My other sewing machine-13th Mar 2022

I did promise I would tell you about the other one. It may not be what you think. And, if I love the first one so much, why do I need another one?

One word: zig-zag.

My beloved 201K is a straight stitch machine and there are sometimes when a girl could really do with being able to do a zig-zag stitch.

To this end, I once purchased a modern Singer machine up the “Sad Gits” aisle at Lidl for the bargain price of £99.99. Not so bargain, but I trusted the name. Well, “fings ain’t wot they used t’be”, to quote the old song. What a pile of rubbish. Seemingly on cue, a week or so after the guarantee had run out, a big chunk of plastic broke off of it, rendering the whole thing not only unrepairable but totally non-functioning. Steam coming out of ears.

So, how to get what I wanted and avoid plastic? Research showed me that I would need to hunt about for second-hand.

The Singer brand was once the absolute top of the line and remained there until just after the 2nd WW. In the late 1950s they came out with the Singer 401. If a sewing machine could sing and dance AND juggle plates all at the same time, this model was IT!

The 401 was the last all metal machine that Singer made. About this time the Japanese (busy retooling and determined to “be better than, cheaper than” after WW2) were coming out with good machines but with plastic components that made the machines lighter, cheaper and…obsolete sooner. Buy it again and again was born. Other makers soon followed suit.

I headed over to eBay and a few of the 401 model turned up, which surprised me at first. It turns out they are really sought after today and can go for many hundreds of pounds when restored. They were so well made that, unless they were poorly used by previous owners, they still have lots of  life in them. I got very lucky, on Marketplace rather than eBay. I found one being sold by the daughter of the lady who had bought it brand new. The daughter told me her Mum used it some but not a huge amount, she herself wasn’t interested in sewing and just wanted to shift it out of the way. I bought it for £40, had it serviced and PAT tested for £80 and it is like a new machine.

This CAN be a gamble. There is no way of knowing when you buy one like this if you have a gem or a dud.

Mine’s a gem. You should hear it run. It purrs like a kitty cat.

The crapeola modern Singer from Lidl sounded like a tin bucket full of rusty nails from new.

Pictures? You want pictures?

In period cabinet first. I painted it. I like blue.

Now opened:

It rises up out of the box, ready to go when you plug it in.

And close up:

Singer 401G

Ain’t she a beauty!?! 1959. Think of the cars from that era and feel the vibe. The G designation means it was built in Germany.

Now, you see the big knob in the middle? That changes the stitch patterns. It’s a two part design- pushing in while turning the big part at the front moves the right-side indicator along those letters you can see. Pulling the back ring while turning moves the left-side indicator along those letters. Each of the letters does something specific and the COMBINATION of all these letters makes more different stitches than I have had time to explore yet-all mechanically. No computers to go wrong here and the build quality of the whole machine is super. And yes, it does zig-zag stitches, in many flavours. I do have a little attachment for the old Singer 201K, Swiss-made, that converts it to do a zig-zag stitch. It does work quite well but, quite honestly, by the time it’s connected and tested and ready to sew with- I have lost the will to sew, if not to live.

By now you may be questioning why I bother to keep the old 201K machine I talked about before? Why make space for two machines? Am I just daft and sentimental or do I have serious hording issues?

Maybe all these things but, in each case, each machine does something the other one can’t do as efficiently. We know about the Zig-zag thing but the 201K comes screaming back into the room for these:

Jeans.

Jeans and anything that is thick and tough. The old treadle makes child’s play out of many layers of thick fabric and sewing blue jean hems is just never an issue. I guess you would have to have tried that on a modern machine to really appreciate what I am talking about here but I have never found any other machine that didn’t just refuse. Break or bend the needle. Strain the motor. Frey the temper of the person sewing. End up taking the wretched jeans to someone with an industrial machine. Not so with my 201K.

AND, if there is ever a time when we are without electricity and I just MUST sew something, I am ready.

I’ll keep them both, thanks. And they both use exactly the same bobbins. Brilliant.

Singer- confidence in their product!

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