Tag Archives: Featherweight

Tulips and Tears

Tulip Pockets

When I could finally pull myself away from stitching random scraps on my new Featherweight, I settled down to start work on my cream capris. Same old pattern (Jalie 2908), hopefully a few new details.  I was SO excited to be able to thread the Featherweight up with topstitching thread and a) not have to re-thread every other seam and b) not have to jolly my Janome along (she will sew topstitching thread… with some careful finagling).

These pants are inspired by a couple of pairs of my kids’ jeans (kids’ jeans get the best little touches!), with piping and what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call tulip pockets. Using some of my japonesque-print fabric for the piping and pocket lining.

While I maintain that the idea is sound, the execution could use a little tweaking. In particular there’s three layers of denim and four layers of cotton at the bottom of the pockets, making folding and topstitching a little, ah, haphazard. I may have to go back and redo some of the topstitching. Bleh. That’s what I get for trying to cram everything in to an evening.

Three pocket pieces

Anyway, aside from the piping, I used three pieces for the pockets—well, two pattern pieces. The overall shape is based on the shield-shaped pocket I used in the bellbottoms; I traced it off, drew in the curve to make a half-piece, and used a slightly shortened version of the original piece for the backing. I was originally going to just overlap the two “petal” pieces and topstitch them together, as in the inspiration pants, but unlike my children I tend to actually stick stuff in my back pockets, and I wanted to make sure it would stay there, so I added the third piece (rightmost in the photo). Really I should just have used a tiny triangle to fill in the top of the tulip a bit, but the full backing piece was really nice for getting the overlap of the tulips (sorta) symmetrical. I say sorta because I think I inverted two of the pieces by accident when I was piping so the curves aren’t identical. Fortunately, I was able to make the two slightly asymmetrical pockets mirror each other, so it worked out.

Stitch in the ditch

I stitched in the ditch at the edge of the piping to attach the various pocket pieces together, using washable glue-stick to hold things in place. I used the adjustable zipper-foot on my Janome set up as a straight-stitch foot (with the needle going down the middle), so I could see the “ditch” to stitch in it. This helps a lot. Although the feed-dogs on the Janome are definitely not well-positioned for use with a foot this narrow when it’s centred.

Swapping machines during the same project is a new experience to me (the serger doesn’t count, that’s an entirely different beast). The Featherweight is so slow (actually a good thing, especially for topstitching!) and quiet, the Janome is much louder and sews much faster. Also it’s taking some adjusting to remember which hand to use to raise the presser foot. As a lefty, I loved the back position of the presser-foot lever on the Grand Old Dame, and it took quite a while when I got the Janome to get used to lifting the presser foot with my right hand, as the lever is tucked on the inside under the harp. Now, of course, it feels weird to use my left again. You can of course reach under the harp and lift the back lever with your right, but my battered inner lefty is determined not to give in to the right-dominated world in this one small thing (I already use scissors and a computer mouse with my right hand, dammit)


I also made little cuffs for the bottom of the jeans, lined with the japonesque fabric, and hopefully they will look cute turned up or down. I picked the pink topstitching thread as it matched some of the pink in the print, but I’m wondering now (of course, too late) if the somewhat darker blue I was also considering would’ve been better (to make the piping seem a little less stark.)

You can see in the very first photo that I piped the outer seam on the leg. This took some deep breathing on my part, as that’s the place I like to twiddle with the fit, which varies from pair to pair based on the stretch of the fabric. With piping, there is no fit twiddling. But it seems to have worked out, anyway.

My poor baby!

Readers, I have sinned. It has been… two days since my last confession, I guess. Tragedy struck while I was topstitching the fly with the Featherweight. I very carefully marked my curve so I would miss the bottom of the zipper underneath. In my (not undeserved) paranoia, I even hand-cranked through that area. Then, being safely past the bottom of the zip, I went to finish the last inch of the topstitching and—I broke the needle. My guess is I was pulling on the fabric and pulled it off centre with the needle in it, hitting the edge of the needle plate instead of its nice little hole. And after I replaced the needle, it wouldn’t stitch! Or, it’ll stitch once or twice, and then skip five, and then catch one… and… and…

I have a feeling I’m going to be stalking the Featherweight forums this weekend.

Forgive me, Sewing Gods! I have damaged my beautiful, new, vintage machine.

In penance, I shall do five pieces of mending and one full unselfish garment.

I guess that’s one upside of new machines. I wouldn’t be nearly so distressed if I had screwed up my Janome. Of course, I’ve broken probably a dozen needles in her in the exact same way. She puts up with my crap marvelously. Obviously I need to be a little more careful of the Featherweight. She is even older than my mother, after all.

And to make things worse, I have to finish the pants ALL on the Janome.

I’m going to go cry now. And put some belt-loops on the capris.

But mostly cry.



Filed under Sewing

How to thread a Featherweight (and other adventures)

The Little Lady

I didn’t get a chance to try out my new machine before I left. Not looking a gift sewing machine in the bobbin-case, as the case may be. Anyway, naturally the first thing I had to do once I got in the door (after kissing my husband, anyway) was run downstairs to play with my new toy.

First order of business: threading.


Now, there’s a vast amount of material out there on the internet concerning Featherweights. Probably everything you could ever want to know. But really, I learned on a vintage machine, albeit not quite this calibre  of vintage, and I could already see that the basic threading was pretty familiar. Nothing like my mother-in-law’s drop-in bobbin, sideways-spool-holding Janome that made my brain fall out.


The bobbin orientation, which is 90 degrees to the left of what I’m used to, was a little odd, but everything else about the bobbin casing and the bobbins was familiar enough. Fortunately or not, the machine came with its bobbins still wound with a small rainbow of thread (glad to know I’m not the only one who does that!) so I didn’t have to figure out how to wind a bobbin right off the bat. I love how easy-access the bobbin is—just lift up the folding platform at the left and it’s right there.

Bobbin rainbows.

So, I loaded up a bobbin, got the thread up to the top, inserted a scrap of fabric under the foot, and…

The engine whirred, the feed dogs moved, the needle sailed up and down,a nd within about three stitches I had a hopeless tangle and the thread fouling on the bobbin casing had sliced through itself.

Trying not to panic, I removed the bobbin from its case, put it in the other way, re-threaded, tried again.

And again.

And again.

So pretty

After ten or so tries (thinking all the while about that definition of insanity as repeating the same action expecting a different result) I reluctantly came upstairs to google “how to thread a featherweight”. But no great surprises revealed themselves. I had had the bobbin inserted properly the first time; the top thread ran through its  hooks, holes, and tension assembly just as I had thought. My stomach sank. Was something (ulp) wrong with my machine? Was the timing off? (My serger acted similarly when its timing was thoroughly blown, everything moving but somehow the stitches just not forming properly) Was something even more dire amis?

Then I reached the last, the very end, of the threading instructions.

The one major difference between the Featherweight and the other machines I have used before now. The needle (like the bobbin) is oriented at 90 degrees to the front. Instead of the eye of the needle going from front to back, it passes from right to left.*

As I’m a lefty and it was easier to get at, I had without any particular thought threaded the needle with the thread entering from the left and exiting from the right. It never would have occurred to me in a million years that THIS was the one tiny thing that could throw the entire stitch off. But there it was, in the instructions, scanned from some original manual. Thread the needle from right to left.

I rushed downstairs and switched my thread.

She sews!

And lo, she stitched. With a minor tension adjustment, she stitched beautifully. She stitched with top-stitch thread. She stitched with the buttonholer attachment. She stitched layer upon layer of denim.

Stitch-length lever. Lift to stitch backwards.

Eventually, I figured out how to backstitch (move the stitch-length lever all the way to the top). I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around not having to hold on to something to keep it stitching backwards.

Some fun details:

My mom purchased this machine through the antique shop where she works, in my home town. The machine belonged to the mother-in-law of the woman who lived next door to us when I was little.


A plaque on the front of the machine declares 100 years of Singer excellence. This makes me think the machine was probably made in 1951. The serial number begins with EF, which this website suggests means that it was manufactured in the UK (Scotland, to be precise) in 1949. The motor, on the other hand, says it was made in Canada and has some notation that includes “AU 61” which makes me think August, ’61. Obviously the motor could have been replaced… anyway. I’m inclined to go with 1951 for the year, at least.

The motor

It came with neither attachments nor manual, but it did have a few cute extras in the box:

Vintage Singer needles

Several packets of needles.

Un-cleaning set

The original cleaning set. I don’t think any of these will be getting too close to the machine. That’s an impressive amount of rust, especially when there’s none at all visible on the machine itself.


Receipts for repairs done in 1980. There’s some notes about earlier repairs stapled to the back.

Also in my home town, my mom found another Greist buttonholder at Value Village for $1.99. This one had a box of additional templates tucked in with it. She’s keeping the buttonholer, but let me have the extra templates. A shorter keyhole (yay!) but no eyelet.

More buttonhole templates! (yes, they fit)

So in short, I’m ready for my next project!

Next project! Summery capris

*Those of you who know Featherweights probably all know what I was doing wrong by now. Hush, don’t spoil it for the rest.


Filed under Sewing

My birthday came early.



Filed under Sewing