Model 221 J

One never knows what a pandemic will bring. Oh, I don’t mean the serious impacts. I mean the various coping mechanisms we will employ, the pastimes we will adopt, or the unexpected places where the anxiety may drive our hands.

My hands have been driving a vintage 1961 model 221 J Singer Featherweight sewing machine. In the grand pachinko game of household goods handed down through the generations, I wound up with this tan cutie. My mother tells me she bought it shortly after getting married. She had to make monthly payments on it. The web site singer-featherweight posts a 1961 print ad for this model. It listed for $132.50. Assuming 3.72% inflation, that’s $1,143.82 today.

I remember being a child and watching my mother use this machine. Sewers move in distinctive gestures. An experienced operator, like my mother, moved quickly, adding further mystery to just how this mechanical operation took place. As I make the gestures myself I feel as though my time has been looped back upon a prior time and stitched together in a hem.

In junior high school I took a class that included nine weeks of drafting, nine weeks of shop class, nine weeks of something I don’t remember, and nine weeks of home economics. It was here that I learned what a presser foot was, and how to load a bobbin. I made stuffed letters that spelled my name. I don’t think I sewed anything more until about 5 or 6 years ago when I got a bug under my skin to make my own nylon hammock, and a beach shelter, where were and still are awesome.

Who knows how the coronavirus caused my brain to connect differently and make me go find this thing and fire it up again. Perhaps I wanted to be swept up in the zeitgeist of making my own face masks, which I did, and they are awesome. Now I’m hemming curtains. My wife bought curtains from Ikea for our new house, and they are about 10 1/2 inches too long. Three down, five to go. And yes, I nailed it and they are awesome.

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