Monday, May 10, 2010

Fixing my sewing machine

Remember that I posted about that sewing machine my husband picked up at the flea market for $15? Well, I decided to get some sewing projects tackled on Saturday.

I plugged in the "new" machine, popped in the bobbin (this is front-loading instead of the top-loading like my "old" machine), and ... nothing.

Apparently I had never worked with a sewing machine with a front-loading bobbin before because I had to search online to find out what I was doing wrong. I was loading it wrong, but I discovered quite by accident that I also wasn't pushing it in far enough, until it clicked into place.

So, with that problem out of the way, I threaded the machine, pulled up the bobbin thread, and got ready to tackle the first skirt that needed mended.

You know where this is going, don't you?

The machine would run, but it wouldn't sew any stitches. About this time, I was certain the lady knew something was wrong with it when she sold it to us. I had no manual, so I was at a standstill. At this point, I was terribly frustrated, so I took a break.

After awhile, I got the idea to google the problem. Actually, I googled "DIY sewing machine repair". If you own a sewing machine, you really need to do that search sometime. It was quite enlightening.

I stumbled upon an article written by a sewing machine repairman, and he outlined the easiest and most common problems he finds when people bring their sewing machines to be repaired. I was excited when he described the exact problem I was having -- and said to check if the needle had been inserted backwards.

Sure enough, I went to the machine, pulled out the needle ... and found out it had been in backwards all along! If the lady knew something was wrong with the machine when she sold it, the joke is on her. If not, I still don't feel bad because it was a super-easy fix. It works perfectly now.

And since it was such a super-easy fix, I decided to read on and see if anyone was describing the problem I was having with my "old" sewing machine. You see, the top of the stitching would look great. But if you flipped it over, you would see this terrible mess of thread (on the far left):

And if you've ever seen that mess of thread on your sewing, you know that the stitches pull right out.

Well, after reading a few articles, I found the one I was looking for. I suspected that the problem was with the tension, but I had tried adjusting the tension before, and it did nothing to fix it. But did you know that a sewing machine also has bobbin tension? I've been sewing for 15+ years and I had never heard of bobbin tension before. It makes sense, but no one ever told me about it and there are no obvious knobs to control it, so I had no idea.

I had nothing to lose, so I pulled out the bobbin casing (where the bobbin tension screw is located), and adjusted the tiny screw. Immediately, I saw a difference. It wasn't perfect, but it looked a little less messy on the back. I was on to something!

After about an hour of fiddling with both tension knobs, I finally got it to sew correctly. Yeah!!!

I had to experiment because there are no numbers on the bobbin tension. It's just a teeny, tiny screw that you adjust a little bit at a time (most articles suggested a quarter turn at a time). So I would adjust the bobbin tension, sew on a scrap piece of fabric, and then see what it looked like. Then I would adjust either the bobbin tension or the top tension knob and try it again.

It was a little hard on the patience, but to get a $300 sewing machine to sew correctly again, it was totally worth it! You can see the progress of my adjustments on the scrap fabric (far right is sewing correctly, everything else is "getting there"):

I can't tell you how happy I am to have my sewing machine back! I'll be saving that smaller one for my daughter to learn on. She already asked me on Saturday whose it was since I had both out at once. I told her it was mine, too, but I didn't mention the fact that I was going to save it for her. If I mentioned that, she'd want to have it on her desk in her room ... and that's not such a good idea at four years old. :)

P.S. I wouldn't recommend messing with the bobbin tension on your sewing machine unless it isn't sewing right at all -- like mine was. According to one article I read, it's not for amateurs or the faint of heart. Now, if you're stubborn like me, that might make up for the "amateur" part ... :)


Rhonda said...

thanks for the info - I actually have 2 spare machines in the closet that are not sewing quite right - so, when I get some spare time, I will try to tune them up.
like you, I am a DIY type person, and would rather not pay someone else to do something I can do myself.

Happy sewing to you!

Susan said...

I love those sites that tell you exactly how to fix something wrong with your sewing machine! I've cleaned mine and diagnosed problems with those too - such a blessing! I've never messed with the bobbin tension though! You're a brave woman! ;)

Heather - said...

Don't you just hate it when you have tension problems!! :) So frustrating! My old sewing machine needs some tlc, too.

DeeAnn said...

I am so happy you were able to fix your machines. Yes, that picture is definitely a bobbin tension problem. No, it's not for the faint of heart. My DH is an expert at it now.