-industrial machines (like my Juki TL-98E).


I am going to have Louie take the motor out and go over it anyway, like he does to all the gear driven machines we bring home, and I know it will sew even faster and sound even stronger. The oil in the older machines tend to harden and turn to ‘varnish’ after several decades.

           401a 005

I checked the Singer website for the birth date of this machine, and although I did not get a month and day, it was born in 1951 in Anderson, South Carolina. It is almost old enough to retire!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend. We plan to!

Be blessed,








StitchinByTheLake said...

It's a beauty! I asked my daughter the other day about Jerry's grandmother's machine and she does still have it so I think I'll "borrow" it (she's never turned it on and Granny has been gone about 20 years!) and see what kind it is. blessings, marlene

Amelia said...

I agree it would be fantastic to know the person who owned this machine...what garments or quilts that had been sewn on it...all sorts of info would be interesting.

Just a bit of history has wound up in your sewing area.

Hazel said...

Nice machine ,I have given up buying machines I'm down to three older ones and 3 newer ones .How many do you have now?

The Tulip Patch said...

I have a Juki TL98Q, a Pfaff 1471 I got for $10 (woohoo), a singer 406 W in a beautiful cabinet with a solid wood chair for FREE on the side of the road (can you believe). All those and I still begged my grandmother in law for her singer whenever she told me she was going to put it on the side of the road. Hers I want just because I love her. The one in the cabinet I use as a writing desk. The other 2 get used. I can see myself being like you and "adopting"...just hate to see great machines go to a landfill and be unappreciated.

Amy, a redeemed sheep said...

I wish, I wish, I wish I had my momma's Singer. It was that color, but not that model. I loved that thing...

quiltfool said...

I love my vintage machines. My most recent purchase was a 301. But, I sew on them all. Lane

Val said...

Oh you know me....I am drooling over this machine!!! You are so lucky to find these deals and so smart to know how to clean them up and get them working.

myletterstoemily said...

a fun sewing machine history lesson!

yes, you can put popcorn in a sack.
i do it almost every day. :)


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