A Singer Featherweight Named Rosalyn

singer featherweight

Hello Everyone. I would like to introduce you to my new friend Rosalyn. She’s a sturdy gal that’s already had a lifetime full of adventure, her most recent escapade being a journey across the pond to live with me! We share a birthday (November 7th), although she’s a fair bit older than me, having been made in 1949.

singer featherweight case

Even though I knew that my mom was going to be buying me a featherweight as a graduation gift (mostly so she had an excuse to buy one for herself at the same time ;) I still gasped with awe as I unwrapped this beautiful little black case. So plain and unprepossessing.

singer featherweight in box

And yet what beautiful glory doth wait, nestled inside! (Okay, I’ve never been much of a poet. Sorry for inflicting that upon you.) But really, isn’t she gorgeous, nestled in that little black box?

singer featherweight etched face plate

My mom bought her machine (named Rosie) and my machine from Graham Forsdyke, purveyor of singer featherweights to the gentry. Isn’t that a great tagline for a business? He had quite a selection of machines that we could pick from, all thoroughly documented and described. My only request was that I got a machine with an engraved faceplate and when we found that he had one listed that shared my birthday there was no question which one would be mine! My mom picked one made the same year on Valentine’s Day :)

singer featherweight stitch length

I did sew on Rosalyn a fair bit this summer, although I have to wait a while to share what I made. Once I got used to her, I found her to be quite pleasant to sew garments on. Since she’s a straight-stitch machine, I avoided working with knits and I went ahead and finished a bunch of seams with my serger. I’m really looking forward to piecing a quilt on her! And she will definitely find a place of honor in my sewing studio, when we eventually settle down into a home again.

official singer seal

Rosalyn has such a delightful purr. It’s such a mechanical sound that it really makes me think about the fact that she is a machine, she is doing work. And I can imagine generations of women, seated in front of her, doing work to clothe their families.

singer featherweight feet

Several feet came with the machine and I believe my mom bought a few others (every foot she has bought for herself she has bought for me too). I hadn’t really thought about Rosalyn having so much utility, but I’m definitely going to challenge myself to get familiar with her feet so that I can take full advantage of her skills and abilities!

singer featherweight foot pedal

My only source of complaint is her foot pedal. I cannot figure out a topology for placing my foot that makes sense to me. I end up with the pedal sideways and my big toe pressing down on the button, but I know there must be a better way, right? Do any of you have a pedal like this and how do you put your foot on it!?!?

Comments 24

  1. What a great machine. I have a 401A and it has the same pedal foot. The pedal was designed for women to sew in high heels. I read this in the Singer Sewing book that accompanied my purchase. The two feet are facing closest to your foot and the toe button is so small so that the point of the high heel just fits to push down. Not sure if I’m describing this very well. Hope that helps.

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  2. I may be wrong, but I think the footpedal was used as a knee pedal back in the day (somehow attached to the underside of the table? I may be wrong, but I think that’s what the listing said when I bought mine! (a 201k) But congrats on the awesome gift!

  3. My mum had an old singer with a foot like that – from memory we used it “portrait style” – ball of foot pushes button down; grooved non-moving button created a “rest” when pedal wasn’t being pushed. Enjoy!

  4. HI Erin

    Rosalyn is beautiful, how did you come up with the name ? On Monday I bought a Vintage Sewing Machine, a Singer 99K and I’ve yet to give her name. She too has the same foot as yours, a strange design, it has two blocks, one that moves and one that doesn’t. I wonder whether it has anything to do with it being a knee operated pedal as well as a foot pedal ?

    My sewing machine was made in March 1961, not as old as yours but still 53 years old, in the SInger factory in Kilbowie, Scotland, 5000 of these machines were made before production of this model finished in 1962.

    Have you checked out the serial number of your machine to checkout it’s history, it would be fun to know.

    If you visit my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/bobbingirlbagmakingsupplies, you will be able to see a picture of my girl.

    Thanks and kind regards


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      I’m not totally sure how the name Rosalyn popped into my head, but I took the spelling from a David Bowie song.
      Congratulations on finding your machine. She’s a beauty! I know you’ll enjoy sewing with her!
      Thanks for sharing the link to the serial number lookup – I’ll take a peak very soon.

  5. The foot peddles look odd to our modern eye don’t they. They were designed to sit with the button end facing you. You rest your foot on the solid part that is raised up and push down with your big toe. So you almost had it right.

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  6. I almost trembled in excitement reading this. I learnt to sew on a similar version; but the old treadle style! My Mum still has it. They are the most wonderful machines to sewing denim on, and you WILL fall more and more in love with her as time goes by. Looking forward to the updates about your combined projects!

  7. Wowsers!! She’s a beauty! I have a 306k that was my Granny’s. She bought it new in 1954, and it has attachable cams to do decorative stitches. The foot pedal that was with it was the same as your’s, but it wasn’t working. I was able to get a new foot pedal on eBay for £35 (I’m in the UK) and it’s the same as a modern machine foot pedal, but has a plug that connects to the featherweight.

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  8. I had a Singer with the same foot pedal when I was young. You put your foot so that the ball of your foot under the fourth and little toe rests on the fixed, serrated bump. Then the ball of your foot under your big toe rests on the “gas”. You operate it by rolling your foot sideways to the left, gently onto the gas pedal and then to the right onto the “resting bump” when you want to slow down/stop. It gives great control. In the picture, you have got it at 90 degrees to the correct position. I miss that foot pedal. Its actually better than my new machine’s pedal. I don’t believe it originally went with your machine, though. It’s a generic Singer pedal. Probably worked with a lot of Singers.

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  9. Hello Rosalyn!!! I have a 1946 Featherweight her name is Arabella and a 1957 her name is Lila. I love the sound they make when they sew! The footpedal is definitely weirdly designed I really haven’t come up with a comfortable way to use it.

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  10. Have some fun playing with those feet. I have an old singer as well and that ruffler foot is great! I also love the mini rolled hem foot (the one at 12:00 on your photo). I made beautiful tiny hems on chiffon my first time using it. I kept showing them to everyone, “look at this hem!”

  11. I too have a Featherweight. It is so beautiful that even my 22 year old son will sit and sew and marvel at the engineering. Have you discovered Nova Montgomery? She sells the only oil that you should use on the machine, as well as lots of parts. http://www.novamontgomery.com/. She also has monthly tips on the use of the machine. Isn’t it nice that these old machines finish up with people who adore them? I would rather use mine than my Bernina.

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      Ooh, thanks for sharing the link. I will definitely give it a look-over. Now that I have a featherweight, I’m very excited for any history or tips that I can get my hands on!

  12. Actually I have the manual for all my machines with pedals like this (there are 3), and the manuals all say to rest the ball of the right foot over the button, with the side of the foot on that sticky up bit. You then rock your foot sideways slightly. I haven’t ever found it hard to use. I can’t imagine sewing in heels would be comfortable!

  13. Also you might find this interesting/useful:

    Spare Time for Sewing

    Although she has moved the blog since she wrote these, and some of the links weren’t rewritten correctly so you have to amend them. All the articles are there though. I have printed all of them to files so I can refer to the PDFs offline.

    There are many other lovely attachments for the machines out there. I particularly like the veining (aka false hemstitching) foot at the moment, though I find others aren’t so keen. It basically does a narrow line of faggoting, which used to be called veining. The line doesn’t have to be straight and I have done curved lines with great success. It does take a lot of getting used to though. Another fun one is not really an attachment, so it could be used with a modern machine too. It’s the singercraft guide. Great for using up oddments of wool too.

  14. Once you get the hang of it, this foot pedal gives you great control over speed of the machine and makes sewing enjoyable. Yes, the above comments are correct. Place your whole front foot over the two buttons and gently rock to the left, depressing the button that activates the machine. I love how you can slow right down or speed up just with a gentle rocking motion. Have fun! I have a 222K and I love it! I try and sew on her every day.

  15. I just got a FW with that same pedal. Now I’ll have to go back to sewing with my right foot. Phooie.

  16. I’ve looked all over for instructions on how to use the FW foot. Thanks you guys for directions. I’ll try it tonight. I was about ready to chuck the little darling and opt for a new pedal! I own too many vintage Singers to start chucking!

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