Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stars & Stripes & A Featherweight Tale

I started this quilt top 6 years ago. I'm not a big quilter, but I do like them. I saw this sampler on the Fons & Porter TV show when it was a new design and I really liked it. So I ordered the book and spent the next few weeks buying a huge bunch of red, white & blue (and gold and off-white) fat quarters. I was making good progress. Then life happened and I put it away, always meaning to get back to it.

Over the last week or so, I've been reacquainting myself with the instructions and the blocks I still need to complete. The applique blocks are really what are supposed to be up next, but I procrastinated on those six years ago and I deferred again this week. Instead, I chose the Life Block to work on, and finished those last night. I goofed on the assembly of one, but oh well, it's a sampler. This block will just be a sample of a mistake. LOL!

To give you an idea of the size of the finished quilt, the finished size of these Life Blocks are 10" and they are some of the smaller blocks that make up the whole. Most of the remaining blocks are 20" or bigger. I want to work on this slowly and without self-imposed pressure over the next couple of months, to finish the remaining 9 blocks. Hopefully posting here on the blog will keep me motivated to do that. (In the photo from the book above, the yellow blocks represent those I've finished.)

I've been practicing on my treadle but I still don't feel confident enough on it to sew an even 1/4" seam allowance, so I used the "new baby" — a 1949 Featherweight I picked up locally a couple of weeks ago. You saw a preview of her in my last post. For these blocks, a little stack of Post-Its was my seam guide. The needle plate has no markings, and I may decide to "fix" that by buying one with the marks. Or, I may just stock up on more Post-Its.

You can't really see in these photos taken last night, but all of the decals are intact and bright, including around the edge of the extension which aren't showing at all here. Yes, there is some regular and expected wear on this machine, but overall it's in good condition. And it's adorable! I'm not planning on reselling it, so I don't care that it's not one of the gleaming and perfect $600+ variety FWs I've seen for sale online. Truthfully, when I was sewing on it last night and using my awl to guide the joins of the blocks, I was glad that it was already scratched. I think I wouldn't be as comfortable sewing on a near-perfect Featherweight.

How I got her is kind of funny, kind of sad. I had answered a Craig's List ad for another machine entirely. The seller was just one town over, about 3 miles away, so I figured I'd go look at it for fun (again with my son for "protection"). When I got there, we chatted a little. He's a nice older gentleman. I mentioned to him that I had recently bought a treadle, have seemed to have caught the collecting bug, and that I'd fallen in love with FWs (thank you DonnaH and Cidell!) and one day I'd really like to find one of those. His eyes kind of lit up as he led us to his "workshop" out in the garage. He's a widower and told me that he still had his wife's FW that he had planned to spiff up for her one day, but that his arthritis had really slowed down his tinkering and now none of his kids seemed to really care about the machine anyway so it had just been sitting. He asked me if I wanted it instead. OMG! So, I came home with a very dusty, but working, Featherweight, plus a few extra parts — for $50.

I didn't take a lot of Before pics but here are some of the "highlights."

This was the area around the motor. It's a spiderweb with the spider's previous "dinner" in the middle, or it's a moth's cocoon. I didn't really examine it too closely. Ick.

The web, and this tape on the needle plate were the worst.

The rest was really just simple washing and dusting. Plus oiling and lubricating.

The seller told me that the machine had come with the striated coverplate shown on it here, but that he had also acquired a scroll plate at one point. So, now I have both. I'll probably sell the scroll plate on Ebay, because I don't need two and I like the simple plate in contrast to all the scrollwork on my treadle. I also think it goes with the FW's Art Deco style decals better.

Among other "extra parts," the machine came with two foot pedals. One a working Mercury clamshell and the other is the original Singer Bakelite pushbutton pedal. The Singer pedal needs rewiring and will probably be another Ebay listing mostly because I like the clamshell better, not because I couldn't rewire the pushbutton pedal.

Finally, it also came with its case and some attachments, but I forgot to take pics of those. The case was very dirty and stinky, but I've wiped it out and it looks pretty good for its age, and it's sturdy. Some of the attachments are familiar to me - like the ruffler and zipper foot. Others I've never seen in real life before. I'll do a separate post on those one day soon.

For now, I'm going to try to "whip up" a TNT top on my neglected D1 and serger. Probably another Jalie, or maybe another of the Simplicity tops that I said I should put away but actually still want to make. I'll see what calls the loudest when I'm up in the sewing room.

Have a good Saturday!


  1. I love the design and colors of the quilt. Gorgeous. Thanks for the close-up shots of the treadle machine.

  2. Nice FW. You have Glenn Williams in your neighborhood, who has all things FW. Your baby needs some lubricant in that port where the spider web is :-) That hole should be packed with grease. One thing Glenn told me is that "newer" throat plates that have the seam allowances scribed on have a beveled edge, which is desirable. The early ones did not, and they interfered with flipping up the bed. I was glad that mine was beveled. Can't beat the marked throat plate.

  3. I don't know what it is about these old machines. When I use mine, I swear I feel the womenw ho've used them and loved them before. I've been rescuing mine so I don't know the stories. You have some treasures, enjoy them.

  4. What a fun featherweight story! Glad you found your FW deal! I know the story of the one that was given to me. I'll share it on my blog sometime.

  5. Have fun making your quilt. Quils too, have fitting issues! Can't get away from that! I love my FW. It sews like a dream. Bought it for $25, case, accessories and the manual, where it had been sitting in someone's basement for years. Excellent condition. And, IT IS MINE !!!

  6. That quilt will look great when you finish it.

    Enjoy your machine!

  7. That, is so totally and fabulously awesome! It really does sew nicely doesn't it? And, it's so darn cute! I'm just glad it went to a good home! It's going to be well loved.

  8. Wow, lucky you! What a find! Good luck with the quilt. It's coming along nicely. I think I'll join you in making a TNT knit top today. I'm going to make another Ottobre, what else. :)

  9. How wonderful - the quilt and the machine. I love my Featherweight - but I *really* love my 201-2. That is the next maching you need to find! It is gear driven and sews like a dream. So what if it is a little heavy - just a minor issue. Once you set it up, just don't move it :)

  10. Hey Deb,
    Did you know earlier machines had what was called the Egyptian style endplate (the scrollwork one) and later ones had the striated plates? It used to be you could contact Singer with the machine's serial number to get the machine's actual birthdate - the production run your machine came from and the dates they were rolled out of the factory. The website below tells you some info you can get by yourself simply by looking up your machine's serial number.
    Interesting stuff isn't it. I have a featherweight I bought at a yard sale for $10 and it was years before I found out what a featherweight was and how collectible it was. I also have 2 3/4 sized Singers - a Spartan and a 185J green one. And mumblety mumblety more machines tucked here and there. I'm down to only one treadle now though. LOL

  11. You gave immeasurable comfort to the widower, who can be confident his beloved wife's machine is in a good home. Nice save and a lovely Art Deco style machine. Art Deco had a major architect here in Brussels, so think of us in Sprout City when you sew! Keep up the good work quilting.


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