Saturday, 26 October 2013

Singer Featherweight 306k

Here's what I sewed Anna No2 on.  It's a Singer Featherweight 306k, according to the serial number, it was made in 1954.  Isn't it gorgeous?!
This one belonged to my Granny.  I don't ever remember her using it because she had a more modern machine by the time I came along (I have it too).  I always remember it being in the hall in my Granny's house with the telephone on it, and now it lives in the hall in my house.  It's housed within this table, which weighs a ton!  Since I took this photo, Mr BB kindly put some little wheels on the bottom of the legs.
The top flips open to the left, and you can see the back of the machine on the right.

The wooden cut-out flap at the front flips forward, and you then pull the machine up, replace the flap, and it looks as it does in the first photo.

I've had this for a few years now, but never used it because there wasn't any power going to the foot pedal.  Occasionally I would open it out and stroke it and tell it how lovely it was!  Then, during the summer, I read this post from Emmie, and was inspired to do a bit of research on my Featherweight.  I came across this website, and found a new foot pedal on ebay for £35.   

Shiny new foot pedal on the left, old broken one on the right.

I have the original manual, but as you can see, it's in a bit of a sorry state.  Luckily I found a downloadable version of it here.  It became lunchtime reading, and is now covered in post-its.  I wouldn't have had a clue how to use this machine without a manual, it's so different to modern machines, but it was fascinating to find out how it worked.  Crafting learning is always fun!

It uses slightly longer needles than normal.  I was able to get these on ebay, but they were about £9 for 5 (needles for my modern machine are about £2 for 5).
I have loads of different feet for it, but had no idea what most of them did.  The Singer Sewing Info website came to the rescue again with this page      

1.  Binder Foot
2.  Hinged Standard Foot
3.  Buttonhole Foot
4.  Gathering/shirring foot
5.  Seam guide
6.  Tuck marker
7.  Ruffler - back clamping
8.  Hemmer feet
9.  Adjustable zipper foot
10.  Adjustable hemmer foot
11.  Zig zag feet
12.  I'm not sure what this one is for, but I'm guessing it might be for cording.
13.  The one on the left looks the same as the standard presser foot that was attached to the machine, and I think the one on the right might be a more modern version.
14.  I'm not sure about this one either, but I'm guessing it's a quilting foot. 
Needle Position, Stitch Width and Length
Selecting the needle position, stitch width and stitch length is completely different than on a modern machine.  In the below photo, the Needle Position lever moves to the left and right to move the needle to the left and right.  Here it is in the centre to sew a straight stitch.
I haven't played about with the Stitch Width lever too much, but this is how I think it works.  The lever moves right and left.  The 0 to 5 on the left of the circle are the smallest and longest stitch lengths.  The screw at the bottom left is loosened, and you move the lever so the length you want is lined up with the little gold diamond on the middle left - in the photo it is at stitch length 2.  Then you tighten the screw up again.
The stitch length is controlled by a lever at the bottom.  In the photo below you can see a screw on the left; you loosen it, then move the lever up or down to the stitch length that you want.  Then you tighten the screw again.  According to the manual, the numbers on the left are for satin stitching.

Decorative Stitches
Instead of  pushing a button or sliding a lever to select a decorative stitch, you use these little cog thingies.

They're called Pattern Cams or Fashion Discs.  Below are three of my favourites, the stitch patterns are shown on the right of each cam.  I haven't played about with them too much yet, but I can see how they would make a lovely decorative hem or edging.

Even if you are sewing a straight stitch, a cam still has to be attached to the machine.  They are attached by unscrewing the big silver disc in the photo below.  The cam slides on, and the disc is replaced.  I think the cam in this photo is for a zig zag stitch.  You select the stitch width you want, then when you start to sew, the cam spins around.  The small silver circle at the top moves up and down over the shapes on the edge of the cam.  This then moves the needle to make the desired shape.  It's very clever!

The bobbin is loaded from underneath the machine, which means you have to tip the machine back to get at the bobbin housing.   
Sorry about all the fluff!  In my excitement to get sewing, I didn't think to actually clean the machine! 
The bobbin goes inside a bobbin casing,

this then clips into the machine.

Unfortunately I couldn't get the bobbin winder to work properly, so I ended up winding the bobbin by hand.  You can see in the photo below that the rubber disc on the right has perished a bit, as has the rubber ring on the hand wheel.  So the two weren't connecting properly to turn the bobbin winder.  Also, the lever that I have my finger on would only move a little bit, and I think it was supposed to sit on top of the thread on the bobbin. 

Once I got it going, I did some test stitching.

And here it is in action sewing some of my dress.  It was very useful to have the sewing surface level with the table, and the extra bit of table on the left was handy.  I loved using this machine!  It's so different to a modern machine, and I feel very lucky to own it.  I would love to know if anybody else has a Featherweight, and what you think of it. 



  1. My mom has a featherweight that she inherited from Grandma, and I just love using it! I have never seen the cam system though, that is so interesting! I'd love to see some samples, if you ever play with them!

    1. I'm going to sit down and have a play with the cams soon, then I'll post the results. Now that the table has the wheels it's lot easier to move about, so I know I'll use it more.

  2. Wow what a stunning machine. I love those cogs for different stitches please show us what they do . fascinating and so many feet.

    1. Thank you! I was reading in the manual about how to make the decorative stitches in different widths, so I'm interested to see how they turn out.

  3. What a beautiful machine, it's wonderful that it still works. My FiL gave me a Little Wanser machine that's been in the family for generations (dates back to 1880ish). I don't think that's ever going to be used, for a start I'm at a loss for instructions! It's beautiful though and I'm glad to have it :)

    1. I hadn't heard of a Little Wanser machine, and have just googled it. Wow!! They are gorgeous! They are a real work of art. I'm going to read up about them now.

  4. You're so lucky! I learnt to sew on my grannies Singer, which was brilliant -it did the BEST buttonholes. But we left it behind in America when we emigrated to the UK. I still miss it...

    1. Oh, what a shame you no longer have it! I hadn't though of trying buttonholes on mine, I'll have to give it a go.

  5. Wow, I am amazed with how many different feet your machine came. I mean it was only 1954! I always thought the special feet are a new invention. My grandma has an old VERITAS sewing machine. The ones where you have to sew by turning the wheel by hand. I actually have no idea if it still works. I have to check it next time when I am home. You gave me a thought :)

    1. I was amazed at the number of feet too! They were all in a tin, and I thought some of them might be for my Granny's newer (1970s) machine. I hadn't heard of Veritas machines either, so I just googled them, and they are gorgeous! I hope your's still works, I'd love to know how you get on with it.

  6. That machine is just gorgeous....about foot 14 - I have an adjustable zipper foot for my modern machine that looks a lot like that.

    1. I see what you mean about the zipper foot, the notches on either side of the outside of the foot look like a zipper foot. I think I'd seen quilting foots on the internet that looked a bit like the mystery foot, but now I'm doubting myself!

  7. OH my goodness - what a fab machine! Am rather jealous!!! Thanks for showing us around all the bits and bobs and workings of the machine, facinating. So many crazy feet and as others have said, the cogs for different stitches seem amazing!!!

    1. Thank you! I really do love it, and I'm so glad everybody has been so interested in it.

  8. I got rid of three old sewing machines when we moved house. I'm beginning to think it was a bit of a mistake as the old Singers were so well made!

    1. They really are well made. The one thing that disappointed me when I was buying my new machine was that they all had plastic caseings. The metal is just more sturdy.


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