Retreat with Nova
Featuring the Featherweight Maintenance Workshop!
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Perry - Michigan
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Featherweight Thread Stand
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Nova's Sew Straight Seam Guide
I just wanted to Thank you for supplying the Sew Straight Guide. I love it.
My sewing is accurate and not veering off at the end of my seams. The
acrylic is not damaging the surface of my Featherweight. The metal ones
caused scratches. Great Product.
Thanks again" -- CJ
Machine Needle Threader
Sew Steady Table Package
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"Thanks for your website. I am a new Featherweight owner and enjoyed reading about the maintenance. These sweet, old, little machines are just the bomb. As are you."
"Thank you Nova. Your site has has helped me work my way through any difficulties with my "new" Featherweight. It's great to have such a wonderful resource. Today it was a bobbin tension issue, tomorrow, who knows"
"Anyway, I just wanted to say that I love the information on your website. It has been informative and entertaining. It has given me confidence to get my Featherweights out and working again. I also think your maintenance card is great. You did a terrific job!"
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Featherweight Tip of the Month
Singer Featherweights have many features that are either peculiar to them or at least unusual in the sewing machine world. We will look at some of these in this space to help you get the most out of your machine and enjoy using it even more!
This page has proven so popular I am now posting 'mini-tips' on my Facebook page - Nova's Featherweights and Quilting. Be sure to check there and 'Like' my page!
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Replacing the Belt on your Singer Featherweight:
The belt for the Singer Featherweight 221 is replaceable with the style belt that Singer originally designed - a V-shaped black belt. This belt consistently performs better and quieter than the orange cog belts that have been sold as replacements for the original. Click here to order the correct belt for your Singer Featherweight 221.
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.
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).
And, please remember that if you have difficulty, I offer Consultation Services that are quite inexpensive.
There are still seats available for the Retreat featuring the Featherweight 221 Maintenance Workshop the last week of August in Branson, MO. Your husband can join you for the trip and go fishing on Table Rock Lake (I already have one guest registered whose husband is doing just that!!). There are only 12 seats available per session, so don’t delay. This will be a very personal, intimate and relaxed setting (unlike some of the major quilt shows where as many people as possible are packed in a room). The setting is a lovely Victorian bed and breakfast and my guests will have single occupancy rooms and great catered meals including the famous Bradford House breakfasts. Click here for all the information and registration. Branson is a very easy and appealing destination from Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, north Texas and Oklahoma. Bring a friend and make it a road trip!
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
Session 2 of the Retreat will feature a quilt named Autumn Splendor. It is done in batiks with raw edge appliqué and strip piecing. It is a very enjoyable project – all done on my Featherweight.
Don’t delay to get your registration in. Each session is limited to 12 participants. One session is currently over half full. Click here for all the information and for registration.
I am offering 1 more Featherweight Maintenance Workshop at the Fabric Carousel in Huntsville, TX this year (the classes for March 2 and August 3 have been full with a waiting list for a couple of months). I will be offering the workshop on Saturday, November 2. The Fabric Carousel is my ‘home base’ where I started teaching these classes. The date in November is the Saturday during the Houston International Quilt Festival. I will not be teaching at Quilt Festival this year due to their rule about not teaching for more than 2 consecutive years – this is my off year. Huntsville is approximately one hour north of the Quilt Festival – straight up Interstate 45. So, if you are planning on being at Festival it would be very easy for you to come up for the Saturday class. I would love to have you! Half of the seats in this class are already taken. Register by Contacting Nova.
My Featherweight 222 K Maintenance Card is now available for purchase. Click here to order safely and securely.
Later this month, I will have a Maintenance Card available for the Singer 301 and a Basics Card for the 301 and the 222 K.
Thread jams are among the most common ‘repairs’ to be made to a Singer Featherweight. Singer 221’s were so precision machined that there is no excess space in the ‘track’ the bobbin carriage rides in for any excess thread. So, if thread gets caught down there, the machine jams. The hand wheel will not turn. The jam can be removed by opening the gib and removing the bobbin case carriage. This can be extremely tricky to do – even for someone who has done it often. Excess lint already in the track, the type of thread jammed, etc. can all contribute to making this a true test of patience. There is only one tiny spot that will allow the bobbin carriage to release from the hook.
One thing that has been working quite well for me to remove the jam without opening the gib is to set the machine up on its plug end (unplugged of course), remove the bobbin case and the needle plate, and generously apply kerosene to the bobbin carriage area. Let it sit for a while, and then try to move the positioning finger (see photo) on the bobbin carriage. Remember DO NOT twist, pull, etc. on the spindle in the center of the bobbin carriage. You may need to repeat this process several times a day over several days. Once the bobbin carriage moves, you should be able to take tweezers and remove the thread causing the problem – it should become visible as the bobbin carriage moves around. Go ahead and ‘wash out’ the track with kerosene by applying kerosene and moving the bobbin carriage around with your finger. Also, pay attention to the machined grooves or notches (see photo – red arrow) in the edge of the bobbin carriage – remove any excess lint, etc. from those grooves with a pin. When you are all done cleaning, remember to put a drop of oil in one of those grooves.
As always, I am interested in preventing the problem. To prevent the thread on your Singer Featherweight from jamming the machine – hold your thread tails every time you begin stitching (for just a couple of stitches) and NEVER turn the hand wheel away from you. This means that if you are quilting with your Featherweight, you must pull the bobbin thread to the top and hold the thread tails before you start stitching.
There are still seats available for the Retreat featuring the Featherweight 221 Maintenance Workshop the last week of August in Branson, MO. The early registration discount ends May 15th. Your husband can join you for the trip and go fishing on Table Rock Lake (I already have one registered whose husband is doing just that!!). There are only 12 seats available per session, so don’t delay. This will be a very personal, intimate and relaxed setting (unlike some of the major quilt shows where as many people as possible are packed in a room). The setting is a lovely Victorian bed and breakfast and my guests will have single occupancy rooms and great catered meals including their famous breakfasts. Click here for all the information and registration. Branson is a very easy destination from Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, north Texas and Oklahoma. Bring a friend and make it a road trip!
Session 2 of the Retreat will feature a quilt named Autumn Splendor. I am sewing on the sample now. (Photos will be posted as soon as possible!) It will be done in batiks with raw edge appliqué and strip piecing. It is a very enjoyable project.
I will have a new product coming out later this month – a Maintenance Card for the Singer ‘Convertible’ 222 K. These rare machines need tender loving care also and their instruction manual is woefully difficult to read.
By now most of you know that I typically write about things that have occurred during the last month in my repair shop or that I have received numerous emails about. I have discussed stinky cases before, but have received so many emails this month, that I thought I should address it again. And, I have a bit of new (to me at least) information. Additionally, there is so much wild information floating out there in cyber space that it certainly won’t hurt to present a logical, safe method of caring for your case and removing those smells.
1) The cause of the odor must be addressed or it will be like spraying air freshener in a room with a dead cat in the corner. The cause of the odor must be identified and removed.
1) The cause of the odor the majority of the time in a Singer Featherweight case is the drip pan pad in the bottom of the machine. You don’t notice the odor from the drip pan pad when the machine is out of the case because of all the fresh air around it. The original drip pan pads were made of wool felt. They were designed to catch and absorb excess oil and lubricant coming out of / off of the machine. They also absorbed moisture from the atmosphere causing them to smell musty after so many years (here is the dead animal odor that can take your breath away – wool is an animal product).
Remove the old drip pan pad and throw it away. You may need a putty knife to get it out. Clean the drip pan with kerosene and paper towels to remove all the old oil and lubricant.
Apply a few dollops of rubber cement to the clean pan and attach a new drip pan pad. (Click here to order a drip pan pad.) I like to change the drip pan pads in my machines about every five years.
2) The case has absorbed the odor from the dirty, stinky drip pan pad, and may have developed an odor of its own if it has ever had excess moisture (humidity, etc.).
Clean the inside of the case with a warm, damp, soapy rag. Rinse with a damp rag. Towel dry. (You can clean the outside of the case, too, since you are there with the rag..…)
Set the open case in a safe place in the sunshine (cases tipped over are the main reason for broken latches) for several days (be patient – remember that it took quite some time for that odor to build up in there). There was a scientist in one of my classes at the Houston International Quilt Festival last October who explained to me that the UV rays from the sunshine kill the odor. Actually, she said UV rays or heat are the only ways to actually kill the odor instead of just trying to cover it up (soap, fabric softener sheets, etc.) – I just know placing it in the sunshine works.
3) 3) I like to drop a couple of silica gel packs (they are in your shoes, electronics, etc.) into the case once it is clean and odor free. They will not remove odors, but they will help control moisture in the case which is good for both the case and the machine.
If you are a frequent reader of my Tip of the Month, you know that I often discuss emails I have received or other topics that have come up during the month in my repair shop. This past month I have been contacted several times about the wiring under the machine. I have heard reports of ‘repair men’ telling owners that this was deteriorated and the entire machine needed to be rewired (because of the white flaking stuff), that this was lead and the white was oxidation (correct so far) and the machine needed to be completely rewired because this would poison them, and that this was where the mildew smell was coming from – so the machine needed to be completely rewired. In all of these instances (and, by the way, these were from all over the US) the ‘repair men’ are calling for a complete rewire of the machine. I respectfully disagree in all these instances.
Let’s start with some basic information: What you see under there is a lead tube that encases the electrical wires that run up to the light fixture. This lead tube has a very important role in the operation of the machine. It protects the wires from the gears. The wires pass very close to the gears on both the top and the bottom. The lead tube keeps the gears from grinding into the wires. These machines are portable and, with movement, the wires can become too close to the gears. The lead tubing is pliable and positionable allowing the wires to be moved away from the gears. In my Featherweight Maintenance Workshop we look at this and learn to simply push the lead tube away from the gears with our thumbs – just so the tube does not rub the gears. If the lead tube is removed, then there is nothing to protect the wires from the gears. Lead was selected for the tubing back when these machines were made because the dangers of lead were not known at that time and because lead has the pliability necessary to make the two 90° turns necessary to pass the gear sets, and because it is positionable – it will stay where you put it.
Over time the lead tubing can oxidize. That is the white flaking substance often seen on the tubing. It can be cleaned off with a Q-tip and kerosene. You do not want it flaking into the gears.
Occasionally, due to damage to the light fixture, the wiring will have to be replaced. The lead tubing is NOT a replaceable part. Something must be done to protect the wires from the gears. After years of trying various solutions, I have come up with a workable scenario. However, I still believe that the original design is the best – the lead tube.
As far as the lead and its oxidation being toxic, I am not a medical professional or an expert of any kind in toxic substances; however, everything I read about lead poisoning deals with ingestion. I am not too worried about quilters removing the bottom cover of their machine and chewing on the lead tube. I do recommend you wash your hands thoroughly after touching the tube or the oxidation.
The mildew smell is coming from the drip pan pad and the case as we have discussed at length in an earlier Tip of the Month.
To sum up – be careful who entrust your machine to for service and what you believe. I offer a Consultation Service to help you take care of your machine. I have no idea what other’s motivations are, but my goal is still to keep as many of these machines sewing successfully for as long as possible.
I am offering 2 more Featherweight Maintenance Workshops at the Fabric Carousel in Huntsville, TX this year (the class for March 2 has been full with a waiting list for a couple of months). I will be offering the workshop on Saturday, August 3 and on Saturday, November 2. The Fabric Carousel is my ‘home base’ where I started teaching these classes. The date in November is the Saturday during the Houston International Quilt Festival. I will not be teaching there this year due to their rule about not teaching for more than 2 consecutive years. Huntsville is approximately one hour north of the Quilt Festival – straight up Interstate 45. So, if you are planning on being at Festival it would be very easy for you to come up for the Saturday class. I would love to have you!
To register, contact me through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am making progress toward a retreat weekend for this fall featuring the Featherweight Maintenance Workshop. I will send out an email and post information as soon as plans are finalized. I know you will enjoy it!
One last thing to visit with you about – this month marks the third year of Tip of the Month posts. I will most likely be archiving the early posts at some point in the near future and will begin ‘re-posting’ some of the more relevant information.
The lever on the right side of your Singer Featherweight controls the stitch length. The silver knob on the lever can be screwed down to ‘set’ the stitch length where you want it and so that it your selected stitch length is easy to come back to after stitching in reverse to back tack, etc. Moving the lever all the way up will cause the machine to stitch in reverse. The first photo shows a normal stitch length gauge.
The original (1930’s era – second photo) Featherweights had chrome stitch length lever gauges. Later stitch length lever gauges were made with silver edgings except on the ‘black side’ machines manufactured in the early 1940’s. Their stitch length lever gauges were black with no silver edgings. This is one of
the distinguishing features of these ‘black side’ machines. The third photo here shows a ‘black side’ stitch length gauge.
I had to share the photo at the right with you in reference to last month’s Tip. This is a photo of a wide variety of bobbins in a Featherweight case. No wonder there are tension and other stitching issues reported by the owner!
Further Update - January 2013
I have sewn with the 'new' Schmetz needles for the past week and they have performed just fine. I have inquired about this and received a response from the President of Schmetz:
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 in the Featherweight Tip of the Month I talked about needles for your Singer Featherweight. I have received a number of emails thanking me from folks who could not figure out why the Singer needles would not stay in their machines. And, I have filled a number of orders for Schmetz needles. I told you that Schmetz needles were a 'high quality German made needle". I just received a new shipment of Schmetz needles and was very distressed to discover that now they are marked 'Made in India'.
I have checked with several other retailers of these needles who, like me, did not have any idea that there had been a change.
I do not know how they will function in our Singer Featherweights. I will be spending this week testing them out on piecing a quilt top. I will let you know what I think about these 'Made in India' needles at the end of the week.
I'm sorry for any confusion, etc. this may have caused. And, I'm very sad that yet another product has changed.
Happy New Year!
I hope this New Year will bring a world of blessings and much happy time stitching!
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).
An email has come this past month asking about bobbins ‘sitting high’ or ‘sitting tall’ in the bobbin case. Evidently this was the original design for the bobbins in the bobbin case. My 1934 Century of Progress badged machine has an original bobbin case, and original bobbins that ‘sit high’ (see photo). All my machines have bobbins that fit this way in the bobbin case. Therefore, when the new bobbins ‘sit high’, they are simply like the originals.
Needles are another subject that has raised some questions lately. Several frustrated emails lament the new Singer needles (part #2020) will not stay in the Featherweight needle shaft, but fall out and are broken. I know of one hook that was damaged when this occurred. Evidently the new Singer needles are not quite the same size as they were years ago. I have used Schmetz needles for years (they are available through my Shop area on the web site – click here to order). Schmetz is a quality made needle.
Damaged bobbins or needles should never be used. If you accidentally drop a bobbin on a hard surface (like a ceramic tile floor, etc.), be sure to examine it for dents before you use it again. And, if you step on one, it would probably be best to discard it.
I have received a number of emails regarding the Featherweight Maintenance Class at the Houston International Quilt Festival in 2013. The IQA rules for their teaching faculty state that teachers cannot teach more than two consecutive years. Since I was on the faculty in 2011 and 2012, I will not be returning in 2013, but will have that year off and reapply to teach in 2014.
Many of you have emailed about me coming to your area to teach the Singer Featherweight Maintenance Class. I am exploring the possibility of traveling to various parts of the US and doing retreat weekends that would feature the Featherweight Maintenance Class. Interested? Your feedback on this idea would be appreciated.
Stay warm and Happy Stitching!
I am often asked why I recommend using kerosene to clean a Singer Featherweight (mechanicals) instead of other solvents that are readily available on the market – other solvents that would undoubtedly do a superior job of cleaning with less ‘elbow grease’ involved by the owner.
Kerosene is a ‘safe’ solvent for your Featherweight. What I mean by ‘safe’ is that it is safe for the finish on your Singer Featherweight. Other solvents will remove (or at least damage and mar) the clear coat finish on your machine. It is my understanding that the clear coat finish was basically shellac. Most modern solvents will dissolve and remove shellac. Some are even manufactured as a thinner for shellac!
While I do not want you spilling kerosene on your machine’s finish and leaving it there, an accidental spill will do no harm. It is what I recommend for removing old tape residue on machines that had tape applied for a seam guide (now you have my Nova’s Sew Straight Guide! ;-).
Kerosene is sold primarily as a heater fuel. You can find it in hardware stores for this purpose and sometimes in camping sections of big box stores (not the same thing as stove fuel). Also, I don’t recommend the colored lamp fuel – I’m just not excited about what additives are giving the color – and I’m not certain what they would do to the finish on your machine.
One other thing to mention – if you live in an agricultural area, sometimes you will find kerosene at the gas station through a pump. This is usually red kerosene that is quite stinky – don’t use this.
Kerosene is very evaporative, so buy in small quantities (not a five gallon can!) and seal up the container very tightly to prevent it from evaporating. I put plastic wrap on top of the container before I screw down the lid. This evaporative nature is to your advantage, though, when you are cleaning your machine. Any excess will evaporate away.
If you own a 'white' Singer 221-K (Featherweight), never put kerosene or anything else on the drive belt inside the machine. The tan Singer 221-J has gears inside just like the black machines.
For information on caring for your machine's finish, please reference my Nova's Featherweight Cosmetics Card - it has information and full color photographs just like my Nova's Featherweight Maintenance Card does for mechanical maintenance.
I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy this holiday season. I will be running several specials for the holidays over the next couple of weeks. They will be highlighted on the left side of this page and on my Home Page. I will not be sending out multiple emails. I am assuming you are as weary of being bombarded as I am! So, please check back here as I will be changing the specials every couple of days!
The Tip of the Month is being posted early this month due to my classes at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. There are two full classes for my Featherweight Maintenance Class.
It is correct that you are supposed to ‘grease gears’, but the things that look like small gears in the photo are not gears! They are the thumb screws where the electrical connections for your Featherweight come together.
Several machines have come through my workshop in the past couple of months where these thumb screws were well greased! As a matter of fact on one machine, this area had been packed with grease that resulted in a fire due to the bad mix of grease and electricity. It is best to just leave this area of your machine (where the electrical connections are) alone.
It is also a poor idea to oil your foot controller. There is electricity running through it also!
If you need assistance, please call or email. I’m happy to help you with your machine.
I hope you are able to attend Quilt Festival! Come by and see me!
Sometimes you can get a ‘tingle’ of electricity through a Singer Featherweight. Most of the time when this has occurred to me, I feel it when the underside of my wrist touches the front edge of the machine which is cast aluminum (this is why she weighs only 11 pounds). Not enough to jolt or hurt, but just a tingle. A jolt or zap is reason to seek immediate help – and by all means unplug that machine! One recent student told of all the breakers in her home being thrown when they plugged in a Featherweight with bad cording.
A number of issues could be at work to cause this little tingle. There could be deteriorated wiring (please see the posts before regarding aluminum wiring). Good copper wiring could have some of the insulation removed and be making contact with other metal parts. External factors could be coming into play here also – poor house wiring, sewing barefoot on a bare concrete floor or in a damp basement, etc.
The most common cause, though, is the foot controller has been wired (or rewired) with the wires reversed. These machines had no ground wire, so they operate off of what is commonly referred to as ‘natural ground’. This is one of several reasons why I don’t offer replacement cord sets for sale to my customers, but I will gladly install new cords sets if you will mail me the foot controller. I only charge for the cost of the cord set and shipping.
The original cords that plug into the wall were not polarized plugs (they would plug in either way). Therefore, if you are getting a little tingle through your machine and you have original cords and plug that goes into your wall socket, start by inspecting your cord set for breaks and flaws and turn the plug over in the wall socket. Check your sewing environment for external factors like the damp floor, etc.
If you are still getting a little tingle (or more electricity than that), you should seek out professional assistance to check for corroded wires, bare wires, or a foot controller that has been wired incorrectly. I want to keep your machine sewing great for many years, and you healthy and sewing on it!
The tip this month deals with your Singer Featherweight bobbin case. The bobbin tension on your Featherweight is controlled by a tiny tension adjusting screw (if you are looking at the bobbin case with the latch on top, this is the screw on the right) that puts pressure (tension) on the bobbin case spring. This spring in turn puts more or less tension on your bobbin thread. The spring is made of a small piece of tin cut and shaped for its purpose. I always encourage my students to develop the habit of cutting their bobbin thread off as close to this spring as possible when they are removing the bobbin, instead of pulling the thread out backwards. Pulling the thread out backwards puts undue stress on this spring and the screws. For now, the spring and the tension adjusting screw are replaceable parts. However, the tiny screw that holds the spring on (the screw on the left) is no longer available! And, no, the screws are not interchangeable.
Occasionally rust, grit, thread, etc. will get stuck behind the spring and prevent it from doing its job, thereby creating tension issues for you when you sew. (You can see a picture of a rusted spring on my Facebook business page: Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting.) If this occurs, you can simply remove both screws (I prefer to remove the adjusting screw first), clean the back side of the spring, then replace the screws. The screws are easily identifiable when they are out of the bobbin case. The adjusting screw will have a “cross” machined into its back side. Replace the spring screw first without tightening all the way down, and then replace the adjusting screw. Now, go back and tighten the spring screw. As always, a bath towel down on your work surface will help keep tiny screws from bouncing and being lost forever should they be dropped.
One other thing I want to mention – I have written a lot about lubricating your Featherweight motor with ONLY Singer lubricant. Remember the the horrors of the ‘repairman’ who contacted me and divulged that he was putting Vaseline in Singer motors? Within the past couple of months the first motor filled with Vaseline has come through my repair shop. The motor was not running – not even trying. It took quite a while, but the extreme “goo” from the melted Vaseline was successfully cleaned out of the motor. It is functioning just fine again! Please be cautious if you are told you must replace your motor. My experience has been that most of the time the motor can be cleaned and will operate as intended once again.
Remember to sign up early if you want a seat in one of my Featherweight Maintenance classes at the International Quilt Festival in Houston on November 1 and 2 (Thursday and Friday). You will find links to their site on my home page and on the page about the Featherweight Maintenance Class. I hope to see you there. I have already received a number of emails from folks who are traveling a great distance (even a couple who are coming from other countries). I look forward to meeting you all and having you in class. The Power Point prepared for the class is brand new. It has been adapted based on student input. I am very excited about all I have to share with you.
Please check out the great new product I am sharing with my readers for the first time this month -- the Featherweight Thread Stand.
Ok, it is confession time…….
This month I was going to write about how often you should ‘maintain’ (give general cleaning, oiling, etc.) your Featherweight.
My Nova's Featherweight Maintenance Card has the following chart on it…
Recommended Maintenance Schedule
Minimum – Annually whether the machine is in use or not
Moderate Use – Every six months
Heavy Use – After every major project or as indicated by the machine’s sounds.
I also recommend lubricating the motor often – after every major project or, at a minimum, every six months.
Well, I have been working on two large projects pretty much simultaneously on the machine that travels with me all the time. I opened it early last week and it would not sew. The hand wheel would turn, but the needle bar did not move.
This is typically an indication that there is a jam in the gib. I did not have tools, kerosene, oil, etc. with me, so I simply packed it away until I could return home. When my husband was helping me unload the car, he asked where I wanted the ‘sick’ sewing machine. He is used to lots of ‘sick’ machines coming through my workshop, but this was my machine – my favorite – selected because of its lovely sound (Singer Featherweights characteristically have unique sounds – this one sounds like rain to me).
When I began servicing the machine, I was ashamed. It was very dirty. There was a thick ‘felt’ pad under the needle plate, and the motor wells were pretty much dry. How could I have let my machine get in this condition? Well, it is easy! Just like most everyone else – I’m busy, and caring for my machine had not been at the top of my priority list.
I serviced the gib (though I did not find a jam there), etc., hand wheel still would turn, but the needle bar would not move. Continued cleaning, oiling, etc., but my blood pressure was rising. This was my machine – my favorite – the one that travels with me all the time. Still the needle bar would not move.
Just a hair before panic, it suddenly occurred to me that the machine was behaving like it does when the stop motion wheel is loosened (like when you are going to wind a bobbin).
Oh, my! Did I feel foolish!
I always tell my students, start with the easy things….
Tension off – completely rethread the machine
Nothing happens when you step on the foot controller – check to make sure everything is plugged in
Needle bar won’t move – check the stop motion wheel!
There are lots more easy troubleshooting tips on Nova's Featherweight Troubleshooting Card I just need to follow my own advice!
Caring for my machine needs to move way up my priority list if I expect it to continue to perform when I open it up to sew.
When was the last time you maintained your Featherweight?July 2012
The Singer Featherweight requires a 15 watt, bayonet style light bulb.
Please don't let anyone tell you that these are no longer available and that you really need a 25 watt bulb to give you better light. I was told this a long time ago before I knew better. Using a larger wattage bulb will cause heat expansion problems with your machine. And, I recently had a student in class whose machine was in good cosmetic condition except for the shade over the light. The paint there had almost peeled completely off. She blamed this on too large a light bulb heating the shade and blistering the paint.
Even the 15 watt bulb will get very hot. Use caution because it is very easy to get burned! Most of us who have been using a Featherweight for a number of years have scars on our hands from the burns. My preference is to avoid this altogether by placing my Ott light directly in front of the right side of my machine, and I do not turn the light on my Featherweight on. The switch on your Featherweight only controls the light. It is not an on / off switch for the machine.
Sometimes it is difficult to remember how to remove and install the light bulb when it needs to be changed. A good ‘mental hook’ for this is that you are going to throw the bulb away, so you push in and rotate the bulb away from you. To install a new bulb, align the prongs, push in and rotate toward you (‘mental hook’ – I am going to keep the new bulb, so I rotate it toward me). When a machine comes into my repair shop with a broken light socket, I know that someone has tried to unscrew the light bulb.
The connection inside the early model Featherweights seems to be smaller. I have noticed that sometimes the contacts in the fixture and on the bulb do not work well together on these machines. This is remedied easily by using a ‘cat eye’ bulb. This means that the contacts on the end of the bulb are elongated. These bulbs have been available for a while, but were more expensive. I was delighted that the last shipment of ‘normal’ bulbs I received from my supplier all had ‘cat eye’ contacts.
I hope you are reading my Greetings and News page here on my web site for general information on my coming and going, and my Facebook page: Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting. You will find ‘mini-Tips’ posted there several times a month. I would appreciate it if you would ‘Like’ my pages that you find beneficial, so you can share them with your friends. Thank you!
Reproduction bobbin cases:
I readily admit that I am constantly learning new things about the Singer Featherweights. This week was no exception. For quite some time, I have heard and read poor reviews of the replacement Singer Featherweight bobbin cases. As a part of the service I offer to my customers who purchase a bobbin case, I always adjust it, set the tension, etc., so the machine is ready to sew when they receive it. I have had no problems. Therefore, I thought that the dissatisfaction with the replacement cases was the result of the seller simply shipping out a boxed bobbin case without adjusting it. This week proved that to be untrue.
A customer ordered a bobbin case and I started to adjust one using a machine that I had recently purchased for resale. The machine would not sew. The thread looped around the bobbin case (instead of over it) causing the machine to jam. I went to remove the bobbin case, and it would not come out of the machine. After much effort, I finally got it free. I selected another new replacement bobbin case from my inventory with the same results. This process was repeated through the remainder of my inventory with no better results.
At this point, I was wondering if there was something wrong with the hook on the machine I was trying them on, so I changed machines. I had the exact same results. None of the bobbin cases in my inventory worked!
I called my customer, and shipped her an original Singer bobbin case (like the one pictured) that I had removed from a badly damaged “parts” machine.
On the verge of concluding that I am stuck with a lot of worthless (yet, very expensive) inventory, I called my parts supply house and learned from them that there were two different hook assemblies and bobbin cases that Singer put on the Featherweights. There is no way to tell from looking at the hook assembly or the serial number which bobbin case was a correct match for that hook assembly! The difference is one digit on the part number of the bobbin case (which indicates some minute machining differences). It is also interesting that one of the bobbin cases will fit on either hook assembly, but the other requires an exact match! Unfortunately, only one of the bobbin cases is currently being reproduced.
Alternatively, an entire new hook assembly is now available (within the last couple of months), but it retails for $252!
I hate to be a skeptic, but I wasn’t so sure about this information. Never before had I heard of two different hook assemblies and bobbin cases. Plus, all of the schematics I have showing the original part numbers for the Singer Featherweight consistently have the bobbin case with the number that matches the reproduction bobbin case currently available. After spending the better part of a day testing bobbin cases and machines, I acquiesced – the parts house was right!
This is all interesting trivia and probably is of no interest to you – UNTIL you break, lose, or have your bobbin case stolen. Then, it will make a LOT of difference! Prudence says prevention is the better road to travel. Protect your machine. I always recommend that you remove your bobbin case and put it in your pocket or purse if you are participating in a large retreat, class, etc. This is true for any machine make or model. I know of one incident where a class at a large show went to lunch, only to come back and discover that all their bobbin cases had been stolen!
And, make sure you are working with a dealer that will help you get the right bobbin case for your machine, should you ever need one. Bottom line price with no service is not a ‘good deal’.
Be watching in the near future. I have a new product coming out that will appeal to quilters. I am very excited about it.
I often have students bring machines to class or have Featherweights brought to me for repair that have ‘floppy’ bobbin winder arms. Meaning that they will not stay in a set position nor will they engage consistently with the belt to successfully wind a bobbin. Most of the owners have learned to live with this problem by pushing the bobbin winder arm all the way up (no! no! – please see the Tip of the Month from back in April 2011) and then holding the bobbin winder arm down with their finger when trying to wind a bobbin.
The issue is caused by the flattening of the tension washers in the assembly of the bobbin winder arm. See that large screw? It is really a temptation to give that thing a good tightening down. However, this flattens the washers and actually causes the problem to worsen with time.
The tension washers are replaceable, but as always – prevention is best. You need to move that bobbin winder arm as little as possible – just so it isn’t touching the belt.
By the way, the replacement bobbin winder arms that are now available (2012) do not fit on the machine just right and require some extensive effort to attach and get to function. Prevention is best.
The spool spindle pin is not able to be tightened. It is riveted to the spool spindle plate. Once the spindle pin is damaged and becomes wobbly – it cannot be retightened. Luckily, the plates are replaceable (for now). Click here to order a new spool spindle plate.
By now you know that I prefer to prevent damage whenever possible instead of trying to fix problems. So, how does the spool spindle pin become damaged? Any hard blow can cause this, but it most often happens when the machine is being transported in the case. If the case is turned upside down, the machine falls down to the lid and the spool spindle pin is what takes the blow. You can look in the case lid and see where the pin has hit. It will leave dents in the case lid. I have even seen them go through case lids they have hit so hard!
If you are shipping your machine, you should always remove the spool spindle plate (replace the screw, so you don’t lose it!). Wrap the plate in bubble wrap and fill the top of the case (above the machine) with bubble wrap, lots of crushed paper, or old towels. Do NOT use packing peanuts. They shift during shipment and are useless.
Please check out my new Facebook Page: Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting. I am posting ‘mini-tips’ there on a regular basis.
The March Tip of the Month focuses on quilting (not piecing) with your Singer Featherweight 221. Quilting with my Featherweight, I have obtained great results – it does a beautiful job!
The feed dogs on a Singer Featherweight do not lower. I do not find this to be a hindrance to free motion quilting. If they are in your way, it is a very simple thing to cover them with a narrow piece of template plastic taped to the needle plate. The template plastic is thin, so it does not take up valuable space between your presser foot and the needle plate.
Remember to run the pressure foot pressure knob down to put more pressure on your presser foot for increased traction to pull the layers of your quilt through the machine.
There is a walking foot available that is specifically designed to be used with your Featherweight. The presser foot on this walking foot is designed so that it aligns with the feed dogs on the sewing machine. http://www.novamontgomery.com/shop/Tools-and-Accessories/p/Walking-foot.htm
There is also a free motion foot available for your Singer Featherweight. I have had lovely results quilting with this. I seem to have a lot more speed control with my Featherweight than with other machines. http://www.novamontgomery.com/shop/Tools-and-Accessories/p/Freemotion-foot.htm
The small throat on a Featherweight is a hindrance to quilting a large project. I have used the Divide and Conquer method featured in the
Possibilities book with great success. It allows you to divide your quilt into sections and then assemble those sections. This is a much more manageable option for a Featherweight.
One crucial thing to remember about quilting with your Featherweight is that while it achieves great results, the little machine was really not designed for such demanding work. It has a single phase motor that will get very hot (and be damaged) if you just ‘go to town’ with it. Perhaps that is why I have good success with quilting on my Featherweight. I am slow! I need lots of breaks. This works well for me and my machine! YOU MUST LET THE MOTOR COOL OFF!
Someone recently contacted me about using a Featherweight in one of the quilting frames that allows a machine to be placed on a shelf and guided with handlebars. My opinion is that this would be a disaster for your Featherweight. It would be easy to forget to let the motor cool down, and you would run it to death!
Please remember to check out my Facebook page (Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting). I am posting ‘mini tips’ there a couple of times a week. And, of course, I would appreciate it if you would ‘like’ it and tell all your friends about it and my web site!!
There have been several inquiries lately about Singer Featherweights skipping stitches.
“My machine skips stitches only when I paper piece…”
“I was trying to sew on Minky® and my machine was skipping stitches…”
“My machine skips stitches only when I cross an intersection…”
As a general rule (there are always exceptions) skipping stitches is a problem with the sewing machine needle.
To correct try the following:
Select a new needle. Needles are mass manufactured and occasionally there can even be a problem with a new needle that is straight from the package. I prefer Schmetz needles. They are a high quality, German made needle that are readily available. Needles should be replaced after eight hours of sewing time or if there is an accident (you hit a pin, presser foot, etc.).
Make certain that you have inserted the needle correctly in the machine. Remember the flat side of the needle must match the flat side of the needle plate (a built in visual for you). The needle needs to be inserted all the way up in the shaft before you tighten the needle clamp screw.
For the three problems noted above or whenever you are sewing through thick material, try a larger needle than you have been using. A needle that is too small will not have the strength to penetrate through the thickness quickly enough for the loop of the thread that the needle is carrying to be caught below in the hook – thus there are skipped stitches. Use the smallest needle that will perform well in your specific application, but do not be afraid to use a larger needle if that is what is needed to get the job done.
Make certain that the positioning finger on the hook is caught properly in the groove of the needle plate.
Occasionally there could be a problem with a bur on the machine’s hook or other obscure difficulties. But, again, almost always the difficulty is a needle problem.
It is possible that there could be a timing problem with your machine. However this is extremely RARE. These machines were timed from the factory, and their timing should not be adjusted unless you are very experienced with making this adjustment. Please check out my new Facebook page ‘Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting’ (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Novas-Featherweights-and-Quilting/347475461943838?ref=tn_tnmn). I will be posting mini tips quite often on that site. Soon there will be a photo of what the screws look like when an unknowledgeable person has decided to work on a machine’s timing. I would appreciate it if you would become a fan of my page.
Also, I will be posting a special for February in the middle of the month, so come back to visit me soon.
Happy New Year!
This month’s Tip deals with the top tension on your Singer Featherweight 221. Several of my repair customers and different ‘posters’ on the ‘groups’ have had questions and issues with top tension.
The tension assembly on a Featherweight is quite dependable and generally trouble free on a well maintained machine. The most common issue I am seeing and reading about is the tension is fouled because the numbered dial is being pushed in and turned to adjust the tension. This is incorrect.
To adjust the tension on your Featherweight all you need to turn is the small silver knob in front of the numbered dial. Avoid pushing in on the numbered dial when you adjust the tension.
The number one rule if you sit down to sew and suddenly your tension is off – rethread the entire machine. Most often you can have missed a thread guide, or have the thread wrapped around something that should not be. Don’t be afraid to adjust the top tension knob, but don’t start there. Start by rethreading the machine.
If the top tension is fouled on your machine, you will need to push in on the numbered dial and adjust until you obtain a correct tension. Good tension is indicated by no knots on the top or bottom, but the stitch being ‘locked’ in the center (hence the terminology – ‘lock stitch’ machine). I generally like to test tension with a different color thread on the top and bottom (remember that Featherweights like to have their threads matched on the top and bottom – same weight, fiber, etc.). Or, you can run your fingernail down the stitch line to see if you feel knots. Knots on the top can indicate top tension too tight or bobbin tension too loose. Knots on the bottom, bobbin tension too tight or top tension too loose. To tighten top tension go to a higher number (or on the older model machines that did not have a numbered dial – turn right [lefty loosey, righty tighty]). If you need to reset your top tension, work in small increments pushing in on the numbered dial and adjusting. Make sure the pin on the back of the silver knob seats in one of the little holes before you check the stitch.
When I service a machine I like to set the tension at about 4 for medium weight cotton quilting fabric.
My Featherweight Maintenance Class does not remove the top tension assembly (this is generally considered a repair – not maintenance).
However, if you believe your tension assembly to be dirty, you can clean it (preferably with it on the machine) with kerosene. Also, lift your presser foot to release the tension on the discs, take a piece of cotton fabric and ‘shoe shine’ between the discs to remove lint, etc.
If you are placing the machine in storage for a period of time remove the thread from the machine. Lots of folks leave it threaded to remind them how to thread it again. When you leave the machine threaded, the thread can absorb moisture from the air and cause rust to form on the tension discs where it is touching them. This will create problems when the machine is placed back in service (generally requires service to disassemble, clean and polish the discs).
Be sure to check out my new Featherweight Cosmetics Card and Sew Straight Guide.
Clarification - Posted January 5, 2012
Sometimes when writing technical information what appears very clear to me does not communicate as intended to others.
I will try to clarify the January Tip of the Month.
When adjusting the top tension on your Singer Featherweight for general sewing purposes (differences in fabric weight or thread weight, etc. is why you would need to adjust at all), you should NOT be pushing in on the numbered dial. You can adjust the top tension by simply turning the small silver knob in front of the numbered dial.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN PUSHING IN ON THE NUMBERED DIAL your tension will be fouled. Correct tension will not be set for normal fabrics and you will have a hard time adjusting it to sew correctly on any fabric. Additionally, you will not have the entire range of tension adjustments available to you.
THEREFORE, IF YOU HAVE BEEN PUSHING IN ON THE NUMBERED DIAL you will need to push it in to reset the top tension on the machine. I like to set the tension for normal quilting weight cottons to 4 or 4 ½ when I am servicing a machine.
Please follow the instructions in the January Tip to reset in small increments until you have achieved a correct setting.
Remember that your Singer Featherweight prefers to have the threads on the top and in the bobbin matched (matching weights and types).
December 2011 This month’s Tip deals with bobbin tension for your Singer Featherweight 221.
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!
I promised pictures mid-month last month, but I was away traveling and teaching. So, it didn’t happen until now. These show the interior of an unlubricated Singer Featherweight 221 motor. Look at the extreme amount of soot built up. What a mess! This motor was nearly done from years of not being maintained. I was able to clean this motor up, replace the motor brushes that were in essence welded to the shafts by soot, and this machine is sewing great. Keep those motor wells full of lubricant! (Click here to order lubricant.) Damage prevention is always better than a ‘cure’. Continue reading for this month’s Tip.
There are lots of complaints and a vast multitude of rumors about smelly Singer 221 Featherweight cases. What causes a smelly case, and what can be done about it?
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 special.) If the wiring to your foot controller is bad, I would be happy to help you replace it.
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. 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 – Singer lubricant is a NON-flowing grease that was and is specifically designed to be used on sewing machines. I have been emailed that I should not be recommending this product because Singer is no longer manufacturing it, rather it is a ‘licensed’ product. I would remind folks that are so concerned about it being a ‘licensed’ product that Singer is a vastly different company than it was when our Featherweight 221’s were manufactured. The person who sent this email was recommending putting Vaseline on your Featherweight’s gears and in the motor. A simple heat test will show you the difference between Singer lubricant and Vaseline. They do not break down the same way under heat (motors get hot). Vaseline melts and runs. Logically, would it make more sense to use a ‘licensed’ product that is designed and intended to be used on a sewing machine, or to use Vaseline? Your Featherweight REQUIRES lubricant on its gears and in its motor.
There is even a blog out there that says the original Singer lubricant was nothing but black axle grease! Absolutely untrue!
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 is 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. I believe in using what the engineers who designed the machine intended.
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 and 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.
This month I would like to talk to you about a safety issue with regard to your Singer Featherweight 221. For a time when the Singer Featherweight was being manufactured, Singer put aluminum wiring in the cord set and also (on some machines) in the wiring to the light. Aluminum wiring was a ‘new’ innovation. I am not absolutely certain when aluminum wiring began to be used or ceased to be used, but the general time frame was late 1940’s and early 1950’s. As we now know, aluminum wiring does not hold up well, and is a hazard.
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.
This month’s tip also deals with servicing the motor on your Featherweight. You should check the brushes on your Featherweight motor annually. Check the motor brush by removing the large screw on the top of the motor. This is the motor brush cap. Be gentle when unscrewing this. The cap is made of Bakelite and the top breaks off relatively easily. Remove the motor brush by gently pulling on the spring that should be attached to the brush. The brush is actually a rectangular block of carbon which ‘brushes’ against the commutator on the motor. Worn motor brushes need to be replaced. The photo illustrates the difference in size between a new motor brush and a worn one. To be on the safe side, I recommend replacing the motor brush when it is about ¼” long (not including the small nub where the spring attaches). There are two motor brushes – one accessed from the top and one from the bottom. They wear at the same rate and should be replaced as a pair. I only recommend checking the one on the top because the one on the bottom is more difficult to access (since they wear at the same rate, they should be the same length).
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.
If you are a frequent reader of my Tip of the Month, you know that I discuss issues that have recently come through my repair shop. I have had several Featherweights come through with bad motors. Luckily these were all repairable and did not have to be replaced –-- yet (all have been damaged). The issue is not age and certainly not poor quality (most have been sewing for over 50 years!). The issue is poor maintenance.
Your Singer Featherweight motor has two ‘wells’ (or cups, or shafts) that MUST be kept filled with Singer lubricant (and ONLY Singer lubricant). Think of this as ‘topping off’ (like you do your gasoline tank). Do not ‘dig around’ in these motor wells – you can cause damage to the motor. You should cut the tip of the Singer lubricant off nice and flat. Press the flat cut end of the lubricant flush against the top of the motor well. Squeeze on the lubricant until excess oozes out around the top of the well. This should be done on a REGULAR basis. I usually top my machine off after every project, or if I sew consistently for a day (at a retreat or bee) – at the end of that day. Check your motor wells often. Keep them full. Machines with motor issues that have come to my repair shop have one common characteristic – the motor wells have been completely empty. Prevent motor failure: maintain your Singer Featherweight motor.
This month I am running a special on Singer lubricant for your machine.
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.
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.
One of the most common problems I see in my repair shop is a broken electrical receptacle on the machine bed (where the foot controller plugs into the machine). These are almost always broken in a half moon shape on the bottom of the receptacle. This is an easily preventable problem. The receptacles are broken when hurriedly placing the machine back in the case. The receptacle extends beyond the body of the machine and is hit when the machine is being lowered into the case. That is why the breaks are almost always half moon shaped. The prevention for this is to slow down, and lower the receptacle end of the machine into the case first, then straighten the machine (level) and continue lowering it into position in the case. If you have a damaged receptacle, it should be replaced. There is a danger of you touching the electrical prongs when plugging and unplugging the cord set. Be safe so you can sew for a long time!
Happy New Year! I hope all of your holidays have been safe, happy and peaceful. I have enjoyed writing these 'Tips of the Month' and hope you are finding them beneficial. I typically write about issues that were either emailed to me or have come through my repair shop during the previous month.
This month's 'Tip' is accompanied by the photo shown here of a machine that recently came through my repair shop. I was pretty amazed at the inventive resourcefulness of the owner's husband. He had 'repaired' the machine with a piece of high tensile wire where the thread guide was missing. And, while this arrangement was functioning, it was really unnecessary. There are replacement parts available for the Singer Featherweight machines. And, for the parts that are not being reproduced, I have 'parts machines' available for the robbing of parts. So, please contact me if you are in need of parts for your machine. Even if you don't see the part you are needing listed in my online Shop, I will be happy to help you in any way I can.
Happy Stitching in 2011!!
The belt for the Singer Featherweight 221 is replaceable with the style belt that Singer originally designed - a V-shaped black belt. This belt consistently performs better and quieter than the 'orange' belts that have been sold as replacements for the original. To replace the belt:
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 washer - its 'ears' should be pointing out. Remove.
Pull the hand wheel off of the machine - belt will come with it.
Remove belt from motor area.
Install new belt on pulley on motor. (This is usually a two-handed job.)
Loop over hand wheel (loose - not on machine).
Replace hand wheel on machine.
Replace washer ('ears' out) and then the knob. Tighten screw on knob (not too tight!).
Belt should be just tight enough to pull machine without slipping -- NOT plucking tight! Actually, pretty loose.
If belt is too tight - loosen large screw that holds the motor in place - look at motor as if you are sewing - screw is below and behind hand wheel. IF YOU LOOSEN THIS SCREW - PROTECT THE PAINT ON THE ARM OF THE MACHINE FROM THE SCREW DRIVER. This screw holds the motor in place. Loosening it will allow the motor to slide up and down. Raise the motor slightly and re-tighten the belt.
It is VERY important NOT to run the machine with the belt too tight. This can cause the machine to run slowly and can damage the motor.
Shop for gifts for your Featherweight enthusiast by clicking here!
Hello! I hope you are reading my Greetings and News page every month also!
I have some very exciting news for you! For some time now my students have been requesting a simple visual reminder of how to care for their machines. So, I have developed four great new products for you and your beloved Featherweights - Nova's Featherweight Maintenance Card, Nova's Featherweight Troubleshooting Card, Nova's Featherweight Basics Card, and Nova's Featherweight Attachment Card.
These cards are made of heavy weight laminated card stock and are designed to fit in the front of your Featherweight case. They are durable and handy to keep right with the machine. They feature full color photographs with red arrows pointing right at key points for you. If you accidentally drop oil or kerosene on it while maintaining your machine - just wipe it off. No harm done!
I just returned from quilt market and the response to these was tremendous!
To take a closer look, or securely order yours - click on the links below. Remember, if you don't like ordering over the internet, simply telephone me. I will be happy to take your order over the phone.
Nova's Featherweight Maintenance Card
Nova's Featherweight Troubleshooting Card
Nova's Featherweight Basics Card
Nova's Featherweight Attachment Card
I hope you enjoy them, and thank you to my wonderful students for continuing to insist that these would be beneficial.
I am hearing from you that you are enjoying the Tip of the Month. That is great! Keep coming back!
The bobbin case on the Featherweight is threaded with the bobbin spinning counter-clockwise. When you hold the bobbin up before inserting it in the bobbin case the thread should make a lower case 'd'. This is an easy way to remember and check. For me it is "d"ifferent than my Bernina. Another way of thinking of it is that all bobbin cases are threaded with the thread running back on itself. Remember to draw your bobbin thread up to the top and hold your thread tails when you begin stitching - every time! You will prevent the machine from jamming if you do this one simple thing.
I have some exciting new products coming out soon. Be sure to check back here for their introduction!
The small knob on the top left of the machine (silver on some and black on others depending on the year of manufacture) is the presser foot pressure knob. It is used to adjust the amount of pressure the presser foot is putting on the fabric being stitched. This knob should turn freely and for typical quilting cottons it should be adjusted so that approximately 2 screw threads are showing. The knob should be adjusted downward for sewing heavier fabrics that would require more pressure to pull through the sewing machine and it should be adjusted upward to sew lighter weight fabrics (less pressure). You NEVER want to completely unscrew this. There is a spring under tension below this that is actually controlling the pressure. If you unscrew this completely, you will be hunting a spring!
Recently at my quilting bee, a friend was sewing on her Featherweight and it was skipping stitches. We replaced the needle, rethreaded the machine, etc. I sewed and sewed with the machine with no skipped stitches. She sat back down to sew and before long announced that the machine was still skipping stitches. She got up and I went over and sewed for quite a while with no skipped stitches. She sat down and soon announced again that the machine was still skipping stitches. Only then did I realize that she was sewing on Thangles. I had never experienced a problem with paper piecing on a Featherweight before. I looked and this presser foot pressure knob was unscrewed quite a bit. We adjusted it downward to pull a heavier load, and the machine performed much better!! Evidently the lessened pressure was allowing the foot to slip causing skipped stitches. We all learn as we go! Happy Stitching!!
Remember - you can shop safely for parts and accessories here!
The rubber 'feet' on the bottom of your machine that protect the table top from being scratched tend to deteriorate over the years. These feet are replaceable (click here to order new bed cushions) and are relatively easy to install. There is no need to use makeshift felt pads, etc. If the screw heads are visible, simply unscrew and remove the screw. If the screw heads are not visible due to the feet 'melting' over the screw head, take an old screwdriver and dig out the old cushion. If you can not get a screwdriver head in the slot in the screw, take needle-nosed pliers and grip the screw to remove it. The screw head slot can be cleaned out for replacement over the new cushion (foot) with a utility knife. Once all the old cushion is removed, simply set the new one in place and replace the screw. I would recommend replacing all four at the same time.
OK, this month's tip may seem a little obvious, but two machines in the same day are the cause of my deciding on this tip.....
If you don't know what you are doing - DON'T do it! DON'T let your husband do it either! Yes, I mean don't attempt to service the machine yourself if you don't know what you are doing. Find a competent repair person in your area, or mail it to me, or take my Singer Featherweight Maintenance class. Recently I have seen a motor ruined and an electrical nightmare (still not sure how they kept from having a house fire!) because of Featherweight owners certain that they (or their husbands) could service their machines just fine. The electrical nightmare is worth mentioning specifically --- This person had been told to "grease gears" which is correct. The only problem was that they did not know the difference between a gear and the thumb screws that secure the electrical connections. The electrical connections had been filled with lubricant and caught on fire burning the insulation off of the electrical wires and melting parts of the Bakelite receptacle........... Get help, and learn to do it right. Our precious little machines are too valuable and dear to leave it to chance.
Hold those thread tails! I had a call from a sweet couple in Michigan who needed assistance. Her machine kept locking up. Her husband was an engineer, and they requested that I instruct him over the phone how to open the gib, remove the thread, and reassemble the machine! I went and got one of my machines and 'talked him through'. We were successful! The thread was removed from where it was stuck jamming the machine. I then asked to speak to her again. She told me this was a recurring difficulty with her Featherweight and wondered if there was something wrong with the machine. I asked her if she held her thread tails when beginning to stitch. She replied that she did most of the time. The time that she wasn't holding those tails was the problem! She said that she didn't hold them all of the time because she was quilting with her machine and couldn't hold onto the bobbin thread because it was under the quilt. I explained how to pull the bobbin thread up through the quilt layers (Turn the hand wheel while holding the top thread. When the needle comes up through the quilt, pull on the top thread.), so it is on top of the quilt, and told her to hold those thread tails every time she begins to stitch for a few stitches. This will prevent 'birds nests' on the back and the machine jamming. This couple was traveling through and stopped to hear me lecture on the history of the Featherweight. It was great to meet them. She reported no more jamming issues while quilting with her Featherweight! Hold those thread tails every time.
A couple of my customers have recently purchased walking feet for their Singer 221's. They have had difficulty getting them on and operating correctly. Both of these customers have reported that the needle was hitting the foot. I had them bring in their machines to take a look. The walking feet were installed correctly (fork over the clamp screw that holds in the needle), and the needle did appear to be hitting the foot. A closer examination revealed that the needle was not actually hitting the foot, but that the fork on the walking foot was hitting the thread cutter. The thread cutter had been twisted out of position on the rear of the presser foot bar. Simply turning the thread cutter around solved the difficulty. If you have had trouble, check this out and try repositioning the thread cutter on the presser foot bar.
"I broke a needle, and now my machine won't sew!" This is a common problem I hear from my customers. They typically assume their machine is "ruined". Sometimes damage is done, but most of the time, the problem has a simple solution. The Singer Featherweight will NOT sew unless the needle is installed correctly. The problem is that the needle is installed on the Featherweight differently than almost all other machines. How do you remember the correct installation? There is a simple visual for you right on the machine! Look at the needle plate. Notice how it is shaped like a capital 'D'. This is EXACTLY how the needle is shaped at the top (end that goes in to be clamped). Make the flat sides match. Now you will be able to remember and 'see' how to do it every time you have to replace your needle!
Singer Featherweights usually perform best when the threads are matched on the top and in the bobbin. In other words, use the same weight and type of thread on both the top and in the bobbin (color does not matter). This even includes mono filament thread. Yes, I know that sounds really strange, but I have quilted several quilts using mono filament on the top and in the bobbin. Prior to learning this, I had snarls, breakage and great difficulty.
Try matching those threads up and see how much happier your Featherweight (and you) will be!
Contact Nova to schedule a workshop for your group to learn so much more about Singer Featherweight sewing machines!