|Nellie ~ My Singer 403A|
Because I had this bad experience with a computerized "plastic wonder," I decided to look for a high end vintage machine that had capabilities beyond Zig-Zag. While I lusted after Elnas, Necchis and Berninas when it came down to it, I was torn between 1970s free-arm Vikings and 1960s gear-driven Singers. I tried a couple different Viking models from the 1970s, but neither of them worked correctly: one was stuck in reverse (a common problem that happens when you change stitch cams on these Vikings) and the other had been submerged in water and showed visible signs of corrosion. Thankfully I was able to return both of them.
I wanted to go for the Singer, but I was a bit gun shy after the Viking failures. Then I helped one of my neighbors with a computer problem she had and we got to talking about sewing. It turns out that she owns one of the Singer models I was considering, a 403A. She bought it new in 1961 and has had it for over 50 years. After she let me play with it, I decided to take a chance on finding a Slant-O-Matic Singer of my own.
Singer Slant-O-Matics have a slanted presser bar that puts the foot in front of the machine head instead of directly under it for better visibility. They also have gear-driven motors so I didn't have to worry about broken or rotted belts. There are several types of Slant-O-Matic series: 300s, 400s, 500s, 600s and 700s. The 301s are sought after by quilters. They are a lighter, more portable machine that is straight stitch only unless you have an Automatic Zig-Zag attachment (a large accessory about the size of a buttonholer). 401s and 501s have built in camstacks. 403s and 503s use cams or "fashion discs" to make their decorative stitches. 404s are straight stitch only. The 500s have a much more futuristic styling and are known as Rocketeers. The 600s and 700s have a few extra functions, especially for sewing knits, but I believe they started to use a few plastic parts in these and I wanted to avoid that. I loved the Rocketeer styling, but I saw a couple things while I was researching that made me choose a 403A: the machines with built in camstacks occasionally have issues with their internal camstack and the Rocketeers occasionally have problems w/ the hinges on their top covers breaking. A minor point, but the Rocketeer also has a small handwheel and I learned to sew on a 1950s aqua blue Viscount with a huge chrome flywheel and after handling the Vikings, I knew I really didn't like the smaller wheel.
First off, I only have 2 vintage metal bobbins for her. She takes 66 class and has a horizontal bobbin case. The first thing I found out is that the new metal 66 class bobbins I bought for her do not fit on the bobbin winder as their shaft is just slightly too narrow. I also bought some plastic ones, they fit the winder, but plastic shaved off when I wound a bobbin. So far I have not been able to successfully wind a smooth even bobbin and I understand that this may cause issues when I am sewing so I am considering a separate bobbin winder to make it easier and maybe I can still use the new metal bobbins I purchased.
|Nellie with Ruffler Attachment|
I decided to try out some of my crazier feet before calling it quits for the day without much success. I was using thrift store napkins for test fabric and I think the thickness and the loose weave of the material may have caused some of the issues. I could not successfully use the multislotted binder which was a huge disappointment. I have two of these attachments that are slightly different from each other so I think I will try again with a different fabric and maybe some video instructions to see where I was going wrong. I also tried the rolled hem foot and the fabric just didn't want to go through the very narrow opening. I really want to use this foot on silk; I think it will be perfect for that. I did successfully figure out the ruffler. I have no idea what I will ever ruffle, but I know I can use it now.
When I break Nellie out again, I have a few simple feet to try out as well as some more interesting attachments like a blind hemmer, a walking foot, an automatic zigzagger and a couple different buttonholers. I'd also like to set her up to try twin needle sewing. Even though I still have a lot to learn about how she works, about the only thing I wish she could do is be a different color. She's what Singer dubbed Light Beige and Oyster White (LBOW). Almost all of the Slant-O-Matics are this color scheme or solid beige and overall it's an okay look. However, I have seen a few ebony black 301s. If only they'd made all the Slant-O-Matics in black, Nellie'd be beyond cool if she sported that.