Like many quilters, I own a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. It’s a champ. I’ve done a lot of piecing on it and I agree with the experts who say it makes the best straight stitch of all time.
I live in Nebraska, home to International Quilt Study Center & Museum, where I’m involved in Friends of IQSCM. We support the mission of the museum through fundraising, educational opportunities, and social events.
Last week, we sponsored a three-day event called Featherweight Frenzy. It featured acclaimed Featherweight experts Nova Montgomery and J.C. Elliott—together!—for the first time. It was really something. Today’s topic is J.C. Elliott and his collection of Featherweight sewing machines.
J.C. and his wife Pam (a quilter who sews on a Featherweight) traveled from Casper, Wyoming in two cars packed full to share their collection of Featherweights. J.C. is an understated personality, but he adores these machines and their history. He will chat about Featherweights for as long as you’d like. The Featherweight facts in this man’s head will boggle your mind.
And it’s not just the machines that are fascinating. It’s all the background and supporting material he has to go with them. He has early machines called Sew Handy (not the little Singer TSMs, those came later), which were the Featherweight’s predecessor. And he can, for example, tell you why the paint on them isn’t in good shape.
As an amateur collector of toy sewing machines, I was interested to learn something about the machine above. Singer developed its Sew Handy so that when women came into a store to buy a machine (like the Featherweight), they would consider buying a toy sewing machine for their daughters. Talk about clever marketing.
Along with all of the rare finds like a free-arm 222, a celery/white/green machine, a tan Featherweight, attachments galore, an iron and much more, J.C. has what I’d call the Holy Grail of Featherweight collectibles: A machine from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. And of course he has one from the next year, the 1934 edition, too. Along with them he has all sorts of memorabilia from the event, which adds to the intrigue. It’s incredible.
More than 40 machines were on display in the beautiful Great Hall of IQSCM for three remarkable days. Many visitors enjoyed them, chatted with J.C. and Pam, and shopped for a machine of their own during the one-day Vintage Marketplace.
It wasn’t possible to fit all of the Elliott’s collection into one shot, so I took a pano, above. It was Featherweights as far as you could see. J.C. presented an informal lecture to a sold-out audience one evening.
He loves these machines and he seemed to enjoy sharing them with kindred spirits. Pam Elliott provided all kinds of support for this event: loading and unloading, set up and takedown, chatting with visitors and overseeing logistics during J.C.’s presentation.
J.C. feels that his collection is missing only two machines. I’m hoping against hope that he finds them.
It was a delight to meet these folks. I hope they’ll have more opportunities to share their collection with the world. It is not to be missed.
Read more about the Pam and J.C. Elliott collection of Featherweights on Collectors Weekly.
Visit International Quilt Study Center & Museum online.
Visit Nova Montgomery online: a blog post about Nova is next!
Tags: featherweight, International Quilt Study Center and Museum, J.C. Elliott, Nova Montgomery, quilt museum, sewing machines
I was lucky enough to be able to see J.C.’s collection and hear Nova’s Lecture. I went with fellow quilt guild members. It was a once in a lifetime event that I won’t soon forget.
I’m so glad you were able to be there. I agree–once in a lifetime!
Diane, you are too kind!
Since the “Featherweight Frenzy” event we’ve added a few more interesting 221s, to include one of the first 500 Scottish 221s, a French “Centennial” to accompany the British, the Spanish, the Canadian, & the American. The Featherweight group now numbers +50 unique machines and growing….Someday, someday we hope to share them once again.
Our favorite part of the collection however are the “people” stories we’ve been able to put together along with the machines, bringing them to life and proving their diverse ownership.
Again, thank you and the “Friends of the International Quilt Museum and Study Center” for your help and kindness in treating us to a grand time in Lincoln!
Pam & J.C.