Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flirting with a Featherweight



I flirted with a Featherweight at my recent workshop in Michigan.



I often think about buying one. They're so darn cute. My one big hesitation is that many of the ones I have seen have that "Featherweight smell" that really bothers my allergies. I will not buy and cannot work at a machine that has a moldy, musty smell to it. I wouldn't be able to stop sneezing. Some say the smell is from the glue used in the case, others tell me it is the fact that many of these machines were stored in damp basements for years.


I just love this little white/pale green machine. I was told by the owner that she did not think it sewed as well as the black ones though. Also, anyone who owns a white one -  what do you know about this? Does this one have that smell too? Did yours smell really bad and yet you were able to remove the smell COMPLETELY?

I'm only gathering information now, not buying, so don't offer to sell me yours. Perhaps when both of my kids are through with college I can flirt a little more seriously and think about making a commitment.

39 comments:

Dora, the Quilter said...

2 sources of smell in old Feather Weight machines. The first is the moldy glue inside and outside the case. (There are a variety of fixes for this; sometimes they work; sometimes the fixes don't.) The second source of unpleasant odors is the felt pad inside the base of the machine. It's meant to catch oil drips, but it can also collect mold spores.
Many smart quiltmakers will say that a Singer 185 is just as great and usually much less expensive. (But we might want to keep that to ourselves.) For what it's worth, I have seen a greenish white one, although I don't remember where.

Teresa in Music City said...

My featherweight CASE smelled terrible when I got it, but the machine itself has had no smell at all since I had it thoroughly cleaned by my local guy and he replaced the old smelly felt pad inside. I don't use the case anyway, so that is not a problem for me. This has been my "go to" machine for all sewing away from home except when I need to do anything other than a straight stitch. I have friends who do all their FMQ on theirs as well, although I have never tried it.

I will say, too, that it is relatively easy to find one that is not really expensive. eBay has great machines running around $300 all the time. I have two friends who bought theirs that way and are very happy. I got mine at a flea market for $200 and it is not a beauty, but you'd never know it by the way she sews :*)

QuiltinMama said...

I'm with Dora...change the felt pad under the machine. The case can be aired out. My FW is the only machine I use anymore...go on, buy one!!

Beth said...

They are very cute. The smell would get to me too.

Paula said...

I bought a FW last year. I was so lucky. The lady that it was bought for only used it a couple of times and went back to her treadle machine. It is pristine! BUT, it has the smell! The case is really bad. If I leave the machine out the smell does go away. If I put it in the case, even for a short period, it will smell again. I have tried the newspaper trick to no avail. I am like you. I sneeze when I use it. My eyes water and swell up. Hmmm I wonder what to do? I am thinking of leaving the case outside to air out, when weather permits. I does sew wonderfully.

Deborah said...

I have one of each...black and green. My black one sews better and is much less finicky. My black one doesn't smell at all but the green one has a slight rubbery odor. My green machine is named Miss Luella. She is adorable. But if you want a work horse.....go for the other. And I highly recommend that you get one!!
Simply Miss Luella (blog)

krisgray said...

My old case smells too. It's handle broke so I bought a shoulder carrying case for it from 221parts.com and put the case and all the attachments that I do not use on the shelf.

I like my FW, very cool to carry my machine on my shoulder, but the best seam I ever sewed came when I used a Singer 301. They're a little heavier than a FW but still lighter than a full size machine. The one I borrowed from my mom had 1/4" seam allowance marked on the plate.

Dora, the Quilter said...

Open case--very hot summer day--car trunk for a few hours--but you might not want to do it in a car you use personally!

Dora, the Quilter said...

By pure serendipity, Bonnie Hunter is sewing on her Singer 185J today.
http://quiltville.blogspot.com/2012/04/ugly-is-as-ugly-does-or-death-by.html

Betsy's Basket Blog said...

Hi Kathleen, Maybe because I live in So California and it is a dry climate we do not have issues with moldy smelling Featherweights. I have an adorable cranberry red one that I love. There is a gentleman here that collects, restores and repairs featherweight machines. If you would like to discuss the mold issue with him let me know and I will forward his phone number/email address to you. Good luck!! Anita

Betty Lou said...

I bought my Featherweight 9 years ago on Ebay. I had been following them and had a good idea of what they should sell for. This one came and it seemed so clean and in such great condition-------I put in a bid------for 5 days I sweated blood and wondered what in the world I had done. I had never done anything like that sight unseen. I was the high bidder and the machine came just as described; from a sewing machine dealer in California, he said it was the best one that has come his way. No smells and runs like a top with perfect stitches. You would love one for your little quilts.

CreatedbyCJ said...

I had DeskDave (www.deskdave.com) fully restore a 222k for me (and paint it a lovely pearl color!). It has no odor at all, and is a joy to sew on. Pictures here: http://www.createdbycj.com/from-my-studio/2012/3/28/at-long-last.html

leslieanne said...

Oh Lordy, they are beautiful, though!

Phyllis said...

I've just recently discovered these machines and would love to have one. I'll have to check ebay. I wonder what a fair price for one would be though.

Jan said...

Hmm, I have three Featherweights, and allergies. No problem at all with any of my machines. Maybe air it outside in a garage or covered porch for a couple of days? You will love sewing on it!

EllenaElizabeth said...

such dear little machines. Cute in white and black. Thanks for sharing.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

I so think the cases may be the source of the smell. I took mine out of the black case and house it in a rolling bag. No smell that I can detect. Great little sewing machine. But you have to be sure you buy a 1/4" foot. Mine came with an 1/8" foot.

bep said...

Hello Kathleen, I have one, never sewed with here but she's so nice to see. Together with a friend we organice a meetingday on june 3 and I will film the sound of 22 Featherweigths and will put the film on Youtube. here in The Netherlands sh is verry populair,greetings Bep

Sewing Junkie said...

I have the one my Mother purchased before I was born. The case is the source of the smell. I have aired it out in the sun. I have washed it out with bleach water, sprayed Lysol. Used coffee, baking soda and newspapers to store in it and it still smells. I even used a clear varnish spray inside the case to seal the vinyl and it still smells. I do leave it out and cover with a sewing machine cover when not in use and the machine finally doesn't smell. The outside of the case doesn't smell, but the minute you open the case the smell returns to haunt you.There are sources for new cases and they are a soft sided material. I recommend this website for parts and even a good source as to what to do with the machines. www.sjlyle.com. They are a couple who have restored and have the table for the machine also. I purchased a new foot controller and belt for the machine from them. Hope this helps. Chris

Vivian said...

Oh my! We could be kindred spirits. I want a featherweight. I have a keen sense of smell and things really bother my allergies. I had two children in college for a couple of years. My daughter will enter her final year this fall. Then, like you, I may be able to splurge on a few extra quilty things for myself.

Have a great day!

Judy said...

I had a FW with the musty smell and I have asthma. I tried every remedy listed in the above comments (and then some) and nothing worked. I even stored the machine in my hot, dry attic for a summer in the hopes that the mold would be killed. I could not use the machine because of the smell which permeated the case and machine as well. I eventually traded the machine for longarm services, to a friend w/o allergies or asthma. Judy

SueB said...

I have several featherweight sewing machine and I do have the white one. I read up on them online and the person that just does featherweight machines said that the smell comes from setting around, that if you take it in and have it serviced and put a new oil pan on the bottom of it that the smell goes away. Three of mine are out and used, including the white one, and have no smell. The one that I have not done anything to still has the smell. He said it was where the oil got old and with proper cleaning it does go away. Hope this helps and I love my little white one.. There is also a man that does a complete redo and paints them really cool colors. Which I am thinking I want to have one of mine reprinted and new decals put on it. I want LIME green...

Kathleen Tracy said...

Thank you all for your great comments!

Kristen said...

I'm also wondering what a fair price is for one. I have seen two recently, both black, one at an antique shop for $250 and one at a local sew & vac place for $450 (which seemed very high). If you know of anyone blogging about or discussing Featherweight prices, please let me know!

sandi s said...

Hi kathy, I bought mine at the 600 mile yard sale. It does not smell but the case as an oder so I don't store it in the case. I gave about 225.00 to 250.00 but 250.00 was the budget I had set. I love it and it sews like a dream. I have seen the painted ones and I would love to own one but can't see myself paying that. 800.00 was the going price. You can usually find these and refurbished black ones at a lot of the bigger quilt shows. I would love to have one of the little white/green ones. They are all so cute. Sandi

Linda in NC said...

Keep looking; you'll find a FW that doesn't smell eventually. Neither of my FWs or their cases have that musty/moldy smell though one does smell slightly of old oil. I'm sure changing the felt pad would take care of that, but since it doesn't bother me, I leave it because it reminds me of my grandmother sewing on her machine back in the 50s and 60s.

Anonymous said...

I have 2 black and 1 white FW and love them all. They do not smell that I know of or else is not noticbable to me. I do have a new case on wheels I set mine in when I take to class. They sell from $250-450 on ebay if they are in good shape. All depends how many bid.

Patty said...

I have a Featherweight. It was my Moms, and when I got married Mom gave it to me. It doesn't smell, and I have never had any trouble with it.

cityquilter grace said...

i too flirted with a featherweight for a long, long time and finally caved and glad i did. hope you find your dream machine someday

Truffle queen said...

I bought one in Florida last winter and when we took it home I put it (case and all) in a BIG zip-lok bag so we weren't fumed out of the car! I put those "dry" bags in the case! When we got home - I put the machine and the case out in the sun for days - really helped! I no longer have any of the mildew odor! I know what you mean - a member of our guild brought hers to a workshop and I had to move - I was gasping for air! I don't know how she could stand it! Oh well! The sun works wonders!!

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I just came across your blog and saw this entry about the smell of the featherweight - I have a featherweight and got rid of the smell - it was the oil pan on the bottom of the machine that causes it - they are easy to replace and you can order them on line. Over time as you put sewing machine oil in all the places some drips down to the base of the machine - it collects and smells. I had a very nice lady work on my machine to get it in top order and she called me and asked did I want her to replace that part to get rid of the smell - I hadn't any idea that was the cause - I said yes and haven't been bothered since.
Karen

Kathleen Tracy said...

Karen - thank you. Several others have mentioned that as the cause of the smell and I will certainly remember it if I am ever lucky enough to own a FW.

suz said...

I have 2 Featherweights - they were my Mom's and were in pretty active use right thru to when I got them. I use them constantly. I've never had a smell in the machines or the cases. I think the big thing is to make sure you have someone in the area who can care for them. Every 2, 3 years I have my machines cleaned and any repairs made (the belt needs replacing periodically. I have a bottom of the line Janome which I very rarely use. My Featherweights are my go-to machines and I love them.

Beth said...

I have had mine for a few years now and don't even use the case it came with it went in the trash, I have a brand new case but the machine still had the smell and now the new case smells like the machine. It doesn't bother me though. Mine doesn't have the felt on the bottom that everyone is talking about, and it still smells musty.

qltmom9 said...

I have a finicky white one. I like her, but she is more difficult. My dd has a black one from ebay for $116 and the case was in pieces. We glued it all back together after stripping the pieces, then painted. NO smell. My other dd has mil's in the case...stinky. I have one from ebay with NO case. I use a rolling case and have no odor. It sews like a dream.

Merilyn said...

You know happens eventually when you start flirting don't you? LOL!!!!
It's only the case that smells, if you leave your machine out most of the time and the case is stores elsewhere you shouldn't have any problems - I think you may cave in one day LOL!!!

Karen said...

I received a black featherweight for my 50th b-day. If the case is stored in a damp location it will take on a smell. If my box acquires that smell I will purchase a plastic case. I have been told filling the case with cat litter will remove any smell. The old cases are fabric coated. If the underside plate of the sewing machine is not cleaned, and the machine is not serviced, the grease will sour.
A guild members husband sells and services these machines. John is a gem, he told me that the black machines are the older ones. the white/green ones are newer and do have a few plastic parts. At the time singer was having to cut costs as other new machines that had zig zag features, that is why they went to plastic. He recommened the black machines, as they do not have plastic parts and are quite the work horse. You wont regret it.
Look now, you may get the bug soon. Let us know when you buy...Kgcg

Anonymous said...

The smell is usually the grease that has mildewed. I took a class on cleaning and maintaining mine and what icky stuff came out of the thing! I remember using a toothpick and to encourage us to keep up the cleaning,we were told to smell it! You will need someone who really knows how to fix them often at a Singer Sewing Center. I like mine but not as much as my Bernina.

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Kathleen. My Featherweight stank to high heaven when I got it. As others have said, the CASE is the stinkiest. I took mine right out of that stink box and I'll deal with the case later. I changed the felt pad as others have said, and about 95% of the stink is gone, just from new felt and airing the machine out for about a month. Now that warmer weather is coming, I'm going to set the Featherweight out on the deck the first really hot day that we get, because that's what many people recommend for the stinky cases. Apparently the heat and UV kills mold or whatever is making the stench. But even as the machine is now, it's usable (not so when I first brought it home!)

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