Kindling a Love for Vintage Sewing Machines and Attachments

Singer 403A vintage sewing machine (circa 1958)

Singer 403A vintage sewing machine (circa 1958)

I have to admit that I am in love! I love my vintage Singer 403A sewing machine and all the wonderful attachments that come with it. I have found that some people just don’t understand how I could love such an out dated machine that has such “scary” looking attachments and (gasp!) cams that you actually have to switch in and out if you want to make different stitches! I mean, why not just buy a new machine that you just press a button, hang on, and voila! You have a quilt. Well here are some of my favorite things about vintage machines-

Black "top hat" cams for Singer Slant-O-Matic 403A


  • They are work horses! Most vintage machines will take anything you throw at them and with even minimal cleaning and oiling will keep on working and working and working
  • You can find vintage machines anywhere. My mom bought mine for me at a thrift store for $50 and all it needed was a little bit of cleaning. I have had it for over 5 years now and aside from a few mishaps caused by curious toddlers, it has kept working and working. Estate sales and sewing machine repair shops are also good places to look for vintage machines and attachments.
  • They have metal gears instead of plastic like the newer machines. You will get your money’s worth and then some out of these machines.
  • They have character and look cool in your sewing room or space, plus they have great names like “Slant-O-Matic” and “Style-O-Matic”.
  • There is not a project or fabric that I have not been able to tackle with my Singer 403A sewing machine.
A shower curtain sewn with my Singer 403A

A shower curtain sewn with my Singer 403A

  • I feel like an engineer or mechanic every time I get to switch out the attachments and cams on my machine. My boys are so interested in all the “parts” that go with my machine.
Various speciatly feet that fit my Singer 403A

Various specialty feet that fit my Singer 403A

  • I feel confident that I could follow the directions in my manual to take my machine apart and put it back together again without rendering it inoperable. It is also very easy to clean, maintain, and troubleshoot these great vintage machines. There is no way I would even consider taking apart a new machine!

So how can you get started on your own journey towards owning, operating, maintaining, and loving vintage sewing machines and attachments? There are a lot of resources online to get you started!

  • ISMACS or International Sewing Machine Collectors Society is a great resource for information and they even have files you can download for free.
  • Yahoo Groups– I belong to four different Yahoo groups for collectors of vintage Singer sewing machines and attachments. If you already have a machine that you want to find out more about, just search Yahoo Groups for your make and model. If you just want to find out more about vintage sewing machines these groups are a great place to start. The people I have met so far have been so friendly and helpful.
  • SMC or Sewing Machine Collector- another great resource for information.
  • Local sewing groups or collector clubs– You may have a local group that meets on a regular basis to swap attachments and share tips and stories. The phone book or family activity guide is a good place to start searching for groups like these or ask around at your favorite local fabric store.
  • Yard sales, estate sales, thrift shops, swap meets, flea markets– These are a great place to look for vintage machines and attachments at an affordable price. Make sure you know what you are looking for before you head out. Or maybe you will just get lucky!
  • Sewing machine repair shops– It will usually be your “ma and pa” shops not chain stores that will carry vintage sewing machines, accessories, and parts. I have found a store in my area that even has a collection of vintage sewing machine original manuals for sale, although the selection is limited as you can imagine. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advice. These folks can be so friendly and helpful.
Button holer attachment for Singer Slant-O-Matic machines with Jetson case

Button holer attachment for Singer Slant-O-Matic machines with Jetson case

Good luck on your journey! I hope I have inspired at least one more person to love these old machines and attachments as much as I do.Β  Be careful though, because once you get going, you’ll never look back!

Quilt sewn with Singer 403A made from heavy cotton decorator fabric, polyester batting, and quilting flannel

Quilt sewn with Singer 403A made from heavy cotton decorator fabric, polyester batting, and quilting flannel

What do you think?



  1. 22
    Avatar Wrenetta Carr says

    So thankful for finding this post. I admit I love old machines. Just picked up a singer treadle machine and cabinet for 17.50 and a newer singer machine with cabinet for 5.00. I already for a lot of machines and I’m glad that my husband doesn’t get too upset when I bring another one home. Also have my mothers 401. Someday I hope to have a large room so I can set them all up and rotate using them.

  2. 23

    You have inspired me. I’m going to look for one this week. I need a sewing machine. My grandma had a singer machine but my aunt has it now. They seem to be pretty amazing and built to last. I can’t stand the plastic ones they make now. Thanks

  3. 24
    Avatar MissFortunes says

    I just bought this same machine for $75 and now I’m on the hunt for all the manuals and accessories. Why did I choose it? Because I’ve never sewn a stitch and it sure looks tough enough to handle all my mistakes yet simple enough I don’t feel intimidated. I’m EXCITED!!

  4. 25

    I have a Singer 401A that I love. I have been using it since I was in high school. My only problem is finding someone to work on it. Every now and again it needs a little tweaking.

  5. 26

    Hello! Can you tell me if there is a reverse stitch on this machine? I just found one at a rummage sale and would love to start some projects, but I can’t find the manual (didn’t come with one) and I’m at a loss about the reverse stitch. Thank you!

    • 27

      what machine do you have? on the older ones just raise the stitch lenght button up to the top and you have reverse. hope this helps.

  6. 28

    Love this post and totally agree on all the reasons to be ga-ga over vintage sewing machines! I have several and love them all! I’ve been thinking of adding a Rocketeer (503A) or a 403A like yours – love the two-tone look!

  7. 29

    This is the best machine Singer ever made. I was 10 in 1958 when my mother bought this then very expensive machine. It became mine. I have sewn everything on it since then. Don’t ever want another one. Added a Singer Serger but will never replace the 403a with anything else. Looking for a second one for the Quilt club…can’t carry mine back and forth….too heavy.

  8. 30

    OMG! I ran across your page looking for a replacement bulb for my mom’s old 403A. I remember when she got it in the late 50’s. She had had one of the old black Singers, and was thrilled to finally have one of the new fangled machines. Mom made all of my clothes – and hers – and used all of the “fancy stitches” cams. She spawned my love for sewing. I have inherited this gem, and although I now have a BabyLock, this old baby is my backup when my other is in the shop. You just cant beat it’s durability. I take a stroll down memory lane every time i pull it out. I still have all of the cams and feet. I’ve thought about getting rid of it several times, but have not been able to part with it. I probably never will. πŸ™‚

  9. 31

    My mom still has her 403. She has all the attachments ( all the cams, buttonholer, small monogramer, and different feet. Her machine is a work horse, I prefer to sew on her machine than my machine.

  10. 32


  11. 33

    I have the singer 403 that my father bought my mother in the early 60’s. It still runs great and has all the original attachments and parts. I learned to sew on it when I was in grade school and still love using it. I’ve recently started to learn quilting (by hand) and am interested in finding out what attachments I need to find for machine quilting. I will check out the yahoo group you mentioned!

    • 34

      I just acquired a 403 myself and I have quilted on another sewing machine in the past, but found it frustrating. When I found this machine at an estate sale, even though I have a second hand one at home, I found this so straightforward and hoped it could get me quilting again. I would be interested to know if you made any progress on finding quilting attachments, or maybe there is a way to work with what the machine has.

  12. 35

    Kimbrah – I was searching for info to get a manual on my sewing machine and ran across your web site and your love for your vintage slant Singer. You sound like some kind of an idiot. Just ranting about a machine!!
    I have searched for years trying to find a manual – I did not even know the EXACT model of mine…UNTIL I found a photo of it on your site. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. Haven’t found the manual yet. I have 4 machines in my house. I have an almost new singer in the box – I’m going to give it to my Granddaughter learning to sew. AND, I’m gonna keep my old 403A which I bought about 1958 NEW. I understand your ranting. That sucker has made suits, jeans (jumps right over the thick seams) three sets of auto-seat covers (leather, thin foam and backing) all in quilting straight line pattern. I still use it and it still runs like a dream. I am 73 years old and time to “get things” ready to leave to my daughter(she wants the old 403A – but wants a manual) I made all her dresses on it in the early 60’s. GO AHEAD AND RANT.

    • 36

      Hi, Vi! I think i still have my mom’s manual. I’ll be happy to scan it and e-mail it to you if you havent found one.

    • 37

      I have the book to a singer 401A from 1958. I would be happy to scan the manual for you. I think it would work for your machine also.

    • 38

      Hi, you can download manuals for Singer machines at their website

  13. 39

    Sara- I tried to visit you blog and leave a comment there, but it didn’t work out. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for stopping by to read my post! How cool that you have a box of attachments, too! Mine came with everything but the ruffler, the multi-slotted binder foot, and the maintenance tools. A really nice lady from one of the Yahoo Groups photo-copied her manual and mailed it to me, and that has been such a blessing!

    If you want to learn what all your feet do, I would suggest the Singer Attachments Yahoo Group. They have files you can download about how the different attachments work. Also, the ISMACS site has a few down-loadable files on attachments. I am currently in love with my hemming foot. It makes hemming so easy! I am sure yours probably came with one. Congrats and happy sewing!


  14. 40

    Forgot to mention the best part; my machine came with the original box of attachments and the original instructional booklet. I’m not sure yet what all the fancy feet do, but I know they’ll come in handy someday!

  15. 41

    I LOVE my Singer Slant-O-Matic! I picked it up at a yard sale, having fallen in love with the table first. It’s my first machine, and I am enjoying learning with it. I have slowly decorated my sewing room/office around the beautiful table.