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How to Repair Old Sewing Machines by Adjusting the Bobbin
Have you ever felt the helplessness that comes when your sewing machine grabs your fabric and takes it into the regions of the bobbin case? -It's only after much tugging and coaxing that the chewed and worn fabric is retrieved.
If your fabric disappears into the throat plate of your machine, the techniques you use to start sewing may be the cause. Pull both the needle and bobbin thread behind the pressure foot and hold with the left hand. Lower the needle into the fabric about one-fourth inch from the edge before lowering the pressure foot. Sew three or four stitches, then back stitch a couple of stitches. If the machine tends to eat the fabric when zigzagging, try using a multiple zigzag stitch that sews three stitches when it zigs and three when it zags. If utility stitches disappear into the throat plate, try typing paper, tissue paper, or adding machine paper under the design. A tear away stabilizer can also be used and works well under buttonholes on soft fabrics.
If your sewing machine just will not sew, the answer may be as simple as not having the machine correctly threaded. When I was a school teacher, I found the major reason for the machine not sewing was the students often did not get the needle thread hooked over the small wire and hook on the tension dial on some machines.
If there are problems with the bobbin thread knotting, check that the bobbin is inserted correctly into the bobbin case. Be sure the bobbin thread is fairly long before you start to sew.
Many stitching problems begin with the thread. There is a great range in the quality of thread available. Some long staple polyester threads are fine thread, other cotton covered polyester and all polyester thread are thicker threads. Still other thread, most often the very inexpensive kind, will sometimes have thick and thin spots. If you have had thread on hand for quite some time and it breaks when you use it, it may be dry. Put it in the refrigerator for several hours to' 'moisturize it."
Needles are another thing that can cause problems. Needles should be changed frequently and the correct size used for the type of fabric. For most sewing a size 11 or 12 works well. If a needle gets dull the machine will often make more noise and the stitches can looked pulled or the fabric snagged. The machine will not sew if the needle is inserted incorrectly.
The flat side of the needle should be away from the direction the needle threads. A ball point needle is designed for knit fabric, and should not be used on woven fabrics. A sharp needle can be used on both woven and knit fabric. Burrs on needles can occur from sewing over pins. I recommend removing pins before reaching them to prevent damage to the needle or possibly the machine.
Many older machines have a pressure button on top of the machine. It can be pushed down and snapped up or adjusted by screwing in or out. If the fabric does not feed through like it should, check the pressure, and push or screw it down an additional amount. Start with the pressure one half the way down and adjust as needed.
If the fabric does not feed through the machine, another area to check is the height of the feed dogs. Some machines have a button to lower the feed dogs to darn, and this can get accidentally adjusted. Run your finger over the feed dogs, and if you can barely feel them, they are adjusted down or badly worn. New feed dogs can be installed if needed.
When sewing lightweight fabric, it may draw up at the seam line. A cause can be too long of stitches, the tension too tight, wrong type of thread, or wrong size of needle. Try shortening the stitches and loosening the tension. Use a size 9 needle on lightweight cotton fabrics.
Another cause can be winding the bobbin too fast therefore putting too much tension on the bobbin thread. After the seam is sewn, it may pucker because the thread relaxes. Also, uneven winding of the thread on the bobbin can cause problems. Slight puckering can be removed by pressing seams flat, then pressing open or to one side.
An older machine can give good service for many years if it is given proper care. Clean and oil regularly, and remove lint as it builds up.
Giordano, John The Sewing Machine Guide: Tips on Choosing, Buying, and Refurbishing 1997