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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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,
P.S. For those of us that love Featherweights (regardless of if you own one or not!), how cute are these socks?? Love!
I got a featherweight when I graduated from highschool (1961). I still have it. It’s an amazing machine!!
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!
My sister in law Sue has a granddaughter named Adeline.. When she was six years old, she made a new handbag together with her grandma. Sue taught her how to sew and together they made the handbag. Her granddaughter sat on her lap while they sewed and Sue taught her the basics as they went along. I think that little girl is hooked on sewing and when she is old enough she just might get a beginner’s sewing macine as a gift. 🌺
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!
You can find out when your machine was manufactured by its serial number.
Where can you find this out?
There is a Singer featherweight website that provides all kinds of wonderful information about featherweights, including how to date your featherweight by serial number: https://singer-featherweight.com.
It’s a fun site to go through. Read the history!😊
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
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!
Isn’t that the truth! You are so fortunate to have a centennial! But I am happy as is to have my 1941 221 model. Of course, I would love to have a white singer 221, the one that was made in the UK in the early 60s.😂 Yes, you can never have too many featherweights!
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.
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)
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.
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!
I think that holds true for many types of older equipment, including kitchen equipment. I have a feather weight from 1941 which I love, and I also have my mother-in-law’s 1962 Swiss made Elna which weighs a ton but my gosh it’s a Workhorse, just like the dainty looking featherweight!
I recall once going to an outdoor antique Fair, and one lady had kitchen equipment from the 1930s on display. She had everything from milkshake blenders to toasters and Waffle irons, all gleaming beautifully with their chrome finish. As I was admiring everything, the lady behind the stand mentioned that the best thing about all that equipment was that everything worked! Why? Because they can all be maintained and they were meant to last forever! You certainly can’t say that about today’s manufacturing! The quality is not what it used to be. So hooray for old equipment! And yes, I too will hang on tight to my sewing machines!
I was gifted a beautiful 1950 featherweight. All I can say is wow. It truly is a dream machine.
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.
I have been sewing on various machines for 60 years (I’m 68) I had never seen a FW until 5 yrs ago when my friend was going thru a life crisis and gifted this little black case to me. She had it from a storage locker that her friend said if she cleaned it out and closed it that she could keep anything in it for payment. She just kept this machine. I took it to an elderly man who restores vintage machines to have it serviced. He said “where did you get this machine!?” I said from a friend. He said “your friend must really love you”. I said yes. He rebuilt the motor and gave me bobbins and said that my machine was in mint condition better than any he had worked on. I have made a few things with it and it sews like a dream. I mostly polish it and disp,ay it with my restored 301A and 500 Rocket. I have some other machines for everyday sewing.
The featherweight looks like such a beautiful machine! I really enjoyed reading this article . I never knew about the featherweight until now. I love old sewing machines.
I inherited my mother-in-law’s Elna and my father-in-law told me that he had purchased it for her back in 1959 or 1960. I was floored when he told me how much he paid for it at the time, which was $300. Back in those days that was a lot of money, and they already had three little kids. But it’s a Workhorse just like the featherweight and although it weighs more, it’s a good machine. My mother-in-law put that to good use and made clothes for the kids, and herself. She made some beautiful outfits for herself for special occasions. I have the original booklet, the accessories, and the metal bobbins that came with it. I need to fiddle with it and see how it works.
The one I currently use is an inexpensive model that I bought for myself some years ago, the Singer Talent. And surprisingly, this portable machine works well! I think that says something about Singer’s quality, even today, although I still prefer the older machines that were built to last an eternity.
Now that I know about the featherweight, I will be on the lookout anytime I walk into an antique store or a sewing machine repair shop. I would love to have one if I could!
All the things you’ve said about the featherweight are true! It’s the best little machine ever! I used my sister in law’s while living at their house while I was in college (about 50 years ago). I was hoping to buy hers but she gave it to her daughter which was only right. I’ve been wanting my own for 30-40 years. They have been impossible to find.
My gma had 3 or 4bof them plus a few minature featherweights I’ll ask n see if she still has them and if yes I will message you here if interested in buying one
Never give up! I found my feather weight a few days ago. I just posted my purchasing experience today on this site. Tell your friends and anyone else who sews to keep an eye out for you. Good luck!
I’m kind of the opposite of you – I’ve collected MANY Featherweights, but at the end of the day I still have only one and that’s all I need. In my mind, having a single machine makes it even more special. I collect gadgets for it – I have the hemstitcher, buttonholer, blind hem stitcher, and zigzagger with ALL the cams. As Featherweights have come and gone through my sewing room, I have culled all the best components for my machine (best case, best manual, best accessory box, oil can, graduated throat plate, etc.) I’ve resold every machine except my very favorite one and that makes it a “jewel” to me rather than just one of a bunch.
Last tuesday, I stopped by a little quilting store here in town to seek out some fabric for a quilt that I’m making for a cousin as a surprise. A gentleman by the name of Josh owns the store. What a delight to find a man that knows how to sew and quilt and he is young! I was happy to have found the right fabric after Josh and I went through a few selections. And then I saw it…..a featherweight sitting off to the side of the counter. I asked Josh about it and he told me it was a 1941 featherweight 221 model. It was like new. Everything was intact, including all the accessories, the bobbins, the manual, and the original carrying case. I asked him if it was for sale, and he said yes, for $450, AND IT WORKS! I hesitated for just a few minutes, and then remembered prices I have seen online for the same machine. I bought it right then and there along with my fabric! I have now joined the ranks of proud featherweight owners! My friend had told me that if I had not bought it she would have throttled me!😂
I hope everyone who wants one finds their Featherweight. I have been fortunate to acquire two of them over the last few years. Keep looking, they can be found for a reasonable price. My first was from Facebook marketplace for $275 and my second one was from an auction for $210. They were both in excellent condition. I’m glad you mentioned The Featherweight Shop, they are an invaluable resource on all things Featherweight.