This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun, most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, and a representative of the San Diego History Center. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Friday, May 10, 2013

New Addition to the Family- A Singer Featherweight

May 10,2013
A couple months ago after once again lugging my very heavy Husqvarna sewing machine to another sewing workshop, I convinced myself that it was time to get one of the very light Singer Featherweight sewing machines. Many years ago when I was still in my quilting stage, and also going to sewing workshops, I’d admired those cute little black shiny machines that some of the other ladies brought. They only weigh 11 lbs, and the hinged extension table folded up for ease of storage.  But the $100 price tag was out of my wallet’s reach at the time      
The first one that really caught my eye was a red one on ebay. He was asking $600 for it. Not surprisingly it didn’t sell. Later I found out the machines were never produced in red. They only came in black, beige, and white. Any other color was a re-paint. But that didn’t keep me from drooling over the red one. Pink would be nice too. Oooh, a friend just shared a photo of a pink one she found.

 With the help of some friends, a couple promising ones popped up in stores and on ebay. But I was out of state at the time and I wanted to take my time. So now with a few more dollars in my wallet, and having it increased with some birthday present money from my Mom, I went on the hunt.  I even searched while I was with my Mom, and was shocked by the $400 prices I was seeing. Since I knew they could still be found for under $300, I kept looking.  In the meantime I started looking for information and history on these little beauties.  One of the best sources for information was on this Singer featherweight website. Singer Featherweight   They’re also known as SIMANCO (Singer Manufacturing Company)
I’m not really sure why some Featherweights are more desirable than others, as shown by how people are bidding on them on ebay. Obvious ones are in excellent condition, or from an original owner. And people seem to really want to know the serial number so they can tell what year it was made in that you can look up on the Singer website. Singer serial numbers   
You may also remember my earlier machine, the little baby Singer, also called the SewHandy, and I’m finding more information about those too.
 The Featherweight machines were manufactured in the US between 1933 to the mid-1960s. They also began producing them in Great Britain in 1947 at their Singer Kilbowie (Clydebank) plant in Scotland. They were extremely popular, selling 1.75 million. So this is why there’s so many out there. They’re great little work horses and not much can go wrong with them. The only parts that seem to wear out are the belt, needles, and light bulb. The easiest way to test them if they work is just sew something!
A few weeks ago my next door neighbor, MaryLou, called me and asked if I’d found my sewing machine. I told her I didn’t, and she said she was giving me hers and would be bringing it over shortly. !!!! What. What?!! Whoo Hoo!! 
This is the little beauty she brought over. The 221K white-green one! This is the primo one everyone wants. She’s the second owner and knowing her, it’s been well taken care of, right down to a little bag she made to hold the presser foot so it didn’t scratch the machine while it was in its case. The case was in great condition and is the original one but it was painted white. When she bought it the leather was peeling off. So her husband removed the leather and painted it white to match the machine. But it still has its green handle. It has a copy of the instruction manual, a book on Singer 221 Featherweights by Nancy Johnson-Srebro, some kind of presser foot, machine oil, bobbins and needles. I’m still looking around to see what kind of attachments it can use but I think the accessory presser foot is for gathering or pleating.

 This is what the case originally looked like. All the others were black.

I’m not sure where the serial number is. I’ve found a few numbers on it, but the bottom is covered and I don’t want to remove it just yet. Anyone that has any suggestions or answers, I’d welcome that.

A friend of mine, MaryJane, wrote to me about my machine: “I worked for Singer for several years and always wanted to own a Featherweight.  They just keep on sewing and sewing and are so reliable.  The green ones are especially sought after and the color is officially called Pale Turquoise.  Your neighbor must know that you will treasure this little beauty to give you such a valuable gift.  They are currently selling for up to $900 if in excellent condition.  This color of the Featherweight was made in Clydebank, Scotland and the belts on them are almost indestructible and the one you have probably has the original belt. If you are interested in learning more about your new addition, Nancy Johnson-Srebro wrote a whole book about the Machine entitled Featherweight 221: The Perfect Portable.  Singer also made a free arm version of the Featherweight, but these are extremely rare since they were made in England and not exported to the US at the time they were manufactured.” 
If you’re interested in these machines, I found these bit of facts on each of these websites.
Originally launched in 1933 the Singer Featherweight model 221 was only made in the USA, until it finally stopped production there in 1957 after more than 1.75 million had been made. The similar Featherweight 221K was produced at the Singer plant in Kilbowie, Scotland from 1947 until the late 1960's after more than 350,000 had been produced.
By the early 1960's with sales of the classic black model dropping, the factory started to produce a new white model, the Featherweight 221K-7.
The white K7 variants ranged in colour from creamy white to ivory to ‘celery‘ or pale green-white. (Me- Also referred to as light turquoise).  221J tan models range from creamy beige to light brown. These are the only original colours produced, however in the US it is popular to respray them completely different colours with car paint!
Sew Muse  -----
Produced in Great Britain btn 1955-1964 in limited numbers by Singer in Kilbowie, Scotland.  
It was slightly lighter than the Black 221, having a shorter extension table, an internal toothed rubber belt linking the top and bottom gears and the later models had a full width foot controller.
Serial number on these machines is located underneath the machine. 
From this    ------
The original drive belts on these machines were also white. It is acceptable to replace a drive with a new belt but the white belt should be saved in case you want to either display or sell the machine. The machine has a gold-colored paper with a red "S" medallion.
Pale turquoise Featherweights are quite different from the black and red ones seen above. White Featherweights are not nearly as fancy and the folding extension is much shorter. The machine is slightly lighter and quieter than a black model. These white machines are made in Great Britain. The serial number of this one is EV924169 indicating it was manufactured in 1964. We found it in Clarence, New York.
A number of attachments are available for Featherweights including buttonholers, zig-zaggers and walking feet.

  *This blog entry is dedicated to my friend, MaryLou, who gave me this beautiful work of art*

1 comment:

  1. I love your 'new' machine! As a lifelong owner of a 221b model who thinks these little guys are wonderful. I have had new, expensive sewing machines and have given them away because my featherweight did everything better - except maybe zigzag. I have all the attachments, and the buttonholer makes the best buttonholes ever. Cheers for the featherweights!


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!