Today, we are pleased to present the beginning of this story as our first installment of the "Restore Along" featuring Tulip, the Featherweight. You'll get to see how Julia LaForest (Tulip's owner) lovingly restored her Featherweight from the very beginning all the way to the end, with a new blog post showing each step as she shows us her restoration process. But, first things first - we must tell you about how Julia came to find Tulip, and how she came to enjoy a life filled with travel, adventure, and joy with her husband, Mark. Let's dive in!
Julia visiting Kooskia, Idaho and The Featherweight Shop
Julia's dad was in the Navy, which meant living all over, changing locations often. Starting in California and including overseas moves to Japan and Spain, Julia has lived in over 30 residences! With all the traveling and moving, Julia picked up an appreciation for all things antique as well as sewing, thrifting, and refinishing old furniture.
A very fortuitous stop along the way was a move to San Antonio, Texas over 37 years ago. One hot and sweltering day in San Antonio, Julia and her mom were shopping for some bicycle cleats (Julia was an avid bicyclist). As they were browsing in B & J Bicycle, Julia met a man, Mark, with the same type of bike that she had. Unlike her red one, his was black. As they got to talking, she found out he was getting ready to ride his bike from San Antonio to Northern Michigan, where he was from, and then down the east coast to Florida!
After a few in-town bike rides together, Julia told Mark she would ride with him for a couple days of his trip. They took a day ride south of Austin and tent camped overnight. The following day they rode into Austin to a nice bike shop before riding back to San Antonio the next day. About two weeks later, Julia was riding into Michigan with Mark! It was over 100 degrees when they left Texas and it was snowing when they got to Northern Michigan. It took them forty days to ride there. After taking an Amtrak to Virginia to visit Julia's sister, Mark continued his ride to Florida and Julia flew down to meet him there. They both flew back to San Antonio and have been together ever since.
Julia and her husband, Mark, just celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary last month. They have two grown sons and two granddaughters. Now settled down in Louisiana, they have a fire alarm and firestopping business they run together (Julia retired from this last year. Congratulations, Julia!)
On one very special trip, Julia and Mark took their RV to visit Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, where they spent a few days antiquing. One day, they stopped in Cave City on the edge of town at an old home that had been turned into an antique shop.
The Singer Buttonholer set that Julia and Mark purchased.
While they browsed the shop, Mark spotted an old Singer Featherweight 221, which would turn out to be Tulip, and a buttonholer set sitting on a low shelf. He waved Julia over to see them for herself. After getting the go-ahead from her, Mark started his negotiations. Tulip was originally marked up to $150, but Julia and Mark did not have the heart to leave the machine behind. Mark took the worn-out Featherweight and the buttonholer up to the register and due to her poor condition, offered $75 for both. The lady at the register quickly accepted the offer. They brought her home with the intention of tearing her down and repainting her. As you can see in the photo below, someone has taken a bite out of the back of her base. Julia decided not to repair it, because it will be part of Tulip's history.
Now that we have taken a moment to get to know Julia, it is time to introduce Tulip, the Featherweight! With the wonderful variety of pictures detailing the "before" of Tulip, we will have a very good idea for just how much work Julia invested into the restoration process. Without further ado, we introduce to you Tulip!
Tulip, commissioned April 22, 1954.
An enjoyable aspect of collecting Singer Featherweights is learning about the history. Here is a tutorial on how to date your Featherweight and learn a bit more about it's history.
The complete "before" of Tulip showcasing the missing and worn decals, dull finish and many, many needed improvements.
The metal drive shaft and gears (before being cleaned and greased.)
On black Featherweights the drive shaft is located along the top, underneath the spool pin cover plate. A great tutorial on how to properly clean your drive shaft gears can be found here. This Schoolhouse tutorial also details the differences in maintenance between Black, White and Tan Featherweights.
Notice the bent stitch length lever? Yikes!
Close up of thread spindle plate (before Julia dug in on the reconditioning!)
As Julia was thinking about the options in reconditioning Tulip, she had considered changing the color to red, but quickly discarded that idea. In her own words, "I'm pretty much a traditionalist, and in the back of my mind, I feel Tulip should be restored to black, but red is such a fun color."
For Julia, tearing Tulip down has been fun and and quite the learning experience. She said, "Such marvelous little machines they are! For all the times I've taken apart a tension unit to clean, I still can't get one back together without looking at a diagram. Maybe next time!"
Poor Tulip had all of her decals almost completely destroyed or missing. In one of our Schoolhouse articles we detailed the process to properly replace Singer Featherweight decals. You can find the article here.
Close up detail of worn decals. Because of the year of manufacture, Tulip was given the prism style decals. Replacement decals can be purchased here.
A look at Tulip's hook assembly and bobbin case.
Earlier this year, Christian created an excellent guide to all the variations on Featherweight Hook Assemblies for our Featherweight Friday history lessons. You can find the guide here.
Taking a look at the underside of Tulip, Julia had her work cut out for her. Here is a view of the wiring and terminal receptacle.
There are no capacitors on the underside of Julia's Featherweight, but occasionally these can be found under the machine, inside the motor or even inside the foot controller on some Featherweight machines. Capacitors are no longer needed for today's electricity, but you can learn more about replacing and troubleshooting capacitors in this Schoolhouse tutorial "Capacitors - Why Did My Featherweight Suddenly start sewing by itself?"
From left: Christian, April, Ruthie Henry and Julia at The Featherweight Shop
As Julia has traveled throughout the country, one of her stops was at The Featherweight Shop! She took her 1940 Featherweight, named "Journey", with her (that she currently has kitted up with an amazing project for her next trip!)
As Julia explains, "I could not have ventured into maintaining and repairing my Featherweights without all the work and information the Henrys and staff have put into their website; what a wealth of knowledge they have shared there. It was so exciting to visit and meet everyone at the shop!"
When Julia shared Tulip's restorative story with us, we loved it so much we asked if she would be willing to share it with the whole Featherweight community.... and, this is just the beginning! In our next "Restore Along" post, Julia will share the first steps in restoring Tulip. We'll see you then!
Julia's Featherweight Collection:
1935 - Yet to be named
1935 - Lois, after the lady named on a mailing label in the case.
1936 - Irene, after the lady named on the instruction book. Julia found her in the 1940 U.S. Census!
1940 - Journey, the one who travels with Julia and Mark in their RV.
1950 - Noel, Julia's Christmas gift last year.
1951 - China (Centennial) for Julia's love of fine china dishes
1953 - Q, the "resqued" partial. A hand crank has been added.
1954 - Tulip, after the Tulip Poplar tree, state tree of Kentucky where Julia and Mark found her.
1956 - Jill, after the lady who donated her to Julia for painting practice; partial.
1957 - Josephine, after her owner Hazel Josephine Upham whose name was in the instruction book. She was found in 2 U.S. Census reports.
1960 - Grace (222), because the name fits her so well.
1961 - Mary Hazel (tan), Julia added Mary for the lady who rehomed her to Julia. She came to Julia with the name Hazel.
1968/69 - Maggie (white), to honor Julia's Yorkie who died the week they got this machine.