There never seem to be enough hours in the day to do all that
we have to do. The last thing a sewer needs when she sits down at her sewing
machine is to have everything go wrong! The needle breaks, thread jams in the
bobbin area or keeps skipping stitches or a number of other frustrating problems
that keep the project from being completed. These problems happen to the novice
sewer as well as the seasoned pro, and while we would like to blame the sewing
machine and perhaps "throw it out the window", there are measures the
home sewer can take to correct most problems or even prevent them from happening
in the first place.
The sewing machine needle is probably the number one cause of
problems for sewers and crafters. This may sound silly, but the first thing to
check when having stitching problems is whether the needle is in backwards. Oh,
I know you're saying "I've been sewing most of my life and I know how to
put the needle in the machine", but in about 25% of the sewing machine
repair jobs I go out on, the only problem was that the needle was put in
backwards. If your machine will not pick up the bottom thread or skips stitches
badly, in most cases it's because your needle is in wrong.
Each sewing machine requires 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. Sewers in a hurry to get a project done may
simply insert the needle and not pay attention to the position of the flat side,
and immediately begin having problems. If by chance 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.
A needle that is dull, bent, or simply the wrong size or type
can cause major sewing problems. Just because the needle "looks good"
doesn't mean that it is good. A small "snag" on the tip of the needle
can cause runs in the fabric, and even a slightly bent needle won't sew
properly. A good rule of thumb would be to change the machine needle before each
new project, and, because some fabrics and fabric finishes can increase wear on
the needle, you may need to change the needle during the project if you notice
stitching problems beginning to appear.
Always use the right size needle for the type of fabric
you're sewing. I've seen sewers trying to sew denim with a fine lingerie type
needle simply "because the needle was in the machine and still a good
needle", and others trying to sew fine fabrics with needles that are much
too large. A needle too fine for heavy fabric can bend or break when it hits the
fabric, while too large a needle for the fabric can make puncture holes in the
fabric and also cause the thread to pull unevenly while stitching. Do yourself a
huge favor and check the machine needle before you begin any new project.
The second thing to check is the thread itself. We have found that
"cheap" thread is definitely not a bargain! The fibers of the
"bargain" thread splits easily while you're sewing and can cause
knotting of the thread, breakage of the thread and can also cause a build-up of
lint in the bobbin area and along the thread line from the spool to the needle.
If you hold a length of the bargain thread up to a light you can readily see the
frayed edges and roughness of the thread. Stick to a good quality thread and
you'll minimize the potential problems.
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 much 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 a
repair shop unnecessarily.
Reuben Doyle, a sewing machine repairman for over 25 years
has written "Sewing Machine Repair for the Home Sewer" ($19.95 + $2.00
P&H) and "Serger Repair for the Home Sewer" ($19.95 + $2.00
P&H) for those who would like to end the frustration of interrupted sewing
projects and unnecessary trips to the repair shop. Each book contains
problem/solution scenarios, expert tips on maintaining your sewing machine or
serger, and information that sewing machine repairs shops don't want you to
know! Both books are available at http://SewMachineRepair.com.