Then, I decided to really get to know my Singer zigzag machine by taking it apart, cleaning it, and putting it back together. I have done this with my 201 and both of my Featherweights and have had no problems, though I should add that I never go so far as to remove gears or shafts and will only remove a hook if it's absolutely necessary. I figured that the zigzag machine would be a bit more challenging, but there's always Google, so how hard could it be? It actually didn't end up being that difficult and I felt I got a better understanding of how this machine works and feel much less intimidated when I open up the top and look at the cam stack.
However, it quickly became apparent that something was different now. The 401 began to skip stitches. The thread kept either breaking or jamming in the bobbin area. I turned to Google again and followed all of the advice and troubleshooting that I could find. I re-threaded the machine. I wound new bobbins. I tried different bobbins (plastic, metal reproductions, orignal metal). I tried different needles, different fabrics, different threads. I pulled out the bobbin case to check for lint or thread underneath (there was none). I inspected the needle plate, hook, and upper thread path for burrs (none). I took off the tension, took it apart, put it back together, and installed it again, but the stitches kept skipping and the thread kept jamming and breaking.
After several long sessions of trying to figure this out, one afternoon I happened to glance at my 201 which was sitting just a few feet away and I noticed that there was something very different about its tension assembly. It dawned on me that the take up-spring guard on the 401 was incorrectly positioned behind the tension discs rather than in front of them. I had done this, not just once when I cleaned the machine, but again for a second time when I removed and re-installed the tension while troubleshooting. This, despite the fact that at least 2 other machines with the exact same part (correctly installed) were sitting within a few feet of me the entire time.
So, obviously, all I had to do was remove the tension assembly one more time and put it back on in the correct order, right?
Wrong. This time I dropped the teeny, tiny set screw that goes into the nut on the front of the assembly. Without it, it's impossible to adjust the tension, so it had to be found. I've dropped set screws before. They usually roll to the same spot behind my desk where I can easily find them. Not this time. There was no screw to be found anywhere. I swept the floor repeatedly. I dust mopped. I moved furniture. I lay on my belly on the floor and and peered with a flashlight into air vents, small cracks, and the slots in the walls where the pocket doors go. Nothing. After several days of searching, I gave up and decided to just buy another tension assembly.
Except, they are no longer being made. I found a vintage machine dealer online who had one for sale but the price was much more than I wanted to pay for a tension assembly. So I headed to Ebay and searched for "Singer 401 for parts" and "as is". I ended up finding one that was just $20 more than the asking price for the tension assembly and its only missing parts were the slide plate and top lid-both of which I don't anticipate losing.
But wait, there is another sewing machine in the above photo. While looking for the 401 parts machine, I also found a 201 that was missing the spool pin plate. My husband offered to buy it for me (he was about to leave town and I think he felt badly about leaving me behind again), so of course I accepted.
Although some of the parts on both machines can be replaced with new ones, most of them can only be gotten by stripping another vintage machine and the individual parts don't come cheap (I bought a motor for my mom's 15-91 a few months ago and paid about $50 for it). Now I have a complete set of parts for both my favorite straight stitch and zig zag machines and won't have to spend time hunting for them when the time comes that they're needed.
So I spent the last few weeks taking apart, cleaning, and putting back together these 2 new lovelies. I even pulled the hook out of the 401. I have no idea if it needs to be timed, but it doesn't matter since I'm not going to sew on it.
With the addition of these parts machines, I now own seven vintage Singers. It's probably time to stop looking at any more (my brother-in-law called from a thrift store again a few days ago; fortunately it was a plastic Singer so it was easy to say "no"), unless, of course, I found something dirt cheap. Or with really pretty decals. I'm a sucker for pretty decals and think that the Gingerbread/Tiffany ones are especially pretty.
Now it's time to get back to sewing. I stitched together my sloper muslin yesterday and need to get some photographs to upload to the class for feedback. It's almost ready and, once it is, I'll be moving on to drafting some sleeveless shirts (both woven and knit). I also have an A line skirt pattern that is finished and ready to be cut from fashion fabric. The lining arrived in the mail this week, so I hope to put that together next week. And Suzy Furrer has a new class on Craftsy for drafting sleeves and I'm eager to get started with that so that I can sew some T-shirts on my now complete Singer 401.