No not a new baby……heaven forfend…. my new addition is this beautiful Singer Featherweight which I found on EBay and went to collect last week.
I have to say, casting back four years, I would have been utterly horrified at this purchase. Why have something so old when you have perfectly decent modern machines with all their gadgetry. But you know how these things gradually creep under your skin and your opinions start to change as you see other people sew on them and appear delighted with their ancient sewing machines and their performance.
A couple of years back I had the opportunity of having this sewing machine which had been long disused in my mother in law’s house having belonged to her mother-in-law. I was tempted but what put me off was that it was handcranked and you must believe me I need every hand going to ensure accurate seams! It was also incredibly heavy and bulky and I could just see it being abandoned as it had been by my mother-in-law. If I change my mind it’s still in my sister in-law’s garage.
Having done some research and deciding that something neat, compact and light was what I wanted the obvious choice was the Singer Featherweight. Tens of thousands of these were produced both in the UK and America between 1933 and 1960s and proved very popular. So they are not rare or hard to come by, particularly this 221K model. There is a more rare 222K which has the benefit of being able to remove the base so that you’ve got a free arm. But essentially they are both the same straightforward mechanical straight stitch machines. Just perfect for piecing.
But in finding one there are the horror stories of these machines being bought on spec on places like EBay then failing to function very well. I have absolutely zero ability in anything mechanical. I need things that work first time with no hassle. The general advice was to find a knowledgeable dealer and with a bit of poking around on EBay I found a seller who, based on his history of many happy buyers of vintage machines, particularly the Featherweight, clearly made restoring sewing machines his job. So for a premium on the price, which I was very happy to pay and in reality wasn’t actually that much, I got a machine that had been fully restored, serviced, new belt, new electrics and LED light. I wanted the confidence that I wasn’t going to get something which caused hassle and was tricky to use.
I didn’t want to risk it being delivered by a carrier and the vagaries of their handling and he was near enough in the East Midlands to collect it in person. Having seen Philip’s set up I was even more confident. He obviously loves these machines and takes pride in his workmanship. Of course Winnie (yes she has a name) has scratches and marks but she will have a load more after I have been sewing on her as she is definitely not for show. She will be regularly used and if that means she gets battered and scratched then so be it.
The children were much intrigued by this new acquisition. There was general agreement it smelled. I think that’s the case in which it has probably long resided and the cases are notoriously smelly. Apparently something to do with the glue used. Someone on IG suggested putting some tumbler sheets inside the case and that’s worked well. It’s smaller than I’d imagined and almost looks like a toy machine. The apple in the picture gives it scale.
The thing that really amused me was their surprise that it had a motor and plug. I explained at 66 years young she was only a few years older than me. My children genuinely thought that electricity was relatively recent. Well obviously both their schooling and I have failed in their education!
Thanks to some excellent videos on the basics of the machine on the Singer-Featherweight.com website by the delightful 12 year old Ruthie, daughter of the owners, I was up and running in no time. I tell you her video presentation skills put to shame many quilters who post on YouTube during which viewings you might just well lose the will to live! Excepting of course the wonderful Jenny Doan of MQC. Back to the machine it sews beautifully and so quietly. I’m rather smitten.
So what have I made with it? Well I did some trial blocks and I noticed that the wonderfully silky smooth finish of the sewing machine meant getting my seam allowance more difficult I need to work on that but other than that it is, because it’s so basic, easy to sew on. I sewed quite a few curved blocks for a new project
I had every intention of finishing off this sampler pouch of all the blocks I made at the Thread House Retreat last week using the Featherweight. The log burner was lit and after lunch I was settling in for a lazy Sunday afternoon sewing in the lounge when one of the children came down, snuggled up on sofa with a quilt and fell asleep. Well the Featherweight is quiet but not that quiet so I had to use the conventional machines upstairs. Best laid plans….
I cobbled the idea from one or two others who used their blocks in a similar way. I used Jo Avery’s pattern for her tendrils pouch but made it slightly larger to accommodate the blocks particularly the kettle. It makes a large pouch perfect for all the sewing paraphernalia you need when sewing from home
I free motion quilted the words which with the help of a light box to trace the letters and then with slow steady sewing it came out alright
I cheated and used a lino cut of a cat I made at last year’s retreat for an extra block. As you can see despite Karen Lewis’ excellent teaching I haven’t quite mastered the art of consistent lino printing…