A brief history of the Singer Featherweight

Although the Featherweight clearly owes much to the earlier Standard Sewhandy portable, it is probably not true to say that the Singer company bought out Standard just to get its hands on the Sewhandy design.

In fact, when Standard went to the wall, the Osaan company picked up the pieces before selling on to Singer.

It would be difficult to deny, however, that the Sewhandy wasn not the inspiration for the Featherweight.

The Featherweight has the same unitary design with the "works" hidden in a deepened base, and built to sell first and foremost as a portable.

But the improvements that Singer built into the new Featherweight made it succeed where the Sewhandy had failed to rescue Standard.

The new machine had aluminium base and arm components drastically reducing the weight (the Sewhandy had a cast-iron arm), a flip-up extension table that increased the work area and an easily-selected reverse feature. Maintenance was made easier with a single thumb screw releasing the bottom pan for lubrication (the Sewhandy had a series of screws holding a hefty wooden base).

The new design was introduced to the public in 1933 at the Chicago World's Fair. The improved model, which followed three years later, had a re-worked bobbin case and a numbered dial which took the guesswork out of tension setting.

Production during WW2 was severely limited and some machines made during this period had blacken parts instead of chrome and others a crinkle-finish paint work. For details of these machines see crinkle and blackside Featherweights

Production of the 221 started in the UK at what was then Singer's largest factory in 1949. Six years later production started on the ultimate Featherweight, the 222 Freearm, and then the white/green model which was made in very limited numbers until 1964. Tan/beige machines were also produced in Scotland and at the Canadian plant.


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