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Nova's Featherweight Tip of the Month 2015

 December 2015
Light Bulb

 I always like to keep our Tip of the Month for December short and simple since we are all busy preparing for holidays with family and friends.

 I just want to caution you about being careful with the light bulb on your Singer Featherweight. Many emails and calls have come in this month about light bulbs not making good contact, and therefore, flickering, or not staying lit. The contacts at the back of the light fixture are small and round. They must connect with and stay connected to the contacts on the back of the light bulb. It is quite easy to damage these or the light fixture itself creating the problem of the bulb not staying lit. The most common ways of damaging the contacts are when installing a new light bulb (a gentle touch is always best) and when lifting the machine.

 Yes, when simply lifting the machine out of the case, onto a table, etc., the bulb can be “mashed” to the side and the contacts damaged.

 Although the light fixture is a replaceable part, always try to prevent damage to our beloved machines. Be careful not to put pressure on the bulb when lifting the machine.

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays.

Happy Stitching!


November 2015
Stop Motion Knob

The sewing mechanism continuing to run when winding a bobbin is a common occurrence with Singer Featherweight 221’s. The stop motion knob (small silver knob inside the large hand wheel) must be loosened (rotated toward you) to stop the motion of the needle and feed dogs. Often, though, these parts continue to run while winding a bobbin.

There are four primary reasons for this happening:

1)      The stop motion washer which is immediately behind the stop motion knob has been installed incorrectly. The washer has three outer nodules along its outside edge and two inner “ears”. The “ears” should be facing toward the outside of the machine, not to the inside.

2)      The threads inside the hand wheel bushing are dirty with old oil, lint, dust, etc. These should be flushed out with kerosene (use a syringe) when changing a belt, etc. Never swab these threads out with a cotton swab or paper towel. The fibers that remain behind can cause the same problem as the old oil, lint, and dust.

3)     Those same threads are dry.  Oil them after cleaning.

4)      Worn threads in the hand wheel bushing. This is a natural consequence of using the machinery, but can be accelerated by constantly turning the stop motion knob instead of the large hand wheel. Only rotate the large hand wheel, not the small stop motion wheel. The 1946 Featherweight that I do all of my piecing with, has this problem. Its threads are damaged/worn and it sews very slowly while I am winding a bobbin. That’s life. It is still a great sewing machine and my favorite to stitch with.  One thing that has worked well for me is to flush these parts out, then oil them, then hold the thread uptake lever motionless while the stop motion knob is not engaged (like when winding a bobbin) to work any loose particles through the threads. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN DOING THIS. You do not want to lose your finger! Make certain the stop motion knob is disengaged and never force any of the machinery.

There are still a few seats left for my 2016 Singer Featherweight Maintenance Workshops in Huntsville, TX.  If you are interested, now is the time to register and reserve yourself a seat.  Here is a direct link to that page:

Happy Stitching!


October 2015
"White" Singer Featherweight 221

Modern quilters are causing the popularity of the Singer Featherweight 221 K7 machines (the pale green Singer Featherweights that Singer referred to as “white”) to dramatically increase. These were all manufactured in Great Britain in the Kilbowie, Scotland plant and were the last of the Featherweights that Singer produced.

These machines are belt driven on the interior (as opposed to the black and tan Singer Featherweights that are gear driven machines on the interior). And, there are several distinctive things about these machines that need special attention. In a recent Tip of the Month we looked at their motors and noted that some (but not all) have sealed motors.

This month I would like to call your attention to the motor pulley on the Featherweight 221 K7. The motor pulley is constructed of Bakelite (an early plastic). After this many years, the Bakelite has become brittle in many instances. It tends to chip and break quite easily. The motor pulley in the photo is a good example. The machine that went with this pulley was recently on my workbench. When I initially began working on it, I thought the motor shaft was bent. Then it became apparent that there was major damage to the pulley. Luckily, there are replacement metal motor pulleys available, and you can now find them in my online Shop. Installation is simple. Just remove the set screw on the original pulley, remove and replace with the new pulley aligning the hole for the set screw.

Due to the differences in these machines and the black Singer Featherweights, and due to my students’ requests, I have developed Nova's Featherweight Maintenance Card for the 221 K7 (the white Singer featherweight).  Click here to order.  As always, my emphasis is on educating the owners of these wonderful machines on caring for them, so they will continue to endure and sew on.

There are many educational opportunities available for owners of Singer Featherweights:

1)      Former Tip of the Month postings here on the web site

2)      Videos posted under product descriptions. There are lots more of these coming in the next few weeks.

3)      Nova’s Featherweights and Quilting Facebook page

4)     Nova’s Featherweight Cards

 here to be taken to the registration page.

September 2015
Maintaining the Underside of your Singer Featherweight 221

This month's Tip is a video showing maintenance for a portion of the underside of the machine. 

Something else to mention to you -- If your machine becomes jammed (the hand wheel will not turn) do not remove the feed dogs.  Removing the feed dogs will not help you correct the difficulty.  You will find information about safely removing jam in the Tip of the Month from May 2013.

August 2015
Bobbins, Incorrect Bobbin Winding


This month I would like to discuss bobbins and some of the difficulties they can cause.

 Improperly loaded bobbins or bobbins that have the thread ‘tail’ caught around the outside of the bobbin or exposed can cause tension issues. I thread from the inside of the bobbin through a hole, then hold the thread tail close to the bobbin while winding so that it breaks off cleanly.


Examine your bobbins before you load them with thread. Occasionally, there are manufacturer defects that can affect how the machine sews. See photo. Old bobbins can have rust on them that will affect how they move within the bobbin case. Clean them with kerosene and emery paper if necessary.


Never use a bobbin that has been dropped on a hard surface or stepped on.


Beware of bobbins from the big box stores – regardless of what the package or brand name says. They are typically just a tiny bit too large and can easily get stuck in your bobbin case. Protect your original Singer Featherweight bobbin case! It is not worth damaging it over a cheap, poor quality bobbin.

 One additional thing I would like to share with you this month – never put pliers on the spindle or the positioning finger of the bobbin carriage. That part is not replaceable without replacing the entire hook. That is a very expensive mistake!  Let's prevent damage to our beloved machines.

Happy Stitching!


July 2015
"White" Singer Featherweight 221 Motors

As those who are frequent readers of the Tip of the Month know, I typically choose to write about current issues that have come to my attention during the previous month.

There is evidently a lot of information floating through the FW forums about the ‘white’ Singer FW motors. I do not participate in any of the forums, simply because I do not have time, but I have received multiple inquiries about this information.

There were two different motors originally placed on the ‘white’ (mint green) Singer FW (Singer Featherweight model number 221 K7). The earlier motor was a motor that needed lubrication just like the black, original Singer Featherweight 221 motors.

The only thing I ever recommend placing in a Singer Featherweight motor for lubrication is Nova’s Motor Lubricant. I spent three years conducting research with a chemist to develop this product. NEVER put a liquid oil of any kind in your Featherweight motor. NEVER put a lubricant that is ‘sticky’ in your Featherweight motor – just as the original manual advised to never put Vaseline in your Singer Featherweight motor. Both substances (liquid oil and ‘sticky’ lubricant) are certain to give your motor extreme difficulties and can ruin it. If your motor ‘smokes’ – you can be assured that it has had a liquid oil placed in it. I do not recommend using a motor that is smoking. If it burns – you will have lost your motor.

To conclude on this point – I have done the research. Nova’s Motor Lubricant is the only thing that I am placing in my machines. I want to keep my machines sewing.

The second motor placed on the Singer Featherweight 221 K7 machines (‘white’ machines) is a sealed motor. That means there is NO way for the owner to lubricate this motor. It has no grease tubes. It was sealed from the factory. Additionally, some late black motors that were replacement motors are sealed motors. These motors do not have grease tubes or ports where you can add lubricant.

You do not need lubricant whatsoever for the 221 K7 machine with a sealed motor. It has no gears to grease and the motor is sealed.

I do not recommend the owner of any Singer Featherweight to open the motor on their machine. The parts inside are delicate, and brittle with age.

Evidently, there is a recommendation on some of the forums for owners of the ‘white’ machines with sealed motors to open these motors up and ‘relube’ them as a part of normal maintenance after fifty plus years. I do not recommend you do this. Remember, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Several customers have contacted me after receiving this advice. Their motors are functioning fine. Leave these sealed motors alone - just sew and enjoy your machine.

Remember to check my Greetings and News.

Happy Stitching!

June 2015
Kerosene, Oil, and Lubricant  What's The Difference?

The material contained in this month’s Tip is repeated from earlier Tips. However, I continue to receive questions on a daily basis about some of these issues, so they bear repeating.

Many questions and requests have come to me regarding the difference between kerosene, oil and lubricant. These are not interchangeable terms or products.

Kerosene is used to clean the MECHANICAL PARTS (not the painted parts) of the machine.  (For information on cleaning and protecting the finish on your Featherweight, its decals, case, etc. - see Nova's Featherweight Cosmetics Card.)  Kerosene is the only thing I recommend you use to clean your machine.  Kerosene was what the engineers who designed this machine recommended for cleaning the mechanical parts.

Kerosene usually has a blue label or is in a blue container. I am aware that it is available on Amazon in a one quart can with a red and yellow label (brand is Sunnyside). It is available from hardware stores (Ace, True Value, Lowes, Home Depot), typically in a gallon container. It is also available at Wal-Mart and some sporting goods stores in a quart container. Look in the camping section of the store. Do not substitute paint thinner, camp stove fuel, etc. Do not look for kerosene in a paint store or the painting section of a store – you will not find it there and the salesmen will try to sell you something else. One customer from California was told that kerosene was outlawed in California by Proposition 65.  After we visited she found kerosene in the camping department at her local WalMart. 

Many terms are different in the United Kingdom than they are in the United States. A customer (Joe W.) has been kind enough to share a scan from an original British Singer manual. The verbiage used in the British manual is almost identical to that used in the American manuals.

     “Machine Working Heavily – If, after standing for some time, the machine works heavily, use a little paraffin in place of oil. Then run the machine
     rapidly to clean the bearings, thereafter oiling with Singer superior machine oil.”

The verbiage is almost identical - the term kerosene in the American manual is paraffin in the British manual. For us in the US, this is unthinkable – paraffin is wax. In the UK paraffin is the same as our kerosene. In the UK kerosene has a different meaning as well. Therefore, in the United States use only kerosene. In the United Kingdom use only paraffin.

I do not currently sell kerosene through my web site because I ship USPS and kerosene is a flammable liquid that cannot be shipped through USPS Mail.

I do realize that there are superior solvents for cleaning machinery on the market. However, they are NOT safe for the finish of your Featherweight. They will remove it and the decals. If you spill kerosene on the finish, simply wipe it off with a paper towel.

Oil is any good sewing machine oil: Bernina, Dritz, Singer, etc. Do not substitute 3 in 1 Oil, WD-40, etc. Sewing machine oil is available from a variety of places including Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s, etc.   Never use a “penetrating oil” on your Singer Featherweight. It contains chemicals that will ruin the finish on your Featherweight if any is accidentally spilled there.

I do not currently sell sewing machine oil through my web site because I ship USPS and oil is a liquid and not permissible through USPS Mail.

Lubricant is a grease required for your vintage machine’s motor and metal gears. It is NOT a liquid. Its consistency and absorption rates are critical. That is why it required three years of research with me working with a chemist to develop a quality product for these machines. Read the labels on the red or blue tubes. They say nothing about being used in machine motors. I fully realize that they are being marketed for use in machine motors by many who claim to specialize in Featherweights. For more detailed information refer to the Late August 2014 Tip of the Month. Click here to order Nova’s Motor Lubricant.

Your Singer Featherweight’s Sewing Hook

The hook is what makes the stitch on your Singer Featherweight. NEVER remove the hook from your Featherweight. Removing the hook will cost you money! The last three machines on my repair workbench have had their hook removed by someone prior to coming to visit with me. The timing is fouled and they produce a stitch that mimics tension problems. Correcting this is an extremely time consuming, tedious process. Prevent the damage – leave the hook alone. For clearing thread jams, see the Tip of the Month from May 2013. This is a far better and safer way!

I have said this before, but it is worth repeating… Be extremely careful whom you trust with your Singer Featherweight. The majority of the repair work in my repair shop is correcting what someone else has ‘fixed’. Additionally, I had a customer who notified me earlier this month who had been charged a large amount of money to ‘rebuild the clutch’ on her Featherweight. (I’m not sure what they even could have done – there is no part typically referred to as a ‘clutch’ on a FW.) Since that experience, her machine was tight and did not run well. The conclusion after we visited a bit – the belt was not installed correctly…..

Lastly, I would love to come to your area and share Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Workshop with the folks there. It is an extremely empowering workshop. I typically travel at the invitation of quilt guilds, so visit with your program director and have them contact me. If you would like to see me at a major show in your area, contact the education department for that show – often they do not believe there would be enough interest to merit a workshop on Singer Featherweights.

I hope this is helpful and informative.

Happy Stitching!


May 2015

Cleaning under and replacing the needle plate (throat plate) on a Singer Featherweight 221.

The Tip of the Month for May is a video demonstrating cleaning under and reinstalling the needle plate on a Singer Featherweight 221.  Enjoy!  Happy Stitching!  Nova

Many of you know that I recently had an article (“A ‘Green’ Little Black Machine) about our beloved Singer Featherweights published in The American Quilter. I am exploring the idea of publishing a series of stories about Singer Featherweights and their owners. I have had many intriguing stories told to me in the past few years. If you would be willing to share your stories and photos with me, please email me at a special email I have set up for this project:

Thread wrapped around the hand wheel

Our Tip for this month centers on carefully examining your machine as you are maintaining it, keeping a watchful eye out for potential problems.

As noted on Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Card (click here for more info), the center section, far right, discusses maintenance items to be performed with the machine lying ‘on its face’. That would be taking the machine with it sitting like you were going to sew and pulling it forward onto its ‘face’. This is the best position for the machine to be in for you to reach the two places on the arm of the machine. And, gravity will work in your favor to move the kerosene and oil down where they will reach the necessary places on the machine mechanism. This is also the easiest position for the machine to be in for you to apply Nova’s Motor Lubricant (click here for more info) to the grease tube / well / shaft on the back side of the motor.

While the machine is in this position, take advantage of the visual opportunity to clearly see and examine behind the large hand wheel and behind the motor belt pulley for thread that has become entangled. The photos show just such a situation. There was a large amount of thread wrapped around and behind the hand wheel bushing causing this machine to struggle. Removal of the thread solved the problem. If you find thread in these areas, it is usually a matter of simply unwinding it and removing it. Kerosene can help lubricate the thread, soften it and can make it easier to remove.

I have received numerous comments from my students and customers about the difficulty of finding kerosene. While shopping for it they have been told to substitute everything from diesel, to paint thinner (I was actually told that, myself!), to propane (BOOM!). What are these sales people thinking? And, I find it extremely interesting that you are looked at like you just sprouted spring green leaves from your ears when you ask for kerosene. Historically, kerosene was the very first thing refined from crude oil. It literally took America out of the dark and lit homes with kerosene lamps and lanterns. The refining of kerosene is how John D. Rockefeller built Standard Oil. Now, when you find kerosene lamp oil, it often has a coloring agent, scent, etc. in it. What we need for our machines it just plain, clear, K-1 kerosene.

Since this has become such an unforeseen issue for so many, I am going to be researching and hopefully finding some resources to help with this. I cannot ship kerosene or sewing machine oil (liquids – and kerosene a flammable liquid) through USPS. So, when I have found some possibilities, I will post links for you. It will have to be shipped UPS. I hope this will help.

An article I authored on Singer Featherweights being ‘green’ machines is in the current issue of The American Quilter. Hope you get a chance to take a look at it!

Don’t miss my Greetings and News.

Happy Stitching!

March 2015
Cleaning your Singer Featherweight 221

The Tip of the Month for March is about cleaning your Singer Featherweight.

A large portion of the issues that come through my repair workshop are caused by machines that are dirty and ‘gummed’ up with 50+ years of lint, old oil, etc.

I hope you enjoy the Tip and find it beneficial. It discusses recommended products and techniques, and the reasons for them.

Don’t forget to check my Greetings and News for the latest. And, I would love for you to ‘Like’ my Facebook page.

Happy Stitching!


January 2015

New Year’s Resolutions for You and Your Featherweight

1) Properly clean, and oil your machine after every major project, or at least every six months if you are not using the machine often (for assistance with information on this – see Nova’s Featherweight Cards and Nova’s Featherweight Tip of the Month from the past)

2) Lubricate your machine using Nova’s Motor Lubricant in BOTH grease tubes on the motor and on the gears after every major project or, at a minimum, every other month (whether you are using the machine or not). (NOTE: This is not optional if you expect your machine to continue to sew! Nova’s Motor Lubricant is the only lubricant currently on the market intended for use in your Singer Featherweight [or other vintage Singer motor].  Read the label – does it say it is for the motor? If not, then why would you put it in the motor? I invested three years working with a chemist into research and development of Nova’s Motor Lubricant. It is great stuff!) If you love it, lube it!

3) Replace the drip pan pad if it has not been replaced within the past 5 years. This is where bad odors originate.

4) Learn to pin your fabric with the pin heads to the left – points to the right for greater accuracy in piecing, ease of use with Nova’s Sew Straight Guide, and fewer pin scratches to your machine. There is a video posted on this.

5) Cosmetically clean your Featherweight at least once every year taking great care with the decals to protect them (for more information on this see Nova’s Featherweight Cosmetics Card).

6) Try something new (out of your ‘box’) with your Featherweight – like a different quilting ‘style’. If you typically make traditional quilts, try an art quilt. Stretching yourself is challenging, but fun!

7) Make some time every day for you to enjoy your hobby – even if it is just to sit down with a magazine for a few minutes or spend a few minutes planning a project. You would be amazed at how much progress you can make on a project with just 15 minutes a day. My personal goal is to reorganize my day, so I have time to sew. I’m going to try beginning each day with an hour of sewing instead of hoping I can squeeze in some time somewhere because that just hasn’t been happening!

8) Plan on attending one of Nova’s Featherweight Maintenance Workshops. Talk to your program director about me coming to your guild in 2016 or 2017 -- I’m booked for 2015. In my Featherweight Maintenance Workshop you will learn more about your marvelous machine, tips on day-to-day usage, and how to properly maintain it.

New things for 2015 coming your way –

There are Maintenance Cards for the ‘white’ Singer Featherweight 221 and the Singer 99 in ‘the works’ due to customer requests.

Each of my customers has been plotted on a map for the past several years. From this I have learned that most of my customers do not have the convenience of a great quilt shop right around the corner. Therefore, I am very proud and thrilled to announce that I am adding Superior Threads to my product line! For now, I will be adding the 100% cotton Master Piece in neutral colors for typical machine piecing in both spools and cones. If I see that there is customer need and interest, I will consider adding additional colors. I may put up a poll on this, so ‘stay tuned’. This is the thread that I love to piece with and I truly believe it is ‘superior’. Look for thread to be added to the web site soon!

Publication of articles in a different format is coming as well. I will keep you informed as this progresses.

Don't miss my Greetings and News for 'chatty' information.

From the bottom of my heart I thank each and every one of you for a wonderful 2014, and I pray for the richest blessings on you and yours in 2015.

Happy New Year!
Happy Stitching!