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Nova's Featherweight Tip of the Month 2013

December 2013
Machine continues to run when the stop motion knob is loosened

The topic for December’s Tip of the Month is a request from a reader. I am always happy to entertain your requests and suggestions.
Why does the machine continue to ‘sew’ when winding a bobbin?
Normally, to wind a bobbin, you disengage the stop motion knob (small chrome knob inside the large hand wheel) by unscrewing it (lefty loosey, righty tighty), and the sewing mechanism should disengage. Often, though, the needle bar will continue with normal sewing activity. Occasionally, it will continue at a much reduced rate of speed – slow motion sewing. 
There are several things that will cause a machine to remain engaged.
1)    The stop motion knob is not completely released. Make certain that you have fully unscrewed the stop motion knob. If everything is installed correctly, there will be a definite stopping point.
2)    The stop motion washer (located under the stop motion knob is not correctly installed). There were a couple of distinct washers Singer used depending upon the year model of the machine. The most common type has three nodules on its outer edge and two ‘ears’ on the inner edge. The ‘ears’ must be directed away from the machine (ears stick out – not in). If this washer has been installed with the ‘ears’ inward, the machine will not disengage. Simply remove the washer and turn it around with the ‘ears’ out. (While you are in there – clean the washer, stop motion knob threads, etc. well with kerosene and paper towels).  Photo shows correct position.
3)    The most common culprit is the mechanism (stop motion washer, stop motion knob threads, etc.) are dry and need to be oiled. This is typically a much neglected part of the machine. The most convenient and practical time for cleaning and oiling this portion of the machine is when you are replacing a motor belt. I find it usually takes several drops of oil placed at different locations around the inside of the threads to do a thorough job of oiling these parts.
4)    The parts are worn. After 50 – 80 years of sewing, sometimes the parts become worn and the machine simply will not disengage.
To reassemble: the washer (with ‘ears’ out) can go back into the machine in two different positions. One will allow the stop motion knob to unscrew, the other will not. If the stop motion knob will not unscrew, simply remove it, and rotate the washer 180 degrees (‘ears’ still out), and replace the stop motion knob.
One thing I always point out to my students - you should be turning the large hand wheel (remember – only turn it toward you to prevent jamming the machine!) when you are adjusting the needle position during sewing, and not the chrome stop motion knob. Constantly putting pressure on and rotating the stop motion knob can only add unnecessary wear to the parts.
I hope you have a blessed holiday season with family and friends gathered around in love. Thank you all for a very wonderful 2013. 
Happy Stitching!

November 2013
Bobbin Case Maintenance
I would strongly encourage you to come and take my Featherweight Maintenance Workshop (or arrange for me to come to your guild, bee or local shop – I travel and teach nationally). My philosophy differs from some teachers. I believe in cleaning your Featherweight before reapplying oil and grease. And my definition of cleaning is not wiping off with a paper towel. I teach you how to thoroughly clean and protect your machine. Fifty to eighty years of built-up ‘goo’ can cause a machine to become sluggish and perform poorly.  Workshops for 2014 in Huntsville, Texas are posted on the Featherweight Maintenance Workshop page here on the web site (click here).  The workshop for February is already full with a waiting list.
Occasionally, a bobbin case will not hold any adjustment to the tension. (You can adjust the tension screw, but it makes no difference.) This is most often caused by thread (see photo - that tiny thread caused a lot of trouble), dirt, lint or rust behind the tension spring. You can remove the tension spring and clean the bobbin case and the backside of the tension spring (kerosene and emery paper). When replacing the tension spring, be very careful about the placement of the screws – they are not interchangeable. If you become confused as to which screw belongs in which hole, you can distinguish them because the one that adjusts the tension (the one on the right if you are holding the bobbin case with the latch on the top) has a small “+” machined into the base of the screw (not the part where you operate the screw driver).   The other screw has a plain base and it should be installed first (on the left), tightened partially, then the tension screw inserted and tightened partially. Now, finish tightening the first screw that attaches the spring to the bobbin case. Adjust the tension on the bobbin case by turning the tension screw in small increments. See a full discussion of adjusting bobbin tension in the Tip of the Month from December 2011. You will need the small screw driver Singer originally manufactured for these size screws. They are available through my online store. (Click here to order.)
Another thing you need to do to maintain your bobbin case is to apply a small amount of kerosene (a drop or two) in the groove where the latch slides (see photo) then gently work the latch back and forth.  This will help the tiny spring that operates the latch to stay clean and lubricated as well as preventing the formation of rust.
I am pleased to tell you that I have found a reputable supplier for lubricating syringes, a “tool” that I recommend you use to clean (using kerosene) and oil your Featherweight’s mechanical parts. Lubricating syringes have a blunt tip (unlike an inoculation needle – no chance of an accidental injection!). You can find these in my online store. (Click here to order.)  You will find that you have great control over where you apply kerosene (use to clean) and oil – and how much you apply at a time. Basic instructions for maintaining your machine can be found on Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Card. (Click here to order.) Please remember you can find a full line of parts and accessories in my online store, and if you are uncomfortable ordering through the internet, just call me (936-577-4818). I will be happy to assist you.
And lastly this month, I want to express my sincere thanks to each and every one of you. Keeping these machines alive and sewing is my passion and I love sharing with you. I appreciate your patronage, your friendship and your loyalty. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends gathered around in love and joy.
Happy Stitching!
October 2013
Packing a Featherweight

Packing a Featherweight is the focus of this month’s “Tip”. I am seeing too many machines with major damage due to poor packing. To site a few examples, there have been broken bobbin winder arms, dented or broken extension tables, broken hand wheel bushings, and even motors broken off. Here are a few packing practices to avoid shipping mishaps.
Push the bobbin winder arm all the way down against the belt.  Remember that the proper position for the bobbin winder arm all the time is down, just so it doesn’t touch the belt (see Tip of the Month from April 2011). But for packing, push it down against the belt like you are going to wind a bobbin. Bobbin winder arms (that fit and function correctly) are no longer ‘replaceable’ parts for Singer Featherweights.
Unplug cord from machine and wrap foot controller and cord in bubble wrap (small bubbles work best for all wrapping and packaging of the machine).   Remember to always treat that foot controller like a china tea cup (the original foot controllers do not have replaceable parts – I do carry a nice electronic foot controller [click here] if you need one, but I prefer that you prevent damage to your original).
ALL LOOSE PARTS should be securely wrapped in bubble wrap.  Loose parts scratch and chip paint in shipping. 
Remove the spool spindle plate (where the thread sits) and replace the screw in its hole to prevent it from being lost. One of the most common things I see is a bent spool spindle pin (see photo). Once the spool spindle is bent and wobbly, it cannot be tightened. Right now the spool spindle plate is a replaceable part (click here to be taken to Singer Featherweight Parts and Accessories), but let’s prevent the damage.
Place a couple of layers of bubble wrap between the bed extension and the face plate (in other words – there should be bubble wrap between the bed extension and the machine when you fold up the bed extension to put it in the case). 
Presser foot should be in the down position.  The thread uptake lever should be in its lowest position.
Cut small squares of cardboard to slide under the motor and fill in the space under the motor. This is to protect the motor and motor bracket and give them a ‘foundation’ if the machine gets a hard jolt in transit.
Wrap the machine in bubble wrap from both directions and place in the case with the large hand wheel on the right (like you are going to sew).  And, yes, it will fit in the case and the lid will close with that bubble wrap in there (if you use small bubbles). Make sure the machine sits down in the bottom of the case and does not get hung up on the wooden cleat on the left hand side.
Slip another piece of bubble wrap into the case between the large hand wheel and the case side.  Tuck the wrapped loose parts, the wrapped foot controller, etc. around the machine.  Fill the extra space between the machine and the tray or the case top (depending on which type of case you have) with bubble wrap, so the machine will not move when it is turned over in shipping (inevitably, it will be turned over at some point during transport).
Please do NOT use packing peanuts.  They settle and shift in shipping and are useless to protect the machine from damage.  Do not tape anything to the machine!  And, do not use the large bubble "pillows".  They often pop due to the weight of the machine, then there is nothing to protect the machine.

Place the tray (if present) in the case, close the case and secure the latches.  Completely wrap the case in bubble wrap.  Place in an appropriately sized box (not too big) that will prevent the case shifting or moving around during transit. Fill all extra space in the box with bubble wrap (again - not packing peanuts).  MARK THE BOX AS TO WHICH SIDE IS 'UP' AND MAKE SURE THE MACHINE TRAVELS UPRIGHT (it won’t travel upright if you put the case in the box and mark the wrong side as the top).  A machine that travels on its side or top will have damage when it arrives.  Mark 'Fragile' on every side of the box.  The machine should weigh about 23 pounds when packed as I have detailed. 
My personal preferred carrier is USPS, but I always recommend shipping Priority Mail. It costs a bit more, but the machine will endure less handling by traveling Priority than standard mail. Less handling = less opportunity to be dropped, etc. And, a tracking number comes with USPS Priority Mail.
Remember, if you are moving you will need to pack the machine inside the case as I have detailed. The photo to the right is ‘borrowed’, but it shows a machine that was damaged during a move. Additionally, I know of two machines where the large hand wheel bushing was broken during a move causing the hand wheel to ‘wobble’ until the bushing broke completely in half and the hand wheel fell off of the machine.
I have formed the habit of packing my machines that travel with me for my presentations (Century of Progress and History of the Featherweight) as described. Machines have accidentally fallen off of my cart, but because they were packed well, there was no damage.
Please remember that you can order Singer Featherweight 221 Parts and Accessories securely through my web site (click here). Or, if you prefer not to do business over the Internet, you can call me (936-577-4818), and I will be happy to help you with whatever parts you need for your machine.
Happy Stitching!

September 2013

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) H
old 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) D
o 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!

Happy Stitching!


August 2013

Machine running slow or sluggish

It is often assumed that a machine that is running slowly has motor issues, and that is a possibility. However, most often when a sluggish machine comes into my repair shop, the culprit is old oil, lubricant and dirt. Old oil and lubricant can become sticky or hard and cause the machine to perform poorly. Besides slow sewing performance, this condition puts a strain on the machine’s motor, too! Look at the photo. See the buildup of old oil on the needle bar? This is what is causing this machine to run sluggishly.
I’ve seen lots of things in machines that have come into my workshop – everything from oil that should not have been used in the first place (too thick, not the correct viscosity – only use sewing machine oil) to heavy tractor grease being put in every hole and opening on the machine. I’ve worked on a machine  where the owner thought that if a little was good, a lot was great! This machine had oil running out of the bottom of the case! Another machine’s well-intentioned owner used cooking oil – the bugs loved this (think machine full of cockroaches…..).
My philosophy differs from many of the others who are out there in the Featherweight market, because I don’t believe in oiling or lubricating a machine until all the old goo has been cleaned out - just like you would not replace the oil in your car without changing the oil filter.
I use kerosene to remove the old oil and lubricant. You can gently ‘scrub’ with Q-tips. Before you replace your drip pan pad here to order) – clean the pan with kerosene to remove the nasty old goo (and smell). (There are other solvents on the market, but kerosene is safer for the finish on your Featherweight.)   Pay special attention to the needle bar. Make certain it is nice and clean all the way up and down.
A clean machine will run faster and smoother than a dirty machine.
Finally, a few things to keep you informed:

I hope you have noticed and are enjoying the Index for the Tip of the Month (found in the left-hand column on this page).
Because of numerous requests, I am now offering a ‘package deal’ on a set of all five of my Featherweight Cards. The Featherweight Maintenance Card deals with cleaning and lubricating the machine.  Click here to order.
There have been many inquiries about my schedule for 2014 for the Featherweight Maintenance Workshop here in Huntsville, TX (everything for 2013 is filled).  As soon as these dates are decided upon, I will post them on the Featherweight Maintenance Workshop page here on the web site.  Remember that I can travel and bring the workshop to your guild as well.
I have developed a ‘mission statement’ for my business. I had a customer who began an email with, “I know you do this to make money….”   That caused me to think about some things very seriously. I do need to turn a profit in order to keep the web site up and running and the lights on. However, I am very well educated and trained, and have had a much more lucrative career in another field. I work with Singer Featherweights because I love these little machines. 
So, here is Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting’s Mission Statement:

Preserving our quilting heritage is extremely important to me. My purpose is to present our quilting history in an informative, engaging and fun manner.
I want to help owners preserve their Singer Featherweight sewing machines and keep them sewing for generations to come through education and providing quality parts, products and services for their machines.

I hope this will help you understand a little more about me and what ‘makes me tick’.

Happy Stitching!
July 2013

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.

Happy Stitching!


June 2013

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. 

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:

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.

Happy Stitching!


May 2013

Thread Jams
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.
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.
Happy Stitching!
April 2013
Stinky Case
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 machineYou 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.
Happy Stitching!

March 2013

Wiring / Lead Tube

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. To set up a Consultation, click here.

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.

Happy Stitching!

February 2013

Stitch Length Lever / Reverse
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.


Happy Stitching!

Further Update - January 2013
Schmetz Needles
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:

Dear Nova,

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.

Best regards,

Rolando G. Bohlemann


Ferd. Schmetz Needle Corp.

Mid-January Update
Schmetz Needles
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.

January 2013

Needles and Bobbins

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.

Many of you have emailed about me coming to your area to teach the Singer Featherweight Maintenance Class. I typically travel at the invitation of quilt guilds.  Talk to your program director!  I would love to come to your area.  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!