I have been lusting after a Singer Featherweight for awhile now. Before Friday I hadn’t even used one, but that didn’t stop me from falling 100% in love with them. It’s the whole package — quiet, lightweight, hardworking, and gorgeous. Plus, hunting one has given me an excuse to stop at every yard sale, antique store, and flea market known to man
Patience is not my strong suit, and waiting it out for the right one has been stupidly tough for me. I came close to ordering a very nice, but very expensive one, over the internet more than once. And then I was tempted by one in an antique store while I was doing my holiday shopping. The one in the antique store was nice, and it was even reasonably priced, but I felt like I could do better.
I’ve honestly been trolling craigslist for a Featherweight for a year now without much luck. Lots of folks who don’t know anything about the machines, but want to sell them for top dollar. And then, Thursday night… Boom! A featherweight for sale in the next town over, for a great price and reportedly in working order. Beyond that, there wasn’t much info included in the posting, but I spoke with seller and felt confident purchasing the machine. My (wonderful! amazing!) husband picked up my featherweight while I was at work the next morning.
And there was an unexpected, but glorious bonus when I got home — my new baby still has its original scroll-work face plate. Singer used the scroll face plates early on in production, but many of them were “upgraded” to the more common striated face plate over the years. I am *thrilled* since I personally prefer the older version.
Here is what she looked like fresh out of her case:
Not too bad, right? She was in really good shape on the outside, but her insides definitely needed some TLC. She was super clackety though she did sew a nice stitch. So, I set to cleaning her up with the help of the amazing resources at the Featherweight Factory, Nova Montgomery’s site, and, Singer-Featherweight, and Featherweight221.
First I gave her a good de-linting. There was so much dust and lint packed in there! Like, there was practically a felt pad under the needle plate. See for yourself…
Next I took the chrome pieces off (bobbin case, needle plate and face plate) and gave them a half hour soak in boiling hot water + scoop of Oxyclean. Once they were out of the bath, I dried all the pieces with a hair dryer to prevent any rusting or trapped moisture. I had thought the chrome was shiny before the soak, but it came out gleaming!
While the chrome was soaking, I hit the insides with some WD-40. And by some, I mean a ton. See how the pistons (is that the right word? I have no idea!) are all goldish-brown? Well, that’s not patina. That’s fossilized oil and dirt. Yeck. I let the WD-40 soak in, and then scrubbed with an army of QTips until one came out relatively clean. Same thing for the bobbin area and underneath the machine. And then I generously oiled everything with sewing machine oil.
Then I gave her a post-clean test drive. She sounded a lot better after her spa treatment, but there was a strange clicking sound. A little trial and error confirmed that the noise was coming from the bobbin.
A little more research (I heart the interwebs) pointed to the needle plate as a possible suspect. There are two metal brackets on the underside of the needle plate (called the “Bobbin Case Position Springs”) that form a channel for the Bobbin Finger to rest in. If the gap between the metal brackets gets too big, then the Bobbin Finger bounces around in the channel instead of being held in place. Bouncing around = noise. The solution? Use a screw driver to push the little brackets back out. Easy as pie! Except I forgot to take a photo.
Tightening the Bobbin Case Position Springs definitely helped, but there was still a small click coming from the bobbin. I decided to follow Leo’s instructions to remove the Bobbin Case Base (this took some courage!). I expected to find a stray thread or something, but instead I found a sticky glop of goo. Lovely. And lucky you, I didn’t forget to take a picture!
Gross, right? But once I reassembled her, she ran perfectly. I really can’t get over how quiet she is, and I haven’t even been able to grease the gears/motor with lubricant yet.
I still have some work to do to restore the body, but I need to pick up a special cleaner and some wax for that. Even so, I think she looks better already… and she certainly sounds better!
I ordered a quarter-inch foot for her (there are no markings on the stitch plate!) and I hope to do a lot of my piecing on her. I can’t wait to get better acquainted with this little lady!