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How to Apply Decals to the Singer Featherweight

Are you restoring a Singer Featherweight?  This video tutorial will show you how to easily apply the Singer Featherweight waterslide decals to the painted surface of the machine.  Decals are available in a gold "Celtic Knot" for Featherweights made from 1933 - 1937, 1937 - 1953, and the paperclip style from 1953 - 1961.


We have received many requests over the years to offer special decals for those venturing into the process of repainting their Singer Featherweight, and we are very pleased to have found a supplier and make them available!  Please note, however, that this comes with a caveat: due to the complexity of disassembly/reassembly mechanics, the many variables in painting Featherweights and the high probability for error, we cannot offer any advice for disassembly, what brand or products to use, the painting process or anything related to this type of Featherweight restoration, except what is already supplied in the decal instructions and FAQs below.  These decals are provided as a courtesy to those wanting a do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) venture.  Please read through all the material before proceeding with caution.

After making many comparisons, these decal sets are extremely sophisticated for clarity and meticulous in design, catching all the details to restore your machine to accuracy based on the original era of your Featherweight.  The Singer Featherweight restoration process just got better and is now so much easier for decal application!




(Download a PDF of these written instructions here for easy printing.)    

Tools Required:

  • Sharp scissors
  • Pan of clean, lukewarm water
    (distilled water is preferred)
  • Small, soft paintbrush
  • Paper towel

Recommended Product Option: Walthers Solvaset (which can usually be purchased from most hobby stores). This is used after the decals have been applied and allowed to dry for 10 minutes. The Solvaset softens the decal to help it blend in to irregular surfaces and melts the edges so they blend in with the painted surface.


Waterslide decals are extremely delicate and require care. If not applied properly, the decal may rip or tear during application. It is suggested that you test the application process before you apply decals to your machine. (Your machine only requires one "Singer" decal for the light housing, so the extra "Singer" name decal can be used as your test sample for experimentation.) 

Due to many variables in the preparation, painting and decal process, the Featherweight Shop assumes no liability for damages to the decals during application or to the surface of your sewing machine.


    1. The application surface should be as smooth and glossy as possible. A surface that is rough or dull can create what is called a "silvering" of the decal. This silvering effect is actually a result of microscopic air bubbles that get trapped in the pores of a rough or dull surface, affecting the the final appearance of the decal on the machine.  Therefore, having a glossy smooth surface before applying the decal will help prevent this.

    2. Prepare the application surface by making sure that it is free of any oils, lint or other contaminates.

    3. Remove the decal sheet from packaging gently.

    4. Cut out the decals using a sharp pair of scissors leaving at least ¼" - ½” between the decal print and cutting edge.

    5. After the decal is cut out, submerge it face down in the pan of lukewarm water. It will curl at first then straighten out.  Leave it in the water anywhere from 15-30 seconds.

    6. While it is soaking, wet the surface of the machine where the decal will be placed by dabbing water on with your small soft brush.  This will give you some more time to position the decal during application.

    7. Once in position, gently brush the decal using a small, soft brush to smooth out the decal and help remove the water from underneath it.

    8. After the decal is positioned exactly in place, use a (soft) folded paper towel to remove any excess water left by the brush, dabbing very gently on the decal areas.


Are these decals an adhesive sticker? 

These decals are not stickers and they must have a clear-coat applied over them after they are completely dry. It is recommended to wait 5-10 hours depending on ambient temperature before applying a clear-coat.

What clear-coat product is recommended?

The decal manufacturer recommends that you use a 2K catalyzed urethane clear-coat.  There are many different clear-coat products available, but not all clear-coat products are compatible with water-slide decals, and some aerosol clears have components in them that can attack the decals.  Several variables are also at play with technique, equipment, weather, humidity, ventilation, etc. that we cannot recommend a specific brand, so please use the sample pieces that are included in your decal set to test your clear-coat before using on your final project. 

Is there a proper way to apply the clear-coat?

When spraying on the clear-coat, it is very important to lay down one or two "tack" or "mist" coats first and let it flash off for 15-30 minutes before applying wet coats. This helps to shield the decals from any possible reactions with the various brands of clear-coats.  That being said, these decals have been specially coated with a very thin layer of inter-coat to help protect them from possible chemical reactions that may occur when using some clear-coats.

Can I use these decals without repainting my whole machine?

Yes & No. It's your machine so you can do whatever you would like to it!  That being said, it won't work very well to just place them over your existing decals.  While the black japanning paint on the Singer Featherweight was very hardy, you'd still have to remove all the clear shellac and old decals first.  Then you could apply the new decals and a new clear-coat (but we cannot give any advice as to the best process for removing the old shellac).  This process would still be done at your own risk and level of experience.

We look forward to seeing the beautiful machines you restore... Please feel free to send us your photos for Featherweight show-n-tell!

I don't want to paint my own machine, but would still like to get it restored, do you have anyone you can recommend to do this?

The cost for machine restoration can vary greatly depending on the level of machine preparation and mechanical skill for disassembly / reassembly.  Some just mask the machine off in some key areas and paint around them.  Others will completely dismantle the machine and use an extremely extensive process for restoration that makes for a "showroom" Featherweight.  We used to have a list of Featherweight painters that were experienced both with a full understanding of the mechanics of the machine as well as with the fastidious process of automotive painting.  However, they have since retired, passed away or are no longer taking in customer-supplied machines.  At this time, we have no other recommendations. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, highly subjective and largely contingent on what you are willing and able to pay for the painting service and what qualities you want reflected in the final product.  So, ask your local quilt friends for referrals, examine painted machines in person very carefully, make sure parts are not painted that shouldn't be and test the painted machines you see at a show for sewing quality, achieving smooth, beautiful stitches - forward and reverse.  If the Featherweight is beautiful to you for painting quality, the Featherweight mechanical understanding is trustworthy of the actual painter, you're willing to send your heirloom machine away for awhile and the service is what you can afford, then go for it! 


Rick Armao - Singer Featherweights Revived in Wisconsin
(booked solid, not taking customer-supplied machines any longer)