Do you have a Singer sewing machine with the Featherweight style Bakelite Foot Pedal? Sometimes it’s also referred to as a Button Pedal. I’ve seen them on Model 15 machines, Featherweights (Model 221/222), Model 99 machines, Model 128 machines, 400 Series machines, and I’m sure there are others. They’re the most common pedal I have in my sewing room.
One of the most common complaints I see about this pedal is that you press and press and press and the machine does nothing,.. then suddenly it takes off like the winning horse at the races!
Another problem the older ones suffer from is “running on their own”.
What I don’t see a lot of is how to fix either problem. Lots of people suggest throwing that foot out and replacing it with a new one, or a “more modern one”.
Waste not want not, right?
Better still, keep your vintage machine paired with its original pedal and adjust it!!
These instructions will also show you how to get in and replace a damaged cord, or to take out the capacitor(s) to stop your machine from running on its own.
Note: I learned this process from the “Featherweight 221 and I” by Dave McCallum. I heartily recommend both the DVD and Book that he’s produced and sells on his site. (Opens in a new window)
Disclaimer: I’ve used this process on several machines to date, and all of them have become much easier to get along with. Your mileage may vary and I can’t be held responsible for any damage you may cause to your machine. It’s worked for me, but I guess it would be possible, in theory, to do this wrong and have “bad things” happen. Please follow these instructions carefully, and use common sense.
Note: if the motor growls when you first put pressure on the pedal, but starts to move with more pressure, or the pedal gets unreasonably warm (I sew in bare feet, so it’s quickly noticeable to me.) STOP! Unplug the machine. You’ve likely tightened things too much. This is bad for the foot pedal’s innards, and also for the motor.
Note: If after this adjustment, or when you plug in a new to you machine and use it, you hear sizzling or popping noises from the pedal… STOP! What you’re hearing is the beginnings of an electrical fire. Unplug the machine immediately and if safe to do so, relocate the pedal to somewhere it won’t damage surrounding items. (I use the sink or inside the oven (not heated up of course) For what to do if this happens, see the article I am currently writing entitled: What a Pile of ….
What you need:
- A towel or something to protect your work surface, and corral any dropped screws, tools, etc.
- A blade screwdriver – this would be about the size of the one in the accessories box that came with your machine, but preferably with a better handle.
- A pair of needle nose pliers. It’d be nice to tell you that a proper open ended wrench would fit here, but none of mine do, so we make due with what we have.
- A measuring implement. A ruler (marked in at least 1/8″ increments or millimeters) or calipers.
- Unplug the power, and make sure you know where the plug is, so it doesn’t accidentally get plugged in again.
- Turn the pedal over and undo the 4 screws inside each foot.
- Press the pedal button, this will push the whole assembly upwards so you can separate the two pieces.
- Notice that when you pull the two pieces apart on the side where the cord is, that there is a wedge that sits inside the notch in the top of the pedal. Wiggle this out of the top so that you can fully separate the pieces. (Remember what this looks like, it can be the most fiddly part of the process when reassembling)
- Once they’re apart, you’ll see a large white (or it may be grey or brown) ceramic piece. This will have a screw-head and a flat piece of metal floating inside it on one side, and on the other, you’ll see the other end of the screw, a nut, and various linkages that make the pedal deliver power to your sewing machine.
- Ideally, the flat metal piece will be about 1/16″ from the top edge of the ceramic, but typically I find that they’re closer than this, and sometimes even above the edge.
- To adjust it to where it belongs, loosen the nut you saw on the other side of the ceramic, and using a blade screwdriver, screw the screw in until the plate sits about 1/16″ or 1-2mm from the top edge. (Note: You don’t have to use calipers the way we did, I’m just a little neurotic. 🙂 )
- Once you’ve done this, tighten the nut back up. You just need it snug, not tight. We’re not hitching up to a horse here, we’re just trying to stop it backing off again. In fact, you can add a touch of the lightest weight loctite you can find to the threads to stop this from happening, or Dave suggests nail polish if you don’t have the loctite in his video.
- Now that you’ve completed your surgery, put the foot back together. Remember, the button only goes one way (the “open” portion toward the cord) and watch the routing of the cord.
- Hold the button in place while you re-assemble. Turn the top upside down, and put the bottom back into the top.
Don’t pinch it too tight, again, we’re not trying to prove how strong we are, just have things hold together and not rattle too much.
- Now go plug your pedal back into your sewing machine and enjoy your new found control.