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Sewing Machine Reviews> Singer> 403

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Reviewed by:Terri A
Friend of PR
About Terri Astarstarstarstar
United States
Member since: 1/16/08
Reviews written: 109
Sewing skills:Advanced
Favored by: 73 people
sewing machines reviewed: 4
Bio: more...
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Posted on:7/30/14 9:55 PM
(Updated: 7/31/14 2:39 PM)
Approx price paid:$40
Had this machine for:about 6 mos
Recommended? Yes
Singer :403 (Sewing Machine) by Terri A

Singer :403 (Sewing Machine) by Terri A  Singer :403 (Sewing Machine) by Terri A  
  • Drop-In bobbin
  • Adjustable Stitch Length and Width
  • Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure
  • Adjustable Needle Position
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Review Rating: Helpful by 1 people   Very Helpful by 5 people   
Tell us about your first impression when you used this machine.
My first impression was, (in comparison to other vintage machines that I have worked with) how delicate everything was from the needle and throat plate to the small presser foot, to the narrowing front design so that you have a more direct line of sight to the needle.
Next the smooth and unique whirring sound it makes when it runs.
The stitches were neat, the tension a little fiddly as many singers are. I thought there was an overall delicate impression that implied dressmaking and would deter me from sewing really heavy material or denim with it.

Was the machine manual sufficient?
I have the detailed original manual.

Did you buy any accessories? Do you use them?
Yes, I had collected a thrift set of cams and accessories, plus quite a few items came with it, so it's a nicely complete set.
Along with that over the years I had collected a monogrammer, and buttonholer ($3-$5) as well. Everything tested out well.

Is this your primary machine?
No - it would have to get in line. ;) So many machines, so little time.

Was this a gift/pre-owned/garage sale etc?
Yes. Thrift store auction.
It required cleaning and oiling and a replacement part before I was ready to sew with it.

How often do you use it?
I haven't had it long, but I have sewn a project with it and it sewed beautifully.

Would you recommend this machine to others?
Yes, it has a fine reputation. However I would say that to sell this machine is an industrial or even semi industrial is deceptive. It's clearly a domestic machine, perfect for the home sewer making lightweight garments and the occasional heavier duty item.

I am not sure I am sold on the slant needle and am still doing test and comparison stitching and will make further updates. ;)

It doesn't do reverse stitch designs or stretch cams - which for me is a huge drawback for sewing certain fabrics. This is because as a machine reverses to create many of the reverse or stretch designs there is built in *give* with the stitching making it useful with knits or stretch wovens. Think "triple stretch" stitching on modern computerized machines. It goes back and forth and in the end gives a strong and stretchy result. Really not fun to have to pick out though... -_-

For clarity: The machine has the expected reverse lever which you lift to go in reverse to say lock your seam. It does not utilize reverse cams or reverse stitches in its decorative designs. Any stitch other than straight stitch, including zigzag can only be had with cams you snap into the top of the machine. The cams are the C type, so called Top Hat cams and are single layer, therefore limited to simpler forward only designs. If you want more complex designs you may prefer a machine that takes double layer cams. The zigzag cam is required to do zigzag stitching, so peek in the top and check if it is there if you happen upon one of these in a thrift store or estate sale. If not, they are easy to find online and inexpensive.

I have read many people's posts that they had no reverse on their machine at all (they were looking for a button) when indeed the machine has that subtle lever you raise up. All of my vintage Singers have this lever. My Bernina has one that is spring loaded and you have to keep holding it up to keep reversing. These wonderful machines have endless variety and it's really part of the fun (for me anyway) to never run out of stuff to figure out about them!

Light Beige/Oyster White (I think it's very pretty and prefer to think of it as latte colored or macchiato maybe...)
Class 66 bobbins (vintage is best as the new ones have a raised ring on the inner edge that can hang everything up)
Size 15X1 needles sizes 9-18
Elevator type throat plate that lifts up above the feed dogs rather than lowering the feed dogs themselves.
I also like that you don't have to buy twin or double needles, but can place two individual needles side by side in the needle clamp instead.
It's also gear driven, and very lightweight with a cast aluminum body and seems somewhat scratch resistant.

Have you had any trouble with this machine? Please elaborate.
No not really. I have cleaned, oiled and adjusted the machine and it all runs smoothly.

My only reserve is that it seems to have a very slight *finickiness* to it. It jams unexpectedly now and then, which I am completely unused to in my other vintages so honestly it's a bit off-putting for that reason.

I am not done working with it by any means (I've only had it a short time and plan to road test it on various projects) and feel this is a very fine piece of machinery with a great reputation whether or not it ends up being MY absolute favorite machine. I like it a lot and writing this review has reminded me of why I wanted this machine in the first place. ;)

Do you do regular maintenance on this machine? How?

Yes, everything...

Sweet refined little machine. Compared to others, I would call it a dressmaker not a workhorse.

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Terri A said...
Hi Manalto! Thank you very much for your comment. So interesting! I have been sewing with it lately and so far so good. It is different from my other machines and after some real scrutiny of performance, I've decided to keep it for actual use, not just as a collection piece. I wasn't sure at first. ;) I love my 201-2 and this is a zigzagging close second to that for typical to lightweight garment construction.
10/4/14 4:32 AM
Manalto said...
Terri, Nice thorough review. The slant-needle machines don't have significantly more or less piercing power; the sharpness of the needle, condition of the machine (well oiled) and motor are far more important. I find very little difference in the performance of slant machines compared to thhe conventional needle arrangement. The slant needle was a gimmick invented by Singer in desperation when the Japanese, who, through a liberal arrangement with the US government, became serious competitors. Singer had seriously lagged behind when the zigzag machines were introduced and began to lose customers. Yet they hung on for years because of their high quality and customer service. After the 600 series machines, quality rapidly declined because the company, no longer the only game in town, had to cut corners in order to compete.
10/3/14 4:02 PM
Terri A said...
Thank you!!! :) I'm definitely trying to be very open about how it strikes me to sew with it. I had read a lot of raves before I found it and *want* to like it, but the proof is in the stitching love. I'm not convinced just yet. I've read conflicting opinions that slants do or do not have better piercing power. Time and projects will tell! ;) Thx again.
7/31/14 9:23 PM
Peter in NYC said...
Excellent review. I've always assumed Singer discontinued the slant machines for a reason...
7/31/14 8:09 PM
Plays with Fire said...
Thanks for the clarification.
7/31/14 12:39 PM
Mufffet said...
Thanks for a nice review! :) Glad for the detail. It's all in the details, and you included a nice bunch!
7/31/14 11:34 AM
Terri A said...
Hi and thanks so much. Actually, I was referring to the reverse cam stitching that utilizes a secondary cam follower to make more complicated designs. It activates the machines natural reverse function coordinated with the main cam follower arm, and you can see your fabric moving forward and back as the seam is sewn. The 403 cams only move forward as the design is produced and does not have a second follower. The machine itself as you said has the reverse lever for normal manual reverse during sewing. I hope that makes more sense... Thx again - I'm always on a quest to find the loveliest length and width zz or other stretchy stitch for my knit projects!!! ;) Best!
7/31/14 2:27 AM
Plays with Fire said...
Nice find. This one looks to be in very good condition. This machine does reverse stitches. The little knob on the right of the machine for the stitch length needs to be slid all the way up. When you are done reversing put it back down to go forward again. I have been using a tiny zig zag for all my knits. It looks just like the stretch stitch on other machines I have used and works quite well on my machine. Good luck and have fun!
7/31/14 1:52 AM
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