221K

Vintage Sunday: White Singer Featherweight!

If you follow me on Instagram (and you should! If only to see 20 photos of my gorgeous Oscar-cat every day.) or Flickr, you probably already know about my big vintage news: this gorgeous white Singer Featherweight came home to live with me this week!

This lovely thing is a Singer Featherweight 221K – actually, to be exact, I think she’s a 221K-7. The white models seem less common and their model number is slightly different. I spied her in a charity shop and knew right away she was special, but thought it would be a silly purchase. But then I couldn’t stop thinking about her. And I started doing research about the 221s against my own will. Because a very kind friend was able to help me, stopping by the shop to investigate further and reserve the machine for me, of course I went back to get her a few days later.

I’m so in love! She’s so tiny. And in great condition! Before I went back to buy it, I did look into what owning this machine would really mean, effort-wise. I mean, I didn’t want to jump in just ’cause she was pretty and not know what I was getting into. I own two other vintage Singers (I’ll have to post about those someday too), but I don’t take them out much right now – they’re beautiful but not terribly practical. But this one: if I was going to have a small, portable machine like a Featherweight, I wanted to be able to really use it and be able to take it to sewing days or workshops.

Someone new (well, new to me) came to live with me today! But I'm not allowed to touch her at all until my work is done.

I checked to make sure she actually ran before I bought it, but I couldn’t know for sure how much work or repair would be needed to get her at her best. My research told me that parts would be fairly easy to come by – I may have to do some searching, but I’d probably be able to find anything I needed eventually. These Featherweights are not uncommon; you can find plenty of them on eBay or online vintage shops. I got a lucky deal on price – at least a quarter what people pay on eBay! – because mine came from a charity shop, but I knew I could end up making up the cost difference with maintenance anyway. But as long as I wasn’t going to get a machine home and find out it was useless without some obscure part I’d never find, I was happy to make a project of it.

So, since she’s come to live with me, I’ve been cleaning, oiling – and mostly learning. There’s a lot of information about Featherweights out there, people are so devoted to them! But owning a vintage machine like this isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart – they need much more hands-on care than a modern machine (oiling at least once a week, for example, when it’s running well) and I will possibly still send her off to a professional for a servicing anyway, because the motor isn’t as quiet as I know it should be. I am also trying to find replacement rubber feet for the bottom, because one is missing, which is proving to be tricky to find.

Love this pretty little gal so much, I'm going to burst! Best charity shop purchase ever!

But the pay-off for the extra attention these machines need is that you will know it so much better than a modern one. After less than a week of cleaning and fixing, I already understand how a sewing machine works better than I ever have before. I understand that not everyone would love this part – most of us would like to just get sewing already! – but I do. I love putting so much into getting this beauty running at her best, and getting to know her like this. I love that it may take me months to find the exact-sized rubber feet and when I do, it will be absurdly exciting. I see her like some people much see vintage cars – searching for information and parts is half the fun.

And in the meantime: now that she’s clean and oiled and adjusted, she sews like a dream. Perfect, lovely stitches. I may still tinker with bits here and there for as long as I have her, but she seems like she’ll sew beautifully from here on. I love her so much!

I’m sure there will be more on this lovely gal next Vintage Sunday, as I continue to learn about her and try to find out what year she was made – and hopefully give her a name!