Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Everything Old is New Again

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while has probably realized that I like to quilt. Years ago, I took a hand-quilting class because I had always admired old quilts. That was all it took. Now, years later I still “suffer” from the quilting bug. I have a sewing room full of fabric and patterns and books and notions and multiple machines and I love it!

I find hand piecing little bits of fabric into a full-sized quilt to be a relaxing way to let the stress of the day just melt off. I enjoy the process of planning the quilt, picking out fabrics, and oddly, I really love the interplay between math and art that quilting requires. (That may sound strange to anyone who hasn’t quilted but there is a lot of math involved!) 🙂

The thing I didn’t count on though was that I would also “suffer” from SMAD – Sewing Machine Acquisition Disorder.

When I bought my first sewing machine – a Singer mechanical – I didn’t go for the cheapest one in the shop. I didn’t want to outgrow it after a few years. I bypassed all the computerized machines because I wanted a more, I don’t know, authentic sewing experience, for lack of a better word. I think it maybe took a year to want another one.

My second machine was a mid-level Babylock with lots of bells and whistles and attachments. It is a great machine and it is still purring along. But, I found that I love all the different machines with all their quirks and intricacies, and over the years I have acquired an embroidery machine, a serger which I have yet to figure out, a midarm quilting straight stitch machine, a lighter-weight portable and a couple other solid mid to high level machines. I love all of them.

But deep down, there was something missing. I still wanted a vintage machine. I have always been drawn to Singer Featherweights which were manufactured from the 1930s through the mid 1960s in the US and through the early 1970s in the United Kingdom. These are highly collectible and are the quintessential classic sewing machine.

Singer 221

I have been able to quell this desire to own a vintage machine for years because I have a wonderful husband who indulges my SMAD and doesn’t mind too much when I start obsessing about another new machine. I have filled my stable with modern machines and have been quite satisfied with each and every one. But last weekend I went on a quest through images of vintage machines trying to help my friend identify her mom’s old machine, and it did me in.

I came down with a burning case of SMAD. I ended up drooling on the keyboard as I scrolled through eBay and admired all of the wonderful old machines up for auction. In my travels there, I came across the Singer 301A and it was love at first sight.

Highly collectible, many people call it the big sister to the Featherweight but it is really a whole other family. It was the first slant shank machine for better visibility, the first machine to enclose the motor, and the first home machine to stitch 1500 stitches per minute. It is gear driven instead of belt driven and is bigger than the Featherweight both in size and weight – not too big though as it is still considered to be portable.  It was promoted as the quilter’s dream, and yes, I admit I may have dreamed of it myself once it got under my skin. Originally available in black and light beige, Singer introduced a two-tone light beige and oyster white version in 1956 for the “modern” sewist. And it was this two-toned beauty that caught my eye.

I have never really paid much attention to eBay, but I soon found myself creating an account and watching a number of bidding wars. One of the machines up for auction really called to me. It has been completely refurbished and is pristine! My one concern was that there was no case.

The next morning, the universe intervened through my friend, Chrissy Rex of Living Ledge and Rex Design Concepts. I told her about the machine and the single drawback of no case. She smiled and said, “I can make a custom case for you.” Who knew!? 🙂 That was the only nudge I needed.

It didn’t take long before I was pushing the “buy it now” button and then scrolling the auctions to find vintage feet to go with it. My new/old machine is on its way!


Hopefully, this will calm my vintage bug down for a little while…

Of course, there were a lot of beautiful Featherweights on eBay too…

Or maybe an antique typewriter… I am a writer after all. What would be more inspiring than a vintage Underwood. Perhaps a Remington or Olympia in mint condition are just hiding in the auctions of eBay waiting for me to discover them. Maybe an old Smith Corona…

What are your obsession? Do you collect anything?


  1. My grandma had one of the old Singers…the kind that you had to use the foot pedal (treadle?). I wish I would have bought it when my mom and her brother and sister held an estate sale after my grandparents died…but when you’re in your early twenties, you don’t know much…glad you were able to buy one of your dream machines… very cool.

    • Oh that would have been a cool machine to have!! I saw some of those on Craig’s List during my search, but don’t really have the room for something in a cabinet. Some day, maybe… You should look for one on eBay!

  2. charliebritten

    My mother had an old electric singer, black and only capable of stitching up and down, no interlocking or anything fancy, but what it did it did very well. Sadly, I sold it and bought a more modern machine that did more types of stitches. I hardly use it, because it’s nothing like as good.

    My grandmother, who was a dressmaker, had a treadle-machine, with walnut casing, which was like a piece of furniture. When I was a child, she set vases of flowers on it and used the mirror above it to ‘put on me ‘at’, something which always took a long time. Previously, she had used it to make all my mother’s New Look dresses, and also her wedding dress. Grandma never completed anything on time and frequently my mother had to be stitched into her outfit as she went out. (The wedding dress was finished though. Mum made sure of that!) When I was a little girl, Grandma stayed up all night on Christmas Eve to make a set of clothes for my favourite doll.

    Oh, and btw, my good friend Angela, who used to teach secretarial studies, collects old typewriters.

    • I love to imagine what was sewn on those old machines…all the costumes, kids’ clothes, wedding gowns. Or as my friend mentioned, in the case of a machine from the 60s or 70s… Davenport covers, leisure suits, gauchos… 🙂

  3. oh dear what is going on? WordPress did not let me post this comment so I just try again: When I was young, we had a non electrical ancient Singer sewing machine. You know the ones you had to move a metal thing on the bottom to get the needle going. It needed me ages to get into the rhythm to get the machine properly going but it was fun somehow.

    I took the freedom to advertise for your blog on mine and hope you are ok with it. If you want to have anything changed just give me a shout or more a write probably 🙂

    take care Bee

    • Bee, you make me blush!! What an incredibly sweet thing for you to do. Thank you!!

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