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Mar 30, 2011

Photo Album 2...and the Featherweight arrives!

More pics from the magical mystery photo album -- and so much more, my friends.  But first...

Who wants a Tom Collins?

Belly up to the (home) bar, boys!

Just three more drinks till dinner, hon.

Ray-Bans, madras shorts, chinos...

Grammy seeks a quick exit.

Don't eat the fruit, Bunny...

Happy Birthday, Chip!

Lots more fun pics of the life I'll never have but at least someone did here.

In other news...the Featherweight arrived yesterday!

Carrying case intact though a little beat up, as expected.  The inside is a bit moldy looking (and smelling).

And there she is.

Not for the first time with a vintage machine, I turn her on, she runs and then immediately seizes up.

I take off her hand wheel and find decrepit thread wound around the shaft.

Under the throat plate, ancient mystery lint.

I'm not entirely sure I understand how to thread her, friends, though I DO have the manual.  I did get her to sew a bit (with a fresh needle)

But then the top thread would get tangled up below.  Here one possible cause:

The hook is loose.  Do you see how it comes off that little protruding doohickey on the left?  I don't have the correct screwdriver for this so I'll have to pick one up later today if possible.

The good: her motor sounds fantastic -- strong and quiet -- and when I run her with no thread she's smooth as can be.   I'll need to tighten up that hook (I might disassemble the shuttle race first)  and take it from there.

This is the first time I've bought a used sewing machine and not been able to sew with her right off the bat -- disappointing, but I suppose it builds character.  The seller said she sews and that's factually true but there's no way, judging from the condition she arrived in, that she was fully tested.  They probably turned the light on, revved the motor, and called it a day.  

I'm glad to have her, though, and eager to get her sewing.  Now about the smell...  (Haven't we been down this road before?)

Happy Wednesday, everybody!  Any Featherweight fans out there?

What are you having?


  1. I have a Featherweight as well and I have found the following site to be a great resource, especially the post on how to adjust bobbin tension. Check it out.

  2. That photo album is a goldmine! Seriously, people that glamorous exist/ed? Excited for you about the Featherweight. Looking forward to your honest opinion. I have not fully lusted after one partly because it seems a bit 'me too' and also because they seemed a real quilter's thing, and I'm no quilter. But I could be persuaded....

  3. mmmm Antique sewing machines - I was hooked on them for a while - I learned never to run the machine until it had been cleaned and oiled - sometimes that's all it needs to get it going but it's really hard not to want to just try it out straight away. Love the old photo's.

  4. Peter - You will have to fiddle under the machine to take the whole bobbin zone out. Looking at your pics, it's probably super gross under there....
    You need a very small thin long screwdriver. You will be loosening the "zone" from the shaft and this involves two screws(freaking tiny). Both must be loosened, NOT REMOVED! If you want to take one out, that's okay, but not both. Just know that one of them hits on the flat part of the shaft, and that is crucial. This makes sense to me - maybe not you? :)
    I have the FW repair manual. I could send you pics if need be
    XO- raven

  5. Oooh! thanks for this... My featherweight seized up too the moment I started her but I put her back in the box for another day .. now I shall investigate further. :)


  6. I learned to sew on my mom's Featherweight (which is now mine, bwah ha ha!). Great machine--it would probably sew through rocks. Oh, and that funny metal doohickey in the lid of the case is where you slide the foot pedal for storage (the bottom of it slides right onto the metal thing). Have fun--once you get it cleaned up, you'll love the machine ;-)

  7. I could look at these photos all day long. I love the one with Granny on the boat. How daring of her. It looks like one quick turn of the boat and she would be in the water.

  8. I'm not sure that isn't exactly what happened. She never appears again!

  9. I actually have an appointment to test drive two featherweights tomorrow -- part of an estate sale. Can hardly wait.... As for the photo album: what a goldmine, a creative writer's dream!

  10. I have a Featherweight and I LOOOVE it. I take my machine to a guy a few hours away for service and all he does is work with Featherweights. I know you're in NY and I'm in NC but he's always super-nice and answers all of my questions. He may be worth a ring-a-ding!

  11. So now you're part of the FW group! It's a nice looking machine but a bit dirty isn't it? I had to take off the bobbin hook and bobbin case base on mine to clean and pick a twisted thread out from behind that area -- it took tweezers to get it. The 301 which has the same bobbin set up was the same. It was frozen in place and took a good cleaning and oiling. I try and start with the simple and move on -- in other words, don't take it apart if you don't have to.

    Good luck on the smelly case. I vacuumed mine, set it out in the sun every morning for a week (UV is supposed to kill some molds), put wadded up newspaper in it, put baking soda in it, vacuumed again, and then tried cat litter and another vacuuming. It still has a smell. Fortunately the smell is more of a "stored in the attic" smell rather than the more pungent "stored in a wet basement" mold. I refuse to use chemicals in it. I made a dust cover for my FW and leave it out sometimes if I don't feel like fooling with the case.

  12. I absolutely love the photos and the fantasy life they depict. I guess some people really *do* live the life. I'm loving the white, red and black graphic plaid dress on Grandmama (I'm sure she was never called anything as pedestrian as Granny).

    I learned to sew on my mother's Featherweight back in the '70s, and used it until I got my own machine as a high school graduation present (a crappy Kenmore that I have since donated). Mom has retired, and I know she still has the FW stored in the basement at home....this warrants a scrounge around on my next visit. She made wonderful clothes and gowns for formal dances back in the mid '60s which we kids used to later use for dress-up. How I wish we had kept some of them.

  13. Love my Featherweight too. It's a great little machine with a great straight stitch. They must all have spent time in the same musty place, because mine is a little basementy smelling too.

  14. WRT the thread tangling ... I think the thread goes from side to side (not front to back as on some other machines). If you thread it in the wrong direction, the thread will tangle. I think it goes from inside to out, but I don't remember for sure. My strategy has been to thread it & if the thread breaks, thread it the other way. :-)



    this book will help you with your machine. I have it and it's fab!

    congrats! I love my fw!!

  16. My FW (which works) is in about the same cosmetic condition as yours, which is just fine with me because it means I don't have to worry about any new scratches I add to it. The stinky case is a common thing with these - I've read that it's the glue holding the lining which caused the mold/stink. The mold may be long gone but the smell remains forever, being apparently near impossible to get rid of.

  17. Love the pictures and the news on the FW. I learned to sew at 4H on a set of FWs, my mom's included. I now have it, as well as the 237 fashion mate I bought with babysitting money in 1971. Both are working great. My FW has a distinctive smell, but not really unpleasant. When I open the case I get great memories of sewing with every wiff.

  18. Congrats on your Featherweight! The strong smell gets better with some cleaning, some fresh air and sunshine... but it never really desappears. You muss thread it (the needle) from inside out. Use the needle in the correct position for this purpose.

    I love to sew with my Featherweight! It is soo soft and quiet! It is also much fun to collect all little original attachments that go with it! I have the basic attachment set, some fancy rare feet: the free-motion foot and an zigzag foot, which is very small and does not schatch the machine bed.

  19. Count me in as a Featherweight fan as well. Sometimes it's just the machine that you want to sew on; quiet, fast and an excellent stitch quality. I'm not a quilter, either, but I've never had a problem sewing any garment on my Featherweight.

    The little crescent-shaped part which is awry on your FW is called the gib. It's attached by that one little screw which is *very* easy to lose; be careful removing it. The FW came with a little screwdriver just the right size for this; if you don't have it, the screwdriver from a 'fix your own glasses' kit will work as well. It looks like it just needs to be taken off, cleaned well and re-positioned on the little pin.

    Your case is a little rough but looks sound. Glue down any cover bits that have come up and give it a couple of coats of Kiwi Scuff Kote shoe polish; you'll be surprised how good that can make it look.

    Congrats on your new acquisition!

  20. I am a HUGE Featherweight fan!! My mother has my grandmother's machine and I sew on one from 1946 (it was my husband's grandmother's). They are light, durable, reliable, and fun to use. I love mine and I know you'll love yours, especially once you get her cleaned up. :)

  21. My parents had (and still have) a wooden fruit display like that too, but our pineapple is much cooler! Also love the matching curtains and sofa cushions in that same photo!

  22. Yeah the curtain and cushion combo is to die from xD.... Peter, Have fun bathing the baby!

  23. About the FW case, I think I would shoe polish it the way that was suggested and then store some dried lemon peels in it for years. Sew up a little net bag from that crinoline material and hang it in there with dried lemon peels. Just do it for the rest of the life of the FW. Eventually you will be happy. As far as the FW, my mother had one. We were an army family and everything we owned fitted into two footlockers and she had a FW in there too. Most of our clothes were made on that until she replaced it in the 60s. Did I tell you my mother was insane???

  24. I am becoming more and more enamored with the idea of buying a Featherweight. They have so much more style than current machines, and seem to be so much more reliable. My machine is a 5 or so year old Kenmore that has never given me any trouble, but I feel the need for a back up machine, just in case. The only other sewing machine I have had is a White from the 90s that was my mother's. It gave me nothing but trouble, so despite my happiness with my Kenmore, I am wary of modern machines.

  25. Last Saturday I bought a sewing machine that looks exactly like yours only it is not a Singer but a Mal's Mini Classic. The seller wanted twenty, I offered fifteen and it was mine, case and all. Before I could get it home, someone offered me one hundred dollars for it. When I refused the offer, he raised it to one hundred thirty! Since I had not bought it as an investment to sell but rather use, I was not going to sell it on the spot. When I got home, I looked on line and saw one had recently sold for almost three hundred dollars. By the way, my case is in perfect condition and does not smell. I tried the machine and it works - the fastest machine I have ever used. I am certainly going to follow this post. What am I saying? I love all your posts, Peter. I am also thrilled that yard sale season has begun. Mimi

  26. My Featherweight came in a moldy case, it was not good. It was past fixing so I took all the fabric off and the top fell apart into 3 pieces and I think the bottom into 2. I glued it together, sanded it and refinished it. I put new fabric lining on in the inside and spray painted the metal tray and oil holder. It looks great! My sewing machine repair guy friend really liked it and it going to do it to one of his bad cases. Other people have done this also. I don't have much smell now either. I put a little fabric bag of potpourri in it too. Oh and when I store my FW I have a piece of felt that I put under the presser foot (foot down) and over the bed extension so when the machine is folded up the screw doesn't ding the bed.

  27. Oh, how exciting! I absolutely adore Singer Featherweights, but a real lady never divulges how many she owns. ;)

  28. Just wanted to pop in & tell you that I am enjoying the photo album - I see I am not alone...Keep up the good work!

  29. I love my featherweight and do everything on it. Tiny, sturdy, quiet and the light is in just the right place. The only problem is the mildy stinky case...

  30. My cap is off to you! I have a pair Singer Creative Touch 1030/1036 machines. That is as much vintage as I'm ever going to work with.

  31. I know you'll get that FW purring along very soon! As for the case, I believe that FW expert David McCallum's approach is the best method for successfully eliminating the smell. Good luck!

    "To eliminate the moldy smell, the mold organisms must be exterminated. David McCallum says heat is the best way to accomplish this. He uses a mechanic's trouble light with a 150-watt incandescent light bulb. Place the bulb in the case and close the lid as far as possible. Safety is an important consideration since the light bulb could scorch the case if it touches its surface, so check frequently during the 8 or so hours it takes to eliminate the mold."

    Read more at Suite101: Restore a Featherweight 221 Case: Broken Hardware, Bad Smells, Torn Covering Can All Be Fixed


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