I just finished resurrecting a 1939 Singer Portable Electric Sewing Machine. I had to clean, lube and adjust it after about 40 years of inactivity. It is a Model 221-1 and is probably the smoothest sewing machine I have ever used. I have been using a Husqvarna/Viking for most of my MYOG projects but now, unless I need the zig-zag stitch feature, I will be using this little gem; it is just that good .
I learned how to sew on one of its sisters (a '35 model , from my grand'ma) ! This thing could be used on power or even cranked by hand, could go through many layers, leather or nylon straps, never missed a stitch, gulped oil, hummed beautifully at full speed. But had unfortunately only two ways, forward/backward, no zigzag, so I had to sell it (to some collector) to upgrade... Good memories!
Your model 221 is called a Singer Featherweight. It recently underwent a large surge of demand for quilters - who only need the straight stitch for a standard quilt.
The machine is small enough and light enough that it can be carried to quilting club meetings and sewing events. For a while, it commanded pretty high prices.
It is also famous for the quality of the stitch that it makes. I think you are seeing that. Looks like professionally sewn clothing.
Part of that quality comes from being designed for only straight stitches. The needle just ploughs along straight ahead. The zigzag and other modern machines are designed to allow the needle to be moved from side to side, and as a result there is often some extra mechanical play that shows up as a poorer quality stitch.
With good care and frequent oiling and lubrication, you machine could last another 50 or 100 years still cranking out great stitches.
I passed up the chance to buy one for about $15 four years ago. I didn't know what it was back then, and because of that was afraid to buy it. Fixed up, those things could go for over $200 at one time.
I use my Grandama's 1917 model 27. My mother gets quite the pride from knowing I'm sewing all manner of things - pants, tarps, canoe spray covers, pack modifications, etc. - on the same machine her mother made her dresses with. Rugged and reliable. Hope you enjoy your little workhorse.
Wow, that's in really good shape! Those were built back when men were men and so were sewing machines. Old machines like that were designed for every day clothes making, not just hobby sewing. Straight stitch only?
Note added. I just finished researching the serial number/date of manufacture and it turns out that it was actually made in 1936. It belonged to my mother-in-law; her first machine. It has been in storage since about 1960. It is straight stitch only but reversible. All the gears are cut steel and most of the mechanism is fitted like a watch. The Husqvarna/Viking I have been using is like a Tinker Toy compared to this little gem though it does do a zig-zag stitch.
Loc: Eastern MA, USA
Wa-a-y back, when I took one year of high school Home economics, there were two treadle Sh=inger mahinesin the back of the room, mostly collecting dust. We had half as many modern machines as students and had to take turns during each class. The foot-powered machines were more or less ignored. Ha! Unless I needed a zig-zag sthtch, I used the treadle and loved it.
The Husqvarna/Viking I have been using is like a Tinker Toy compared to this little gem though it does do a zig-zag stitch.
Finding good machines with steel cut gears, bronze bushings and ball bearings, is tricky these days. All my machines/sergers are used and all at least 20 years old. A friend was telling me a story about his brand new Singer that ran great for a day an then shucked the nylon drive gears. Garage door openers are built the same way these days. I've replaced my door opener gears twice now...they can't handle the load. It's also why your little machine will never need service or replacement parts unless you use it for a boat anchor in salt water.
I have one of those - inherited from my mom - mine is a '47 I believe. I learned to sew on it, sewed many a pack and several tents on it before I got a machine that would zig-zag. I still have it, and was told by the dealer where I bought my Viking/Husqvarna that the Featherweight is worth up to $400. I have several attachments for mine, including a buttonholer.