I was gifted this beautiful Singer 401A (mid-1950s) about a year ago by someone who is well aware of my obsession with vintage machines. She knew that I would cherish it and that it would be a treasured piece in my collection. It’s been sitting in my friend’s shop since then awaiting restoration so I was extremely excited to finally bring her home today. Isn’t she a beauty? Aside from a couple of scratches on the back of the top cover she is as bright and shiny as the day she rolled off the assembly line.
Whenever I watch one of these old girls being restored, I marvel at the craftsmanship of yesteryear. These machines were made with pride to last a lifetime or longer – I hope I look this good when I am nearing 60!
I had a little free time this afternoon so I thought I’d sit down and see if I could remember how to thread the Merrow purling machine. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t used it in several years! They are not very common and people often ask me if I want to sell mine so I decided that I needed to either start using it more or sell it to someone who would.
It took me a few minutes of staring at the machine to remember exactly how to thread the looper but then it all came back to me. The looper is below the needle plate and must essentially be threaded blind. The needle is raised to it’s highest position and then a wire threader goes through the hole in the casting and through the eye of the looper. You know you’ve done it correctly if you get a stitch.
I looked up the age of this machine on the Merrow site awhile back and it was manufactured the year I was born. How funny that I have two machines (this and my Singer Rocketeer) that are the same age as me. Anyway, I had a little fun making a short video so you could hear the characteristic Merrow “purr”. My voice sounds funny – do I really sound like that? I don’t sound very natural but it was awkward holding the camera and operating the machine at the same time. Also the video got cut off at the end, I don’t know what happened – I’m still learning this stuff!
The last time I used this machine, I needed some ribbon to finish off a pot of lavendar for my DMIL. I cut up a fat quarter, sewed the strips together and then purled the edges. Now, what else can I make with this? I’m thinking that perhaps a longer stitch length might be more useful so maybe I will order some other cams.
Yay, it’s finished! I didn’t have much left, really, but I like to take my time when it comes to my buttonholes. I made keyhole buttonholes on my Singer 500A “Rocketeer” using the Singer Professional buttonholer (which is for zigzag machines). Because my fabric is textured, I stitched around three times for a nice dense bead.
You’ll notice that I ended up using a different button. After testing, I decided that this larger tack button looked better. I actually think the shininess of it makes my fabric look less shiny.
Here’s a close-up of the flap, which I also cut on the bias to match the pockets.
I am thrilled with the way this turned out and would definitely use this pattern again. (If you’ve never tried a Palmer/Pletsch pattern, you really should, you won’t be disappointed.) Too bad I’ll have to wait quite some time before I’ll be able to wear it!
PARTING SHOT: I’ve been wanting a 2nd single-needle machine for awhile because I’d like to keep one set up for binding (yes, I’m spoiled, I know!). I bartered for this very lovely Consew high-speed straight stitch. My only complaint is that the top is green particle board instead of white plywood so I know I’ll eventually want to replace it. This will become my main machine and my beloved Consew 105 will be set up with a right-angle binder – can’t wait!
Pretty soon I’ll be adding two more machines to my herd: a Singer 143W (with which I’ll be able to zigzag on leather using 138 thread!) and a Singer 112W (double-needle, needle-feed machine for leather). If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know space is getting pretty tight in the second sewing room! I already measured and discovered that my two file cabinets (where I store extra patterns) will fit into the walk-in closet of my exercise room so that’ll leave room for one new machine. Then, when I was unpacking my boots (which are stored in Jess’ old closet) I got the idea to move my little Merrow into the left side of closet. I cut the table down years ago so it’s small and there’s an outlet and light in the closet. The Merrow only does a perle edge so it’s one of those machines I’ll use every few months for 20 minutes or so and that’s it. I think she looks rather at home, don’t you?
And now I have space for a 2nd machine next to the window in the sewing room. I’m happy.