Hanna Geshelin, M.Ed., Pocatello Sewing School, © 2014
Periodically, any sewing machine will start to act up. Usually you see this in broken or snagged threads, skipped stitches, or poor tension.
Here are a few easy things to try that might fix your problem. Begin at the top of the list and work your way down.
- Clean out any lint that might be in or behind your bobbin mechanism. Remove the bobbin case and the mechanism if you can. Remove the face plate (the metal plate that the feed dogs fit through, where you actually sew). On some machines this will require a screwdriver. If your machine came with a small brush, use it; some of these brushes have a sort of pick at one end that can help you remove bits of thread if some are caught in the mechanism. Be very gentle; you don’t want to damage anything. If you don’t have a sewing machine brush a very clean, small makeup brush will work. In the future, use high-quality thread like Mettler/Metrosine or Gutterman. These will reduce the amount of lint that builds up in your machine. Other high-quality threads are Isacord and Aerofil. Old and cheap threads are to sewing machines what the flu virus is to us: unless the machine is lucky, those miserable threads are going to make it sick.
- If you have an old sewing machine, you need to oil it regularly using a high-quality sewing machine oil; your machine manual will show you where. Most new machines should not be oiled.
- Completely remove both the bobbin thread and the top sewing thread, and replace them. Sometimes removing a correctly-threaded thread will also remove a minute bit of lint that is causing the problem, and sometimes the thread seems to jump out of its correct path for no reason at all.
- Replace the sewing machine needle. Today’s synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon are harder than natural fibers (cotton, silk, linen, and wool), and they wear out needles quickly. To avoid problems, sewing machine needles should be replaced after every 6 to 8 hours of sewing, or if the machine sits unused for a long time.
Oops, None Of That Helped! What Now?
If none of these hints helps, take your machine in to a sewing machine repair shop. Explain what problem you are having and the fixes you've attempted, but ask for a complete cleaning and servicing. With proper servicing the machine will run well afterwards. Servicing should come with a 60- or 90-day warranty.
If your spouse grouses at the cost, remind him that a sewing machine is a tool, and like every tool (think truck, lawnmower and power saw) it needs periodic servicing. Most men "get" this once they've thought about it.
Around 2007 I visited for three weeks from out of town while my mother recovered from an illness. Bored, I told her I'd like to do some sewing. She told me that her machine (purchased mid-1950's) didn't work. She'd had it serviced at every shop in town, and no one had been able to fix it. I changed the needle, and the machine worked perfectly.