The Singer model 221, also referred to as the “Featherweight,” is an old-fashioned sewing machine that can only perform a straight stitch. This tried and true device was originally shown to the public in 1933 at the Chicago World’s Fair, and it stayed in production all the way up until 1970!
The Bernina 830 was going to be one of the first three machines to be admitted into the Sewing Machine Hall of Fame, as I’ve discussed before (if there was such a thing). Although this is correct with regard to the Bernina, it is also accurate to say that the Singer 221 would have been the very first machine to be admitted! This sturdy, dependable, and well-designed machine (essentially the same design for nearly 40 years – why alter it!) is on the wish list of the vast majority of seamstresses.
There were a few different models available in the 221 range, but you can reasonably easily tell them out based on the colours. There were four different colours that Singer made, and here we have three of them. Black lacquer with a shiny finish, white (which is more of a pale greenish white and is sometimes nicknamed celery), and a beige model. A crinkle finish version of the fourth model was manufactured for a brief period of time during World War II. Although it appeared to be black, the colour was actually much darker than black. The second most prevalent colour is white, followed by tan, and finally black. The finish known as “crinkle” is quite uncommon.
These are flat-bed machines that have an extension bed that flips down and can be extended (similar to its big sister, the Singer 301) The beds in the beige and black models are longer than the bed in the white model, which is shorter. In addition to it, there is an option with free arms called the model 222. This version is almost exclusively available in international markets and sells at a premium price.
Singer produced millions of these machines over the course of nearly 40 years; provided that they have not been left out in the elements for the better part of three decades, it’s likely that they are still sewing just as well as the day they were born; however, prices for Singer 221s continue to be quite high. This is a fantastic illustration of how pricing is determined by supply and demand; while there is a decently high supply, there is an even greater demand.
Featherweight’s rate high on the cute scale — people love these little guys.
Although the models are basically the same, you can spot several differences in the different colored models. Most apparent from the front of the machine are the differing faceplates.
The shiny black 221 has two two different steel faceplates. Early models have a “scrolled” faceplate; later models used a faceplate with parallel grooves.
The beige and white models use a stamped and painted faceplate. This makes them cheaper to manufacture. These were introduced near the end of the 221’s production life.
The “crinkle” finish models are basically the black models, but with a crinkle finish. All 221’s use standard Class 15 bobbins.
I mentioned four production colors — but note that there is an aftermarket for “painted” Featherweights. Folks take regular Featherweights, strip them down, then paint them in various colors with automobile paint. These are not factory models — whether or not you want to pay a premium price for the paint job is up to you ( and many people choose to do so!)
221’s were manufactured in the US and in other countries. You’ll often find motors for voltages other than 110. Generally, the white models and the 222 free-arms are most likely to use different voltages.
Portability is a big selling point with the 221’s. They weigh 11 or 12 pounds and are easy to move. People love to take their 221’s to sewing classes and quilting groups — especially since the machine is so cute!
While people have dubbed them “Featherweights”, this is not their official Singer name. Be aware that Singer has produced a recent line of imported machines they’ve called Featherweights. This is most definitely not the same machine and is not viewed as a desirable machine.
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