Thursday, August 17, 2017

Singer 401 - My First Impressions

The Sewing Gods have smiled on me once again.  (I don't have this kind of good fortune in every area of my life - I've been looking for a job for a year now - so this is like the consolation prize.)

While I haven't been actively searching for new machines or cabinets for a while now, I always hoped for a 401 Slant-O-Matic to complete my collection.  I love my 503 Rocketeer with the two dozen cams for different stitches.  I love my 301 for fast, perfect straight stitching.  I loved my 404 for the same reason (I gifted it to my mom.)  Somewhere in there, I've always wanted to try a 401, which was supposed to be Singer's TOL machine of it's day.

My husband happened upon this machine at an Estate Sale. A beauty of a 401 (it was clean and well maintained) in the cabinet, with the stool, original manual, and complete set of attachments for $50 - What a deal!

Singer 401a

Among my stable of Slant-O-Matics, there are similarities and overlaps which can get confusing so I've made a chart to contrast and compare:

I got the new machine all set up, and ready to go.  I noticed right away that it is a little louder than my other machines, but could be because it has a lot more mechanisms, like the cam stack, inside.  It has a somewhat complicated system for choosing stitch patterns which requires referring to a chart inside the lid.  (It is annoying that the thread spools are on top of this lid so need to be secured before flipping up the lid to see the chart.)

The double letters for each stitch pattern refer to the two knobs: one labeled A-J, and the other K-S. You turn one knob to the first letter and the other knob to the second letter to get the pattern.  Different letter combinations also change your needle position, but only on "primary" patterns. However, if you're straight stitching, then the stitch-width lever changes your needle position.  On "combination" patterns, you apparently can't adjust width or needle position. If this seems a little convoluted, it is!  To me, popping in a top-hat cam for the stitch I want - on my 503 - is just as easy AND you can easily adjust width/needle position on any stitch.  I'm not convinced this is a better system.

I'm also not convinced I will choose this machine for general sewing since it doesn't straight stitch as fast and smoothly as the 301 and 404 straight stitchers.  I need to play with it a little to find out what advantages it offers over the other Slant-O-Matics.  It's supposed to be the Holy Grail of Slant-O-Matics so let's see what it can do...