By now it is common knowledge that I am a fan of the Singer 15-91. What's not to like? It's simple to operate and will sew through anything you can cram under the presser foot.
And, like the Model T Ford, "you can have any color you want, as long as it's black."
But did you know that Singer produced an almost identical machine in a color other than black?
That machine is the 15-125. It was produced from 1955-1958 and was the last of the potted motor straight-stitch models. Singer was modernizing its image and they updated the classic 15-91 with a re-shaped casting and a light green paint job. The color is similar to the 3/4 size 185k, which was itself an update to another popular model, the 99k.
So what changed? Let's take a look at the two machines side-by-side. The 15-91 is on the left and the 15-125 on the right.
As you can see, the changes were cosmetic, not mechanical. Motor, tension knob, light fixture, stitch length selector and bobbin compartment are exactly the same.
Which means that if you want a 15-91 but don't want black you have the option of green! Even the foot control and cords were color-matched. Which is the one drawback to the 15-125. If the cord is lost or damaged the only option for replacement is black, which rather spoils the look.
Otherwise, the 15-125 is a worthy successor to the better known 15-91. The machine pictured above walked right through several layers of garment leather and even sewed 2 layers of cowhide belt. This machine definitely has "industrial strength" but it is NOT an industrial model. It's still a household model, so it's not a good idea to sew belt leather every day on this machine, but it's nice to have the option for a quick repair!
We've all heard the old saying: "If it looks like a duck..."
Well, if a sewing machine looks like a 401, threads like a 500, chain-stitches like a 600 and treadles like a 328...it's a 411!
Which makes the 411 more of a Platypus than a duck.
So let's get the 4-1-1 on the 411...
The 411 features a number of unique characteristics, beginning with its manufacture history. The 411G shown above was a puzzle, because the "G" in the model number indicates Germany, but the serial number points to Canada. After some research it appears that the head was cast (and stamped with serial number) in Canada then the machine was assembled in West Germany.
At a glance the 411 resembles the 401A but on closer examination there are a number of significant differences. Let's compare the two machines: (411 appears on the lefthand side of each comparison.)
The two machines look similar but the 401A is "squarer" in styling. Stylistically the 411 more closely resembles the 403.
The 411 and 403 share a prominent pointed ridge on top and distinctively shaped light cover. However the 411 has a couple of mechanical features that mimic the 500 Rocketeer.
Note the additional thread tension regulator just above the tension knob. This was a new feature when the 500 was introduced and was also used on the 411.
The 411 and 500 also share a top-mounted bobbin-winder.
Another unique feature is that while it looks like a Slant-o-Matic, the 411 can chainstitch like a Touch & Sew!
The final twist is that the 411 can also be used as a treadle machine, making it one of the very rare zig-zag treadle models. This feature is also found on the vertical needle 328 Style-o-Matic.
Note the channel for the treadle belt in the base just directly below the handwheel.
The 411 is truly a fascinating member of Singer's Slant Needle family. It does not feel as well built as the 401. The casting feels lighter and the paint job and trims appear to be lesser quality. But the unique versatility of this machine make it a strong contender for the title of "Best All-Around Slant Needle!"
OldSewinGear is the collaborative effort of retired repairman Gary and daughter Barbara. We love old sewing gear and enjoy sharing what we've learned in our vintage sewing machine adventures. We are located in Roseburg, Oregon.