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Sewing Machine Specialists
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Tips & Techniques

Here are some common problems and things the operator can check before sending a machine to the technician. These may seem simplistic, but check and re-check them it should save you money.
 
To oil or not to oil, that is the question.
 
NO - Yes- Maybe. Oil will not solve stitching problems. In most cases it is far worse for your equipment to over oil than under oil. Indications a machine needs lubrication are squeaks and squeals, grinding, thumping, sluggishness and so forth. If you believe your machine requires lubrication one or two drops is all that is necessary in any one place. The most common place to oil any machine is the hook or shuttle, this area should have one drop of oil every 8-10 hours of machine run time. For a lifetime of service have your machine serviced professionally every one or two years, depending on usage.
 
Perhaps the two most overlooked parts and without question the two most important parts of any sewing machine are the needle and thread.
 
Thread: Always use a good quality thread. Those 5 for a dollar spools are no bargain. For the best results on regular sewing machines use cotton covered polyester thread. These combine strength and a nice appearance for topstitching.
 
For surging or overlocking use a 100 polyester thread in most cases. It's strong and works well for this type of work.
 
Avoid old thread. Yes thread gets weak with age. I can't tell you how many calls I have for a machine breaking thread and when I get there the thread is on a wooden spool. Thread on these spools is at least 40 years old.
 
Whenever you experience thread breakage try a couple different spools of thread and see if the problem goes away. Many times it will. Even the best threads have bad runs so always suspect the thread first.
 
Needles: Dull, bent, wrong size or old needles can create all kinds of problems. Click here to see why you should change your needle often. If your machine all of a sudden starts skipping, or breaking thread or experiencing any kind of stitching problem, change the needle. Be sure to use the correct needle for your machine and use the correct size for the thread and materials being sewn. A needle too large or too small can cause skipped stitches and or broken thread.
 
Make sure the new needle inserted all the way and is facing the correct way. In most cases, the flat side of the needle faces away from where you insert your bobbin. If the bobbin goes in from the front, then flat side of the needle goes to the rear (away from the operator). There are exceptions to this rule - most notably the Singer models 15-91, 201, 221, and 301. These machines do just the opposite. The flat side of the needle faces the bobbin. If you are in doubt, consult your users manual.
 
Tension adjustments:
This may be the biggest mystery in the sewing industry. It doesn't need to be. First, an untrained person should never adjust the bobbin tension. This is a very fine and usually tricky adjustment, one best left to the professionals. The good news is once it is set properly it rarely goes out of adjustment by its self.
 
The upper thread tension is user adjustable, but it usually does not require frequent adjustment. Most of the newer machines have numbers (0-9) on them. The factory setting is usually about # 4. Some have a red dot or some other type of indicator of the preset tension. Always use this setting unless you are doing some sort of special application that requires a different setting - i.e. buttonholes, basting, or any other special operation.
 
If you are having what you believe to be tension problems, it is often useful to use two different color threads. That way, you can see which one is really giving you the trouble. Just because you see a problem under the fabric does not mean it's a bobbin problem. Usually it's not.
 
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