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Those Fantastic Featherweights!

Product Review: Those Fantastic Featherweights:The Complete How-to Video for Maintaining Your Featherweight 221 and 222, and
The Featherweight and I illustrated repair and maintenance book

By David R. McCallum
Two Disc DVD Set, Running Time 3 ˝ hours, book 67 pages
Published by Featherweight Rx, 2004 and 2008
Retail Price: DVD set: $59.99, book $32.00

Thos Fantastic FeatherweightsPlanet Patchwork was one of the first sites on the internet to provide information about and give recognition to the little Singer sewing machine that has captured the hearts of quilters around the world, the Featherweight 221. Our “Featherweight Facts” page has had thousands of hits, and remains one of the most popular places people go on the web for an introduction to this lightweight but rugged machine that is so great for taking to quilting class. We have also featured Nancy Johnson-Srebro's popular book Featherweight 221: The Perfect Portable as it has been published through three editions. As a result of the popularity of these pages, we get a lot of e-mail regarding Featherweights, on how to maintain and repair them, or sell them, or price them. Even though we do own a 1946 model, we don't consider ourselves experts in the subject, and so we are always on the lookout for new resources for these inquiring readers to help them answer their questions and solve their problems relating to the Featherweight machine.

We were very happy then to discover a booth at this year's Quilt Market in Houston populated by a little company we'd never heard of that calls itself Featherweight Rx. David McCallum and his wife were showing off a suite of new products especially for Featherweight owners that dramatically increase the knowledge base for care, repair, and history of the machine. Featherweight Rx has produced a very professional two-disc DVD set which presents and demonstrates in great detail all of the ins and outs of Featherweight maintenance and repair. Since Featherweights haven't been manufactured since 1964, they can only be bought as antiques or in flea markets, and often their manuals have not survived. So if you're lucky or persistent enough to acquire a machine, you can be put at a loss in solving even the simplest malfunctions of the machines. Nancy Johnson-Srebro addresses a few of the common problems in her book, but it is not a repair manual or a replacement for the instruction book, and is of limited help. Dave McCallum's DVD set has now come along to provide all you will ever need to know about your machine, right down to how to repair the paint job.

David is a man who has obviously given a good portion of his life to the mastery of this and other sewing machines. He gives workshops on the subject to groups of quilters and others all over the country. He's not a trained actor or spokesperson, but his casual style and dry sense of humor make for an easy-to-watch video on a technical subject that could otherwise easily put you to sleep. Disc #1 of the set walks the watcher through the basic elements of maintenance of the machine, including what types and quantities of oil and grease to use, and where to apply them. This is quite important because there are any number of types of oil (such as the ever-popular 3-in-1 Oil) that will gum up the works. David's patient explanations are accompanied by very professional camerawork that ensures that you can clearly see what he is doing, and the sequence of steps is repeated more than once.

The second disc goes into the real trouble-shooting that might need to be done if the machine you find at that yard sale has some problems and needs repair. Electrical issues, replacement of drive belts, machine timing and many other subjects are covered in such a way that you may never need to put your machine in the hands of a repair person. Much attention is also given to the external finish of the machine, with techniques for repairing chipping of the paint and even redoing the decorative decals. One of the most amusing (and useful if you have this particular problem) segments of the video is on how to remove the foul smell caused by rancid glue in your Featherweight case! As an added bonus, the disc also includes a segment on the Singer 301 machine, which Dave describes as a “Featherweight on steroids.” You can see a preview of the lessons on the DVD at YouTube.

An accompaniment to the video is a spiral-bound manual that Dave published in 2004 that's a great machine-side reference. It contains many of the same lessons and techniques as are in the video, but without the live demonstrations. Its large, easy-to-read pages and convenient binding allow you to refer to it even as you're sticking your screwdriver into the guts of the machine!

Featherweight seam guideIf you are one of those quilters who is proud to declare herself a “Featherweight fanatic,” or would like to be, these new products are indispensable. Together with Nancy Johnson-Srebro's classic volume, they are the definitive references on this popular (some say “cult”) machine.

The folks at Featherweight Rx also offer a customized Featherweight sew guide to attach to your machine and help you keep those quarter-inch seams line up.

All of the items mentioned in this article are available from the Planet Patchwork store.



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