6.18.2012

Featherweight

I've been quilting a lot lately, another benefit to having my days all my own. I do all of my sewing these days on my Singer Featherweight, and it was exactly eight years ago today that I bought this antique and wonderful machine at an estate sale. How I became the lucky buyer is one of my favorite stories.

I don't usually go to estate sales, especially those run by professionals. But this particular morning I took a chance on a local sale, because the ad said they had a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. I’ve been looking for a Featherweight for years. It’s very small and light, and quilters love them because they’re easy to maintain, make perfect straight stitches, and light enough to take to classes (or in my case, back and forth from home to the cabin). Featherweights in perfect, working condition sell for $300-500 on eBay, and I’ve never seen one at a yard sale.

I expect this will be a huge sale and I won’t even get close to the Featherweight. But I was surprised—when I got my number at 20 minutes before the time, I was #12. I peeked inside and spotted the machine and its case on a table in the living room. I was standing on the porch, chatting with a woman while we waited for the start of the sale, and a few minutes before they started the sale, I asked what number they were—#2.  So I took a deep breath and asked:  “Do you have any interest in the Singer Featherweight?” And when she said they didn’t, I asked if she was willing to grab it for me. I pointed it out so she'd know exactly what to look for. Her husband grabbed a roll of masking tape from the cashier's table and wrote “Sold” on a piece, plus my name.

And when they went in they went straight to the Featherweight and slapped the Sold sticker on the case, and it was mine. I didn’t even know the asking price, but figured if it was more than I wanted to pay, I’d just peel the sticker off.

In less than 5 minutes they called the next batch of numbers, and I made a beeline for the sewing machine. The asking price was $200, but I decided to buy it anyway. They’re going for much more than that on eBay, and this is the first one I’ve ever seen around here.

As I browsed through the rest of the sale, I overheard at least two women asking where the Featherweight was, and when one of the employees walked over to check out the sold sticker, I thought I should probably tell her that I'd claimed it. She showed me the bits and pieces that were in the case, including a box of attachments, bobbins, and the original owner's manual. And to my surprise, the price also included a wood-topped card table designed to hold the machine.



When I came back through the house to pay for my purchases, I heard another woman say, “The Featherweight is sold and that’s the only reason I came to this sale.” I grinned to myself, proud of my quick thinking. So, $249 later (thank goodness, they let me write a check!), I started lugging things down the hill to my car. The woman who got the Featherweight for me was outside enjoying the sunshine, and I stopped to thank her again for helping me out.

Once I got home, I logged into eBay to check out my purchases. I paid $200 for the Featherweight, which included the carrying case, a box of attachments, a few bobbins, and the original instruction book. It also came with the original wood-topped table, which was a real bonus. I already knew I had a great deal, just the machine was worth more than $200. But I was surprised to learn that the tables are quite rare… and expensive. There were two tables listed on eBay, selling for $150–175, and both were hotly contested. The tiny instruction booklets were selling for $25.

The last task of the day was an e-mail to my friend, Linda. I call her the Yard Sale Queen because she not only loves going to sales, if there's anything of value to find, she'll find it. She has a sixth sense when it comes to finding the best sales, and unerringly goes straight to the things that are the most rare or valuable. I think she'll be proud of me!


I recently learned about a website that keeps records on Featherweight serial numbers, and mine was manufactured in 1943. Researching all the different attachments that came with my machine was also fun. There's a surprising amount of information on the Internet, and you can still buy a lot of original equipment for these machines. My sister has our mom's 1940s Singer that  we all learned to sew on, and it would be fun to find attachments for her, too. I've found a few at yard sales and antique stores, and the range of these devices is amazing.

There were attachments for braids and trim, for making ruffles, for covering cording with fabric and attaching it. There's a cool piece that helps you sew a straight seam, adjustable to different seam widths. There's a quilting foot, and a piece that helps make tiny tucks in the bodice of a dress (perfect for baby clothes). Some of these look like finely tuned pieces of machinery. It will be fun to figure out how they work; maybe there are user's guides for each attachment; that would be very cool!

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