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Oct 7, 2013

Flea Market Temptations or "Get thee behind me, Satan"



Yes, this is a vintage sewing machine purchased yesterday at the Chelsea Flea Market.

But not by me, readers, not by me!



I hung out yesterday with my friend Johanna.  Many of you will recognize Johanna as the curator of the unofficial  NYC Sewing Machine Museum.  Her collection has grown considerably since I last visited, and it grew again yesterday.

Sunday was a red letter day for sewers.  Look at some of the treasures we found:













I was very tempted by this hundred-year-old New Home "Midget" hand crank that actually has a shuttle bobbin; I'd assumed it was a simple chainstitch machine.  The $150 asking price cooled my ardor, however.





Best of all was this gorgeous Singer 401A.  It was missing four of its five cams, but that's an easy eBay purchase and you don't need them to use the machine.  Asking price $35.



The Singer 401 came complete with original carrying case and manual.  Johanna was smitten but conflicted -- did she need this machine?  We carefully analyzed the pros (it's gorgeous) and cons (it might not get used very often).  She'd be heading uptown to dine with a friend later that day, so I told her she could leave it at my house and pick it up at a more convenient time.  She decided to go for it. 

At my apartment, we removed the 401A from its case, removed the plastic base, and oiled (and greased) her up a bit.



Like many old 401A's, the stitch selector dials need loosening.  We had some success with the right dial but there's more work to be done (a little Tri-flow perhaps).  For a roughly 50-year-old machine, she looked immaculate.  (Like the 15-91 and 201 and 301, she is gear-driven rather than belt-driven.)











Best of all, she stitched right off the bat.



I hope you will congratulate Johanna for her excellent purchase -- and me, for my discipline!

I did make one purchase: an authentic Totes mini umbrella for just $5.  Now I must select two things to ditch.  (My mantra is One thing in, two things out.)



Have a great day, everybody!

25 comments:

  1. On that 401 stitch selector - a hair dryer and Liquid Wrench. My grandmother's 401 still gets stuck, even with frequent use, but stitches like a dream and as smooth as butter.

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    1. Thanks Scott, I will give that a try if marinating the mechanisms in sm oil isn't enough =)

      Glad that Creepy Baby Head made it into the post, lol!

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  2. Check out the Project 333 site for some encouragement on minimal living. (might be 333 Project, but you'll find it). They've been around for a few years, and people write about downsizing wardrobes, etc. and the effect that it has on their lives. Very interesting.

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  3. Congrats to Johanna on the 401-- I love mine! It's my go-to for zig-zag and buttonholes.

    About the clutter, just keep remembering that having space to move around in is more valuable than some of the things that can take up that space.

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  4. That looks like my grandma's (now mine) 404, although the 404 was straight-stitch only without the attachments. If it's built like grandma's machine it's heavy as heck and built to last. Nice purchase.

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  5. Wow, you are lucky you had someone with you who decided to take the machine. No way I could have walked away from a 35 dollar 401 in good shape. Sigh. One reason I try to stay away from potential sources of. . . irresistibles.

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  6. One reorganizing technique is to arrange a room the way you want it to be, and then ditch anything that doesn't fit in. I use this also on closets. And congrats on resisting a very strong lure. I am not sure I could have passed up that Singer!!!

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  7. Some great work there on the sewing machine but that dolls head at the end of your post is creeping me out!! aaahhhh....

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  8. I am glad you resisted the creepy dolls head. Any costumes for yourself Cathy or Michael coming up for Halloween?

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    Replies
    1. Sadly, no. Michael has plans and I'm not trick-or-treating alone.

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  9. I think the umbrella was a solid purchase. Autumn can be quite unpredictable. Get rid of two mismatched socks.

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  10. The Sewing Lounge on Selby Av in St. Paul uses all Singer 401's for their classes. It's such a rush when you see a good deal or items rarely found. Holley in Roseville MN

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  11. Love seeing your flea market adventures. The bins of patterns caught my eye. Wish I could paw through them!

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  12. My ditching strategy: Completely empty a cupboard, drawer, box, whatever and only put back what you absolutely need (want) to keep. The rest goes. If in doubt, leave it out.

    This has been very effective for me. Hope it helps someone.

    Spud.

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  13. I have the same hardcover carrying case! It even smells vintage. :)

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  14. OMG! I learned to sew on a 401A that was my grandmother's machine! It's still my go-to machine, even today.

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  15. I love my 401A. It is always reliable, easy to use, and rock solid. It's nice to see others recognizing the awesomeness of this machine.

    Jennifer

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  16. Whew! I thought you were going to say she passed it up. I’m so glad Johanna recognized how awesome that machine is. Thanks for being a foster parent until she could take it home.

    That’s my beloved 401A. It was my Mom’s machine. I learned to sew on it and when Dad wasn’t around anymore, my mother supported us as a dressmaker, working many late nights on that machine. It got us through some very tough times and it’s still going strong. All it ever asks is to be cleaned and oiled once and a while.

    That being said, I’m impressed that you resisted so much temptation and purchased only an umbrella.

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  17. That is the perfect way to buy machines: you get to restore and play, and someone else pays and stores.

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  18. Thank you for the pics and allowing me to look at someone else's obsession. "Get thee behind me satin"...I practice that often. In Zen we are always working on letting go of "attachment"

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  19. Peter, have you ever considered buying these machines and reselling them? Seems like you have a lot of expertise in fixing them, and you have access to them that other people (like me!) don't have. Just a thought. A lot of people would buy a machine from you in a NY minute.

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  20. I haven't, but then I don't like it on the bias. I think it's like op art, it kind of vibrates.

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  21. Oh, my heart went pitter-patter at all those great 401A pics. I LOVE mine; I inherited it from my grandma, (who, true story, chose it over a Bernina). It sews beautifully and is rock solid.
    Also, I don't think I could have not pawed through all those crates of patterns, even if I wasn't planning on purchasing anything!

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  22. Thanks! this was worth the price of admission alone: "Like many old 401A's, the stitch selector dials need loosening. We had some success with the right dial but there's more work to be done (a little Tri-flow perhaps)." I have yet to really investigate the 401 I bought this past year, although I know it stitches and winds bobbins! (actually the only thing I've used it for so far is winding bobbins). You bet I will be paying some close attention to the stitch selectors when this machine gets its turn on the dining room table for a once-over...

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