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Mar 31, 2011

For Want of a Screw...

Readers, believe me when I tell you that yesterday at this time I had never heard of a loop guard, let alone a loop guard screw.  But life is about learning, friends, and if we're open to it, knowledge will come our way, no matter how arcane and (arguably) trivial.

Today's post will have primarily wonk appeal so, apologies.   I should state immediately that the screw pictured above is not Singer Featherweight part #200145, the aforementioned loop guard screw (I'm sure some of you knew that already).  But I couldn't find a good picture of #200145.  Sometimes you need Troy Donahue but you have to settle for Tab Hunter -- or is it the other way around?

Long story short: I worked a bit on my Featherweight yesterday.  Quick recap: I bought this machine on eBay and paid what I would consider a low-end price, though sadly not bargain basement.  I've seen them at the flea market for somewhat less and considerably more.  It didn't come with the accessory box but I did get an intact case, the original manual, and a nice vintage buttonholer with seven templates.

My last piece for BurdaStyle was all about how to buy a vintage sewing machine and I didn't follow my own advice.  The eBay seller wrote "the light works and the machine sews."  Well the light does work and the machine does sew -- sort of.  I could have asked for a stitch sample but it was clear that the seller knew very little about the machine and I hoped the vagueness of the description would depress the bidding, which it did.  It's a crap shoot as they say and I gave the seller positive feedback regardless.  (BTW, the seller thought the machine was from 1934; it's from 1951 based on the serial number and indeed -- I just noticed this five minutes ago -- it has the Singer Centennial badge!)

The motor sounds great, and after significant oiling everything now runs smoothly and powerfully, but after a few stitches the thread jams.  So yesterday I read online about Featherweight thread jams -- and read and read and read.  The amount of information out there about this little machine is astounding!

Remember I mentioned needing to buy a small screwdriver to tighten the hook gib screw with?  Well I did, and though I tightened it, the thread still jammed (I'd already checked the needle, thread, etc.).

One site suggested I remove and clean under the bobbin case base, pictured below, which I then did.  (This is the piece that the bobbin case fits into.)  It's all part of the larger hook assembly.  Am I losing you?

With bobbin case base removed:

I then noticed that there was what looked like a screw hole visible as well as a loose plate beneath it on the same shaft.  This loose plate I eventually identified as the loop guard.  And wouldn't you know: the loop guard is supposed to be screwed on to the hook assembly.  Can you see where it looks like there's a screw missing on the right?  That's because there is a screw missing.  (It's the smaller of the two holes.)

Here's the side view:

Wrapped around the shaft between the loop guard and the rest of the hook assembly were layers and layers of thread -- old, old thread, my friends.

First I pulled out a few strands of filament as fine as doll hair (which it could be for all I know).

Half an hour later I had removed all this:

Anyway, miracle or miracles, many websites sell this loop guard screw for just a few dollars and I ordered one.  It should arrive next week sometime and then we'll take it from there!

As I was figuring all this out yesterday I kept sending emails to Rain with headings like "My Featherweight issue," "Last email, promise" and "REALLY the last email!"  Obviously a man of few words, his (sole) response was "Sounds like you solved the problem, yeah?"  Friends, is that what you think I wanted to hear?  He's the sewing machine repair specialist!  This is the problem with the internet, I think.  With a little effort you can solve just about any technical problem yourself; I hate that.

Here's a bonus pic of the entire hook assembly for you Featherweight fetishists.  Pretty hot, huh?

Lest you think I spent the entire day marinating in sewing machine oil, I actually got some sewing done, though not as much as I'd hoped to.

I started on the jacket and readers, it's going to be so cute, though obviously not something you'd wear over a tee shirt.

I also finished the kimono sleeves on the bodice with bias I cut myself.

Such a nice finish.  I'll slip stitch those down later on.

Friends, we're nearly out of time.  Thank you for all your wonderful Featherweight-related tips yesterday.  The stinky, sneeze-inducing carrying case is on the balcony and I'm not entirely sure what to do with it.  In a city apartment there's really no place to store moldy things and I already have all that old luggage smelling up the bedroom.  I will probably never even use that case and I don't really see myself stripping it down, fumigating it, potpourri-ing it or anything of that ilk.  Then again, yesterday I'd never heard of a loop guard screw.

If I had to do over I'd pay less for a machine without a case (most of the old ones have the stink issue, apparently) and get one of those nice new tote bags for it.  Live and learn!


Have a great day, everybody!

P.S. - You can read my latest BurdaStyle piece here; comments are always welcome!


  1. I do love that dress/ outfit you are making - so much more Cathy than that frou frou concoction that almost was. Can't wait to see it all finished!

  2. If you're up to it, clean up the case a bit and sell it on ebay. They're desired items (stink and all) and usually bring a nice price.

    Cathy's new dress is coming along. The colors look great on you, so I imagine they'll look great on her too.

  3. If you want to go to the trouble, you could contact the seller and tell them that the machine is missing a part that keeps it from sewing. They'll probably ignore you but you can then tell us who the seller was and we can avoid them, or at least, be wary. Sort of a Lappin's List.

  4. Maybe I WILL sell that case. Great idea, Debbie! Jeff, I could sense from the seller's history and other items for sale that this was not a sewing machine person. I don't feel mislead or think the person was ill-intentioned. It's "caveat emptor" on eBay and I do think I will end up with a very fine machine at a decent price.

  5. Somebody told me this or I read it somewhere, so take that for what it is worth; i.e. not much. If you don't care about the case anyway, nothing will be lost. Evidently, those cases are made out of oak. I'm afraid to do this on my own case on the probable chance that it is not true. Let the world of Featherweight owners know the truth.

  6. Sorry, my brain is missing. I am trying to say take the black covering off the machine.

  7. Okay, one more time. Take the black covering off the case. I need to go back to bed.

  8. Now you tell me -- I just stripped ALL THE PAINT off my Featherweight!!!

  9. Peter - how many machines will this make now? I'm only up to three, two aren't in use and one doesn't even work.

    My vote for the case - stuff the case with newspaper and wrap it in newspaper and allow it to sit for about a week. It might help with the odor. Newspaper naturally absorbs odor so, go buy a New York Times and put it to good use!


  10. My husband once bought an old guitar that had a fungus problem- the case was the WORST! But I fixed it :)

    To clear out the musty, mildew-ey smell (pick a warm day so that the wood dries quickly):

    First vacuum the interior thoroughly. If there is any fabric or felt padding, see if you can remove it- this will hold the worst of the smelly stuff. Clean this separately or re-cut padding from new felt or rubber.

    Next, dilute some chlorine bleach and wet a rag with it, wring out most of the moisture so you don't swamp the case. Wipe the case thoroughly, make a couple of passes. Use an old toothbrush or a trimmed-down paintbrush (small boar bristle variety is best) to get into the corners.

    Once the interior has been swabbed out, dry up any excess moisture and set in a shady place to dry for a day. Don't put wet wood in direct sunlight it could dry too quickly and crack. If fungus has infiltrated the wood this may need to be repeated.
    When the wood is completely dry set the case in the sunniest spot you can find, interior exposed to the sun. Allow it to sit in the sun for the entire afternoon. UV is a great disinfectant. Alternately, you can use a UV wand for this process if you have one.

    After the case is dry and sun-bathed the smell should be significantly diminished, but perhaps not completely gone- take some activated charcoal (find it in aquarium stores) and place in a cotton sack, pin it closed but not tightly. Close up the charcoal in the case and allow it to absorb the remaining smells. I'd leave it in for about a week.

    Replace any padding and you are back in business, my friend! Enjoy your new machine!

  11. People were very willing to buy my falling apart case. You could sell it and buy a new replacement case (they are nice).

  12. Great ideas people but goodness, so much work!

    Sunni, I now have seven sewing machines and a serger. Wanna make something of it? ;)

  13. If your Featherweight still smells musty without the case, replace the felt in the bottom of the machine.

  14. heheheh "marinating in sewing machine oil". I love the smell of machine least the one my mom used when I was a child.

  15. It sounds like more work than it actually is- especially in longhand. Time does most of the work.

    Distilled to the basic elements: A few minutes wiping out, let dry.... Set in the sun for the afternoon... put in some charcoal for a while.... done. :)

  16. Borax. That's what kills mold, without any toxicity. Any air toxicity I mean, don't let the dogs lick up any! Rub it directly into the case. And/or spray a strong solution on and let it dry, if the case's smooth. Then keep it outside for a week, in the sun if possible. If that doesn't do it, get rid of it. Nothing more allergenic than somebody's basement mold..

  17. Great effort on finding the missing screw! As far as a musty moldy case goes, if you dont want to go to too much effort but still kill the mold spores and get rid of the smell put a few (maybe a cap) of clove oil in a spray bottle of water add a dash of dettol and spray the entire case with it leave it a few days If you want to go to the trouble of removing the stains then was it down with a mix of white vinegar and water (50/50) This is a regular mold treatment where I live (in the tropics) it really works

  18. I'm considering discarding my featherweight case too, purely for space issues. Its much larger than it needs to be to hold that little machine!

  19. You've been quite unlucky to happen across a duff machine first time around. How much you'll love your next 221K!

    Though you've given happy feedback, you might approach the seller for a partial refund, given that it wasn't really in sewing order. I'm tempted to say 'Put the screws on him...' [ouch].

    And, yes, I agree with other commenters: sell, sell, sell that case!

    I look forward to chapter 2 - working title: The Turn of the Screw?

    OK, I'm gone...

  20. Oh yes! The felt in the bottom. That thing can get very smelly. You've probaly seen it if you took the bottom plate off. I made my own replacement by tracing the old one.

  21. You are a hero, I have now got a box of weird Singer feet for my machine- mainly because you made me curious.
    Keep pushing the boundaries- it is good for girls and boys.


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