This is my Singer 401 machine. My very first vintage sewing machine I bought after I married. I have nothing but great things to say about it.
This model is perfect if you are getting started with basic stitches and want to have the chance of some decorative stitches. Definitely, these stitches do not look the same type as modern decorative stitches compared to modern computerized machines, but, like I say, if you are not sure if you will ever use all of the features of a high end sewing machine, and you don’t want to limit your sewing, then this model is worth considering.
Great Reliability: This machine was setup to go through almost any kind of fabric and thread without fiddling around with tensions. I am really amazed at how simple and yet very FAST this machine is.
Low maintenance: This machine just loves to be cleaned and oiled after each project to continue running smoothly. As long as you continue to oil it and lubricate it, cover it to protect from heat, moisture, and dust, then you have an everlasting machine.
Since I purchased this one (almost six years ago), I have not taken her for service, as I prefer to do this myself.
Reverse stitching capability.
Throat plate raising capability: There is a lever in the middle with three options:
Up is for raising the throat plate for darning, embroidery, and sewing buttonholes. I learned to use this raised feature to sew a zipper stopper and is really handy. I don’t embroider or quilt, or darn so I cannot give you info on these. Down is the default mode for the lever for regular sewing. Unlock is to remove the throat plate totally. You should position your take up thread lever to the lowest position before unlocking the lever.
Stitch length regulator : Ranges from 7 to 15 stitches per mm or 6 to 20 stitches per inch. Now, I have to say about this Singer 401, and I think is typical of machines of that era, I really wish there would be longer stitches. I always set my stitches to 7 or 6 and they seem very small to me. For example, when I want to do a basting stitch…I really wish I had a modern sewing machine, which I see have more lengthy stitches.
Needle alignment/Stitch Width -Red Lever: Ok this one took me a while to understand what other functions this red lever has. My observations:
- The red lever must be by default set to number 3 to produce straight stitch and for the needle to be properly centered.
- If you move the lever to say number 4 the needle moves to the right. So you should use this lever if you need to align the needle right or left.
- If you are sewing buttonholes, you should move the lever to 4 and 5 to widen a zig zag stitch. I discovered another use. I moved the lever to 5 with a raised throat plate to sew a zipper stopper rather than stitching by hand. (Must use zig zag stitch) and it worked great!
The Singer 401 has two knobs. The beige knob which is on top controls patterns from letter “A” to letter ” J” (letters are on the left side) and the second white knob, located behind, controls patterns from “K” to “S” (from special stitch) as you can see on the right side.
You can use twin needles side by side and also twin needles. I have used so far 4.0 mm width and like twin better than old fashioned way. You can do really nice decorative stitches and patterns with twin needles and patterns 6,7,11 to 17, then 19 to 21.
Settings to choose your basic stitches:
- Basic straight stitch, (settings AK3),
- Classic Zig zag stitch (setting BL 3) For stretchy fabrics, such as knits.
- Built-in Stitch Patterns: This model comes with cams 1 to 5. You don’t need to collect all the stitch cams for your Singer 401 model.There are 15 stitch types that you get by moving around the selector patterns, these knobs at the center of the sewing machine to get most of the desired stitches. Optional/additional cams for Singer 401 would be number 15,19,20, and 21. So for these optional ones, you have to insert the cam and move the selector pattern to “Special”.
- Take a look at the chart below. Model 403 requires exchanging cams from 0 to 21. This diagram gives you a detailed comparison chart if you need to know what cam number you need for a given stitch pattern. You can even see that there are a few patterns that work with twin needles.
My most used stitches are:
straight stitch, zig zag, (knit fabrics AND satin stitch for appliques), blind stitch (settings in BO), and multi-zig zag stitch (settings in BQ) which I use to sew clear elastic on shoulders and around the neck. Why? because when I use the regular zig zag, it creates a “lumpy” channel so I figured that these multi zig zag reduces the bulk in that area.
- Multipurpose foot: For both straight and zig zag stitches, and decorative stitches.
- Standard Zipper foot: For cording, welting, sewing curved seams, and obviously, for zipper insertions and areas that you need to sew close to the edge of the fabric.
- Even feed Walking foot: When working with thick layers of fabrics or stretchy fabrics, this one is indispensable. I finally found one original on eBay. I prefer to work if possible with original vintage presser feet.
- Invisible zipper foot: I have to say this is a new addition for my sewing machine. I am learning how to use it and my machine likes it so far. I just learned how to insert an invisible zipper with this specialty foot. No complaints. Just remember that this is a slant-shank sewing machine before purchasing your accessories.
This was a long winded review but I hope it really helps you in choosing a sewing machine that will fit your sewing needs and, above all, that you can rest assured that it is not as flimsy or finicky as cheap sewing machines which are disposable and are a headache when it comes to tension adjustments.
What sewing machine do you have?