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Jan 22, 2013

Singer Featherweight -- the big REVEAL!



Friends, who knew that USPS makes parcel deliveries on a national holiday?  I wasn't expecting this on MLK Day (i.e., Monday), but was delighted to receive it.  I'm glad I was home!

The seller had done an excellent job packing it: plenty of tape, styrofoam peanuts, and bubble wrap.  It shipped from Georgia.









Cosmetically, the case looked very good and the machine was nearly perfect.  As you can see, it's not really white but rather a very pale green.  Lovely.

Most of the original accessories were included, along with an extra light bulb, an extra zipper foot, vintage Singer needles, and an unopened plastic tube of Singer sewing machine oil.  There were also some newer tools: a cool screwdriver with changeable heads, cheap scissors, and a seam ripper.  My hunch is that this sewing machine was hardly used by the original owner but had changed hands at least once since then. 



Mechanically the machine had problems, none of them major, but there were a lot of them. Whoever used this machine last didn't know what they were doing and could not have sewn with it successfully.

1) First, the needle had been installed backwards.  An easy fix.

2) Next, the numbered needle plate had been screwed on wrong in relation to the rotating hook assembly, which caused the feed dogs to hit the needle plate as they rotated.

3) The hook assembly itself was put together wrong, so the needle didn't pick up the bobbin thread but rather hit the hook itself.  Dismantling the assembly also revealed a knotty nest of old thread. 



I am fortunate to already own two black featherweights in excellent working condition, so I was able to compare the correct position of all the parts (the manual doesn't go into great detail) and adjust them on the new machine.

4) Meanwhile, the outer spring in the tension assembly (the one the thread yanks as the machine sews) was on the wrong side (see below).   I had to dismantle the tension assembly, rotate the spring, and reassemble it.





5) Finally, the old light bulb (which for all I know was the original) blew as soon as I turned it on, and I discovered that the glass had separated from its metal base.  I had to use needle nose pliers to remove the base and then install a new bulb.





Fortunately the motor sounded fine and the belt was in decent shape, if a bit dry.  I'll replace that eventually.  Inside and out, all was pristine.  I oiled the innards generously.  Hours later, it was working at last.

And how does it sew?  Like a champ.





Here's one very visible difference between the black and white featherweights: look how much shorter the fold-down bed is on the white machine.  And no decals.



So is there a qualitative difference between these two machines?  As a few MPB readers who've used both models have commented, the black machines tend to run slightly smoother and more quietly.  The white featherweight is hardly clunky, but it doesn't feel or sound quite as refined as my two black ones.  That said, it's a gorgeous machine and I'm happy to have it.  And I intend to use it!

I'll make a better video down the line, but I wanted to let you see it in action.



In closing, I'd say I was lucky: I had just enough knowledge of featherweights to be able to repair what needed repairing.  It's always a good idea to get detailed information from the seller on the exact condition of the machine ("It works" does not really say much.).  Also, a stitch sample.

It's nice when things work out, but like I always say, caveat emptor!

You can see more photos of the machine and its accessories here.

Have a great day, everybody!

35 comments:

  1. Beautiful little machine. I love it when unused/unloved sewing machines find good owners!

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  2. very nice...i'm trying very hard not to be envious...it's difficult haha

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  3. Congratulations Peter! You scored a very nice "white" FW.

    And good job on the mechanical fixes. You are a good technician! If you ever need a part-time job fixing machines, let me know!

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  4. Oh very pretty. Funny how exotic the white Singer looks when most machines are white nowadays! Good mechanical job too.

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  5. It looks lovely. I enjoyed reading all your fixes and I'm glad it turned out to work well in the end.

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  6. Stunning. SO jealous. Congrats! And thanks for sharing!

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  7. Luv your video! Now I'm paler shade of envy.

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  8. That is a beautiful machine! I wonder why they would have shortened the front fold-dwon bed for the white? Still amazing though!

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  9. Have you ever had to get replacement parts for the featherweights and do you know if they are as good quality as original parts?

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    1. My hunch is that most are not (like bobbin cases). On eBay one can usually find originals for sale/at auction.

      When I needed a new hook assembly for my first featherweight, I found a vintage one on eBay.

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    2. Some of the "Consumeable" parts are available new. Except for genuine Singer belts, the parts are not the quality of the original ones.

      Beware of a new bobbin case. None of the replacements are made by Singer. There are reports that the cheaper $65 does not fit well and can cause jamming and thread nests. I've had good luck with the $100 version.

      If you enjoy the hunt and can wait to find it, buying a good quality "old" part, even if used, is often better than buying new.

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  10. It looks totally cool! Great find.

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  11. Congratulations, Peter. I hope you get as many hours of pleasure as I'm getting from mine. They are a pleasure to sew on. Just so gleaming greenish-white. Lane

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  12. Well done, Peter! I'm glad you are so savvy that you were able to fix it. It is a lovely machine. I wish you many happy sewing hours with your new toy. (And who knew you had such a sexy voice!)

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  13. I learned to sew on one of the black featherweights. It had been my mom's since the dawn of time. Many many hours were spent sewing with that. I even took it to college with me for a while and sewed recreationally and occasionally making some money with it. When my mom died, I sold that machine at a garage sale. It broke my heart to even look at it. Sewing was really the only thing my mom and I shared that was ok.

    When Mom died, I threw out all of my sewing stuff including my Kenomore.

    But two summers ago, my daughters gave me a lovely little Brother and I'm sewing again. And I have discovered this amazing new aspect of the Blog!

    I guess, Peter, I'm saying thank you for being part of my renaissance.

    ps: you don't even want to know what I did with her dress patterns.

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    1. I'm envisioning decoupage lunchboxes. ;)

      Glad to hear you're sewing again!

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  14. Congratulations on that beautiful find and getting it in working order. Wishing you many happy sewing projects with it...

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  15. I'm so glad that the machine was so easily fixed, and I for one feel better that your beautiful little featherweight has regained the ranks of working machines.

    My two black featherweights also have shorter beds on them. It hasn't been a problem for piecing, though if I were quilting on them, I'd probably buy a lucite table to give me a larger working surface.

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  16. Congrats Peter! The little "white" is lovely, but I still preffer the black ones! I also bought several times sewing machines with small problems and repair them by myself. It is kind of fun, but risky specially if there are parts to be replaced.

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  17. Looks cute. Nicer than the black ones. Have you allready found this site?
    http://thefeatherweight221factory.com/page7.php
    There is a free service manual. Might be helpful some time.
    At least, I found a service manual very useful for setting up my old Pfaff 138.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Felix. Those are wonderful resources!

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  18. It's gorgeous! I love the case and the color. You did quite a bit of repair work on it. Very impressive!

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  19. I just watched the video, and I have to say, I love the sound of those old machines.....it's a very comforting sound.

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  20. Great post. I stumbled into a 1964 white that needed cleaning oiling for$20. She is humming now ,but came minus a bobbin and bobbin casing ..so on the hunt for one.. It's so great to get these older machines running again.. The stories the could tell..Enjoy your new feather weight...

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  21. Swoon, swoon, swoon. I have lusted after one of these for some time! Thanks for sharing!

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  22. Another resource for Featherweight parts
    http://pages.suddenlink.net/joyof301s/glenn.htm

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  23. The packing job does indeed look very decent. There is only one thing I'd change, and it's something I do whenever shipping an appliance.

    The appliance should be wrapped up in a large plastic bag, like a garbage or lawn 'n leaf bag, before the Styrofoam peanuts go in. Squeeze the air out and wrap tape around it to hold the bag in place. Close the end of the bag securely.

    This prevents bits of Styrofoam from getting into the innards of the appliance, where they can be anywhere from annoying to remove to downright damaging.

    You have not lived until you've tried to get Styro-dust out of a sewing machine's mechanism!

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  24. Véronique in MontréalJanuary 22, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    Thanks for the photos Peter, it's just like we were unwrapping it ourselves!

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  25. I might be in the minority but I love the cluncking sound of old sewing machines. I have a modern machine because I need one for the things that I make, but just for straight stitching I will use my other vintage machine. It makes a lovely sound. Of course everyone in the house complains about the noise because it is so loud.
    I don't know much about Featherweights but it looks lovely. You sure know where to go to get good deals.

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  26. That pale minty color really suits you! Is it your considered Color Me Beautiful opinion that we should coordinate our sewing machine with our personal color palette? If so, this is a major step forward for you. I can see why you broke out of your sewing machine purchasing moratorium for this little sweetie. It's lovely.

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  27. Nice find! I have the same multi-head screwdriver and love it. Very useful for sewing and electronics.

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  28. So lovely! I just bought one from eBay, and it's in perfect condition. Do you find that the white Featherweight motor sounds a lot more "whiney" and not so quiet and sturdy as the black?

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    Replies
    1. My white featherweight is a bit more "whiney" but definitely sturdy. Still a fine machine!

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