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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.

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    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.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

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    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!

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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?

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    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.

  11. #11
    Senior Member kapatt's Avatar
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    I have several different machines (401, 403, 301, featherweights, 66, 99, model 15 treadle and a handcrank). I love the 401 and the 403 better than any of the other machines. They are fantastic machines.

    I haven't used my 401 or 403 for fmq so I can't give you any tips on how to do it. Things I would try....instead of putting the throat plate up, I would try covering the feed dogs with an index card (tape the sides of the card to the machine but make sure there is a hole in the center of the card for the needle to go through). I would also try fmq with a different type of bobbin. The newer plastic bobbins for the singer 400 series that they have at Jo-Anns can cause some problems because their dimensions are not always accurate... but then some of the older metal bobbins get a little worn and don't work as well either. ( I usually buy my bobbins from a lady on the net who restores and sells older singer machines and parts. She checks the dimensions of each bobbin before she sends it out to her customers. )

    I was talking to a quilter one day and I was surprised to hear that she used her 301 (which is also a slant needle) on her machine quilting frame. She said that it worked great for quilting. In thinking about it, the 301 has a vertical bobbin whereas the 401 has the horizontal bobbin so that may be the difference. You can also drop the feed dogs in the 301. My point in saying this is that the it being a slant needle may not be as much of a problem as it having both the slant needle and the horizontal bobbin combination. I think I will try the fmq on one of my machines and see what happens.
    Kathyj


  12. #12
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    Just not raising the plate works great! I'm an instruction follower ... but in this case, not following all of the instructions works better. I hole punched and taped an index card. Stitches are even on both sides. I'm good to go, now.

    I actually like the Elna Lotus SP better for FMQ, but the throat area is just too small for much of anything but my practice sandwiches. I'm sure as I work more with the 401 it will become my favorite!!

    Thanks so much!!!
    Last edited by GrandPam; 11-08-2011 at 08:30 AM.

  13. #13
    Super Member thepolyparrot's Avatar
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    Oh, good - I'm glad you're up and running. FMQ is so much fun, I hate to see anyone miss out on it!

  14. #14
    Senior Member kapatt's Avatar
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    I'm glad that you are now able to FMQ on your 401. You mentioned that you like the Elna Lotus SP better than the 401 for FMQ. I imagine that there will be a little bit of adjustment if the Elna is a straight needle. From what I've heard, when FMQ with a slant needle machine, you have to be careful to not move too fast since the needle goes into the material at a slant instead of straight up and down.
    Kathyj


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