Sunday, July 15, 2018

Stitching Lightweight Fabric on 401

(Bonus post today!)

In response to a discussion on sewing fine fabrics without puckering, I decided to once again highlight my Singer 401.  (Previously, I did a post about stitching stretch fabrics on this machine.)  Machines are most often demonstrated sewing through multiple layers of denim or leather - even aluminum cans - to prove how strong they are.  But it is just as important that you can sew delicate fabrics.

Naturally, I'm partial to vintage Singer machines, so I'm going to demonstrate how well some of them really sew.  They can hold their own and even excel against modern machines.  If you consider the price point (I bought this one for $50 including the cabinet) you can't beat it at ten times that amount.  Few machines made today - and certainly not in an affordable category - can sew better than this.

So for the lightweight fabric I'm using this.  Its a very light, sheer cotton/polyester blend.

It's important to use the right needle and thread, of course.  Fine thread and size 9 needle.

For best results, use the straight stitch foot with the straight stitch throat plate.  This prevents very fine fabrics from being pushed down into the feed dogs by the needle and having your fabric chewed up.

And set your machine with the lightest presser foot pressure adjustment (that knob on top left screwed almost all the way out), a very short stitch (about 20 stitches/inch), and a light upper tension.  The 401, as well as most Singers of this era, has all these adjustments so you can really fine-tune your sewing.  Nothing is automatic here, you make all these adjustments with knobs and levers.

(sorry for the dark photo!)

Now here are the results:

This is a curve, to mimic stay-stitching or sewing on the bias.  Smooth as can be!

By contrast, the upper line of stitching is done with size 14 needle, all purpose thread, longer stitch length, and medium presser foot pressure.  BIG difference.

                                                And a straight seam, beautifully stitched.

What more can you ask of a sewing machine?


  1. The Singer 401A is an excellent machine for about any household sewing tasks. My daughter has one, my DIL has one, and my wife and I have six of them. Two of our six have the issue others have experienced with thread catching and backlashing in the hook area that I haven’t been able to adjust out yet. I don’t have something set right, but it doesn’t do it often enough for me to figure out where I’m off. My wife uses two 401A machines in rotation (1 in-use, 1 on stand-by) for her daily sewing shop alterations for nearly all of her work with thread smaller than Tex80, and has one at home for zigzag next to her Singer 301A go-to machine. I have two other 401A machines on standby from a yardsales that I haven’t even serviced yet. Most of our 401A machines haven’t given a bit of trouble in twelve years of almost constant use for all kinds of sewing.

    CD in Oklahoma

  2. I’m rather fond of mine. It amazes me sometimes to reflect back to whenI bought it. It was A. $10. in a local thrift shop, with a low shank foot kind of jammed on it and filthy and dubious looking, and B. I had to be cajoled into buying it as I was looking for a machine, but knew NOTHING of machines from his era.