Friday, April 26, 2013

This Is Not My Featherweight... But It Should Be!

Quilty Joy: Someone Else's Featherweight
I got sucked down a black hole of Featherweight obsession this week, and I can't even remember what set it off.  I found this gorgeous image on Pinterest (another time-sucking black hole of Internet temptation and delight), which sources back to a post on a blog entitled Anyone Can Quilt here.  Look carefully at that picture, and what do you see?  A modern, snazzy Bernina in the background.  Which just proves that I'm not the only Thoroughly Modern Quilter who has been bitten by the Bewitching Featherweight Bug.

She was introduced at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933.  She was one of the first truly portable sewing machines, weighing in at approximately 11 pounds due to the use of some aluminum instead of the cast iron of other sewing machines at that time.  She was perfectly balanced, sewed a beautiful straight stitch and was sold until about 1970, when home sewers demanded zigzag machines and the built-to-last-generations Featherweight was no longer cost-effective to manufacture.  Probably the single most popular sewing machine of all time, over 3 million Featherweights were sold between 1933 and 1970, and quite a few of them are still around, sewing just as beautifully as the day they were made.  Quilters rediscovered this little gem of a machine in the 1990s -- they are perfect for piecing quilt tops, which only requires a straight stitch anyway, and the Featherweight is small and light enough to bring to classes, guild meetings or retreats.  A Featherweight is quite the conversation piece, and they are just plain GORGEOUS.

Do I need one?  Of course not.  Do I want one?  Duh...  And am I going to get one?  Oh, it's just a matter of time...

Immaculate Pre-War Featherweight with Scrolled Faceplate and Chrome Handwheel
I am in Research Mode right now.  I downloaded the Kindle version of Featherweight 221: The Perfect Portable and its Stitches Across History, by Nancy Johnson-Srebro, from Amazon and have been reading it on my iPad.  I've learned that nowhere on any of these machines does it actually SAY Featherweight.  I've learned about the manufacturing changes over time, how to guesstimate the age of a machine and pin it down to a "birth year" by serial number, how to thread the machine, and how to trouble-shoot the most common problems.  I've been trolling eBay and Craigslist to see what the machines are going for.  But I'm torn -- I really love the craftsmanship of the pre-war Featherweights, like the one shown above, but I also like the no-nonsense mid-century appeal -- and the addition of seam width markings on the stitch plate -- that the mid-1950s Featherweights feature:

1955 Featherweight 221, for sale here
You know I really want one of each, don't you?  So now that I know what I'm looking for, I'll just keep this in the back of my mind until the right machine turns up at the right price.  I'm still learning the ins-and-outs of my new Bernina 750 QE sewing machine, which due to size, weight, and modern technology is the polar opposite of a Featherweight machine that pre-dates the zigzag!  I also have some hand applique for my Jingle BOM that I've been avoiding starting for some ridiculous reason.  After all, the worst that can happen is that the first attempt comes out ugly (do it over!) or that I stab myself with a needle (get a Band-Aid!). 

I'll leave you with one last glimpse of another lovely Featherweight that doesn't belong to me:

Photo by Linzee McCray, read her Featherweight blog post on etsy here
Anders' Suzuki Violin recital is tomorrow morning and Lars is headed to a computer programming class at Central Piedmont Community College.  Twenty-six kids between the ages of 10-13 will be learning how to program video games.  You should have seen his eyes light up when I told him about it!  I hope it's as much fun as he's expecting.  Have a great weekend, everyone! 


Jocelyn said...

I do own one of these beauties, AND a Bernina. My Big B is does not have bells and whistles and sews like a dream, but I do love to piece on my Featherweight. My sweet hubby gifted both of them to me one Christmas. YES the same Christmas. He is definitely a keeper, along with my machines.

Jean(ie) said...

I have a 1950s model and love it. It wasn't mint condition or fancy. But it works just the same. They are workhorses. And I just "squee" over the sound it makes while sewing. They are one of a kind!

Unknown said...

I love antique sewing machines. I have a German Nauman from about 1910. It's fully fuctional but I don't use it for sewing. And I have been to the Singer Castle in Alexandria Bay, NY.

-Brittany Ruth