We collect sewing machines and sewing memorabilia. Specifically, we’ve been using and collecting Singer Featherweights for over 30 years. We don’t claim to be experts in the history, use, or repair of sewing machines, but hope to provide some insight into identifying and purchasing collectible Singer Featherweights. Through these articles we hope to point out a few unique characteristics to watch for, those features deemed to make the ordinary become collectible. We will feature Featherweights from our collection and discuss why we added them to our display. Generally they will be shown in pairs or within a group (i.e. collections within a collection). We will also share with you the stories behind the original owners where available.
First, a little background. Pam learned to sew on her mother’s Singer Model 99 in the early-mid 60’s in Grand Forks, ND (yes, she still has it). Her first personal sewing machine, a Kenmore 158, was given to her by my folks as a wedding gift in ’71 (yes, it’s still in the family, and yes, still married - 48 years as of today!). Pam’s interest in sewing continued along with the growth and needs of our 5 daughters (clothing, patching, quilts, future wedding gifts) and subsequently our grandkids’ requirements. In the mid-80’s Pam spent time with one of the girls in Salt Lake City. In her off-time she would visit the many local fabric/sewing centers. While there, Pam was intrigued by seeing a Featherweight in action. She was invited to sew on it…. she was hooked. Upon returning home to Wyoming, Pam told me about it, thus, getting me involved. I found her first Featherweight, AE544666 (I know, a devil machine), a 1937 model at an antique store on S. Broadway in Denver (and yes, she still has it). Then, 221 AE207677, a 1936 version, with slotted foot controller and a Featherweight table on 44th Ave. in Denver and on and on continuing to this day when we recently added AD541637 (91st machine produced). This machine is a very rare and unique Featherweight sent to us from Jane Lynch of Massachusetts. Pam still sews with Pre-War Featherweights as she says, “They have a Karma about them! A different sound, a different feel!” (more about that and why in a future article).
While I searched antique stores and eBay listings building her collection etc, Pam was teaching quilt classes, working at our local quilt store, and traveling to Quilt Festivals and classes throughout the US, toting her machine along. Many birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases later gave me the opportunity to gift additional 221s and memorabilia to her.
The collection now includes: fifty or so collectible Singer Featherweights, a variety of makes and models commemorating World Fairs and Exhibitions, and assorted memorabilia and accessories. We also have a colorful group of Standard-Sewhandy, Osann, Singer-Osann machines; five collectible ELNA Grasshoppers; early Berninas; etc. Some might call it a hoard? But, I don’t understand?
Future articles will include: the sad, sad story of our earliest Featherweight Etta AD541590 (44th machine produced); other early Featherweights and their cases; changes/comparisons; corduroy tool kits (lid liners); Blacksides; Wrinkles/Crinkles; Chicago World’s Fair 1934; Texas Centennial 1836-1936; both Golden Gate Exhibition 221s; Century of Sewing Service 221s from around the World; early and late Mexican/South American machines; unusual decals, inspection marks; motors, foot controllers; tables made for the Featherweight; and articles on attachments, accessories, advertising, surgical instruments and Salesman’s toolboxes; collecting Foreign Featherweights and the final production run of American 221s…
We want to thank Nova Montgomery, Darla Trenner, Lynn Rowe, Jane Lynch, Leo Kujat & JJ Coble and so many others for the encouragement and assistance in putting together these machines. We hope you’ll find some value in our stories and pictures.
Pam & J.C.Elliott
AE544666 – June 11, 1937
Pam’s 1st Featherweight
Wedding Gift 1971