Friday, May 6, 2011

Still Popular After All These Years, the Singer 221 Featherwieght.

Singer 221 1946

The Singer 221 "Featherweight" is easily the most popular vintage sewing machine, by far.  It has numerous fan clubs, collector websites and dealers of reproduction parts made just for it.  Of course with this popularity comes a higher value.  Because of this, I have not had the chance to own one...until now.  I also found all the adoration a bit annoying.  Hey, there are lots of old machines needing love out there.  Why not just use one of those?  It is for sure an amazing gift and so now begins the exploration of this sewing machine.  What is the fuss about anyway?  Huge fuss.  Fanatical fans.

There is no denying the most obvious thing about this machine: it is small.  It is like a toy, but for real.  Teeny yet just big enough to get the job done.  It is light, I could carry it in one hand.  The total weight is around 11 pounds and with a case is just under 20.  My other machines vary in weight but most are around 40 pounds plus case. 

That brings me to the other thing about this machine: the case.  It is a very practical and clever design.  This is one sewing machine and case truly made to be portable.  It fits perfectly with room for foot control, accessories with space for things like scissors, thread and so forth.  There is even a place for an oil can.  This photo shows the machine with the top open revealing the gears inside.  It pivots back into place.

How does it sew?  I am pretty impressed with this as well.   It is very small and so I expected it to be less than powerful.  It is less than the "heavyweights" such as Singer 201 or 15-91 of the same era yet does quite well.  It performed well on various types of fabrics as well as long as the right needle and thread combination are used.  It had trouble with denim but got through the job with some help of turning the hand wheel.  The only drawback is that it is small and so fitting big items inside the harp area of the machine was tricky.  I guess that is why the Singer 222 free arm model was made. 

The 221 takes low shank attachments and so wow, lots to play with in this area.  A hundred years of attachments go with it from the modern clear plastic 1/4" foot to the 1889 ruffler work on it.  Entire websites cater to the topic of Featherweight accessories.  Zigzaggers, sock darners, penguin walking feet, even fabric covers made just for them.  Fun fun fun.

 This little machine is so easy to take on the road, I have done it already.  I hear many people got this model just to take to classes and I see why.  This photo was taken inside a theater.  To get to this dressing room it is through a parking lot, up stairs, through a maze of set obstacles and though two sets of heavy doors.  With "Tiny" it was no problem.  Saved me tons of time by fixing any alterations right then and there.  Just when I thought this 221 was to be a special toy, it turned out to be as practical as any other.

I have earned my pin.


  1. Congrats! My hubby thinks I need one of these cute machines. I don't want to pay the price. If one ever shows up for a REALLY good price, I'll get it. Have fun with it.

  2. I'm so happy to have found your blog! Nice posts about all of your lovely machines :) I think I'll be doing a post (or two) on cleaning up these vintage beauties, since I have 3 new oldies to work on :)

  3. Thanks Cheryl and Jilly Be. It makes me feel less weird to know others out there are also fond of them. PS: When I had it out last week one of the young actresses saw my 221 and said "That's so OLD!". Really, she has no idea.....

  4. looking for bobbins for antique machine Wheeler and Wilsonl