Preventing Machine Jams
I have discussed preventing thread jams before in the Tip of the Month, but within the past month I have received requests for further clarification of what I mean.
The two cardinal rules to prevent thread jams are:
1) Hold your thread tails for the first couple of stitches when you begin sewing.
After threading the machine, bring the bobbin thread to the top by holding the top thread, rotating the hand wheel toward you and then pulling up the bobbin thread.
When the bobbin thread has been pulled up, position the threads to the rear left side of the presser foot and needle. With your left hand (I just use my index finger and press the threads against the machine bed.), hold onto both threads for the first two or three stitches when you begin sewing.
Because it is difficult to hold those threads with your left hand / index finger and guide the fabric accurately at the beginning of that seam, I use a ‘leader’ piece of scrap fabric to begin stitching. Then, I continue with my piecing by ‘chain piecing’ one set of pieces after another. It will not jam or damage your machine to sew a couple of stitches between the pieces with no fabric under the presser foot IF you do not clip the threads between the pieces until you are finished sewing. This eliminates the need to hold the thread tails as you start each new piece, will improve your piecing accuracy, and will save you yards of thread.
2) Do not rotate the hand wheel on the machine away from you.
During the last Featherweight Maintenance Workshop I taught here in Huntsville, I had a student ask, “Why?” Great question! Just because I knew and understood the concept, I assumed my students did too. Here is the answer:
Rotating the hand wheel (the large black wheel) toward you is the direction the wheel turns when the machine is operating. When the hand wheel is rotated away from you, the stitch is midway in formation down in the hook area. The second point on the hook will catch the thread and carry it backwards, leaving excess thread in the hook area that will then be caught in the gib when the correct forward rotation resumes.
Jams occur because these machines are precision engineered allowing no excess room in the gib (a part of the rotating hook) -- even for a piece of thread.
Another thing that contributes to the problem is that these machines typically have not been cleaned through the years. So, you have lint already in the gib area and even the tiniest bit of thread can cause great trouble with the machine jamming.
The Featherweight Maintenance Workshops for Huntsville, TX have been scheduled and can be found on the Featherweight Maintenance Workshop page (click here). A new added feature is that registration can be done online. There are only 12 seats per class, and they fill quickly – so don’t delay.
The Retreat was great fun with a great group of quilters! I’ve posted a photo album on Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting Facebook page (Click here) if you would like to take a look.
My Featherweight Cards are now being offered as a set. All five cards are included in the set (Featherweight Maintenance, Featherweight Troubleshooting, Featherweight Basics, Featherweight Attachments, and Featherweight Cosmetics). Purchasing as a set is a 15% discount from the individual card prices. Click here to order the Featherweight Card set for the Featherweight 221. Click here to order the Featherweight Card set for the 222 K.
Enjoy Labor Day!
Uneven Bobbin Winding
It is not unusual to see Featherweight bobbins that are wound unevenly. A bobbin that is wound unevenly can create tension issues.
Uneven winding can be corrected by moving the bobbin winder tension bracket on the front bed of the machine just below the stitch length lever.
To move the bobbin winder tension bracket, loosen the screw that attaches it to the bed of the machine. Slide the bracket to the left or right as necessary to achieve a nice, evenly wound bobbin.
While this is the correct mechanical way to address this problem – truthfully, I use my finger and guide the thread where it needs to go as the bobbin is winding.
I hope you have found and noticed the new Index for the Tip of the Month. This should make it much easier for you to find what you are searching for. I hope you find it beneficial.
A couple of readers have offered other information about stinky cases. One is reporting great success with an ionizer and another scrubbing with a product called “Nok-out”. I cannot recommend the product, since I have not tried it. I can see how an ionizer would work if you have access to one. I have never had a case (or machine) with odor issues that were not corrected as I have detailed. Perhaps I have just been lucky, but I’ve dealt with a lot of machines.
To replace the belt:
Loosen the large screw that holds the motor in place (loosen – do not remove). WHEN YOU LOOSEN THIS SCREW - PROTECT THE PAINT ON THE ARM OF THE MACHINE FROM THE SCREW DRIVER. To locate this screw; look at the motor as if you are sewing – this screw is below and behind the hand wheel. Loosening it will allow the motor to slide up and down.
Loosen the small screw on the silver stop motion knob on the large hand wheel.
Unscrew the stop motion knob and remove from the machine.
NOTE the stop motion washer - its 'ears' should be pointing out. Remove the washer.
Pull the hand wheel off of the machine – the belt will come with it.
Remove belt from motor area.
Clean the backside of the stop motion knob, the stop motion washer, the inside of the large hand wheel, backside of the hand wheel, and the shaft the hand wheel goes on (inside and out).
Put a couple of drops of sewing machine oil on the shaft the hand wheel rides on (inside and out).
Install new belt on pulley on motor. (This is usually a two-handed job.) Make certain it is on the pulley, riding in the groove, not on the outer rim.
Loop over hand wheel (the hand wheel is not on the machine, yet).
Replace hand wheel on machine.
Replace washer ('ears' out) and then the knob. Tighten screw on knob (not too tight!). Check to make certain the stop motion knob will release (partially unscrew). If it will not, remove the knob and rotate the washer 180 degrees. Replace the knob and check again.
Your new belt should be just tight enough to pull machine without slipping -- NOT ‘plucking’ tight! Actually, it needs to be pretty loose. You can adjust the tightness of the belt by sliding the motor up or down. It is VERY important NOT to run the machine with the belt too tight. Having the belt too tight can cause the machine to run slowly and can damage or ruin the motor. When the belt is adjusted correctly, retighten the screw that holds the motor on (remember to protect the paint on the arm of the machine from the screwdriver this time, too!). You will be most successful adjusting the belt if you hold the motor in place while you are tightening the screw that holds the motor.
And, please remember that if you have difficulty, I offer Consultation Services that are quite inexpensive.
The Featherweight Maintenance Workshop is a class designed to help you get the most out of your Singer Featherweight, learn to take good care of it, and keep it sewing well for many years. It is a very full six hour workshop. We cover routine maintenance that these machines require as well as day-to-day helps for sewing in different situations. A few minor repairs (such as replacing a worn belt and servicing the gib) are also covered. Each student works on their own machine (limit of one machine per student per class). I teach using a Power Point presentation. There is a full color slide for every step and every process. I have taught this workshop for over six years including two years at the Houston International Quilt Festival. It is my most popular workshop. Photos from former workshops, more description and comments from students are available on the FW Workshop page on my web site: http://www.novamontgomery.com/singer-featherweight-221-maintenance-class.htm
Later this month, I will have a Maintenance Card available for the Singer 301.
Thank you very much for contacting us.
Like everybody else the globalization also hit us several years ago.
Except we did not give our manufacturing to third parties, we open our own and first factory in India in 1996 and since then we are manufacturing there. Over 16 years now.
In 2003 and due to higher worldwide demand on needles we open a second factory there also owned 100% by Schmetz.
In both factories the employees from workers, technicians and engineers have been trained for months at the time in our factory in Germany.
The steel wire that we use in India as well as in our factory in Germany is the same since ever as it is made specialy for us based on our own specifications.
So basically you are receiving needles since 1996 made in India. And if there was no problem up to date they will not be any problem in the future, besides we stand behind our products and guarantee them.
Hope this is will help to continue with your loyalty to our Schmetz needles and we thank you for it.
Rolando G. Bohlemann
PresidentFerd. Schmetz Needle Corp.
This month I want to talk about bobbins and needles for your Singer Featherweight. Machines are often brought to me with a wide variety of bobbins in them and in their little green attachment boxes. For your Singer Featherweight to function properly with correct bobbin tension, you must use the right size and shape bobbin. One thing to caution you about – the bobbins you can buy at the big box sewing stores that come in a pack and are marked for Singer Featherweight 221 machines are not the right size! Years ago when my husband gave me my first Featherweight, I learned this the hard way. I purchased some of these – after all they were much less expensive than buying them from the man who had Featherweight parts. I happily filled my new bobbin and pushed it into my bobbin case, only to have it become stuck. It was just slightly too large --- an expensive repair and lesson. The bobbins I carry are the correct size for your Featherweight. I am now selling them in packages of 5 (click here to order).
Good tension is indicated by the stitch being evenly ‘locked’ in the middle of the fabric you are sewing. That is why these machines were called ‘lock stitch’ machines (as opposed to chain stitch machines that were prevalent at the time these machines were introduced). To test tension, I sew on a scrap of fabric with a different color in the top and in the bobbin. You should see a tiny dot of the other color on each side. Run your finger nail along the stitch line. You should feel no knots on either side. The knots should be ‘locked’ in the center. Knots on the bottom (top thread showing on the bottom) indicate a problem with the top tension. Knots on the top (bobbin thread showing on the top) indicate a problem with the bottom tension.
There are two tiny screws on the side of the bobbin case. When you are holding the bobbin case with the bobbin down the screw on the left is the screw that holds the tension spring on. The screw on the right is the adjusting screw for bobbin tension. Remember ‘lefty loosey’, ‘righty tighty’. Test the bobbin tension by threading the bobbin case (see October 2010 Tip of the Month), holding the case up by the thread and bouncing the bobbin case slightly. About 1” – 2” of thread should unwind. Less indicates the bobbin tension is too tight. More indicates the bobbin tension is too loose. When turning the adjusting screw for the bobbin case, only turn it about an eighth of a turn at a time. I think of the face of a clock and turn it about 7 ½ minutes in the appropriate direction.
Sometimes the spring on the bobbin case can become damaged. These are replaceable, but by now you know that I prefer to prevent damage. You can prevent putting undue stress on the spring if you will clip the thread close to the bobbin case before you remove the bobbin instead of pulling the thread out backwards through the spring.
Bobbin tension can be affected by an improperly wound bobbin, especially a bobbin that is ‘over-wound’ with too much thread. This will keep the bobbin from turning freely in the bobbin case. Also, a bobbin that has a thread on the outside of the bobbin (happens when you begin to wind the bobbin) will not turn freely in the bobbin case.
Occasionally the bobbin tension will be botched because of thread, lint, dirt, rust or other debris being built up or caught behind the tension spring. Typically the spring will need to be removed to clean this out. The screws are NOT the same. The bottom side of the tension screw can be determined because it has a + machined in it. Remove the adjusting screw first and replace it last.
I do sell replacement bobbin cases and parts for bobbin cases. Unfortunately, they are expensive as are all new bobbin cases. (Click here to order a new bobbin case.) Prices for most of my items (including the bobbin case) are below the suggested retail price. My goal is to help you keep these machines sewing for many years.
And a very Happy Holiday Season to you and yours!
Click here to order Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Card.
Click here to order Nova’s Sew Straight Guide. They would make great gifts for all your Featherweight friends and bee members.
The smells inside an original Featherweight case can come from a variety of sources. The original cases were made by Singer in their plants in South Bend, Indiana and in Canada (for the most part – there seem to always be exceptions). The cases are made of oak slats with tongue and grooved corners and covered with a black material that Singer called ‘leatherette’. The oak tongue and groove construction is the reason the cases have survived so well and done such a great job of protecting the machines. They were quality built. The lining material on the inside of the case typically had a vinyl type surface that does not breathe well. Additionally, the glue this lining was secured with was an animal based product (most glues from this time period were animal based). So, sometimes the odor inside a Featherweight case is caused by moisture getting behind the lining and causing mildew and a ‘dead animal’ smell due to the glue. But, if moisture penetrated the lining, there is probably other damage to the case besides just an odor.
However, my experience has shown me that most of the time the case is blamed for the foul smell, but the machine is really the culprit. There is a felt pad in the bottom of the machine in the drip pan (called a drip pan pad). This pad is designed to absorb and collect excess oil and grease from the maintenance of the machine. The felt was typically made from wool (here is your animal product). So, the pads have collected 50+ years of old machine oil and grease plus moisture from the atmosphere, etc. The machine doesn’t smell when it is out of the case because it is in an open room with lots of fresh air, but you shut it up in the case and those odors are absorbed into the case and they stagnate, etc. When you open up the case, the smell can nearly knock you down.
So, how do you get rid of the odor? There are lots of wild solutions out there. I tend to be pretty practical and simplistic. Get rid of the dirty drip pan pad, and air out the case! Replace the drip pan pad with a new one (click here to order), clean the pan before putting the new one in (I use kerosene to remove the old oil and grease). Then install the new pad with a few dots of rubber cement. Clean the inside of the case with a warm soapy rag. Rinse with a damp cloth and dry. Set the open case in the sunshine in a safe place where it won’t get hit and knocked over (leading cause of broken latches). Place in the sunshine several days (newspapers stuffed inside at night [case still open] seem to speed up the process). A chemist in one of my recent classes explained that the sunshine will actually kill the odors -- that is out of my field - I just know it works. You might be left with a faint ‘old machine’ smell when you open the case, but the odors that take your breath away should be gone. The ‘old machine’ smell is part of a Featherweight’s charm. After all, they are an old, exceptionally well made machine.
I have had a couple of customers who decided to work on their foot controllers themselves (or their husbands did….) with quite harmful results. When you open the foot controller (remove the cover) you expose the electrical connection between the wiring and the foot controller. In other words, there are bare wires in there that can shock or electrocute!
As I discussed several months ago, please leave things alone if you do not know what you are doing! Your safety is the most important thing. Your Featherweight can’t sew without you there to run it.
I have also had a few inquiries about foot controllers getting hot when just sitting. There are a couple of things that could be wrong, bad wiring, out of adjustment, etc. It is always best to unplug any sewing machine when done using it. An easy way to do this -- in my studio I have my table top Ottlite, sewing machine, and travel iron plugged into a surge protector that sits on the table at my sewing station (no bending over or crawling under the table!). When I am done sewing, I turn off the switch on the surge protector. That way I am certain that everything is off and safe. I don’t have to worry about leaving my iron on, etc. I can quickly look and see if my Ott light is off or on to know if I have remembered to turn everything off.
The most important thing to remember about caring for your foot controller is to treat it like a china tea cup. There are fragile parts inside that are not replaceable. Don’t flop it onto the floor or kick it into position! Store it in the tray or in the cleat in the lid of the case.
I am running a special this month on replacement foot controllers if you prefer the newer style, or have concerns about yours. (Click here for the electronic foot controller.) If the wiring to your foot controller is bad, I would be happy to help you replace it.
PS If you enjoy the Featherweight Tip of the Month - please 'Like' this page above left on Facebook!
Also I have a machine that has just come into the shop that beautifully illustrates all we have talked about with regard to maintaining your Featherweight motor. I will be posting photos of this motor soon - so check back! It is amazing.
Over the past several months I have had a variety of questions regarding oil, lubricant, whether or not you really need to lubricate the motor, etc. So, I am changing out what I was going to talk about this month for the Tip.
Oil – different from lubricant – Oil is a flowing substance (liquid). Your Singer Featherweight REQUIRES oiling to keep it running optimally. ANY good quality sewing machine oil is fine. However, you do not want to use 3 in 1 oil or any other oil due to a difference in viscosity (thickness). These will cause your Featherweight to ‘gum up’. They are simply too thick.
Lubricant – different than oil – Lubricant is a NON-flowing grease that was and is specifically designed (see Nova's Motor Lubricant) to be used on your Singer Featherweight or other vintage Singer machine. Your Featherweight REQUIRES lubricant on its gears and in its motor.
There is much incorrect information on the Internet about lubricating a Singer Featherweight motor. You can read that Vaseline is just fine. Absolutely untrue! Vaseline is a sure disaster for your Singer Featherweight motor. I have cleaned a number of motors that had Vaseline inserted into the grease tubes. Using Vaseline will damage the motor on your Featherweight. It melts and completely coats the interior of the motor. There is also a blog out there that says the original Singer lubricant was nothing but black axle grease! Absolutely untrue! (Have these people ever even looked at a tube of original lubricant?)
I have also had questions about whether or not you really need to lubricate the Singer 221 motor. I have been directed to blogs where ‘official’ Singer people are quoted as saying that originally Singer said the motors needed lubrication, but we now know that they do not and that you should never lubricate a motor. I have no idea who these people are or what their motivation is, but I can tell you that the motors that I have serviced (cleaned) because they quit working were being run dry (NO lubricant). I have NEVER had to service a motor that quit that was being well lubricated. The conclusion from everything I have seen is that if you want to replace an original motor on a Singer 221 - stop lubricating it.
OK, why don’t new sewing machine motors have to be lubricated? Good question! New motors have the advantage of some advanced technology. They have oil impermeated bearings (think of a sponge type action) in their sealed motors and new metal alloys in their compositions.
What about white lithium? White lithium began to be used after Singer started manufacturing plastic gears. The original Singer lubricant was a petroleum based product that would cause deterioration of the plastic gears. It was easier to just have one type of lubricant on the workbench, so lots of repair people simply started using white lithium on older machines with metal gears. I, personally, do not care for white lithium on a Featherweight's gears and it will do NOTHING except sit on top of the wicks in the grease tubes on the motor. Saying it another way: white lithium will NOT lubricate a Singer Featherweight motor.
Should you use the original tube of grease that came with your Singer 221 when it was new? I would not use it now. The tube is made of lead which tends to crack when squeezed. I would simply set it aside as an original keepsake.
If you need more information about where to oil and lubricate your Singer 221, click here to order Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Card. It has full color photographs to show you just how to maintain your machine.
I hope this additional information helps to clarify information about oil, lubricant and your Singer 221.
Replacing the wiring for the cord set on the foot controller is a simple repair. Replacing the light fixture and its wiring is much more complicated. So far, I have not seen the deterioration on the light fixture wiring that is so obvious on the cord set.
The safe solution is to replace damaged or aluminum cord set wiring and always unplug your Featherweight when you are not using it. The photo shows you how to tell if your cord set has aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring is a smooth wire. Copper wiring has a groove between the wires. In the photo the wire on the top is aluminum, on the bottom is copper.
Please contact me if your cord set has aluminum wiring. Replacing it is a fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive repair. And remember to unplug your machine! You will save a little on your electric bill too! Cords left plugged in ‘leak’ electricity.
We are going to talk about the motor on your Singer Featherweight one more time since it is so important to your little machine. Should you replace a motor that is hesitating when you push on the foot controller? Or, what if the motor quits completely? How do you know if it is a motor problem, or the foot controller? If you push on the foot controller and nothing happens – carefully touch the motor belt. If the motor starts up when you touch or nudge the belt, it is a motor problem.
There is a very nice replacement motor on the market. It looks authentic and has a very good track record. However, before replacing the motor, I would encourage you to have it CLEANED.
The motor on the Singer 221 is an excellent little motor. Again, as I said back in May, the issue is not quality or age but poor maintenance. If the motor has been run without lubricant or with improper lubricant, soot (and / or improper lubricant) will build up in the motor and eventually cause it to stop running. The soot can be cleaned out of the inside of the motor, and most of the time the motor can be saved.
I prefer to leave a Featherweight as original as possible for as long as possible. Cleaning the motor has saved many a motor for my customers.So, don’t be too quick to replace the 221 motor. Contact me about cleaning your Featherweight motor if it is hesitating when you push the foot controller, or if it has quit running all together.
After checking the length of the brush, replace it into the motor matching the arc on the bottom of the brush to the direction of the spin of the motor. It is VERY important that the spring is in place on top of the brush. Replace the cap and finger tighten (no screwdriver necessary).
Often, due to a lack of maintenance or improper maintenance (putting something in the motor that should not be), there will be soot on the carbon brush or the carbon brush will be stuck and cannot be removed to be checked. Again, prevention of problems is always the preferred route.
Motor brushes have very long lives and do not need to be replaced often, but it is critical that they are replaced when necessary.
I cover this (and all aspects of maintenance) in great detail in my Singer Featherweight Maintenance Workshop. I will be teaching this class twice at the Houston International Quilt Festival in November. Also, I travel and teach this class. Contact me to schedule a workshop for your guild or group.
I quite often have Featherweights come in for repair that have broken bobbin winder arms. The arms are made of cast aluminum as is the rest of the Featherweight body. They break quite easily when hit. Currently (April 2011), they are a replaceable part. However, prevention is always the better option. Damage can be prevented by not putting the winder arm up in a saluting position. The correct position for the arm when it is not winding a bobbin is just above the motor belt, so it is not making contact with the motor belt. This information is covered on Nova’s Featherweight Basics Card, along with lots of other everyday useful information.
One of the neat things about my web site is its analytical tools. They give me the advantage of being able to see what people are searching for on my site; and, therefore the opportunity to address their needs.
This month I had three instances of people inquiring, “Do Featherweights require a special needle?” The answer is, “No, Featherweights do not require a special needle”. My personal preference is Schmetz sewing machine needles. I typically piece quilts with a Schmetz Universal size 80. This is also the new needle I insert into a machine after I have finished servicing it. They are high-quality European made sewing machine needles that are readily available. Click here to order.
All sewing machine needles (hand needles, too!) should be replaced after 8 – 10 hours of use (or if damaged in any way). Paper piecing is typically harder on sewing machine needles. Watch for signs of dullness (needle damaging fabric) and replace more often if necessary.
The all important thing about the Featherweight is that you insert that needle correctly! Refer back to the April 2010 Tip of the Month for full information.