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jehanne_hansen

Do you have a Singer 401?

claudia valentine
4 months ago

Who among us here has a Singer 401?

I have my moms and it is the very one that I learned on.

What a grand old machine it is! At the time that it was sold, it was pretty much the machine that was marketed to the average sewer. That was from a time when there were not so much these tiers, or levels of machines at different price points.

Back then, most machines were still being built as pretty solid machines which is what the consumer expected.

The 401 did present with some features and stitch patterns and the slant needle that was supposed to be a game changer, but wasnt really. I think I read somewhere recently that it sold for somewhere around maybe two hundred dollars, which, of course was not cheap for the mid century.


This was before you could buy an inexpensive machine from the variety store/Walmart. Back then it was all purchased from dealers and there were not the different levels of marketing as we see today.


Today you can buy an inexpensive one that is probably going to cost more to service than to replace, or you can buy one that has more than anyone could ever want or need and at a price that is likely far beyound any real useful value and is, largely, mostly marketing hype. What is harder to find nowadays is the one in the middle that offers some real qualtiy in the machine without all the marketing hype of computers and a range of features of questionable value.

But back then, the field was more narrow and it was expected that the machine would be affordable to the average family and the average consumer expected none other than something built to last.


I read that back a little futher in the century that Singer offered a buy back or trade in with your old Singer and they actually destroyed the old machine. The idea was to keep women from passing down thier machines when they bought a new one. If a product has that kind of realiable endurance, they dont need to be replaced. Well built durable goods are not what drives the economy. They have to keep us coming back to constantly replace.

Many a Walmart purchased Brother has bit the dust, but the old 401 is still sewing strong 70 years after! That is a marketing infrastructure and sure it must be lucrative for them.


I like to watch people clean, restore and service these old machines. It is not entirely true that the 401 is all metal. There is one part in there that is made of nylon, I think, but is still a very solid piece. These old machines have what I think is called a worm gear instead of a belt drive. And the motors are servicable!

I did use the 401 as my main squeeze for some time, but my main machine is a Bernina, a mechanical model from the 70s that I bought new at the time. I dont care for the computer ones and have no desire to have one.

I also dont find any thrill in the embroidery machines. I,personally, would tire of that novelty pretty quickly. I cant see any real value to doing that . How many personalized baby blankets can anyone want? I would prefer a couple of old fashioned lazy daisy stitches and some french knots on a little girls dress.

So, who has a 401 and has great respect for it? If you do have one, head over to AndyTube on YOuTube and watch him restore and spiff up these old machines. I have seen him demonstrate putting the machines in the shower and completely washing them after having pretreated them with what he uses. I watched him do a machine wiht the motor still in it the other day, and after he dried it and greased and oiled up the gears, it ran beautifully! I dont think that one was a 401. He is a fount of knowledge about all makes of machines. I love to watch him.

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