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Thread: Singer 401 Help Needed

  1. #1
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    Singer 401 Help Needed

    I'm new and I hope someone can help me. I'm in the learning stages of quilting and I'm interested in doing free motion quilting when I get the hang of it. I've been practicing on my Elna Lotus SP that does great for free motion, but the throat is small, so I purchased a Singer 401A last week that seems to be in very good condition. I've read a lot about this machine and thought it would serve my purpose well ... plus I got it for a great price. I have cleaned and oiled it and it sews beautifully. I'm getting familiar with it and am really impressed with what it can do.

    Where I encounter a problem is when I follow the instructions in the manual (page 77) for Free Motion Work. I put the Selector on B and L, the Red lever on 3, and put the Throat Plate in the Up position. I lower the presser foot and pull the bobbin thread up and hold both threads and proceed to sew...but I don't get any stitches. It's as if the bobbin thread doesn't engage. I put the Throat Plate back in the Down position and it sews great again.

    What am I doing wrong? Does anyone do free motion on the 401A? If so, what settings do you use. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks so much!!

  2. #2
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    I have a 401A but I haven't tried to FMQ with it yet. Just got my darning foot last Saturday. I'll be watching this thread to see what your problem might be. Thanks.

  3. #3
    Super Member Mitch's mom's Avatar
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    Are you remembering to lower your presser foot to engage the tension? It is a common thing to forget when doing FMQ. I hope you get it sorted out.

  4. #4
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    You can use the plate from a button hole maker to cover the feed dogs
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill

  5. #5
    Super Member Stitchnripper's Avatar
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    I don't even lower feed dogs anymore, just put stitch length at zero. I used to cover the feed dogs with the supreme slider but once forgot and didn't notice a difference. Good luck!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch's mom View Post
    Are you remembering to lower your presser foot to engage the tension? It is a common thing to forget when doing FMQ. I hope you get it sorted out.
    Yes, I'm lowering the pressure foot.

  7. #7
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    Do you use a darning foot, no foot, or what do you use?

  8. #8
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stitchnripper View Post
    I don't even lower feed dogs anymore, just put stitch length at zero.
    This is a good idea - try this and see if it doesn't immediately improve the number of stitches you're getting.

    When I first started piecing quilts a few years ago, the 401 was the one I quilted them on. I didn't know at the time that this model can be problematic for fmq because of the horizontal bobbin and the results include a LOT of skipped stitches.

    I get acceptable quilting on the 401, but not great. Good enough for wall-hangings or table runners - not so much on quilts that intend to show on both sides. So if you're managing to get some quilting done after you lower the darning plate, but it's not the high quality of stitching that you're looking for, understand that it's probably more due to the machine than to you.

    If you can find a 15-90 or 15-91 or an older Kenmore from the 70's, you'll have a big class 15 bobbin that's vertically oriented and has plenty of room under the arm. Add a Magic Genie Bobbin Washer and the stitching on the back of your quilts will look as nice as the stitching on the front.

  9. #9
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    I just don't get any stitches with the throat plate in the Up position. Not skipping, just no stitches at all. Needle moves up and down, but seems bobbin thread just doesn't engage. Don't know if there might be something defective in the machine, that's why I was seeking advice. I thought someone else had success with FMQ on the 401.
    Thanks!

  10. #10
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    No, that's what she was saying - don't raise the darning plate. Leave the darning plate down like you were going to do regular sewing, but set the stitch length to 0 so that the feed dogs aren't fighting you and see if that will work better for you.

    The timing might be just different enough on your machine that it won't allow the use of the raised darning plate.

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