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(Profile) David Werther: VSM Collector, Instructor, and Photographer

David Werther is known for his workshops and expertise on the Singer Featherweight and 301 class machines. He has sold over 150 Featherweights, and his own collection is one to envy. He operates popular Facebook communities with thousands of members, and his photography of classic machines is gorgeous. His knowledge and service go well beyond the Featherweight and 301. So, what's his story?

It all started with a Gammill longarm that his wife purchased in 2005.
When you buy one of those they deliver it to your house and from then on you are responsible for the routine maintenance. Being an old hot rod car guy and also involved with industrial mechanical equipment in my working life, that job fell to me. That big Gammill was the first sewing machine I ever worked on.
In 2007, the Werthers opened Quilters-Connection in Dallas, where David first put his hands on a Featherweight. Within mere months his collection grew, with many of the Featherweights dedicated for use in the quilt shop. By 2012 the Werther's took a keen interest in the Featherweight's "big sister," the 301, and "that opened up to me the world of vintage machines beyond Featherweights," says David.

David refurbished and photographed this beautiful 301.
I quickly grew to love them too for their style, performance, and portability. The Singer 301s are a natural progression for Featherweight enthusiasts as they share a few parts and their basic operation. For the confident sewer who can take advantage of their speed, the 301’s are a joy to use. When we really started getting into 301s they were not as popular or well known, and it was easy to find nice machines at great prices. That has changed a lot in the last two years as 301 prices have gone up, with black long bed 301s now selling in Featherweight price territory. As late as 2014 Shelley and I walked out of an estate sale in Dallas with five 301s including a gorgeous black long bed, and didn’t pay more than $150 for all five. Those days are over for sure!
Drool worthy: David's shop.
Our crusade at Still Stitching is to always encourage not only VSM collectors to delve into history, but to help non-collectors to grasp the profound impact of the sewing machine as well. The topic ties in with the evolution of so many aspects of American life, least of not which is the changing social roles of women throughout the past 150 years - not to mention the significant global changes after World War II. We asked David what he would ask anyone to appreciate about the bygone era of classic all-metal machines, even if they're not collectors.
That’s an excellent question. We all love vintage sewing machines for their rugged simplicity, reliability, and ease of maintenance. In some ways it was a simpler time, when people and companies took pride in the products they manufactured, and in the work they did. In the days before ready-to-wear clothing and the big box stores, sewing machines were an important household tool. A gifted sewer or seamstress provided a valuable service to her household and family, and I like that these machines have a history that parallels America’s twentieth century identity and history.


The Business of Vintage Machines

While many collectors dabble in buy & sell, "flipping" machines to fuel the acquisition of a perfect collection, or sell a few to "thin the herd" as it's commonly called, David and wife Shelley had a natural platform to expand their quilting business into VSMs. Who wouldn't want to make their passion their work?
In our shop in Olympia, WA, I service and repair our own and customer machines. I buy and sell vintage machines and also teach maintenance workshops on Featherweights and 301’s. I give A/V presentations to sewing groups and guilds, on Featherweights, vintage machines in general, and on general sewing machine maintenance. My wife Shelley does long-arm quilting services, and will soon start back up teaching some quilting techniques. We offer parts for Singer machines, and we will soon be expanding and offering many more parts.

Combining Two Passions

David applies his photography skills to vintage machines.
"I love photography!" says David. He began in high school, enjoying the black and white photo lab for two semesters.
I took a lot of photos as a young adult and did some catalog photography for some retailers back when they printed catalogs and before Al Gore invented the internet. After my sons were born and we finished with the obligatory baby pictures I dropped photography due to lack of time. When my sons started playing team sports a friend convinced me to try the world of digital photography. And still to this day I am thrilled and amazed that I can shoot as much as I want and not have to pay for film or processing! Modern photography is really cheap compared to the film days – unless you count the $10,000 worth of equipment I had to buy to shoot nighttime football, the $2000 custom built photo editing computer I work on, and the Adobe software.
It's a little unsavory perhaps, but new VSM enthusiasts soon learn that in our community, we sometimes refers to "VSM porn" - the eye candy.
Our VSMs are great photo subjects and I enjoy creating beautiful photos for our VSM friends to drool over.

Helping New & Experienced Collectors

Happy students enjoying David Werther's Featherweight workshop.
The Facebook groups pertaining to VSMs have tens of thousands of members. Anyone who frequents the largest groups knows that new enthusiasts come aboard daily. Interest has exploded in recent years, and a large segment of the Millennial generation - with their love for the authenticity of vintage items and a "do it yourself" approach to life - have discovered these machines as well. An area of interest that once seemed rather exclusive to an older demographic has broadened, and the future for VSMs has been re-energized in recent years.

David has thoughts on helping new collectors.
With all of the information available now on the internet, the new VSM buyer or collector can get years of education in just a few nights of reading. But the volume is overwhelming and there is a lot to retain. I can tell you for sure that the biggest problem for new buyers is that they don’t know what they don’t know. I have bought over 220 Featherweights and I won’t say I have made every mistake you can make, but I have made a few and learned from them. Now I know what to look for and how to evaluate photographs and listings, both what is shown and what is omitted. The list is just too long to include here. My advice is to enlist the help of a friend or other expert and let them help you evaluate your potential purchase. I do this for a lot of my Facebook friends and I believe I have saved a few from making a mistake with their hard-earned cash. There are still some great deals out there but you have to be able to evaluate them thoroughly and move very quickly or someone will beat you to it. The VSM buyer’s market is very competitive and nice machines don’t last long. Some last only a few minutes so you have to be ready and often work hard to stay on top of local listings and the big auction sites.
David has a large inventory of Featherweights that he is steadily working through, combing over each one to ensure each machine is worth every penny and ready to sew. Machines are posted to his website, but they just go so fast. Interested buyers should stay in touch with his activity at Featherweight Friends on Facebook. Meanwhile, he sells many of the most in-demand parts for vintage machines on his site, and he can likewise obtain many Singer parts if you contact him directly.

Surprise yourself or a friend with Quilter's Stash Bag, new from Quilter's Stash Box. Discount available through Black Friday Weekend 2018.


Anonymous said...

And that's why we all love David! You failed to mention his quirky humor and wild sense of fun. He routinely lifts my spirit when I read his posts.

Mary Wingate said...

Great article Jim! David is a great source of information and education through his FB groups. And yes, he has a wicked sense of humor ;-}

What We Do at Still Stitching:

Our Film

  • We produced the only feature-length documentary on vintage sewing machines. Still Stitching has delighted thousands of viewers and urged the expansion of many collections. Many viewers tell us they watch it repeatedly. Ladies tell us that the film helped draw their husbands into their passion for vintage machines.

Custom Paint and Restoration

  • We are fortunate to assist many clients with procurement, high-end restoration, and custom painting of vintage sewing machines. While Singer 221 Featherweights are the most frequently painted model, we paint many other models such as the Singer 15, 66, 99, 201, and 301. We also refinish cabinets, treadle irons, and vintage sewing machine cases. Interested in our services? Contact us!


  • We are available for presentations to guilds and other groups interested in vintage sewing machines. Our focus is historical education. Contact us for more information.

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