Not so plain Jane

Last week, my sister-in-law and I headed to Murray, Kentucky to attend a Sew Purty Workshop hosted by Ray Elkins. The focus of this class is vintage machine restoration. Ray is unique in that he welcomes nonworking machines at his workshops. His rationale is you’ll learn more from a seized up machine. I tend to agree. My sister-in-law took a Singer 27 treadle machine from 1899 to work on. It was a lot of HARD work, but my SIL was able to get her seized up machine to turn freely and sew a nice stitch!

I took a 1935 FW (Jane) that was originally purchased at a local estate sale to be my repaint machine. The lead time for good FW painters is at least 2 years. I figured I would use her as my learning machine during that time. Well…after this weekend, I think it’s safe to say she’ll remain as she is. Ray was right. Jane (the FW) has a story and her wear marks tell it. I can take her anywhere and not worry about scratching up an expensive custom paint job. The old girl had a complete makeover inside and out. I’d performed a basic machine service when I first got her to get her stitching, but she never ran as well as the early Featherweights are reported to operate. Now she does!

Much of what I learned at the FW spa day class back in 2019 has served me well. This class took things to an entirely different level. I got inside the machine – taking out the presser bar and needle bar assemblies, light housing, complete stitch length lever assembly, hook assembly, and tension unit. (The only parts I didn’t disassemble were the mechanisms involving the toothed gears and motor.) Everything was cleaned, inspected, lubricated, repaired/replaced as needed and put back in place, except for the vintage thread cutter, which gets in my way! The exterior was cleaned using Ray’s methods and every bit of chrome was polished using my new, knock-off Dremel. I cannot tell you how much grime came off the machine. It was so gross. A coat of Renaissance Wax was applied and buffed out. Her after picture is what you see in this post.

Learning how to properly set the presser foot height, needle bar height, hook timing and how to put the old-style tension assembly back together (without a picture) were huge for me. I have the adjuster/service manuals, but things didn’t click until I made the adjustments myself under his watchful eye. Ray also shared some tips for carbon brush replacement and motor maintenance. Others FW owners in the class advised giving the 221 case the “Ruthie” treatment prior to coating the box inside and out with Howard’s Feed & Wax. Let the case sit for several days and then wipe off any residue. No more stinky FW case!

Jane will get upgraded to a numbered tension dial and the bare spots on her bed touched up with black paint. She’s already sporting a new Superbelt, bed cushions and an LED bulb. Her foot controller is an early metal style, but I’m not sure if it’s original to her. It works, but needs some serious TLC. That’s a project for another day. I prefer the newer electronic foot controllers anyway.

Some of my stitchy friends have requested an introductory FW/maintenance class. Oh, I can certainly do that!

Keep on quilting!