It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Spa Date with your Featherweight

Colette, as she accessories other than the jewelry she's wearing, and her little box

My love affair with Featherweights began before I even knew about it....when I was a mere childling, and my darling Mumsy was sewing nearly all of my clothes on her Feather, brought with her from England.   Fast forward, (many) years later, to my renewed interest in sewing, one basic plastic fantastic Janome, (which is still working just fine for me), but before long I was yearning for that humming,  hard-working, satin smooth finish of the vintage Singer again.... I soon had a 201, which is still definitely the workhorse in my sewing room, but oh that was still calling me....  until I finally replaced the Feather of my youth!   Once....twice....a couple more......... and each one, of course, received a thorough spa treatment at my hands - I don't know who enjoys it more, me or the machine (of course they have feelings!   How can anything that adorably cute not have feelings?!)

Here, finally, is my promised record of A Day at the Spa with Colette, the latest addition to my little flock :)  You may want to check out my previous post on Cleaning a vintage Singer for additional info - a lot of the process is the same for both, but I'll try to let this post stand alone with all the info needed.

Ingredients List:

  • A large towel for a work surface (it traps all the little  screws that you do NOT want to lose!)
  • Maguiar's Scratch X - Fabulous first step to remove those fine scratches and built up grime.
  • A good Carnauba Wax
  • WD-40 - Good cleaner for the gears & moving metal bits inside the machine (more about this later)
  • Sewing Machine Oil.  
  • Rags - I like old cotton t-shirts or dishcloths.
  • Sewing Machine Lube 
  • Screw Drivers. (use the right size!)  
  • Q-tips & toothpicks
  • Brush to clean out the fluff
  • Tiny brush to oil the little screws
  • At least one little bowl - one to hold a bit of oil, others to store & label the parts you remove from the machine (and you WILL want to label everything, until you're comfortable knowing exactly where that little spring or screw goes.....)
  • Manual
  • HIGHLY recommended:  Dave McCallum's book The Featherweight and I, and his DVD "Those Fantastic Featherweights".  A bit pricey, but you can find them on sale if you're patient.  (I'll provide links at the end here)
  • Replacement parts, as needed:   - Rubber Feet, for both the machine and the foot pedal - New felt liner for the tummy cover plate (aka drip pan) - New Felt for the spool pin - a spool pin spring  (links below for ordering)
  • OXO  Brite (the way cheaper version of OxyClean) to clean up the metal bits  (this didn't make it into the pic)
And the (Picture Heavy) Fun Begins....

Step One:  Set your baby on its side & inspect the foot pads:

They probably need to be replaced - remove the foot pads with a screwdriver - they might be really stuck in there, so you may need to do some digging.

Unscrew the knob in the center of the drip pan; remove the round felt holder, the drip pan and the old felt liner.   Toss the felts - they will almost certainly by nasty & stinky!   And I've actually never had THIS much grease sitting on the pan!   Ewww factor:

WD-40 to the rescue!

The old & the new :)

Now it's time to remove all the jewelry.   DISCLAIMER!!!!!  I remove the upper tension parts, just because I really like to get in there & do a deep cleaning.  Unless you have a good set of instructions, or you photo-document every single step as you dismantle it, do NOT do this yourself!   In most cases, it really won't be necessary.  ::whew:::  sorry for yelling....just had to say that :)

In spite of the above statement, I can be lazy, so this is how I like to clean the metal bits.   Instead of spending ages trying to scrub out every little nook & cranny of all those metal bits, I just toss a spoonful of OXO into a bowl, add some boiling water, & then let all those metal bits soak for 20 minutes or so.   Do not (gonna have to yell again here....) DO NOT place anything that has any lacquer on it in the bubble bath!  Umm....go ahead, ask me how I know.... 

Here they are, enjoying their bubble bath:

20 minutes later (after a THOROUGH rinse and dry....I mean, REALLY don't want any moisture at all left....I'll even use a hair dryer on the pieces, if there's any humidity in the air)

Colette said it was OK to show a nude pic of her (she's French, you know....)

While everything is soaking, I start the internal cleanse.   Some people caution against using WD-40, but phooey on them.  The stuff is the BEST de-greaser & de-gunker for metal parts.  Just do NOT use it as an oil substitute, wipe it off well, & follow up with real sewing machine oil.   I give a squirt of WD-40 to the bobbin case area:

...and the gears under the spool pin (see that nasty old gunky grease?)  If the underbelly area is gunky, use the WD-40 there as well.   Rub off the gunk, dry it well, & now you're ready to start oiling & greasing :) 

Now that you're done getting rid of the old, it's time to add the new.    Squeeze out a bit of motor lube & add it to the gear in the above picture, and the two gears in the belly area.   Move your handwheel, & make sure the gears are fully lubricated.  
Refer to your manual or other book & add a drop of oil to all of the necessary spots.   Just a drop!  A little goes a long ways :)

Now that the belly is fully, you can replace her undies.  Glue the new felt liner onto the drip pan (rubber cement works well), replace the pan with a fresh felt pad between the screw & the pan, & screw the new rubber feet back in place:  (BTW, I have probably a lifetime supply of red felt that showed up on my doorstep - literally - so I just make the felts myself)

And now the real fun begins!  Bring out your Scratch X (I LOVE this stuff!!!)  to give your baby the first step in its deep metal massage.   Put a small dab on your clean cotton cloth, & start gently rubbing a small area (about half of the drop-down arm).   If your machine is really dirty, it will feel like it's 'grabbing' at first, & you'll feel it start to let go & move more smoothly as it releases the gunk.   Don't let the Scratch X dry...move to a clean area of your rag & rub the Scratch X; you'll get the 'squeaky clean' reward!   For a REALLY dirty machine, you may want to repeat....I've never had to do more than 2 times.    You might want to practice on a small, hidden area at's really wonderful stuff, just don't overdo it, and you'll be fine :)

You thought this machine didn't look too bad?   Look at what came off of it!:

And here she is after her first massage!   Her beauty is starting to emerge :) :) :)

Now it's time to for phase two of the deep metal massage - the  waxing.   Use a good quality carnauba car wax, & use it just like you were waxing your fine old vintage Rolls.  Apply a thin coat, rub it in, let dry, & rub the shine on.   Repeat.    NOW she's (or he) is ready to reapply the jewels!  (The male Feathers are just as flashy & jewel-loving as the females, I've discovered.   In fact, I think my snootiest & vainest feather is a male.....)  But I digress....

When you screw the bobbin cover plate back in place, here's a common mistake a lot of folks make - see the little finger that's sticking up at 12:00?   That's where it needs to be, right in the groove at the bottom of the cover plate.   Make sure it's in this position before screwing the plate back:

I actually like to do another full waxing massage after all the chrome & metal bits are back - I even wax the face plate & throat plate & some of the other chrome bits.   And then a stitch test.......Yes!!!   Perfect stitches!!!!!   (how rewarding is THAT, after all your hard work!?)  :D :D :D

And who's a pretty girl?  

Let's give her a flower!

I like to cut my oil-catching protector cloth long enough to protect the bed from the face plate screw before putting the baby to bed:

Of course, everyone else had to come out to meet the new addition!  They agreed to a photo shoot, so...just for fun, here's my mini-flock:
Clockwise, from the top:  Raggy G (1941), the victim of an eBay idiot who thought a sheet of newspaper in a huge cardboard box was adequate shipping protection (RG is now my gracious donor guy).  Stirling (1954), the fabulous (& he knows it) 222, Maxine (1951), the Centennial party girl, Sophia (1947), the elegant beauty who emerged from rough beginnings, and Colette (1952).

Helpful Links:
And....last, but most decidedly not least.... I have to give a MAJOR shout out for the blogless Lynn Rowe, Pattern Review's resident Featherweight Goddess, who has researched & deep metal massaged her feather-lovin' little fingers to the bone, gathering and sharing knowledge & information for the rest of us :)

*whew*  This took way longer than I anticipated, but those darlin' little feathers are worth every second of time you give them!    

Please, share your Feather stories with me -   I love hearing them!


Peggy L said...

Wow!!!! They certainly deserve more than a "wow" but "wow" it is:)

Tanit-Isis said...

Oh, what a beautiful flock! I will be using your guide come the weekend here.

Confession: (Cry) I broke a needle and I think I may have thrown the timing out (already!---skipped stitches galore (like five skipped stitches to one good one.) Any suggestions would be terribly welcome. (Hangs head in shame)

Jillybejoyful said...

Oh dear, I HATE when something like that happens! But not to worry, keep breathing, you're probably fine.....breathe.......

Here's what I would do (anyone else please feel free to chime in!) I would do all of the internal cleaning with squirts of WD-40, oil all of the oil spots, & lube the gears. Then try stitching again; adjust your upper tension to material, & see how it does.

If you're still skipping, I would then look at adjusting the tension on the bobbin (this isn't that hard....I'll find a good link for you, or post directions here)

With all of my refurbs, I've never yet had to adjust the timing myself...seriously, it's a pretty rare need. Well, I tried on one machine, but it was so frozen up I ended up having to return it. David McC's book has the info on doing this though, so we can walk you through it & all learn together if necessary!

Here's hoping it's an easy fix!

First step though (you've probably already done this) ~ is that little finger underneath the throat plate positioned correctly?

Peter Lappin said...

Marvelous post! Now if only I had the motivation to take this on....

Andrea said...

Jill, I had no idea you were harboring all of those lovely Featherweights! My Featherweight is seriously my favorite machine. It sews a straight stitch like no other. She's the one I keep covered all the time when I'm not using her. And she is about due for a good work over, too. And I have a plastic fantastic Janome also. And then there's my serger, a Babylock. And I keep looking all the time to add more, ;))

Claire (aka Seemane) said...

Great post Jilly! And your flock look so beautiful and happy together :)

Now all this talk of Featherweights soooo makes me want to buy one LOL!

gwensews said...

You have a terrific brood there! You are the Queen of Feathers! I bought mine for $25--case, accessories, manual, all in very good condition. The machine had been cleaned and serviced in the 70s and not used since. I took it to a service person for a cleaning/oiling. ine is an "only" Feather, and yes, she is spoiled!

yarndiva said...

Love this and am inspired to give mine a spa treatment as well. I resisted the Featherweight Mania for along time. I got one as a gift, and now see the light. They really are cool. I wrote about mine on my blog too, like a new mother about her baby. Great tip about the OXO cleaner, I'll try it.

Jillybejoyful said...

Peter - if I lived in New York, I'd give your Feather a thorough go-over for you (ala whatshisname & your 15...*grin*)
Andrea - careful, I sense a SMADist in the making here.... (& btw, Jill is a lovely name, but it isn't mine...I respond to Jilly, JillyBe, even Hey Gorgeous, but not Jill) ;) hmmmm...wish I could remember the last time someone said "Hey Gorgeous!" to me lol
Claire - just do it - you won't regret it! *evil grin*
gwen - $25!!! Score!!!
yarndiva - you can try, but you cannot resist....these little babies have a power that totally belies their little size....

DollZandThingZ said...

Great post! Photos are great! Love the group photo op...really made me did your sense of humor!

Jillybejoyful said...

Thank you DollZ! Your post brought my attention to the fact that this tute was linked to the FW group - I'm honored & delighted that some folks are finding it helpful! (blushing & grinning here....)

Becky said...

Thanks so much for this post! I stumbled across your blog while looking for advice on refurbishing the two new machines I just picked up (a 99 from 1939 and a 28 from 1891). I'm really excited to get started! One question though: any advice as to where to buy new feet for the machine's base of the old ones are a little worn/uneven?

Thanks again!

Jillybejoyful said...

Hi Becky - I'm not much help, sorry...I don't have either of those machines, and I'm not picturing what might need replacing. I don't think they have rubber cushions like some of the machines...?

You might have good luck at the Yahoo Vintage Singer Group - you'll need to join the group to ask a question, but there are a lot of knowledgeable people there. Good luck!

Annemiek said...

just got my first 1956 Feather. Although the seller claimed he "serviced" and oiled her, there was a feltpack underneath the throatplate that was 56 years old too. I've been cleaning what i could with no knowledge at all :) So glad i found your blog! I still have a problem with the stitches: the are zigzagged instead of staight. Too bad that all the info/parts/etc. are almost unavailable in my country (Netherlands)but hurray for the internet!
Thanks a lot for your post; I'm off to get some wax!

Anonymous said...

hi jilly! love your blog and am learning a lot about the vintage singers. i found your site from a post you had left on The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog. I've also done a lot of reading on the Vintage Machine section of Quilter's In the tutorial there by Glenn/skipper, he says to use shellac over the decals to protect them.

i recently bought 2 vintage machines, a 66 and a 15-91, which joined my collection of two 1961 Singer 503a Rocketeers (one for my daughter and mine that i've had for 23 years from an estate sale) and my grandma's treadle, a 1917 66 Red Eye. oh yeah, and i have my mom's 1960ish Pfaff too. (it's a terrible afflection hahahahaha.)

all 3 of my black ones have at least a little wear on the decals, especially the two 66s. i'm wondering how i know if i need to go over the decals with shellac before i go farther in the cleaning, or if i can follow your directions. do you have some experience on making that decision?

thanks for the help! julie

Jillybejoyful said...

Hi Julie - it sounds like you have a lovely little addiction-I-mean-collection there. :)

Personally, I've never bothered with shellac. I've found that the method I use does no damage at all to existing decals, and the only way you're going to rub any of the decals off is if you use an aggressive method of scrubbing, or use something like Gojo (which can rub off both decals and the japaning, so I don't tough the stuff - I experimented with several methods on some already trashed machines)

I've also never replaced the decals, nor have I repainted a machine, so I don't have experience with that. I have, however, used shellac on wood antiques, and honestly, it's not a chemical I like working with. Just personal preference. :)

Good luck and have fun with your machines!

julie said...

Four years later and I'm seeing your reply. Time to get back to those machines! Thanks for your answer!

Anonymous said...

I was giving a singer 70s model the wheel spins but notthing else moves any suggestions