By Edie McGinnis
It’s not enough to read that as an ordinary, everyday question. You have to add a large dose of incredulous bewilderment to it.
You know how it works. Your voice rises at the end of the question in disbelief. And when a quilter is asked that question, we know the person who asks is not a quilter. Especially when you have said, “You’re not going to believe what I found at the quilt show! I bought a free-arm Featherweight! I didn’t even know they made them!”
On the other end of the phone, there was dead silence. Then came the question, “Edie McGinnis, you bought a used sewing machine?”
Why, yes. Yes, I did. I bought this little beauty you see over there on the right. I was so excited to find this machine. It was the first free-arm Featherweight I had ever seen. I didn’t even know until then that they existed. And it has additional features besides the free arm.
This model, the 222K (1954), is the only one Singer made that the feed dogs could be dropped. While a person making garments may not find that especially exciting, it is a feature quilters get excited about. If I can drop the feed dogs on my machine, it means I can use it for free-motion quilting. I can just pop a darning foot on and be off and running.
It’s a sure bet that I’m never going to drop those feed dogs so I can darn a sock, which was the original purpose of adding that feature. But I don’t want to use my Featherweight as a quilting machine. I think it’s hard on the motor, and that tiny space between the needle and the base of the machine isn’t very accommodating when it comes to working on a large quilt. But for something small like a doll quilt or a potholder, I would definitely consider it.
Clearly my friend did not share my excitement over my new-to-me sewing machine. So I didn’t see much point in telling her that that wasn’t the first used sewing machine I had bought. Nor was it the only Featherweight.
The first Featherweight I bought I found at an auction in Sedalia, Mo. The sale bill said there were two Featherweights. I looked them both over carefully. One had better paint. The other one had more attachments.
I wasn’t the only one who wanted one of those machines. One woman stood there and chatted with me. She announced that she was buying the machine that had the best paint. She had a firm tone in her voice, and I was certain that she meant business. But I was curious to see how determined she really was when push came to shove.
When the bidding began, I started bidding against her. I knew how much money I had in my pocket, so when we began to get close to that amount, I started to get a tad nervous. I bid all the money in my pocket, and she went $5 higher. It was hers.
I bought the second machine for $200 less and went home with money in my pocket and a big old smile on my face.
The machine I bought has the fancy scrolled faceplate on it. It was made in 1941 and was one of the last with the beautiful scrollwork. After World War II, the faceplate was changed and had vertical lines engraved on it.
The second Featherweight I bought, I found at an antique mall. I didn’t need another one, but the price was too good to pass up.
I knew if I wanted to get rid of it, I would be able to sell it and make a profit. And yes, it still lives at my house and no, I don’t want to sell it right now.
This Featherweight was made in 1948 and has the faceplate with the vertical lines. All the attachments were included. I did have to replace the foot pedal. The one that came with it had a suspicious aroma of burned wiring. It ran, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea of burning down the house, so I thought I was better off with safety as opposed to originality.
I love my Featherweights. When my computerized Bernina that has all the bells and whistles has to be serviced, I haul out one of the Featherweights. If I take a class that only requires straight sewing, I pack up a Featherweight. If I want to sew with friends, you guessed it, I take a Featherweight.
Yes, I bought a used sewing machine. And I expect I’m going to just keep quiet about the treadle sewing machines I have. They’re even harder to explain than a Featherweight.
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.