Friday, June 9, 2017

Singer Featherweight Love #1

This is the first in an installment of five, maybe more, posts on vintage Singer sewing machines.  You may recall from this post that in finally actively pursuing my long-held desire to own a Featherweight after seeing Paula Nadelstern's in her tiny NYC apartment, that I inadvertently am now the owner of 4 more vintage Singer machines. I already was the proud, albeit a bit ashamed owner (I still haven't taken the time to get her up and running) of my grandma's treadle machine.
Here you see the three of the four gals that now belong to me, in various stages of their spa treatments.

I have long wanted a Featherweight, but, like my eldest then 18-year-old daughter, who said, "Nuh-uh I am not going to post-secondary schooling.  Ever," and expected the workforce headhunters to come knocking on our door begging her to work full-time for them, I kind of thought a Featherweight would come to me.

Note two things: 1. that said daughter has held down a job since shortly after that first few months, multiple jobs at a time, and currently has an excellent position despite the drastic swing in the oil patch economy of Alberta (where her main job is).  So advice to those anxious mums of 18-year-olds who announce similar obstinate plans, don't fret; let her figure out her own way.  And her way might be pretty damn fabulous.

2. that said Featherweight, well one of the two, ha, did kind of knock on my door.  And it is pretty damn fabulous.

Introducing. . .
I've since learned that you get a better stitch (and I dunno but it was pretty darn perfect here) using a thread guide since the machines were not designed to work with today's cross-wound spools like this Gütermann.)
aka Tillie for short. 😉 I got her on that trip to Tillsonburg (get the significance of her name now?) at the end of April.  When I couldn't get a response from Featherweight #1, which was for sale locally at a great price, I decided to look around the London area, and that was when this particular one seemed interesting, and the lady selling it responded very quickly.  What to do, what to do... Well, as you know from the Minestrone post, MacGyver and I spent a lovely day driving up to Tillsonburg and meeting up with Cindy and her husband.  And also buying this machine, despite having in the meantime made arrangements to take a look at #1.

The story is that a sweet man named Jim acquired a few of these, so I had to choose from two... and had pretty much made up my mind when he brought out a third, and then... he showed me one that his wife said she wasn't allowed to use (not sure if she was serious or joking), a 222 free arm!! Nope it wasn't for sale and nope, I had no hope of leaving my name for the day they decided they no longer wanted it; their daughter would get it one day. 😔

As you can see, she's pretty shiny. Jim had her cleaned up pretty good, but I found some terrific sites and YouTube channels that helped me give her a total spa treatment.

This is one. I especially appreciated the clear photos of orange-painted spots to oil.  The manual does not have the greatest of diagrams!
The Singer Featherweight Shop Blog

I also appreciated having a MacGyver for a husband who helped me along the way.  He's such a gearhead and, I think, was more excited than I was when opening Mathilda up and seeing her gears, and then greasing them. He applied grease while I slowly hand-cranked so it evenly coated everything.  I would have had no idea how much to put on or exactly how to do it!  He it was who went first to his 'tickle trunk' and got me some silver wadding polish, 'Nevr-Dull' which he uses on the chrome on old cars, along with a soft microfibre cloth, which is just peeking into the photo on the right side.

He then hopped in the SUV and went and got me the white lithium grease for the gears, and Silvo for more work on the faceplates (remember I was giving 3 girls their spa day).  The 'Nevr-Dull' is a cotton wool product that really worked well to remove any tarnish and grime remaining on the faceplate.  I must admit that it is pretty gratifying, and a self-esteem boost for me to be doing mechanical care of this nature!  I am very particular about regularly cleaning and oiling of my Bernina and Elna, but this is a bit more involved.

Lara of Buzzin' Bumble sent me excellent information a while back when I'd talked to her about getting my grandma's treadle up and running.  She spoke highly of Nova Montgomery and her products and advice.  I cleaned both Featherweights' bobbin cases according to Nova's advice I found on her YouTube video: by soaking them in kerosene! I also got my plastic wire brush and removed the throat plate, which Jim had had laser-etched with a seam guide, brushed her out in there and on the feed dogs, and then flipped her on her back (gently, of course), undid the nut and removed the bottom plate and cardboard, and gave her a brushing in her innards (sounds a bit rude doesn't it?! Just think of it as giving her a Brazilian LOL), put her back together and brushed out the bobbin area too.  It was amazing how much more lint I removed, but that's the nature of the cotton threads and cotton fabric we sew with.  Judging by the 3 half-full bobbins that came with Mathilda, Jim's wife had been sewing on her a fair bit!  Which is terrific.  These machines need to be used!  Here is a little video of Mathilda and I working on the 'Welcome to Canada' quilt:

Doesn't she just purr?

I am undecided as to whether or not to purchase a 1/4" foot for the Featherweight; I do have the guide but it seems a tad healthy of a 1/4" and I prefer a scant one, especially as I like to press my seams to the side.

Mathilda came with her original case, inside of which were lots of goodies:
It's in excellent shape, and came with not one but two keys, and a buttonholer. Yep you can use it with a Featherweight; see this link.

Inside the case of the other Featherweight that Jim and his wife had was this vintage tube of motor grease! He let me have it, but don't worry; I won't be actually using it as grease of that age is no longer any good.  
Do you spy a walking foot?? From 1951?! Suh-weet! I thought, but upon Googling this with its part number, I discovered it is a blind stitch attachment.  I might give it a try for quilting regardless.

I tried to get the light to shine on the beautiful patterned liner inside the case.  I think you get the idea.

As I learn and discover more about the care, use and maintenance of these lovely vintage machines, I will let you know.  There is a wealth of online information out there.  I have started a Vintage Singer Sewing Machines page where I will link to my Singer posts as well as list useful sources of information. I haven't published it yet, hoping to get a little more information on it. Maybe this weekend.

Yet another fascinating thing has happened both through my blog, as well as through teaching yoga which makes me so deeply happy.  One of my yoga students told me that she has recently taken up quilting.  She noticed my small quilts I use as sit-upons, my yoga mat bag, and the various quilted totes I use to cart my stuff around to class. She's a little bit older than me, so see? We are never too old to learn new things, improve ourselves both physically and mentally.  We got to talking after yoga one day, and exchanged emails.  She went on my blog.  Well, she read it in its entirety!  And then sent me such a lovely heartfelt email about it.  And then she sent me a second email--!

This is her girlie!  After reading about my ownership of now five vintage Singers, she told me she had inherited her MIL's 1948 Featherweight, and she sent me these photos!  She thinks she will call her Mary after her MIL. 😀  She's needing to give Mary a little spa treatment too, with help from her husband (I'm finding guys really love these little gems) and is super-excited to get her up and running. Thanks so much Connie, for letting me show off your girl here, as well as for reading this blog and just being a quilty yogi, good-hearted kind person to share all this with me.  I need to dwell on these joyful occurrences and not ever let any nasty occurrences affect the writing of, and the sharing of photos of my life here in our new home.  Generally, QBL and quilters especially are such kind generous souls; I've said it time and again, seen it, lived it. Dwell on all the goodness brought to me with this blog, right? Right!

Linking up
Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Busy Hands Quilts


  1. I learnt to sew on a Singer treadle machine, set in one of those beautiful tables with 3 tiny drawers either side. The blind stitch foot, I use that to sew along the flange on a binding, it guides so evenly, the only hard part is when I get to the corner and have to match the flanges. A pin at the "stop" spot works well.What delights to have vintage machines like these, they all have a special place in today's very busy and very modern sewing world. And Connie's so tiny one, a real sweetie.

  2. I do remember our Grandma's sewing machine, as I said before. It always sat in the kitchen. I wonder when the last time was that she'd used it?

  3. I have the Featherweight my mother learned to sew on, and still bring her out to sew occasionally. I also have a 99, a 115, a Singer treadle machine, an old hand crank (I don't remember the manufacturer), my pretty jade green Singer that I bought last year in Paducah.... OK, I have a problem!

  4. It sounds like you're having a grand old time with your new machines. I have my eye on my great-grandma's treadle, which apparently sat in my grandmother's sewing room though I don't remember it, and currently lives with my brother. He has more room for it than I do, so that's OK, as long as it doesn't go elsewhere!

  5. What a beautiful post... So wonderful to see vintage machines being cared for and used😀 what memories they must have, how many miles have they sewn...and lucky you having such a handy hubby 😊

    Love and hugs from across the water xxx

  6. And yes also, to the love of the crafting community and the way in which is connected people from all over the world. The innate kindness of people is the thing I most appreciate about this community. The sharing, teaching and helping others to achieve is wonderful. Xxx

  7. And yes also, to the love of the crafting community and the way in which is connected people from all over the world. The innate kindness of people is the thing I most appreciate about this community. The sharing, teaching and helping others to achieve is wonderful. Xxx

  8. Love the vintage machines!!! I have been gathering my supplies to give mine her spa day. Still have to get her a new belt. And yes the QBL is extraordinary!

  9. It wasn't a Featherweight, but I would dearly love to know whatever happened to my mother's Singer. My dad remarried after she died and I guess it just disappeared into the ether. Nothing nefarious, just the new wife didn't sew and I suppose it was just considered superfluous.

  10. How exciting!! Congrats on the purchase. Someday, I hope to own one.

  11. What a bounty of vintage machines. I have one Featherweight purchased by DH and one heavy weight that my mom got used when I was in elementary school. Have you bought a new bobbin case for any of yours? I'm thinking of getting one as mine still has a bit of rust and icky stuff on it.

  12. I love FW too (I have three of these: 2 black and one white!)

  13. Sweet machine! Thanks for linking to Finished or Not Friday!