Featherweight 221, 221K & 222K Buying Tips
221, 221K and 222K Singer Featherweight sewing machines are all now pretty old. However they were extremely rugged little machines, so that most are still in reasonably good condition and will probably last for at least another 50 years. All Featherweight sewing machines are now highly sought after by both collectors and enthusiasts, so that examples in good condition can sell for prices that may be 2 or 3 times that of buying a brand new, all singing, all dancing electronic ‘plastic’ sewing machine.
Because of the age of Featherweight machines and the possibility of conditions ranging from ‘as new’ to ‘very neglected’, it is important to appreciate some key facts before committing to buying.
There are really 3 main ways of buying a Featherweight sewing machine:
Buying from a specialist Featherweight dealer is usually by far the most expensive way to obtain a 221 or 222K sewing machine, but it is also probably the easiest and safest way to get a really top quality machine.
Most specialist Featherweight dealers are also themselves enthusiasts with a great deal of knowledge about these very special models. Such dealers will normally only select the best examples that are in close to perfect condition to sell on. Because they are charging a premium price, and they have their own reputation to preserve, they will normally ensure that all machines they sell are serviced and if necessary restored to the best possible condition with new feet, drive belts etc. Most importantly with a 50-70 year old machine they must by law ensure that they are electrically safe and tested before selling them. Respectable dealers will for the most part be honest and precise about describing the condition of their machines, including highlighting any minor imperfections, so that unlike auction purchases, their customers have no unwelcome surprises when their machine arrives.
Specialist dealers should be very aware that these machines require special attention to their packing if they are to arrive safely. If a Featherweight is allowed the slightest movement within its storage case, then even a moderate bump during handling can shatter the case.
Internet auction sites such as Ebay are an easy way to find plenty of 221 or 222K sewing machines for sale. It is quite possible to buy excellent 221 or 222K machines in this way, but BEWARE. Not many Featherweights offered on these sites turn out to be anywhere near as good as they look at first glance. Ask plenty of searching questions and inspect the photo in close detail before bidding. If you get evasive answers then beware !!
Internet auctions do tend to attract their fair number of rogue sellers who may cunningly and quite deliberately misrepresent a machine’s condition without actually lying about it. Alternatively they may just forget to mention critical facts which would substantially lower its value. i.e, not being complete, or that accessories which should be included as standard are missing, or that is has non-standard parts substituted. Photo's are often taken in such a way as not to be too revealing.
Buying by Internet auction is very much a case of ‘Buyer Beware’. Although it may be possible to get a refund in serious cases of mis-description, this will not include the original postage cost. Also the buyer has to pay for the cost of returning the item by a ‘tracked’ service. These losses can often make it impractical to pursue a refund claim, which is why such sellers can often preserve their apparent good feedback rating. Many 221 and 222K Featherweights offered in this way have dubious backgrounds and may come from house clearances, during which they were treated without much care by some heavy handed people, or they may have even been recycled from the local rubbish tip.
When a seller uses general terms such as ‘good condition’, then remember that one person’s idea of good condition might be another person’s idea of a machine that should be scrapped. Such descriptive terms are very subjective and will have little meaning. It is essential to ask specific and searching questions before bidding anything more than a very low offer.
Many internet auction sellers do not have the experience, facilities or enough common sense to correctly pack machines to protect them from damage during handling. Couriers have specific guidelines for packing and if these are not met they will not meet any compensation claims for damage. - BEWARE !!
Featherweights sourced directly from private individuals who have owned them for some time can be the best opportunity of obtaining a really top quality machine with all its original parts intact. There is also usually the opportunity to examine the machine before committing to an expensive purchase.
WARNING SIGNS TO WATCH FOR
Machines that have ‘lost’ their foot controllers – Featherweight foot controllers are always stored inside the cases with their machines, so it is difficult to give much credibility to the vague and feeble excuses so often given to explain this loss. It is illegal for anyone to sell electrical items that have not been PAT tested for safety and so when local rubbish tips sell off items that can be recycled they first remove their power leads. The absence of a foot controller can indicate such a history, so watch out for machines that have been abused or are not complete, have been exposed to damp, may have the bobbin case missing, or have no accessories, damaged cases etc.
Alternatively it can be that the machine has other major faults and so it is a covenient way in which the seller can describe its positive attributes without ever admitting knowledge of the other undeclared faults.
Machines that run at full speed only – DO NOT TOUCH THE MACHINE
BEWARE this can be a symptom of a VERY dangerous condition that could cause electrocution.
The cable inside the machine to the light used newly developed PVC insulation. In some Featherweight machines the polymers in the old PVC have now broken down with age. This can result in the insulation melting in a gooey mess, or going brittle and dropping off. In either case it can result in bare wires. These may short out behind the 3 pin socket on the machine causing the motor controller to be bypassed so that the machine always runs at full speed. It can also result in a bare wire touching the metal body of the machine which is not earthed and could become live with mains voltage.
Although it is against the law to sell any home electrical appliance that is not safe, some unscrupulous sellers turn a blind eye and ignore the need to obtain a PAT test certificate. Remember that a bargain may not be so attractive if it causes electrocution to a dear one!!!
Machines where the owner can’t guarantee it works because they don’t understand how to use it - Very convenient !! - so why do they have the machine and can't they read the instructions ? Look out for abused machines which may have faults which the seller just does not want to admit to, because they fear that lowers the value even more than them just saying they can’t test it does.
Machines that have ‘ANY’ rust or corrosion on the bright metal parts – Stored properly, Featherweight 221 and 222K sewing machines should not suffer any corrosion. However if the machine has been left in a damp garage or shed, then the steel parts around the needle bar and foot presser mechanism will soon start to rust. With a little longer exposure, the chrome parts such as the faceplate and levers can also show rust coming through. AVOID these machines. They are virtually worthless (even though some eBay sellers advertise them at ‘good condition asking prices without mentioning the rust). It is not viable to restore these machines cosmetically and if the damp has affected the visible parts then it is highly likely it will also have penetrated the internal mechanisms.