Your sewing machine is a wonderfully useful machine when working properly, a frustrating, confusing monster when it’s not. Oddly, a vast majority of machines sent to repair shops for repairs, could be repaired at home with little or no technical knowledge.
The first thing to remember is not to panic! Don’t let your frustration get in the way of your good sense. Depending on the type of problem you’re having, the following suggestions may be of immediate help to you.
TENSION: As you change projects and start sewing on different weight materials, you should test stitch on a piece of scrap material of the same weight before beginning the actual project so you can adjust your upper tension to that particular fabric. As an example, if you’re changing from a denim type fabric to a silky fabric, you would definitely want to make sure the tension is correct and the stitching looks right before you start to sew the garment.
To determine whether the upper tension is too tight or too loose for the fabric you’re wanting to use, try the following test. Take a small scrap of the fabric, fold it, and stitch a line ON THE BIAS of the fabric, using different colors of thread in the bobbin and on top. Grasp the bias line of stitching between the thumb and the index finger. Space the hands about 3 inches apart and pull with an even, quick force until one thread breaks. If the broken thread is the color of the thread in the needle, it means that the upper tension is too tight. If the broken thread is the color of the bobbin thread, the upper tension is too loose. If both threads break together and take more force to break, it means that the tensions are balanced.
BOBBIN: The most probable cause of the lower thread breaking is an improperly wound bobbin. Regardless of where you wind the bobbin, inside the machine, on the top of the handwheel or on the front side near the hand wheel, the basic “bobbin” rules apply.
- Always start with an empty bobbin. Never wind one color over another color.
-Don’t wind the bobbin so full that it would be tight and hard to insert into the bobbin case. Most machines have an automatic “shut off” when the bobbin gets full, but if yours does not, be careful not to fill it too full.
- Wind the bobbin evenly across and in level layers.
- Never mix different sizes of thread in the bobbin and on the spool, unless you’re doing sewing machine embroidery or some specialty type of sewing. Using different weights of thread on the spool and in the bobbin for general sewing will cause ragged stitches as well as other stitching problems.
NEEDLE: Probably 25% of machine repair jobs I go out on, the only problem was that the needle was put in backwards. I know you’re probably saying “I’ve been sewing most of my life and I know how to put the needle in the machine”; however many times a seamstress will get in a hurry and not give the needle a second thought when putting a new one in the machine. If your machine will not pick up the bottom thread or skips stitches badly, in most cases it’s because the needle is in wrong.
Each sewing machine requires that the “flat” side of the needle be put in a specific way – facing the front, the back, etc., depending on your particular make and model. If you have a sewing machine that takes a needle that doesn’t have a flat side, you’ll notice that each needle has a groove in it where the thread lays as it penetrates the fabric. Depending on whether your machine shuttle system faces to the front or to the left, the groove of the needle will also face front or left.
MACHINE THREADING: An additional area to check for stitching problems is whether the sewing machine is threaded properly. Each machine has a certain sequence for threading, and it only takes one missed step in the sequence to cause your machine to skip stitches. If you’re in doubt, take the top thread completely out and start all over again.
Many times it’s the small things that cause frustration and loss of sewing time. Taking just a few minutes before starting a project to make sure everything is in order can save hours of “down” time, not to mention frayed nerves and the possibility of having to take the machine to the repair shop unnecessarily.
By Reuben O. Doyle
About the author:
Reuben O. Doyle, a sewing machine repairman for over 25 years has written four sewing machine, serger and treadle repair manuals. For additional repair information and help, visit http://SewMachineRepair.com.
(c) Copyright 2004, Reuben O. Doyle. All Rights Reserved.