Tuesday, January 08, 2019

What Else Could I Do?


It was sitting there – quite dusty and alone.

The snap latches on the front of the case broken, lid gaping open enough to allow me a glimpse of tangled cord and glossy black.

I lifted the lid – well wouldn’t you?

Oh sweet thing – who are you? Who owned you?  How did you end up here?


I gingerly lifted her out of that broken case -

And turning her over gently, much like checking the sex on a new-found kitten – took a photo of the serial number in the dim light of the antique mall – so I could enlarge it on the phone screen enabling my eyes to actually make out what might possibly be:


September 10th, 1934.


“But she isn’t very pretty.” said the voice of reason within my head. “Her decals are all gone.”

“That means someone loved her more than we could ever guess!” said the voice of sentimentality.  

“Someone loved this machine so much they sewed those decals right off.”


School bell bobbin winder guide!

Only the very early featherweights had the infamous “school bell” guide.  1934 is 2 years earlier than my pink featherweight that faced an untimely demise due to the carelessness of United airlines and their mandatory gate check.

This beauty also has the old style chrome stitch length regulator -


And a lovely scroll face plate -

A chrome hand wheel.

No lines on this feed dog plate either!

Barely a decal left in front -

But that foot pedal?

Again the voice of sentimentality (she always rules the day) spoke up to say “Someone loved her enough to replace the old foot with a 1950s model, so the owner could keep sewing…”  And I smiled to myself.

How much easier was it for the operator to use this style foot pedal than the standard singer “one toe button” model?

I quickly checked to be sure – yes, the original bobbin case was in place.  We plugged her in so I could hear her run.  Purring like a kitten, she was begging me to take her home.

The voice of sentimentality knows how to hit me every time, and before I knew it – I was hauling this beauty to the car.

A well loved machine, even with all of its decals sewn off through the using and making of many decades, will often be a better running machine than a pristine one who sat unused “in mint condition” in a closet for 50 years.


Cleaned up, oiled, new needle – and sewing.

She sings!


Ella Fitzgerald made her debut at the Apollo Theater in 1934, the same year that this sweet featherweight was manufactured.

I will be calling her Ella.

And perhaps someone will be sewing on her as one of the “loaner machine” fleet at Quiltville Inn.


There were also quilts to discover -

Even if I wasn’t seeing too clearly – I had just left my macula specialist after a checkup complete with mandatory dilation.  UGH.  I was waiting for it to get darker outside so I could drive home.


The date below MOTHER says 1933.

How special are these to still be a pair?


I love these scrappy stars!


And this, of course this!


Where would one get so many pink and blue gingham scraps?

Textile factory, maybe?

Look closely:


Today’s Quiltville Quote of the Day.

I absolutely love how the maker of this quilt showed no fear in cutting the gingham completely off grain in many of the patches, However her template would fit on the scraps she had at hand. It gives this quilt life! If it were all perfectly aligned with the grain it would be a perfectly boring quilt.

Are there things you won't even attempt to try because you know it won't turn out perfect?

Perfection is highly overrated!

Don't let your fear stop you in your tracks.

Happy Tuesday, friends!


  1. Your machine was made on my Dad's 10th birthday! Maybe it belonged to someone in his family. Who knows. Happy Sewing.

  2. Love old machines and old quilts! That machine was a great find, probably overlooked because of the wear. Glad you rescued Ella.

  3. Glad you adopted another... Ella is so glad to be included... thanks for sharing another wonderful adventure in Antique-ing... Cats in Carlsbad CA

  4. And I see on the Drunkard's Path that there's one where not enough fabric to cut out so it was pieced, making that block even more wonky!

  5. Not only is the gingham off grain in some of the patches, but to the left of the y in "trying" in the quote photo there is a patched quarter circle with no attempt to match the gingham.

  6. There is secret music that only few can hear....the purring of a featherweight that is happy to be loved again is as marvelous as a symphony. My one and only fw was found in a busted case on a jumbled pile in a shed at an antique store. She is also a scruffed up plain jane but i feel blessed to have her around.

  7. had never heard of a school bell binder winder - I had to look closely at photos to see what you meant - great find!

  8. Many of my late grandmother's quilts were made like that pink and blue gingham one - pieces cut any which way. Her design aesthetic was.... eccentric. She was eccentric. I will say this, though - none of her quilts were boring. ;)

  9. You know, sometimes you talk yourself into buying a vintage machine in an 'Oh, I probably shouldn't' way. But you get them humming and ready to sew again, and then you've sent several extras on to new homes where they're used and loved. Maybe Quiltville Inn can become a waystation for a few old lovelies, beyond the ones in the loaner fleet. You give them a little TLC and, when there are extras, Quiltville Inn guests can adopt them and take them home. Like fostering puppies, only you're fostering and rescuing vintage machines until they can find their forever homes. ;)

    1. That sounds like an awesome idea, Leah. I second the motion!

  10. Thanks Bonnie for a GREAT mystery quilt. I love it !!
    I hope 2019 is the best year ever for you.

  11. I would have done the same thing. I just love rescuing vintage machines and restoring them. They are superior stitchers and have such a history as they continue to work hard. I would have gladly restored it for you if i lived closer!

  12. Oh she is adorable! Terrific rescue!

  13. Oh thank you for sharing this little beauty. She was born on the same day as my sweet Mom who I lost almost two years ago. What a beautiful little girl she is ❤️

  14. So glad that you saved Ella. So many things she has experienced. If only she could talk !

  15. Oh how I love your antique adventures - I was just telling my hubby yesterday about these types of posts you share with all the photo-goodness!
    Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of the treasures that abound where you are!

    1. I agree with that sentiment. Thanks Bonnie!

  16. Thank you for naming your new/old/ singer after me. My neighbor when I was growing up, had one similar sitting in an old one-sided cabinet. She used
    it a lot too. We were not allowed to touch it. Enjoy!

  17. Such a perfect find for you Bonnie!! There couldn't be a better name and also not a better new owner. Congratulations!! Ella will be so happy in her new home!

  18. It makes me happy to read this. I sew on my mother’s 1939 Featherweight. Over the years, all the front decals have worn off. When I see pretty Featherweights, I sometimes feel bad about that, but you’ve made me see that it’s the result of all these many years of sewing on my machine (I started in 1968). Yup, she’s loved and used and still humming along. Thanks for making me smile today!

  19. I made the mistake of sharing some of your antique store sewing machine finds to my husband. Now when we go antiquing he is on the look out for old sewing machines. Now I have a collection of antique machines. I have to rein him in or there would be a more than I have room for. I am still on the lookout for a treadle and a cabinet for the 301a so he still has a mission when we go.

    1. Judy that's funny. I wish I had the patience for wending my way through dusty antique shops. Ever since I saw a retreater pictured with one, I have been yearning for a turquoise/aqua-coloured Singer Featherweight machine. Hoping one day I'll find one!
      ~Diana from Toronto

  20. I have on with a school bell bobbin winder but she is in rough shape. I bought her with a mind to have it painted.

  21. I am one of those who is sometimes afraid to start for fear I'll mess up. I'm trying to learn that "finished is better than perfect!"

  22. Sew great to Rescue that Featherweight. I might be one of the Quiltville Inn Visitors who would need a loaner. Nice quilt finds too.

  23. Finding a beautiful old featherweight like that in the wild around here just doesn't happen! Nor those beautiful quilts you so often feature. What a treat to see them.

  24. I recently purchased a Singer 201 from 1957 for $10.00. She was sitting outside on the ground of an antique store. I really felt I needed to rescue her. Hubby is no help because he said "It's just ten bucks!" So it is at the aged machine restorer right now. I just got a call from him and he said he didn't know if he could fix the light as some parts are missing. I told him to press on. I have Ott lights so it wasn't a deal breaker. He said "Do you have a sentimental attachment to this machine?" Nope I explained that I just got her and wanted to save it. I think he was hoping I would give up. Told him to call if anything major was going to be an issue. Do I need it.....NO! I also have a Singer treadle that is from about 1910. She still moves. Probably needs a good oiling but still runs. Made many of my outfits in high school on that treadle. I still want to get a Featherweight. Maybe the Gods will smile on me and send me one! Happy Quilting!

  25. Love your quote of the day. Inspired me to try some curves and circles in my next quilt. I have stayed away from blocks with curves because I just couldn't seem to get it right. Anyway, I am still working on my Mystery Quilt so curves will be the next thing I do. Thank you for all of your inspiration. Loved reading about Ella!

  26. Many years ago when my son was in college in New Orleans, he called me at work in the middle of the day. Of course my heart was beating a mile a minute wondering what accident he was in. He was actually at a garage sale and found "one of those cute black Singers in a black box" and did I want it. $75 later and a trip home for Thanksgiving and he hand carried it on the airplanes to give it to me. I am truly blessed that I have it (and another from another garage sale) and a son who knows the value of good tools. :)
    Polly Blank

    1. Lucky you, Polly Blank. What a wonderfully thoughtful and caring son!

  27. My Mom and Dad were married in 1934. What a wonderful machine!

  28. Hi, Bonnie. I love the way you placed the warm and cool colors in the Good Fortune Mystery Quilt! This is my first mystery quilt, and I like it, although I have not figured out how to post links yet. �� I hate to bother you, but I bought the String Frenzy book in December (love it)but didn't get the download of the Hunter's Star pattern. Would you be able to send it to me? If not, I will just buy it. Have a wonderful time in Japan!

  29. Hi Bonnie, I love your 'new' machine. I highly recommend watching the videos at https://singer-featherweight.com/ under "Schoolhouse". You will learn so much about maintaining your machine including when to use the Thread Stand depending on what spool of thread you are using, modern, cross-wound thread spools or large cones. And, interesting to read that it should be oiled every 8 hours of sewing!!! I love my 4 and teach using them, keeping them maintained per the fabulous video instructions. Love your blog and the quilts you make! Nancy

  30. Bonnie K. Hunter, Sewing Machine Rescuer -- sounds good to me!

  31. I wish I had known you before I gave my 1878 Singer away back in 2008. I had inherited it from my step-grandmother who was a professional seamstress and died at 98 in 1984. Nobody really wanted it and I wasn't sure how to get it to work. The treadle and case were so heavy that we couldn't take it with us when we moved to another city. Every time I see an old Singer, I remember the one that I gave away and regret not having it. I hope someone like you adopted it and is using it today.

  32. Sweet find! Good to know she's gone to a good home, someone who will feed her, groom her, and give her lots of love!

  33. When I was in college (accounting major!), I took a course in flat patterns (I never had time in high school for home ec courses). We all had to make a dress of gingham to check on grain lines - and everyone through their gingham away (dresses and scraps). Being a saver, I grabbed them and took them home and eventually made a drunkard's path quilt from the various colors and sizes of gingham - it was a wonderful scrappy quilt.

  34. Lucky you! Very good find!

  35. Bonnie, I love to ready your stories. This one is so sweet. Love it. I'm ready for the next MQ, will it be starting in February for Valentine's Day?!?!?!?

  36. What a super find! To me I would rather have a well used machine with blemishes than one refurbished with new decals and maybe a paint job. My W&W is perfect to me with worn decals and dull paint. She has had a life of many stitches and eager for many more. Have fun on your upcoming journey.

  37. In the year my mother was born Thank you for sharing, I remember having foot pedals with only the toe button.

  38. What a happy machine, to be found and used again.


Did you know that ad space on this blog provides for all of the free patterns and free mysteries and challenges at no cost to you? Without ads, this blog would not be possible.

Thank you for understanding the many hours that go into this blog 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. :)