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Oct 13, 2011

The Lure of the "Little"


Friends, why are we humans obsessed with tiny things?   Doll houses, teacup chihuahuas, mini Ipods -- the list goes on and on.  It's not like most of us are living in teensy weensy dorm rooms and couldn't squeeze a full-size chihuahua into it.

Speaking of all things small, I have (once again) done the unthinkable:  I bought another sewing machine -- not to be confused with the Viking that I purchased last week that's supposed to be delivered sometime later today.

And I bought -- if not exactly a tiny sewing machine, a 3/4-sized one.  Want to know which one?  Read on!

Sewers are especially keen on the tiny.  The Singer Featherweight 221 is easily the most-coveted vintage sewing machine ever.  Not a day goes by that there isn't a Featherweight for sale on eBay, and on some days it seems like there's a Featherweight auction ending just about every fifteen minutes.  I resisted purchasing a Featherweight for a very long time.  They seemed too expensive and I couldn't imagine how that little thing could live up to the hype -- until I got one of my very own.



I adore my Featherweight and I use it all the time.  I have plenty of full-size sewing machines but I find this one so easy to set up and use and then to put away when I'm done.  Sure, it's also cute, but that's not what I like most about it.  Despite its diminutive size, it can handle anything I give it.  Its motor is also absolutely silent and it has excellent piercing power.



I also used to own an Elna Grasshopper, one of the first modern portable machines.  I couldn't warm up to it, however, partly because I hated the way the old thing smelled (musty), and also because, while the machine was small(ish), the heavy gunmetal case it came in was big, and had been designed to unfold to create a sewing surface for it.  I never used it that way -- which I suppose would have been handy if you were carrying it into battle -- but it still took up a lot of space and weighed thirty pounds.



Another popular collectible small sewing machine is the Elna Lotus.  I like the sleek lines of this machine, but those fold-down doors look like they'd get in the way.  I've never seen it sell for less than a few hundred dollars, either.  Too expensive for me.



No, friends, the machine I got is a Kenmore.



No, of course it wasn't this Kenmore.  Do you really think I'd buy a petite pink plastic sewing machine for the same money I could buy a vintage metal Kenmore?  The machine I just won this morning on eBay is this -- a Kenmore 158-1040!
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I hate to talk money but I spent less than $100 for this machine (a bit more with shipping) -- in fact, probably less than what a pink plastic Kenmore goes for (if it's still in production).  I'm guessing it will arrive in roughly a week.

Now, I know you're wondering why I even want this machine, since I don't travel with my sewing machines and have been known to turn up my nose at zigzaggers.  I guess for the same reason that I have a collection of Ken dolls:  I like small things.  Being rather small myself, I suppose they make me feel large.  Seriously, I've heard it's a fine machine and probably not a bad investment to boot.

In closing, readers, do you like miniature things?  Do you like them primarily because they're convenient (lighter to carry, easier to store, etc.), or because they're so cute you could just pinch their cheeks if they had any?  If the latter, do you also like doll house furniture, miniature Yorkies, and finger puppets?  (Have I left out anything?  Porcelain pigs?)

Do you think the cult of the small sewing machine has gone too far?  Have you ever actually seen somebody quilt with one?  I wonder if anybody really does.

Hey, have you heard about the new Singer "Limited Edition" Featherweight? (The 160, in honor of Singer's 160th Anniversary, and already available in -- I'm feeling faint -- Australia.)   What do you think?  Could this (computerized?) Singer be a Featherweight-quality machine?

Maybe they'll send me one to test!  (Are you out there, Singer people?)


Jump in!

29 comments:

  1. I think a smaller machine would be adorable, but not enough to want one for myself. Little collectables don't appeal to me because I have enough clutter without adding collections of things to it.

    I do love the patterned case for your new Kenmore. It's a nice detail.

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  2. that modern singer featherweight just made me recoil in horror. i have seen some ugly machines in my time, but damn... that is an ugly machine.

    your new kenmore is cute!! what a pretty case!

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  3. i'm very fond of my featherweight--exactly like you say. it's small, it sews amazingly well, and it's actually portable. i expect they're lovely for piecing quilts just as they are lovely for making garments.

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  4. Oh so cute!

    But I'm not big into little except where it makes sense (Ipod nano is easier to clip on clothing while running, netbook is easily transported, ...) But then again, I'm tall and always wishing for more leg room. So, I wonder if it really is a matter of perspective.

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  5. I am a sucker for little things. I have a Featherweight, but it was my mom's and I learned to sew on it. I love its compactness. It will always be the most comfortable machine for me to use. I think they should leave well enough alone. You can't bring it back.
    As for dogs, I love those little ones, but I have a lab. (Family and lifestyle won on that one.)

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  6. I have the Featherweight, Kenmore 1030 ( gave my 1040 to my niece), and the Lotus SP. I scored the Kenmore and the Lotus for $25 each. I love the small ones! They store pretty easily and if I go somewhere they are easy to carry. They are also just good machines. The new FW is kind of ugly I think. I prefer the good old, sturdy metal one.

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  7. Kerri, if you weren't such a sweet person I might resent you for that. $25!

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  8. I'm too much of a big oaf with clumsy hands and bad eyes to use a small machine. I even have trouble managing my full size modern Singer.
    But I dearly love me a tiny puppydog. I had a yorkie and a toy poodle for a time, then jumped way up the size scale to a skye terrier, and now have chihuahua-cairn mixes at about 13 lbs. Mid-size!

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  9. Oh...I am not liking the Singer 160...small but not that cute at all. I like my featherweight. Maybe I'll take it out for a spin tonight!

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  10. If I had a few hundred bucks to burn, and more time to use it, I would buy a Featherweight. They look so cool. However, I already have three sewing machines (a recent Kenmore, a Brother serger, and a 1952 Montgomery Ward that needs work) and more than enough clutter. So, not right now.

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  11. I forgot everything you said before when I read about the new Singer 160 & seeing the photo.... Would love to have it! This is the first I heard about it - how's that possible! Thanks & Happy Trails!

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  12. That new Singer is hideous! The push-button aspect makes me think 1960s, why computerize the thing? There are plenty of vintage machines to go around, really!

    My favorite little thing is my lap cat :D

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  13. I adore my Kenmore 158.1030 with the same rose-embossed case! My husband spotted it in a great big huge pile of ex-house stuff at night in the dark while we were driving around the neighborhood looking for, ummm, well, never mind, but obviously we found it. LOL

    I use it as my muslin machine so that it gets regular use. It may be 3/4 size, but being all metal, it weighs at least as much as my Viking 350.

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  14. Peter, this post is like a thorn in my side...*sigh* i've lost two featherweight 222 ebay auctions in the last two weeks. There's a 221 at a local antique deal; it's beautiful but way over priced at $599 - i really want the 222 so i've resisted even haggling.

    When will the ebay gods deliver a 222 to my door??? *sigh*

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  15. I learned to sew on my mom's Featherweight, and got to borrow a Lotus for a year. The Lotus is awesome--it does beautiful buttonholes, zigzag and straight stitch but you do have to get used to the flaps. I loved it & hope to have one of my own someday. In general, too small a machine is cramped and the machine bounces or walks; so I wouldn't go smaller than these. But for a long trip or a year away (husband's sabbatical), it was a lifesaver, easy to carry, pack, and set up. Kristina in Ohio

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  16. Long-awaited Singer Genie for $20 on Craigslist last year...Yellow and orange flowers on the front and hand wheel, beautiful stitch (last Singer made in France from what I understand), vintage buttonholer fits perfectly, 3/4 size, Machine #4 but it's so cute and little I had to have it.
    Gail

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  17. Forget the machine - I'd buy this for the cute carry case ;)
    (Please forgive me - I have my Mum's old Elna Supermatic, which has a very utilitarian kitchen green one!)

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  18. I always forget about my Featherweight and should use it more regularly. I love that machine. It belonged to my grandmother and she used it to sew most of her own clothes, clothes for my dad and uncle as children and later for her grandchildren.

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  19. I've never sewn on a miniature sewing machine, but I'd have a hard time turning one down if I saw it in person. As for dollhouse miniatures, let's just say I could start my own tourist attraction.

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  20. There is an industrial dealer not too far from me who has a small collection of miniature and toy sewing machines on display and they are adorable! The next time I need de-mineralizer I should take some photos. Featherweights are pretty and I'll take a vintage industrial machine instead any day, but I have the space for one too.

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  21. and what's wrong with Australia that it makes you faint?
    The latest (BIG) Janome (12000) was released last month in the US, and I've yet to see one here in Oz :-( I was told in the shop the other day that there are only two here (whether that means in the whole of Australia or just in Melbourne I'm not sure).

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  22. I also learned to sew on my mom's Featherweight (which is now mine), and love that machine. It could sew through rocks, I'd bet. And its buttonholes are the best ... I have a computerized machine now, but still haul out the Featherweight for buttonholes. And yes, it's great for taking to classes, as long as you don't mind people offering you cash for it when they see it, lol.

    The new Featherweight is a horror. Singer should have rung up Jony Ive at Apple; he would have designed a modern Featherweight that paid homage to the original without looking like a mutant princess phone.

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  23. Cute new machine Peter! No, I'm not much into miniatures currently. I have a few books on how to make miniature items, but so far have had the sense not to actually start any projects.

    The new "featherweight" - no, not for me. There's just something about the styling that seems a bit off. I can see how they tried to pay homage to the original with the swoop up by the needle. But it looks...bulky. And that paint on the extension table will most likely wear off if used much. It may very well be a fine machine for sewing, but...no. Just no. Your new little Kenmore is way cuter.

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  24. I have two Featherweights-- one I bought at an antique store as it came in (no restoration) and I fixed it up myself. It cost $300 and it's in perfect condition. My other Featherweight belonged to the mother of a friend and he gave it to me (though I offered to buy it) because he wanted it to go to someone who would sew with it. I love both machines.

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  25. I'm also a fan of small machines and I have several. You are going to love the 1040; it's a great performing machine, small (though heavy!) and easy to schlep around.

    I often think I could go through my whole sewing life with just my Featherweight and 1040. But I like machines too much, so I won't.

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  26. Small machines are quite adorable - I have often been tempted to get one so that I can take it with me on road trips and sew when I have a spare moment, but alas... I realize there probably wouldn't be enough time on a trip to actually sew. At home, it's a space issue. With my Singer machine and a serger, I already find myself running out of space...

    Check out my most recent post on sewing with Sweater Knit fabric: thelittleironpress.blogspot.com

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  27. Love the little dog in the soda cup! Otherwise, I've given up all the teeny tiny things I've had except for the Irish Beleek Doll's Tea Set that was my grandmother's.

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  28. Yes. Oh I wish these werw available when I was young. !

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  29. I learned to sew on my mother's Elna I forget which model and my grandmother's Elna Grasshopper- it did have a heavy case although I don't remember using it opened up all the way like your picture shows. But Elnas are great machines I wish now I'd taken that Elna Grasshopper in 87 after my grandmother passed away. I have a Kenmore but I don't think it sews quite as well.

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