In my previous blog entry entitled “The Singer and the Singer”, I wrote about my earliest sewing experiences using my mother’s Singer 221 “Featherweight” sewing machine.
What I didn’t mention was that after my mother and I acquired newer sewing machines in the early 1970s, the trusty 1953 Featherweight was loaned to one of my aunts with a loosely-specified, long-term use arrangement. As it happened, many years elapsed during which time both my mother and aunt subsequently passed away. I never knew what happened to this special little machine. I do remember my mother telling me she thought my aunt had loaned the Featherweight to a friend in the late 1980s or perhaps eventually donated it.
Fast forward to a recent visit to my uncle’s home, where a major move was imminent including the packing up of decades-worth of accumulated possessions. Upon entering each room, it was apparent that a major attempt at “down-sizing” had begun in earnest. Near the end of our visit, my uncle asked me if I wanted what he thought to be my grandma’s old sewing machine. I told him I would. At that point my uncle pulled out a familiar-looking little black case and low and behold, it wasn’t my grandmother’s sewing machine after all, (hers was a circa 1935 Singer machine with a bentwood case). The sewing machine my uncle presented to me was actually my mother’s original 1953 221- Featherweight! What a delightful and unexpected surprise!
Upon returning home later that afternoon, I unpacked the little 11 pound wonder and took an initial inventory, noting that though the original presser foot was still on the machine, none of the extra feet, tools or attachments were there. I rotated the flywheel by hand and the needle/hook mechanism still seemed operational. There didn’t appear to be any rust and the machine decals seemed to have favorably stood the test of time.
The electric power supply and foot pedal were still connected to the machine and both cords were cracked in several places, revealing exposed wires. I elected not to plug anything in to any electrical outlets and resisted trying the machine’s on/off switch until taking everything to my trusted local repair tech who faithfully services my other machines.
As for the manual, I already knew I wouldn’t find it within the case. Thinking my Mother’s Singer 221 Featherweight machine was long gone, I sold the original manual on EBay four years ago!
And so began the process of bringing my Mother’s Singer 221 Featherweight back to her previous glory.
After dropping off the Featherweight at the repair shop, my second order of business was to source out a replacement manual which, after a comprehensive search on EBay, I’m happy to report proved ultimately successful. It’s a reprint and larger in scale than the original, but I like the larger photos and print. The next step was to look for a box of Featherweight accessories. Thankfully a couple of options were available on that front as well. I also found a source for bobbins.
This most recent search activity felt a bit like a scavenger hunt and fondly reminiscent of my previous Singer 66 part replacement quest undertaken during that machine’s restoration process described in my earlier post, “The Singer and the Singer”.
If all the accessory gathering activity described above wasn’t fun enough, I discovered a favorite vendor of mine was running an extraordinary special on “Sew Steady” tables. As luck would have it, there was an option for a Singer Featherweight cutout. Since I’m planning to be using my little vintage machine for quilt piecing and top-stitching after she returns from her restoration adventure, I decided to add a “Sew-Steady” table to my new setup with the idea that it will be great to have an extended sewing surface option to work with.
After over four weeks in the shop, she’s back in her new home at last! Thanks to Paul Howell of Howell’s Sewing Machine Repair in Paso Robles, CA. Lots of TLC and patience later, here is my Mom’s little Featherweight, all polished and ready to fly into action.
Not only did she get all new rubber feet but also an updated power cord.
An unexpected bonus was thrown into the mix, a vintage button-hole maker with templates!
Lastly, here she is with her custom “Sew Steady” table, ready for some serious quilt-piecing in the near future.