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.
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.
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!