By Ron Bergquist
The full title to this article should be “Don’t Get Excited When Your Sewing Machine Is Not Working as It Should!” but that is too long. Yet how many of us do just that. Here is some easy steps you can take to save yourself time, money and worry.
Just recently I had a customer call me and ask if I could take a look at her sewing machine because it was not working correctly. She was very unhappy with her machine and she tried to save money by trying to fix it herself. The machine is a Singer Model made in the mid 60’s. It is a workhorse but extremely heavy, a straight stitch machine with few options on it, one being the zig-zag function. It was designed to work, and work hard. It can stitch through several layers of denim and other fabrics without skipping a beat, well almost…
This owner had trouble with the bobbin and tensioning. Her owner’s manual went missing years ago, so she has been relying on her memory. Her machine was skipping stitches both from the bottom and the top frequently yet not consistently. When she started making adjustments, the problem got worse and she became more frustrated.
Her husband convinced her that it was time to have me look at it. Her concern now was, “How much will this cost?” Without seeing the machine, it is a hard question for any Sewing Machine Technician to answer. She told me that she had the machine fully serviced less than a year ago and it had been working perfectly. My customer described the problem sharing her suspicions that the bobbin was the problem. She said though that she had taken it out, checked it and reinserted it. She said she even changed the needle to make sure it wasn’t part of the problem. These are all good practices for any sewing machine owner in a similar situation. It was apparent how frustrated she had become with her machine not working as she told me that she had a project to finish.
After a couple of quick questions off to my shop her sewing machine and I went. When I started to examine the machine without running it, I first checked the needle-to-hook setting to ensure it is correct. Oh my gosh, what do I see? Needle – flat side facing outwards toward the front! Oops, that is not good. The needle is installed 180 degrees out of alignment. Surely part of the problem. Hmm, what else did she tell me she had done? The bobbin, so let’s check that. I pulled the bobbin out of the holder and “Oops!” again. It was installed with the thread going in the wrong direction. I corrected it in moments.
Now, could these two issues be the problem? Remember the old saying, “If it isn’t broken don’t fix it”? Hence, I tested it before doing anything else. WOW! It was now stitching perfectly, no skipping from the top to the bottom of the scrap fabric. So, I tested the other stitches and exercised all the sewing machine’s functions and it worked perfectly.
Why am I telling you this? To show that sometimes you can be the problem without realizing it. My customer got upset with the problems she was experiencing and didn’t think it through. It caused her a lot of trouble and downtime – she had struggled with it for over a month.
When I returned the machine a couple of hours later, my customer asked what the problem was. I stated, “UE”. Her response was the same as yours probably is, “What is UE?” I responded “User Error”. So to give you the whole story, the bobbin had ran out of thread. She filled it and reinserted it. When the sewing machine didn’t stitch right, she changed the needle and the problem got worse.
Because I always take pictures of the sewing machine and its settings before I start work on it, I was able to show my customer the pictures of the needle and the bobbin when she gave it to me. Needless to say she was embarrassed but I assured her that mistakes happen with all of us. The moral to this story? It is always a good practice to think about what changed from when your sewing machine worked great until it started acting up. Stay calm and think about what did you did. Oh, and if you don’t have your user’s manual, get one. Many can be downloaded for free on the Internet.
Before I left, I also gave her a newly printed user’s manual and she was very grateful. Until next month, happy sewing everyone!
Ron Bergquist is a certified sewing machine technician. Not only that, he is co-owner with Barb, his wife, of A Block Away Quilt Shop. After keeping Barb’s machine in running order so she can continually enjoy creating quilts for family and friends, he decided to become a certified sewing machine technician and today has serviced machines in Texas, Virginia and Florida.