Featherweight Fanatics Archives



Featherweight Fanatics A Service of Sue Traudt's Valley Brook Botanicals

Digest of postings from Saturday, December 2, 2000

Welcome to all our new members!
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 12:34:04 EST
Subject: Re: Crinkle and Blackside

Could someone please explain to me what is meant by crinkle and blackside? I 
tried looking at the photos but still don't get it!
Anne R 

Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 11:50:18 -0500
Subject: Re: FW Blue Book value
From: Joan Cook 

A few years ago, being unaware of the value of a Featherweight, I
inquired at a Greenfield, Mass. sewing machine shop re: the value of a
Featherweight machine.  I gave the serial # & model # to the proprietor. 
She went to the back room, returned with a "book" and told me it was
worth about $50, and that I could leave it there for possible sale!!
Thank God I didn't leave it there.

From: AlexSussex
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 11:58:16 EST

Hi all
Thanks for all the replies to my question about lower thread tension 
adjustment. There are just to many to reply to individually. Thank you all. I 
had no idea that so many of you kept it. Wow, I would have been more careful 
with my English.
In England

Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 08:25:50 -0800 (PST)
From: Gail Pickens-Barger 
Subject: Yes I did.

Yes I did, in fact with your permission, I made it into a web page on my site.


Hope this helps!!!

Gail Pickens-Barger

Gaileee's Featherweight Website | 
Jr Hi Dance/Drill Team Site http://www.gpbwebworks.com/strutter.shtml
Accelerated Reader Books for Stanly/Chandler School

Date: Sat, 02 Dec 2000 08:46:12 -0700
From: Sally Evans 
Subject: Happy dance - finally!

I'm finally able to do a happy dance for a machine I bought (by mail, sigh) 
many, many months ago -- thanks to the work of a true artist, Gerald 
Holmes. "She" is a wonderful AD Featherweight with all the old 
characteristics -- uneven scroll faceplate, unnumbered tension mechanism, 
chrome wheel and stitch-length indicator and wrap-around decals. A beauty, 
except for several huge pock-marks thru to the metal on the machine bed. 
They were so bad, I wouldn't have wanted to sew delicate fabric, for fear 
of snags. So, she sat, sad and pitiful while I pondered what I could do. 
She was plainly too special to waste.

Finally, I arrived on a compromise between myself and myself (perhaps you 
can relate) and packed her off to the kind and wonderful Gerald Holmes for 
repainting.  Then, I asked a local trophy shop to make me a small metal 
engraved tag saying "No longer in original condition. Of necessity, this 
machine was repainted and restored in 2000."  It will go just to the left 
of the bobbin on the machine body, under the extension table.  That 
satisfied both my longing to see the machine usable, and my desire to be 
absolutely honest about the re-do. (I plan to keep the machine myself, but 
I won't live forever.)

Well, she came back yesterday. Oh my, is she  gorgeous!  It is hard to 
believe that this was the sad old gal I had agonized over for so long. In 
fact, I had called her "Ancient Agnes" and Gerald emailed me to say that I 
would need a better name for her, as she had become beautiful.  She is now 
"Elegant Ellie" (tho I should have named her for Gerald, now that I think 
of it).  He also restored a tired and sagging old case to look just wonderful.

So, that was my solution. I'm happy with it. And I'm ecstatic to have 
Elegant Ellie in beautiful shape, suitable for both sewing and "oohing and 

Sally Evans, Tucson AZ
and my 6 Canine Companions...
Chaco,Abbey,Oso,Walter,Camille & Bailey

Date: Sat, 02 Dec 2000 08:29:38 -0600
From: Happy Holidays 
Subject: Re: FW Fanatics 12/1/2000

I've been lurking for some time and on the list about 3 years.  Alex asked for 
info he originally posted himself and I think it bears repeating to newbies 
I've copied it and passed it to all the local FW owners here in Central North
Dakota.  So here is it for all you folks again.....
Happy Holidays for snowing ND.

From: AlexSussex
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 09:40:08 EST

Hi all
Now that I have caught up a little I can get back to putting a few things on
the digests. Today I am going to talk about one of the most misunderstood
parts of the sewing machine. LOWER THREAD TENSION ADJUSTMENT.
Only the brave or the foolish should read on. In many instruction manuals it
will say something like, the lower tension is set at the factory and should
not be adjusted. That is all and well, but twenty years have passed the
factory closed and your tensions are all over the place, you have got sewing
to do and you want it right.
At the tender age of seventeen one of my masters took me through the basics
of tension adjustments, then spent the next twenty years trying to hammer it
into me how important it is to every sewing machine ever made. No matter if
you have the latest all singing all dancing computer that talks to you and
does the washing up for you or a hundred year old antique that simply looks
lovingly at you but wont perform.
If you are having trouble with your sewing machine stitch quality and you
have done all the usual things, like played around with the top tension for a
week, thrown the machine out of the bedroom window and then tried to see if
it will still work before telling your husband that you were burgled and the
thieves dropped your machine whilst escaping. There is the possibility that
the lower tension of the machine is out of balance. Now before we go any
further, do not, I repeat, do not adjust your machine if you are happy with
your stitch. a simple test if your tensions are well balanced is to sew a
piece of cotton fabric about six inches in length, then get the ends of the
thread that are left and give them a sharp tug. Now if the tensions are good
the thread should snap without pulling out of the work, in other words you
have a proper LOCK STITCH. If you find that the thread is pulling out of one
side or the other then you are out of balance and your threads are not locked
into the fabric, leading to a weak seam. Tension balancing is a little
understood procedure and many so called repair people will mess around with
the wrong part of your machine and make little or no improvement. How many of
you have taken your sickly machines into a shop for a service and received
them back smothered in oil and not much better with a nice bill for nothing.

Well, here goes I will try and explain the enigma that has eluded people for
so long. Even the great inventor Isaac Singer had terrible trouble getting
the tensions right on his first patent model, so you are not alone. The
classic symptoms of lower tension collapse are quite obvious. Look at your
stitch and see if the lower thread has pulled through to the top of the
fabric, the underneath will look fine perhaps a little loose, however the top
thread will be able to be pulled out of the fabric. This is because the lower
thread is laying on the fabric, not pulling the top thread into the fabric.
You will notice with this symptom that you have little or no effect by
altering the top tension dial and often think that it is a top tension dial

O. K so here goes, hold on tight it is going to get nasty, have your
painkillers ready. Step one, setting the top tension. Assuming that your top
tension is working can be a fatal flaw but is easily checked. Most sewing
machines even quite early ones have automatic top tension release mechanisms.
This means that once the sewing foot is raised the top thread tension is
automatically released so that you can pull your work out of the machine
without the thread breaking.  To test this simply raise your sewing foot and
see if the thread pulls out easier than if it were lowered ready for sewing.
To test if the thread is being held by the tension discs properly when ready
for sewing, you need to pull the thread from where it comes out of the eye of
the needle-with the foot lowered. The thread ON ALL MACHINES should be tight
enough to bend the needle when pulled. If it does not then you need to
investigate why it is not tight. The most common reason is a restriction
between the tension discs themselves, caused by fluff, corrosion or trapped
threads. a loose top thread leads to a bunching of thread UNDERNEATH the work
(or looping on minor tension failure). Once you have done this put your
numbered tension dial half way, for instance if you have a dial that goes
from one to four put it on two, one to nine put in between the four and five,
get the idea. on older machines with no tension dial numbers turn the dial
clockwise until the thread bends the needle when pulled through as I have
mentioned earlier. Then leave the top thread tension alone. Well, by now only
the mad will still be with me the brave and the foolish have gone out for
pizza, and we have not even got to the lower thread tension that we are going
to discuss.

Now the lower tensions fall into basically two types for lock stitch
machines. Ones with bobbin cases and ones without. We have to deal with each
separately but both have common symptoms and cures. So I will take the
machines with bobbin cases first. It is important to say at this stage that
sewing threads alter a great deal in thickness and stickyness (that is
definitely not a word but you know what I mean). I once had a call out to
Brighton District General Hospital because twelve machines had all broken
down on the same day, only to discover it was a faulty batch of new thread.
If you look closely at, for instance a new polyester and put it against an
old reel of cotton, you know the one that you just could not throw away from
your grannies old stuff because you might just need a sunset orange thread
one day. You will notice that the new polyester can be up to half the
thickness of the old cotton. In simple terms this means that by switching
from polyester to the old cotton you have instantly changed the thread
tension by a huge amount and this can lead instantly to a poor stitch. How
many times have you put your trusty old sewing machine away working
perfectly, and a few days later it is messing about. What you have not
realised is that it is possible that the change in thread has caused this
problem. Some sticky old cottons are only fit for hand sewing or tacking or
winding onto your husbands fishing reel so that he can tell you of the
monster that got away. Always keep a reel of new White thread handy and if
your machine plays up switch to it and see if the stitch is better, nine
times out of ten the thread is the culprit and you just have to be brave and
bin it, or chuck it at a neighbours cat that has just dug up your flower bed
(perfect weight and size for that, so I am told). Now where was I, Oh yes
back to the all important bobbin case thread adjustment. Wind a full bobbin
of new white thread the same type that you normally sew with, it is not
important if it is silk, cotton, polyester or a mix, just your usual thread.
Place the bobbin into the bobbin case and suspend the bobbin by the thread,
like a spider hanging from a thread. It is not so important which way you put
the bobbin into the case, some find a machine sews better with the bobbin
going one way some the other, only trial and error points this out for your
machine (loads of people are going to disagree with this, never mind). Now
whilst the spider, oops, bobbin and case are suspended by the thread simply
jerk your hand a little and see what the case does. Now we are getting to the
nitty gritty of tension adjustment the real bread and beans of the matter. If
when you hold the thread the case simply drops to the floor you need to
adjust the bobbin case screw clockwise until it just holds its own weight, So
that when you shake it a little it drops a little. This is the MAGIC point
known in the trade as the balance point for your type of thread. If the case
does not move you need to adjust the bobbin case screw anticlockwise until it
drops a little accordingly. Once you have mastered this adjustment you will
be in great demand at all sewing classes as you transform misbehaving sewing
machines in an instant. Hold on I am not finished, no happy dancing just yet,
no running out and buying twenty lottery tickets because you feel lucky
(remember me if you win). Although this is the balance point some machines
need to be adjusted slightly tighter or looser for the perfect stitch. When
adjusting from this point make only very small movements of the screw, about
one sixteenth of a turn at a time. After each adjustment run a trial stitch
and examine. Once you are nearly right you can go back to the top tension
unit again and make final adjustments say from a four to a five to get it
just perfect.
Adjusting the newer type plastic cases that are set permanently into the
machine, you know the ones where you just drop in the bobbin and hook it
around the spring plate is much the same. You need to do this more by feel,
you need to FEEL the thread resistance by pulling the thread. One of the ways
to do this is to place a fine hand sewing needle into a cork (pinch one of
your husbands or better still open up a new bottle of wine with dinner) so
that about two inches of the needle is protruding from the cork. Then tie the
thread from the machine case through the eye of the needle and whilst holding
the bottom of the cork pull the thread. Now it should have a slight
resistance and slightly, only slightly bend the needle. Once again if it does
not you need to tighten the case adjustment screw clockwise. If it bends to
much you need to loosen it a touch, remember tiny adjustments only.
well, hey presto that is it, if you can master lower thread adjustment you
will have a control of your machine rather than it controlling you. One final
point (by now the painkillers for that pounding headache have started to
work) if you mix your threads it is a lottery whether the tensions will work
effectively. The worst culprits are the old wooden reels of cotton that can
become hard, springy, weak and sticky they can really mess up your sewing
machine, big time. Try and stick to the same threads, if in doubt about a
thread, bin it, really all the grey hairs and profanities it can cause is
just not worth it.
I hope this has helped any of you that have a tension problem. It has taken
me three hours to type out and explain something that really only takes a few
seconds to perform. Now you know why instruction books hardly ever mention
lower thread adjustments.
One final note, thank you all for the wonderful comments about the millennium
calendar, it has made all the hard work worthwhile, and NO, NO, NO I will not
be doing another, it gave me way too many grey hairs.

From: "Gerald Holmes" 
Subject: 201 clean up
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 06:43:21 -0600

Hi All,
Lot's of emails about the 201 clean up so I will try and go over it a little
with you. First it was a mess as far as dirt,old oil and the clear coat was
wearing and pealing off,but I was lucky that the original decals were in
good condition.So I stared cleaning it with some stuff that I got at the
auto paint store that you use to wipe off an auto before repainting it to
get any oil off of it before repainting it.This stuff didn't seam to bother
the clear coat in any way,very mild stuff.I had to go over it several times
to get all the old dirt and oil off.Then after taking it apart I lightly
sanded it with no# 800 sand paper and water,very lightly just enough so the
new clear coat would have some thing to stick to.Then I put 3 coats of clear
coat on it.It shines like new money now,and will be protected now for a long

turn white if the got to much Gerald Holmes
Restorer of Singer Featherweight 221
Don't forget about the Arkansas Gathering of sewing
machine enthusiast in Hot Springs,Arkansas April 21,2001
At Cathy's Quiltin' Square 3256 Albert Pike
Albert Pike is highway 270 west.


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