1955 Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine

This is a 1955 Singer 221 Featherweight sewing machine that I purchased on Craigslist as a lucky find. The machine only needed cleaning, lubrication, and a new belt. For good measure, I also rewired it, installed a new oil pad, and refurbished the carrying case.

A black Singer Featherweight Model 221 sewing machine, viewed from the front. A view from the right side of the machine. A closeup of the Singer logo and model number badges.

According to the serial number, it was manufactured around January 1955 in Elizabethport, New Jersey.

A closeup of the machine serial number on the bottom of the machine, AL908817. The needle bar, viewed from the left side of the machine. A closeup of the thread tension dial. The needle bar, viewed from the right. A closeup of the bobbin winder wheel, which reads "Simanco U.S.A. 45859" A view of the machine from the motor end, showing the orange toothed replacement belt. A closeup of the stich length lever. It is stamped "54732 Simanco. U.S.A." A closeup of the stitch takeup arm. A closeup of the bobbin case in the hook. A closeup of the rotary hook mechanism, with the bobbin case and throat plate removed. The feed dogs are visible in the background.

The lower motor brush can be accessed from the bottom of the machine without removing the motor.

The motor brush access hole from the bottom of the machine.

The wires for the light were originally clad in lead, which protected the cloth-covered wires from oil and allowed them to be routed safely through the pillar of the machine. The lead oxidizes over time, hence the yellowish powder in the pictures below.

Lead clad wiring, removed from the lampholder. A closeup of the lampholder showing the removal screws. A closeup of the old wiring inside the lampholder.

I used some #12 copper wire (and my mad soldering skills) to make a "backbone" for the replacement wiring. It works well for keeping the wiring in place.The lampholder with its new wiring. The new wiring is attached to a lenght of copper wiring which has three cleats soldered to it.I tried both popular kinds of replacement belts: the traditional black rubber V-belt and the newer orange plastic toothed belt. Both belts are servicable, but the orange one is more supple and less prone to deforming. After some time in storage, the black belt got bent out of shape by the motor pulley.

Two belt styles for the Singer 221.

These 3/8″ felt circles are a good way to keep the faceplate thumbscrew from hitting the machine bed when it's folded up.

A sheet of felt pads. The package reads, "ACE Felt Pads, Self Adhesive, 24 Pcs. Surface Savers, 3/8 in." One of the pads is dyed black. The felt pad in position on the thumbscrew.

I also replaced the felt oil pad inside the bottom pan of the machine. I bought my replacement pad ready-made, but it would be easy enough to cut a new one using the template below (click the image for a printable PDF).

A silhouette of the felt oil pad, with a ruler for scale.

I refurbished the case covering by gluing down any frays with Elmer's glue and restoring the color with Fiebing's leather dye. I finished it off with a coat of wax.

A view of the refurbished Singer Featherweight carrying case. Empty bobbins in their holder within the case.

The box hinges and latches cleaned up well with some polish and judicious use of high-grit sandpaper on the rivets. The plating is thin, so I tried to take it easy here. Before:

A close-up of the latch before restoration. The rivets are slightly rusty.

After: A close-up of the latch after restoration.Before: A closeup of the rear hinge before restoration. The metal is dull and the four large rivets are slightly rusty.After: A close-up of the rear hinge after restoration. The finish is shiny and uniform.