Notions: Troubleshooting Tips

I have just stumbled across this amazing Sewing Machine Troubleshooting Poster on Pinterest, so today’s Notions will concentrate on some of the many tiny issues you can have when Machine Sewing whether you are a new Sewer or experienced.

troubleshooting sewing machine instructionsOnce you know how to deal with the little issues, you will find it becomes a part of the way you Sew. I can now hear when my Tension has dropped out, or if my Needle has a slight kink or burr and I simply adjust or replace as needed. This was not always the case however; and I still to this day hear my Mum’s voice listing what I should do!

The key to good Sewing Machine skills starts with good equipment. You can’t use cheap Thread, and you need either a new or at least sharp Needle. An old Needle- one which has been bent, even just slightly, or is dull- causes unimaginable angst and issues. It can cause the Stitching to look like the Tension has dropped out, the Machine to not feed the Fabric properly, pull the Fabric and ruin it… the list is endless!

You should also use the correct needle for the Fabric you are Sewing. This is a rule I adhere to with a pinch of salt because, quite frankly, I sometimes don’t have a massive selection of Needles. Loosely, the lighter your Fabric the finer your Needle should be however; yet another wonderful illustration of this was found on Pinterest (click to enlarge)!

machineneedle infographic

I’m not a mad old sewing lady quite yet but I seriously do believe that each Machine has it’s own personality and preferences. There has been so much written about which Thread to use, with which Needle and which Fabric however; in my experience this is somewhat dictated by your Sewing Machine. Machines definitely favour different types of Thread, my posh Pfaff only runs if I am Sewing with Gutterman or Moon Thread… it will grudgingly take others but flat out refuses Drima Thread! My 60’s Machine likes Moon Thread more however my 1940’s Jones will pretty much run on anything… which I always attribute to the Make Do and Mend theme of the War era! If you are having issues even after trying all of the tips here, maybe just try changing up the type of thread you are using.

I have of course, found this out through trial and error but the thing I adhere to is: my thread should not be ‘furry’! When you hold a section of the Thread you are using taut in front of you it should look smooth, not ‘fluffy’ or ‘furry’. It is the ‘furry-ness’ of cheap Thread which will cause your Sewing Machine to have problems as it creates dust which in turn effects the way a Sewing Machine runs.

Another little tip I stick to religiously is the way in which I insert the Bobbin in to the Bobbin Case. 99% of the time this will need to be as follows… hold the Bobbin in your Right Hand, with the Bobbin Case in your Left. Make sure the Thread is running OVER and AWAY from you as below, then pop the Bobbin in to the Bobbin Case. You can then choose to run the Thread through all of the Bobbin Cases Tension Clips as illustrated below.

bobbinbobbin2 bobbin3

You may have noticed in all these Bobbin shenanigans a little Screw in your Bobbin Case. This is the Lower Tension of your Sewing Machine. Never touch it. I have read several Blogs this year recommending, if you have loopy Stitching on the underside of your Fabric this Screw should be tightened or loosened. This is the case however; this setting is set when the Sewing Machine is manufactured and shouldn’t ever really need changing by you.

The loopy threads on the underside of the Stitching is actually the Top Tension. If this is a problem you are experiencing with your Sewing Machine you can normally rectify it by setting the Tension at 0, sewing about 10cm or 4″, then moving the Tension to 1, again sewing for about 10cm or 4″, then moving the Tension to 2 and so on. Always stitch on a double layer of Fabric when Stitching Samples like this as the Machine will be able to feed it easier and it will be the correct weight of Fabric for normal usage.

When you have tested all stages of Tension, look at the reverse of the Stitching and select which Number is best and set it on the Sewing Machine. Invariably, after a little more Stitching, you will need to adjust is again as it settles. If Tension is still an issue I recommend taking your Machine to be serviced as it is much better to have a professional look at the Bottom Tension rather than taking a wild stab in the dark yourself!

Of course, your Machine will normally have an instruction manual however; some of these tips I have learnt over the years and form the basis of my Beginners Sewing Classes and are therefore some of the most frequent questions I am asked.

Do you have any tips, what’s your secret to a perfectly running Sewing Machine?

Happy stitching!


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