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Thread: Featherweight tension trouble

  1. #1
    Senior Member Raine54RN's Avatar
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    Post Featherweight tension trouble

    [Help! I have oil, greased, checked the bushings checked the belt, rewound 3 bobbins, changed needles, checked the bobbin tension (looks better than the top),replaced the bobbin holder to be sure it was clean, etc etc, and I cannot get the upper tension to look correct! I've also changed thread, retreaded the machine no less than 10 times and what ever else I don't remember. What can I do? I've never had a FW b/4 and did buy the DVD and manual from Featherweight Rx, and I'm not finding the answer. Can anyone offer any other suggestions? PLEASE thank you, Raine54rn

  2. #2
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    Check your way to put the needle in. Which way the flat side faces.

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    Senior Member Raine54RN's Avatar
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    Thanks, I did check the needle. It was ok one time I had the thread coming in from the wrong side but that didn't fix the problem when I rethreaded it. Anything else? Raine

  5. #5
    Super Member kitsykeel's Avatar
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    Just remember, flat side of needle to the left, and thread needle from right to left. Good luck, keep plugging away, you will get there I am sure.
    Kitsy

  6. #6
    Member Gma Cindy's Avatar
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    Did you have the throat plate off..if so you might not have it back together the correct way..there is a little arm that is on the bobbin case that has to fit in a notch on the underside of the throat plate...

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    Gma...we all forgot to mention that...that is probably the issue. You get a star Notice A2..it fits in the slot on the underside of the needle plate.


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    Member Gma Cindy's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting a picture of what I was trying to say!! I sure hope this fixes the problem!! I remember the first time I cleaned mine and when I got it all back together it wouldnt sew right!! I didn't know if I wanted to cry because I had waited along time to get one of these babies!! or if I wanted to be really mad cause someone just took my money for a machine that didnt work!! ..Finally after much fretting I got the book out and there was the answer!! I love my Little Black Pearl!!

  9. #9
    Senior Member Raine54RN's Avatar
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    I thought I did that right but I will check again. Another thing I though of while I was falling asleep was I don't remember checking the bobbin yoyo thing. To see if the bobbin tension is right, I'm afraid to cause those Stitches look even. I keep thinking it's the upper. It seems tight.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Raine54RN's Avatar
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    Thank you for your responses so much. If you think of any other tips please let me know. I want to sew so badly with it! I spent 6 hours reading, watching the Dave video, and playing/ cleaning it. At least it's a well oiled, greased clean nonfunctioning machine!Raine

  11. #11
    Junior Member makitmama's Avatar
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    well, after the recent discussions about bobbins- do you have a vintage one you can try?
    Cil



    I'm a Queen.... at least my pantyhose say I am!


    (proud caretaker of a magenta 221, purple 222, assorted 66's, a 301, a pink Atlas and Monarch, and Granny's 201-2.

  12. #12
    Power Poster twinkie's Avatar
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    Taking the tension control apart is not too difficult according to my DH. He seems to be able to fix tension on my featherweight, but he tells me that the tension control needs to be changed whenever I sew on different types of fabric and different layers.

  13. #13
    Senior Member AlaskaAlice's Avatar
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    I just got my FW this month ...so sorry you are having trouble.. It will probably be something so unnoticeable...check for things like small threads under the tension bar on the bobbin.. or upper disks.. I once had a needle holder fall off and replaced it up sidedown..for years I fought that sewing machine to make it work..one day I looked at the lines on it, they didn't line up. turned it over and it worked ...no more problem Hope you find the problem!!

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    I tried to sew with mine for the first time with the bobbin winder in the wrong place. What an awful squeal and I was sure I broke it. Then I threaded it wrong and the whole thing locked. That's how I met my favorite dealer/sewing machine doctor. He knew exactly what I did over the phone and didn't charge me when I brought it in. "You'll be back." And I have been. You should be commended for doing your research. Hope it works out for you. Oh, and I took that little tiny screw he told me to never take out of the bobbin case out. Lost it, cried a lot and did thankfully find it and replaced it. Phew, it's amazing I've ever sewed anything on that little cutie. Too busy getting in my own way!
    Last edited by lots2do; 03-18-2013 at 05:29 PM.

  15. #15
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Usually with the needle flat on the wrong side, the machine will skip stitches.
    If the "finger" is in the wrong place, I've usually found that the machine doesn't sew well at all.

    You say that the tension on top looks bad, but on the bottom it looks fine?
    Which one is happening:

    Does the top thread lie flat across the top? - Top tension too tight or bottom too loose.
    Top thread in loops on the bottom? Top tension too loose or bottom too tight.

    For a quick "fix", you can try to run dental floss between the tension disks and see if it pulls lint or small animals out.

    ETA: This would help of the top tension is too loose despite having it cranked up to a really high number.

    If that still doesn't do it, depending on what the answer to the question above is (or a photo would be equally great), I may have more suggestions.

    Additionally, the dis-assembly instructions are in many (but not all strangely) of the featherweight owner's manuals
    This one has it:
    http://www.ismacs.net/singer_sewing_...ght-manual.pdf

    Found here with a bunch of links to other important 221 manuals:
    http://ismacs.net/free-sewing-machin...ls-list.html#S

    This one can also demystify some of the tensioner adjustments and setup too:
    http://www.tfsr.org/pub/technical_in...echanism_2.pdf

  16. #16
    Senior Member Raine54RN's Avatar
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    Tammi, the thread on the top is lying flat with just dots of bobbin thread showing. The underside, bobbin side looks like normal stiching, until I try reverse and then both threads loop up. I did use floss and found no small creatures or lint. I am going to check the bobbin tension before I take apart the thread tension, and see if that helps. If it does hooray, if it doesn't ,NUTS, I really didn't want to take apart the tension, but I've dove everything else suggested here or written. Wish me luck! I also hacpve used 3 different bobbins that came with machine! Raine54rn

  17. #17
    Senior Member Raine54RN's Avatar
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    Featherweight tension sending pics

    I don't know how to send pics from my I pad or phone to the blog site as soon as I do I can send pics of how the stiching looks. Raine

  18. #18
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Hey Raine,

    What is the number on the upper tension dial? We usually say 3 -5 is average "normal" tension...

    Here's a test you can do to figure out if it's the top or bottom tension that's a problem:
    Thread the machine, but leave the needle unthreaded (you can thread it, but I find this easier with it not threaded and I get less stab wounds.)
    With the presser foot up, pull on the needle thread. This is what the thread feels like with "no" tension on it.
    Now turn the dial to 0, and put the presser foot down. Now pull the thread again.
    Does it feel just a tiny bit tighter, or noticeably tighter?

    A tiny bit tighter is good. If it's a fair bit tighter, then someone has been in there to adjust and didn't put it back together right. I can walk you through the adjustment without having to take the whole thing apart if you let me know if this is the problem.

    If it feels just a smidgen tighter, then the top tension is probably "within spec" and you want to pay attention to the lower tension.

    I posted an article on my blog on Sunday about bobbin case maintenance, and coincidentally, I used a featherweight's bobbin case for the photos. It should look very familiar to you if you follow it.
    http://www.archaicarcane.com/2013/03...e-maintenance/
    The other great resource is the TFSR.org project that I linked to earlier.
    http://www.tfsr.org/publications/tec...achine_manual/

    In there it teaches you to adjust your bobbin case with a 1 oz weight. I do this when I'm home and working at my bench. If I'm out, I do it the way I described above - Top tension first, then set the bobbin tension based on that.

    If we have to do the top tension adjustment, let me know. It's probably the kick in the rear I needed anyway, since I did promise on my blog to do it.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Raine54RN's Avatar
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    Thank you Tammi, I'll work on after dinner, I want to sew with this toy! I'll let you know and chech the links you provides, I have hope! Raine

  20. #20
    Senior Member Raine54RN's Avatar
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    It's fixed! The tension looks right and when I separate the fabric the threads meet evenly! I finally had to adjust bobbin tension and in Daves book there is a way to reset the tension control by pushing in the numbered disk and turning the knob, like resetting the tension to original settings. It worked! I'm so thrilled started sewing small pieces of flannel for my daughters quilt for the finishing edges. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUGGESTIONS and patience. I'm finally using this little beauty.

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    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Yay!! congrats!! That's the other adjustment I was going to show you if needed.

    I'm glad you got it all worked out.

  22. #22
    Super Member mpeters1200's Avatar
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    I've been researching for days how to fix my machine's tension. I found this information extremely helpful, however, I really am going to have to take the tension apart. Turning the knob is not affecting the spring at all whatsoever and the material is EXTREMELY hard to pull out of the presser foot area even though the PF is raised and the needle bar is in the highest position.
    Proud mom/step-mom to 8 children. We promote awareness of Autism and Huntington's Disease. Please pm me if interested in sending Campbell's Soup Labels or box tops which we collect for our kids' schools.

  23. #23
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Hey mpeters1200, what was the result of the tes I described in this post?:
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/vintage...ml#post5941686

    If it's what I think it is, i.e. it's hugely tight, it's not necessarily a disassembly required, just an adjustment to the upper tensioner. It's also possible you have one other issue at the same time, which is when you lift the PF lever, the pin that the lever mechanism pushes against is either too short, or missing. You should be able to see the tip of it if you remove the faceplate and look right behind the tensioner.

  24. #24
    Super Member mpeters1200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchaicArcane View Post
    Usually with the needle flat on the wrong side, the machine will skip stitches.
    If the "finger" is in the wrong place, I've usually found that the machine doesn't sew well at all.

    You say that the tension on top looks bad, but on the bottom it looks fine?
    Which one is happening:

    Does the top thread lie flat across the top? - Top tension too tight or bottom too loose.
    Top thread in loops on the bottom? Top tension too loose or bottom too tight.

    For a quick "fix", you can try to run dental floss between the tension disks and see if it pulls lint or small animals out.

    ETA: This would help of the top tension is too loose despite having it cranked up to a really high number.

    If that still doesn't do it, depending on what the answer to the question above is (or a photo would be equally great), I may have more suggestions.

    Additionally, the dis-assembly instructions are in many (but not all strangely) of the featherweight owner's manuals
    This one has it:
    http://www.ismacs.net/singer_sewing_...ght-manual.pdf

    Found here with a bunch of links to other important 221 manuals:
    http://ismacs.net/free-sewing-machin...ls-list.html#S

    This one can also demystify some of the tensioner adjustments and setup too:
    http://www.tfsr.org/pub/technical_in...echanism_2.pdf
    I've been sick the last few days and of course I pick the time of year my boys are supposed to be selling popcorn to spend every waking minute with the machine.

    2 things are happening. 1, the top tension is extremely tight. Despite double and triple checking needle placement and threading, thread continues to break and the fabric is very hard to remove from under the needle. I've now had to replace the needle a few times because trying to pull the fabric out has bent it. Good point to try and pull the thread without threading the needle first. It's equally hard to do whether the presser foot is up or down.
    Secondly, the top thread just lays across the top of the fabric and you can see little dots of bobbin thread. Also, the underneath side is a rats nest. I played around with the TINIEST of turns to the screw on the bobbincase and this just made it worse. I returned it to the original position and then the bobbin thread didn't do that. Is it possible that there's a specific direction you have to put the bobbin into the bobbin case, like the thread wound clockwise versus counter-clockwise?

    I'm going to buy dental floss tomorrow. We normally just use floss sticks as my boys are still little enough, or one of them is, to get dental floss all over the bathroom or walk up and down the stairs and it still be attached to him. Thread and yarn meet a similar demise around him.

    I'm still looking over the links to the tensioner you've posted above. I am afraid to take the tensioner off entirely, but I'm starting to be concerned that it may be the only answer. I'm going to see what more I can do to it tonight.
    Proud mom/step-mom to 8 children. We promote awareness of Autism and Huntington's Disease. Please pm me if interested in sending Campbell's Soup Labels or box tops which we collect for our kids' schools.

  25. #25
    Super Member mpeters1200's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchaicArcane View Post
    Hey mpeters1200, what was the result of the tes I described in this post?:
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/vintage...ml#post5941686

    If it's what I think it is, i.e. it's hugely tight, it's not necessarily a disassembly required, just an adjustment to the upper tensioner. It's also possible you have one other issue at the same time, which is when you lift the PF lever, the pin that the lever mechanism pushes against is either too short, or missing. You should be able to see the tip of it if you remove the faceplate and look right behind the tensioner.
    Ok, I have no idea what pin you are talking about. I'm going to take a picture of the lever both up and down and you tell me if it's there or missing, too short etc.

    I've turned the knob back and forth with no success at all. I'm having a tough time seeing the outer knob insert into a hole. I'm going to go play around with that as well. I'm trying to think of something to loosen it up and I'm just out of ideas.
    Proud mom/step-mom to 8 children. We promote awareness of Autism and Huntington's Disease. Please pm me if interested in sending Campbell's Soup Labels or box tops which we collect for our kids' schools.

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