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The Incredible Singer Featherweight!

Why I Love Them - And You Will Too!

by Beth Cooper
A vintage magazine ad featuring a Singer Featherweight
A beautiful Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine, pictured with case and attachments. (Photo courtesy of The Featherweight Shop.)

Cute.  Petite.  Lightweight.  Sometimes classy in black or white, sometimes colorful.  Comparable to the Energizer bunny – it just keeps going and going.  What am I talking about?  Just the best sewing machine ever – the Singer Featherweight! Basically, it is everything I want to be! (Cute, lightweight, and classy?  Yes!)

This sewing machine is quite possibly the coolest sewing machine ever made.  I love these machines like Cookie Monster loves cookies.  I want them all!  I want more and more and more!  And my husband says why, why, and why?  Ha!

Are you familiar with Singer Featherweights?  Do you own one?  If not, you may be on the hunt for one soon.  Because, they are fabulous and you are going to fall in love.

What Even Is a Featherweight?

A Singer Featherweight is perhaps the most sought-after American sewing machine in history.  It was manufactured by the Singer Sewing Machine Co. between the years of 1933 to 1968.  It is called a Featherweight because of its portability and light weight of only 11 pounds, 1 ounce.  There are two types of Featherweights – Model 221 and Model 222.  Both of these models look very similar, however, the 222 is not as common and it has a removable bed that allows it to become a free-arm. There are also some other minor differences that are harder to spot.

The Singer Featherweight Model 221

So, what makes these machines so special?

In a time when sewing machines were incredibly heavy and difficult to maneuver, these small machines came out and basically became instant best friends with homemakers, seamstresses, and mothers.  It was the perfect machine to keep at home. It is strong enough to sew through denim and other heavy fabrics, but also sensitive enough to handle something as flimsy as chiffon beautifully. It was the perfect multi-purpose sewing machine to keep at home and was lightweight enough to keep it stored away when not in use. All of that holds true for today, as well. These machines have a simple straight stitch – and it is a darn good one! They are known for their beautiful and perfectly straight stitches.

The white machines came with green cases, while black machines came with black cases.

Where can I find one?

Now this is a good question! Since these machines are no longer being manufactured, where can one be bought? A good place to start is Ebay. There are always some listed there. However, be an informed buyer because there are a lot of scammers out there. Ask plenty of questions and do your research. If an online deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Other places to look are at local quilt shops. Some shops have a few that they have acquired along the way and are re-selling. Also, antique shops are known to have them. I have acquired two from antique shops and gotten a great deal on both. It is my dream to walk into my local resale shop and find one for $10 that some clueless person dropped off and had no idea what they even had in their possession.

Caution: You May Get Sticker Shock…

Yeah, I’m going to warn you newbies now, these machines aren’t cheap! Prepare to spend some money, honey. (But just know, that you won’t be disappointed! These little workhorses are so worth it!) Prices vary depending on the year of manufacture, color, etc. Once you dig into the research of these little beauties, you will find so much more information than I can fit into this one article. There is a database online that matches up serial numbers to dates of manufacture. Many people like to try to buy one that shares their birth year. So fun! Others look for specific models, like Centennial models. Whether or not the machine comes with the original bobbin case, cord, and case are also factors in the price. It’s not unusual for them to be $1000 or more. If you’re lucky, you may get one for $500. I saw one that recently sold for almost $15,000!

This is a past machine that was once available on The Featherweight Shop.

Colors

The Featherweight Sewing Machine came in three colors – black, white, and beige. However, sometimes some of the whites and beiges are in different shades of white and beige – some have even had a green tint in the white. It all depends on how the paint was mixed in the factory. So know that there are variations of the three colors – black, white, and beige. Those were the original colors, but these days you can have one painted in whatever color you want! And many sewists have done just that! You can find Featherweights in beautifully painted colors. Many purists, would never advise you to paint a sewing machine. However, many of these old machines need a little TLC and a paint job only enhances the machine. There is no right or wrong answer to having one painted. It’s a personal decision about your machine. You do you, Boo.

This yellow machine is just lovely. I spotted this one on Hip Stitch.
Check out their selection of Featherweights – or send them your Featherweight and they will paint it for you!

Other Resources

If you want to learn more about the Singer Featherweight sewing machines, a great place to start is with this book, Featherweight 221 The Perfect Portable and Its Stitches Across History by Nancy Johnson-Srebro. It is an amazing resource! Another great resource is The Featherweight Shop. This online store has tons of information, helpful tutorials, replacement parts, and even sells Featherweight machines. It is definitely worth checking out!

Swoon! This vintage green is my new favorite. Follow The Featherweight Shop
for more information on their machines.
(Because they do giveaway contests and you’re going to want in on that!)
Perhaps you already own a Featherweight, but need a new case? This case, and others, are available on Missouri Star Quilt Company. Click here to shop.

Hello? Are you still here? Oh, I see you heading out the door to go check your local antique store! But be careful! These bad boys are addictive! You may end up with more than one! (Ask me how I know that?) LOL! Anywho, have fun diving into the world of Featherweights!

‘Til next time,

Beth

P.S. For those of us that love Featherweights (regardless of if you own one or not!), how cute are these socks?? Love!

These adorable socks can be purchased here.

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Sandra White
Sandra White
5 days ago

I got a featherweight when I graduated from highschool (1961). I still have it. It’s an amazing machine!!

Judith Minick
Judith Minick
5 days ago

I’m not a quilter but I love and admire the work that goes into making them. I am a proud sewer of kids garments, everything I wear, widow treatments of all kinds , on and on. I have a very well organized sewing room, a sewing machine and a serger, ironing board, a cutting table and lots of “stuf”. Im nearly 86 and have been sewing since I was 9 years old. Thanks to my grandmother who taught me how to sew on her treadle Singer. My great granddaughter was heard saying ” thanks, my Nanna made this on her sewing machine” when she was 4. I nearly fainted. She wants a machine but I’m putting it off until she too is 9 years old.
I loved your article and have subscribed. Thanks for sharing!

Barbara Ballard
Barbara Ballard
5 days ago

I have my grandmother’s Featherweight that she taught me to sew on in the 50’s. I believe it was manufactured in 1939. Years ago I took it to a sewing machine shop. He wanted to sell me a new one, so he told me it wasn’t even worth cleaning, but he offered me $10 for it. Of course I said no! I have the case and all accessories. The only thing missing is the green cover from the instruction manual. I will never part with that machine. Well, maybe for $15,000!

Evelyn
Evelyn
5 days ago

I remember my mother having a Featherweight machine when we lived in England back in the 60″s and I was just a youngster she made all my clothes including coats on it

Patten Laurel
Patten Laurel
5 days ago

I have been bitten by the FW bug! I was sew lucky to buy a centennial 221 from a friend that belonged to her grandmother and just recently got a 222 that should arrive any day now! Yes, they are great machines and once you have one….you want more!

Evie
Evie
5 days ago

Hello, I only have three of these beauties. One is from England. Before I knew anything about FW.
It’s able to hook up to 220 outlet. I have a converter.
Love them

Phyllis Rosenwinkel
Phyllis Rosenwinkel
5 days ago

I own only four Singer 221 Featherweights and one Singer 222 free arm Featherweight from the last 222 serial number allocation. Many of the factory serial number allocation lists are missing. We know that Singer manufactured more than 4 million Featherweights and no one knows how many more were produced.
Singer produced four different Featherweight machine finishes.
Black with decals
Tan (made in Canada only)
Celery (not white)
Tan
Crinkle (godzilla) finish. These are very rare and very expensive.
Certain special issued machines are also very collectible and expensive such as a World’s Fair edition and a Texas Fair special issue.
The celery machines are cute but are one of the machines that Singer produced at a lower quality to save manufacturing costs. Instead of using metal rods, this machine stitches/sews using an internal rubber belt as well as an external belt.
Singer designed the Featherweight and other all metal sewing machines so the owner could clean, lubricate and maintain.
I have a sewing machine collection. My oldest machine was manufactured in 1861.

Nat Gardner
Nat Gardner
4 days ago

I have two featherweight sewing machines. I have my grandmothers that she bought brand new in 1936. And then I found one at an antique store for $500 and I bought it! They are the best machines! I will never get rid of mine. They have made many Frostline kits and over 50 quilts. I love the simplicity of them. They’re easy to clean and oil and take care of. Just like my 56 Ford truck! Simple! Basic! And they keep on going!

Denean
Denean
4 days ago

I was gifted a beautiful 1950 featherweight. All I can say is wow. It truly is a dream machine.

Joanna Davis
Joanna Davis
3 days ago

Put mine on lay away, anybody remember that? At the local Singer store in 1960. I love that machine. Still have it, it still sews like a dream. I am proud to own it.

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