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Singer 221

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The Singer model 221, affectionally called the Featherweight, is a classic machine. First introduced at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933, it was produced until 1970! This is a simple, straight-stitch only machine.

I mentioned when I reviewed the Bernina 830, that the 830 would be one of the first three machines inducted into the Sewing Machine Hall of Fame (if there were such a thing). Well, the Singer 221 would be the first machine to be inducted! This solid, reliable, well designed machine (basically same design for nearly 40 years -- why change it!) is on most every sewist's wish list.

There were several models in the 221 line -- but you can pretty much separate them by colors. There were four colors produced by Singer -- here are three of them. Shiny lacquer black, white (actually a light greenish white sometimes called celery), and a beige model. There was a fourth model produced for a short time during World War II in a crinkle finish -- sort of a flat black that was actually a really dark grey.

These are flat-bed machines with a flip-down extension bed (much like the 301). The black and beige models have long beds; the white model has a short bed. There is also a free arm version, the model 222. This version is mostly found overseas and commands a premium price.

Interested in finding a 221 for yourself? I found all of mine on Ebay -- just click the search box to see what's currently available!

Look for Singer 221's and peripherals here
Actually, price-wise all the 221's tend to be on the high-side (supply and demand)! The supply tends to be pretty available -- Singer produced zillions of these machines; unless they've been out in the rain for 30 years, they're likely still working. The demand is really what's driving the prices up. 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 a separate steel faceplate. This model has a "scrolled" faceplate -- which makes it an early model. 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.
Here's a picture of the grooved faceplate.

Note the fancy decal work around the edges on the black machine. Some people purchase decals to refurbish old 221's.

I mentioned four production colors -- 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! I don't know how the resale is affected.
A quick view from the top -- note the lack of decals on the white and beige models.

You can easily see the shorter bed on the white model here.

Also, note how the beige and black models have receptacles below the handwheels for the power cord. The white model has the wiring permanently attached -- again, cheaper to manufacture.

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.
Another view from the side -- yuck, I hadn't realized how dirty my white machine was. Got to clean it.

Also, note the handwheel locking knob -- it's silver steel on the black and white models, but painted on the beige. Again, a manufacturing decision most likely based on cost.

Portability is a big selling point with the 221's. They weigh 11 or 12 pounds and are easy to move.
When you flip the front bed up, you'll uncover the bobbin case. The 221 uses the same bobbin case as the model 301.

Many people use standard Singer Class 15 bobbins for their 221's.
Here's a really poor picture of the standard Singer tower. There's a single lever that controls stitch length. All the way up kicks into reverse feed.

By the way, you can easily drop the feed dogs on your 221. That, plus it's light weight, makes them very popular with quilters.
Here's a picture of a threaded machine. Follow the usual suspects for threading -- or here's a guide on loading and preparing the bobbin, plus threading the machine. You can also download a PDF of the instruction manual here.

You can see the tower portion a bit clearer in this image.
One gotcha about the 221 is that the needle needs to be inserted with the flat side facing the left, not facing the sewist. Also, you must insert the thread from the right-hand-side of the needle.

If your 221 is having trouble picking up the bobbin thread or is knotting up, check your needle and thread position.
Your 221 may have a compact, but very usable case. The black ones tend to have black cases, the white model has a green and white case, and the beige model has a brown/beige case. Unfortunately, many 221's are missing their cases.

There's a top tray that will fit only one way -- it has a surprising amount of storage. Note the foot pedal -- it's the standard Singer button style pedal.
Here's a better view of the foot pedal on my 221J beige model. Again, the standard Singer button. It takes a little getting used to -- especially if you're trying for very fine motor control.

By the way, the 221 series do not have extremely powerful motors. They're still capable enough for most whatever you put underneath the sewing foot, but be aware that they still small 1/2 amp motors for the most part.
Want to see Featherweight in action?

I've used my 221J beige machine to knock together this quick and easy Apron. It doesn't require a pattern -- just a yard of fabric. You only use four pieces for the apron -- you don't even need to cut the pieces, you can just tear them from your yard of fabric!


Easy Apron Project

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