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I present to you the newest member of my family: a Singer 401a. The machine I originally wanted was the Singer 501a, adventurously labelled “the rocketeer”. The rocketeer was everything I wanted in a machine: innovative (the slant shank was introduced to bring more visibility to the sewer), stylish (I’m a HUGE fan of the space-age styling, and a rocketeer would look fabulous right under the boyfriend’s soviet era space exploration poster), and durable (the rocketeer features only one non-metal gear, and it’s bakelite, which is essentially nuclear-proof). Unfortunately the rocketeer had just one flaw: it was impossible to find. I did see a few models pop up here and there on the local kijiji, never for less than 300$!

So why am I telling you all about the rocketeer if I couldn’t find one? Probably because it’s just such a beautiful machine!

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So I set my sights on the rocketeer’s cousin, the 401a, which doesn’t have such a cool nickname. To my knowledge it actually doesn’t have a nickname at all! (Suggestions?) The 401a proved as difficult to find as its more stylish cousin. I finally spotted one about an hour away from home for 60$, and the boyfriend agreed to take me on a road-trip.

I was so excited I performed the two cardinal sins of buying used:

  1. I didn’t negotiate (I just gave all my money to the poor girl while trying to haul out the entire machine)
  2. I didn’t run the machine before I bought it.

Number 2 is the worst thing you could possibly do. The girl who was selling it said it still worked, but I had never seen it run, I was so excited to just get the machine in the car and home so I could try all the things! This was very dangerous, replacements for certain singer machine parts can only come off other old singers. With the difficulty I had finding this one, I now realize I might have had to find another one if the motor wasn’t running!

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I did find some other things though. The machine was so dirty it turns out the colour you saw wasn’t the colour of the machine. It was the colour of decades of piled up crud! There was so much lint and cat fur in the machine you could’ve made a whole cat, and knit it a sweater with what we pulled out of there! But for all of its shortcomings, the motor purred, and the machine runs very, very smoothly. Which was surprising considering we found a drapery weight inside the body of the machine! Of course it was brought in for a tune-up, and since then I have actually sewed with it. dsc_0156

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my new machine, I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been up to with it! And I also have a second surprise purchase to blog about!

 

 

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5 comments

  1. It is BEAUTIFUL! I too have bought sewing machines without running them. I’ve been lucky that they work when I get them home! It’s quite exciting to find something special, isn’t it. Your VSM is very similar to my 421G, which I bought because it was suddenly right in front of me, a good price, and I got tired of waiting for a Rocketeer too! (I love the Jetson styling of the Rocketeer!)

    1. Thank you 🙂

      I mentioned in a comment on your blog that I found a rocketeer a few weeks after purchasing this one. I got this one because I got tired of waiting for a rocketeer (although it wasn’t right in front of me, it was actually quite far from me!). Maybe now that you have purchased a different machine the rocketeer will appear like it did for me!

      I find the vintage machines are getting harder to buy! People like to list them as “vintage” or “antique” and ask upwards for $100, even if they have been sitting in a basement (or worse, a barn!) for many decades! I’ve seen some rocketeers that were in obvious bad condition, people asking $250! I can only assume they ran a google/ebay search for their machine and decided it was worth that much even though most of the machines that are going for that much have been meticulously maintained. Sometimes I just want to send an email explaining that if I can see the rust on your machine from the cellphone pictures you took, it’s probably no worth $250!

      1. I’ll keep on wishing and maybe my Rocketeer will show up like your’s did. I belong to a couple of Facebook groups regarding VSM. They share photos and prices and laugh at people who ask for too much! I’ve also seen sellers posting a photo that shows a CLOSED sewing machine table for sale, with no clue as to what is inside! It’s ridiculous! I will be patient and wait and my Rocketeer will come to me, in good condition and close to home. 😃👍

  2. Oh, what a lovely machine and lovely pictures, too! Enjoy using it! My good sewing girlfriend has a Rocketeer machine, it was her mother’s and the machine she learned to sew on so it’s extra special to her. I’ll confess that I too ‘convinced’ my guy to drive me for a car trip an hour and a half away to buy a special vintage sewing machine. A gal’s gotta have what she’s gotta have!

    I’m still working on coming up with a nickname suggestion…

    1. I hope I will get to enjoy it, I love it when people have great stories about their machines, especially when it’s been in the family. I would love to have a machine with a family connection!
      Please let me know if you do come up with a nickname! I have never been good at these kinds of things!

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