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Thread: Lusting After a Featherweight -- What do I Need to Know, Where Should I Look?

  1. #1
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    Lusting After a Featherweight -- What do I Need to Know, Where Should I Look?

    I have never actually sewn on a machine that was not computerized and capable of embroidery and all the other bells and whistles of a modern machine. I recently brought home a sleek, new, Bernina 750 QE that I love... and yet I have been lusting after Featherweights ALL DAY LONG. I think they are gorgeous, especially the pre-war FWs with the gorgeous Art Deco face plates, and I love the history and mechanical simplicity of these machines (relative to my computerized machine). But I don't know anyone who actually owns a Featherweight, and I do actually want to sew with it -- I want that elusive, legendary, perfect straight stitch for piecing. The portability is key as well, since my other machine weighs 30 pounds. So, I've looked on eBay and on Craig's List, but have heard horror stories of vintage machines arriving all smashed up from shoddy pack jobs, or of sellers who are so ignorant of the machine they are selling that you don't know what you're getting until it shows up. I found a couple of web sites where various FW machines in excellent cosmetic condition with all original parts, serviced, restored, and ready to sew were selling between $500-700 USD for the 221 and $1K or more for the 222 free arm model, including express shipping and a 1 year warranty. I really prefer the Art Deco styling on the faceplate of the earlier pre-war machines, but I'm sure that advancements and improvements were made to this model over the years, such as the seam width markings that were eventually added to the stitch plate. Other than just picking one that looks pretty, are some years better than others for FW machines? What is a reasonable price to pay? Some FWs on eBay are in the $200-300 range but are missing cases or other parts, have no guarantee that they are even in working condition, and look terrible. My husband is pretty "handy" so I feel like he can keep the machine in good order for me as long as I find a tech guide somewhere, but are some of the FWs just in such bad shape that I should pass them by? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

  2. #2
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    There is "something" in my Mom's shed that I believe might be a featherweight in a case but it was too dark to dig it out the last time I was there. It's been in there for oh....about 40 years or more, so I am not sure what kind of shape it is in. I'll fish it out when I go up there for Mother's day in a few weeks.

  3. #3
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    OK I am lusting after your 750 and have 2 FWs that I would be happy to trade you. LOL I am seriously looking at that machine after I sell my 730.

    I would vote for looking on craigs list in your area so that you can test it out. Also let all of your sewing buddies know that you are thinking about one and your price range. Also print out some example of the face plate you are looking for. You can also tell all of your other friends and relatives, it is amazing what someone might run across. My husband found mine in a yard sale (perfect condition even the case) for $30 and this was before I was even quilting, he just thought it looked cute!

  4. #4
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Don't limit yourself to just a Singer Featherweight. There are lots of other fantastic sewing machines in the wild, too. We have a lot of info on Japanese machines here: Will the REAL 15 clone please stand up and for Japanese machines that zig zag: Vintage Japanese 'Badged' Zig Zag and Straight Sew Sewing Machines and Japanese machines that do more than zz: Vintage Japanese 'Badged' sewing machine with fancy stitches Then there are photos of old machines: Vintage Sewing Machine Shop Machine Photos not all of them are treadles. Here is a link about smaller sewing machines: You've just gotta love the 'Little Old Ladies' (3/4 size or smaller vintage machine) Many of the older machines are a joy to use - they are so simple to use and maintain. I have sold a few machines to people who figure for the cost of one service call on the electronic they can use vintage for straight sewing save the electronics for other stuff. Believe it or not you can still find parts for a lot of the machines.

    If you are just wanting information how to evaluate a sewing machine, I think first I would google search 'how to evaluate a vintage sewing machine' and see what you get.

    You can buy cheap machines a lot of the time - I buy them with out checking them over much, take them home and go over them. Some times I've been fooled into thinking one was fine only to have it so stuck it won't turn or to rebuild a tension. If you don't want to have to do repairs, you might have to pay more. Download a manual and read it. Then, I would sit down with a machine I was interested in buying and spend some time. Sew like you normally would. Take your own fabric, thread, needles, scissors along and sew. Spend some time to be sure it stitches nicely. Check for rust, check for dried oil - They look the same some times. Check the wiring. If it doesn't do what you want it to do then don't buy it.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill

  5. #5
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
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    It looks like you are doing your research. Enjoy the hunt! If you are not in a big hurry, one will come your way that you will be happy with.

  6. #6
    Super Member janiesews's Avatar
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    vI love my featherweights and also the 301-A's. Both are very good machines. I have bought from ebay with very good results. All have arrived in very well packaged boxes. When I look on ebay I want to see a bobbin case. The machines usually can be cleaned and will work after being lubricated and oiled. David McCallum's video is awesome to refer to. It was quite a bonus to find the information on the 301 in there too. Other places to look are thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, estate sales and Craigs list. Keep your eyes and ears open. Good luck!
    This too shall pass.
    Janie

  7. #7
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    I love my featherweights! I have several, which I thought I needed every time I bought one!

    You seem to be doing good research as you consider buying one. However, the most important thing you need to do is sew on one. You might love it; you might not. Featherweights sew a beautiful straight stitch; they don't do zig zag. They are very, very good at what they were designed to do. But after your Bernina, you might be disappointed in its limitations. For example, you can't push a button and make it stop with the needle down; and no matter what you do, the case will always have a certain "smell," even if you get rid of most of it. But, you can find lots of options for cases (several that look like a small fabric cooler, or ones with wheels) that are just fine. And, it will never "gain weight," so it will always be easy to take to classes.

    As far as cost goes, once you go above about $225, you are paying for looks. None of my machines are super shiny with all the decals intact. But, they all sew beautifully, and I love them all!

  8. #8
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    Here is a link to Nova Montgomery's site. She offers great monthly tips to care for your maintenance, etc. This month she addresses the odor in the case. Interesting because it isn't the "case" but is a result of the wood pad in the machine's drip pan. She also tells how to remedy the problem....plus oh so much more. She also has Featherweights for sale that she has personally serviced and used.

    http://www.novamontgomery.com/quilt-guild-programs.htm


    Linda

    Sew little time and sew many ideas

  9. #9
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    Forgive me...I love Bernina's.

  10. #10
    Super Member KyKaren1949's Avatar
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    I have bought four Featherweights from ebay and two from the shopgoodwill website. In each instance, I told the seller how I wanted it packaged for shipping. I have not had a single problem and one of them came from London, England. I would just make sure I communicated well with the seller. Explain that you want the entire sewing machine encased in bubble wrap INSIDE of the case. Then, you want several layers of bubble wrap around the case and then packed in a much larger box of peanuts. Ask them to take the thread spool off and put it safely in the case. Tell them to wrap a separate bubble wrap around the motor as well. You shouldn't have a problem if they will work with you. AND if there is damage in shipping, you can get all of your money back through ebay and or the transport company. It's really not that big of a deal.
    Karen in Kentucky

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