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Just got a singer 401a - what are your favorite feet and/or other accessories?

Just got a singer 401a - what are your favorite feet and/or other accessories?

Old 08-05-2018, 01:34 PM
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Lightbulb Just got a singer 401a - what are your favorite feet and/or other accessories?

It didn't come with anything but the zig zag plate and foot. What else do you like to use with yours? Do you use snap on feet? I saw that sew-classic sells a slant snap on shank but no snap on feet-do they just work with any singer brand snap on feet? Do you prefer plastic or metal bobbins? Any other must-have accessories while I'm placing an order? I already ordered oil and grease (tri flow-recommended by a bunch of vintage machine experts on youtube).

Any other tips for this machine are welcome. I have a modern janome 6600 but it's rubbish on thick seams and I like making bags and such with foam. I also have a featherweight but it's a bit small for thick seams and I know this is sacrilege but I'm just not a big fan of sewing on it. I'm not sure why.
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Old 08-05-2018, 02:31 PM
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The owner's manual is available at the Singer site. Use caution purchasing a vintage buttonholer, you'll need the slant needle one. Cam sets and etc are often found on 'that auction site' or local listings, or more often than not on the Goodwill auction site (search for: sewing). The 'full' attachment box had several slant feet, 6 (?) cams, screwdrivers and et cetera. Here's a link to a pic.

Last edited by Steelsewing; 08-05-2018 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 08-05-2018, 03:01 PM
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Even with the missing accessories you are set up for a bit of test sewing. I think the stitch plate raises, so you don't need a cover plate for the feed dog. Generally both plastic and metal bobbins should work, but most seem to prefer metal class 66 (plastic version is called Apollo). I never went for snap on feet my self and don't know how interchangeable they are. I guess the slant snap on adapter might work with various sets of feet, but the one SewClassic has is made for Singer feet, not all generic sets will fit. Singer tend to be exactly the same as brands and sets for some others will likely be compatible. Westalee has a slant ruler foot for free motion, most things by far are available for the slant shanks. I would keep an eye out on ebay for a set of accessories for a 401, they turn up now and then. People like Helen Howes in the UK has a lot of vintage feet and accessories available too.

You are spot on with the grease and oil you have chosen, the smoothness of teflon is noticeable on my machines, even if it's a bit more expensive.

On my list I would have a walking foot, zipper foot, feller foot, free motion / darning foot, straight stitch plate, buttonhole foot and overcast foot. For the 401, the needle clamp for double needles can be nice too. I guess it depends on what you do and the feet you like to use. The 401 is a sturdy machine and will handle most challenges like flat felled seams on jeans and corduroy. The Featherweight is smaller and not as sturdy as the full size straight stitchers or the 401, but it's surpisingly capable. I would use it for anything in general, but pay attention to how the machine runs; when you get familiar with a machine you know when a machines is pushed towards it's limits. Most of the time it should run fairly easily.

Last edited by Mickey2; 08-05-2018 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 08-05-2018, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by gale View Post
It didn't come with anything but the zig zag plate and foot. What else do you like to use with yours? Do you use snap on feet? I saw that sew-classic sells a slant snap on shank but no snap on feet-do they just work with any singer brand snap on feet? Do you prefer plastic or metal bobbins? Any other must-have accessories while I'm placing an order?
I sew on a 401 regularly. What accessories you need depends on what kind of sewing you do. I quilt, mostly, so I use a zigzag foot. I use the zigzag plate only when I'm zigzagging, as that big hole in it eats my piecing sometimes. So far, that is one foot and two needle plates. I also use a walking foot. I bought a darning foot, but haven't used it much. The only cam I use is the zig zag one, but I think I have most all of them and have played with them a little bit.

The 401 didn't come with snap on feet. Those came with the Touch and Sews. There is no reason they shouldn't work on your 401. I just never tried them.

I've used both kinds of bobbins. It seems like the machine rattles more with the plastic, but it works just fine with either one.

If you are buying a buttonholer, do your research on it. There are two kinds of bobbin cover plates. The older slants (300, 400 and 500 series) use one kind and the Touch and Sews use another. the buttonholer attachment is the same, though. Make sure you are getting the right plate. There have been discussions on here about them in the past.

I've found that my 401 hesitates under a heavy load or lots of layers of fabric. If I wanted to make bags, I might consider one of the Japanese zig-zaggers from the 60's that has a 1.5 amp motor.

I really like my 401, though.

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Old 08-05-2018, 06:26 PM
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I'm with Bkay, the 401 wouldn't be my first choice for heavy work. I use several of my 50s and 60s Brother machines and my modern Juki for making purses and bags with Soft N Stable in them.

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Old 08-05-2018, 07:25 PM
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I'm going to defer to Bkay as well. If you don't have the correct cover plate for the buttonholer option, let me know I -may- have an extra. I should probably limit my comments on this model. 401's and I don't get along well. I'm fine with the 500, or the 403. It's probably just me. I have one left (of 3) still on the bench and can't get it to pick up a stitch for hours of trying. Come to think of it... I may have a parts machine. (insert evil giggle).
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Old 08-05-2018, 08:43 PM
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Thanks everyone! I'm confident in my choice of this machine for sewing bags. I don't sew leather or vinyl (I'm about to try a bag with a vinyl bottom for the first time but that's only one layer of vinyl and one layer of quilting cotton, both with sf101 applied) but either way, I watched a video today where a guy used a 401 to sew 6 layers of pretty thick denim without the machine even hesitating and then did 4 layers of leather with just a bit of hesitation (but he was using a regular needle and said a leather needle would help a lot). I'm not planning to even come close to that.

All that said, I tried the machine but didn't have any thread with me and they didn't have it threaded, so all I know is that it runs. Hopefully it actually picks up the thread. lol. I'm going to get it cleaned up and fully oiled and lubed first, then I'll try sewing with it.
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Old 08-06-2018, 03:29 AM
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The 401A is a real workhorse. I have one that I purchased in 1959. I still love to sew on it. I have, in the past made draperies and did upholstery work with it. As for the accessories, contact an antique sewing machine dealer. I am sure they could supply you with a set. The 401 did not have snap on feet and I am not sure you could substitute them for the original ones. When we lived in Virginia, somehow (humidity) the pages of my manual stuck together and could not be separated. I was able to buy a copy of one on line.
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Old 08-06-2018, 05:02 AM
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I have a 401A, purchased in 1958. That machine has sewn everything with no trouble, from car seat covers for my VW to awnings, to bed skirts, to wedding clothes. I used to joke that if the house caught fire, my first grab would be for my machine. She still sits in my kitchen, ready and waiting. It has never been in hospital. I keep her oiled and cleaned on a regular basis.
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by quilterpurpledog View Post
When we lived in Virginia, somehow (humidity) the pages of my manual stuck together and could not be separated. I was able to buy a copy of one on line.
The manual is available for free, either from singerco.com or ismacs.org.

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