Please help me tame my sewing machine.

I bought a sewing machine yesterday. Haven’t used one in years, but I didn’t think I’d have that much of a problem relearning. :rolleyes:

I got it threaded all right, or at least I thought I did. Tried stitching the first seam…and immediately broke the needle. :frowning: Thought it must have hit one of the pins holding the pattern to the fabric. Replaced the needle, tried again, same thing. :confused:

Replaced the needle again, and, since this is the last one, tried stitching ve…ry…ve…ry…slow…ly. Turns out, the needle is hitting the sides of the presser foot, instead of going through the little hole in the middle like it’s supposed to.

Reset the width numerous times: same thing every time. When I set the needle, it’s poised right above the hole, but as soon as I start stitching, it jogs first to one side, then the other, always hitting one side of the presser foot instead of going down into the fabric. :mad:

Either I did something wrong in threading the machine, or there’s a way to get the presser foot to hold steady that I’m not doing. The last thing I did before starting this [SDMB] thread was to take the presser foot off entirely. Needle jumped madly all over the place for a few seconds, then stopped when the thread was hopelessly snarled.

So can anyone help?

My first gut reaction is that it’s set on the zig-zag stitch. If this is a newfangled sewing machine (which I’m guessing it is) I don’t know if I can help you on how to configure it (I have a 14-year-old machine and one that was made in the 1970s). However, that’s what it sounds like to me.

On my vintage machines, there is usually a dial or switch somewhere on the front of the sewing machine with little pictures of the straight stitch and zig-zag stich (and serpentine stitch, etc.) and you have to set it to the kind of stitch you want. Also, you need to use the appropriate foot for the kind of stitch you are using. The foot for a zig-zag is going to have a wider opening so the needle won’t be hitting the metal part of the foot and breaking.

Also, I usually avoided stitching without a foot, so I don’t know if it’s common for the thread to snarl up like that—but it might. I just don’t have much experience with that.

Forgive me if this is all very obvious to you and not at all your problem, but that’s what it sounds like to me. Hope I can be of help! :slight_smile:

Yeah, that just might be it! The thing is, though, they (the machine came with a how-to-get-started video) told me to use that setting for this task! I’m attaching the zipper, just so you know: that’s what they said to do first. But either a setting other than zig-zag, or the correct foot, will probably get me back on line.

Well, I didn’t really expect it to work without the foot. I was just trying to isolate the problem. They also told me to change from the regular foot to the zipper one, which led me to believe that I hadn’t attached it properly and it was too loose. It still might be, but I’ll worry about that after I’ve found the correct stitch setting and the correct foot. (Does zig-zag sound right for attaching a zipper?)

No, this is not obvious to me, and it does sound plausible. Thank you for responding!

I’m not going to mess with it any more tonight, but tomorrow I’ll post an update. Meanwhile, if anyone else would like to chime in, they’re welcome!

(Also, do sewing machine needles cost very much?)

Yeah, that’s what it sounds like to me.

Not really. I’m guessing that maybe they wanted you to do a basting stitch first? It’s been a while since I sewed a zipper, but I don’t remember zig-zag being any part of it.

It’s been a while since I bought one (I have stockpiled so many notions and it’s been a while since I sewed), but no, needles shouldn’t cost that much. A few dollars for a pack was how much they cost, last I checked.

Dang these new-fangled machines! I agree about the zig-zag setting, but a zipper foot won’t help you out. This foot is for stitching quite close to the teeth on a zipper.It’ll give you the maximum swing on one side, but a very narrow one on the other.These days the “normal” or standard presser foot usually accomodates the swings of the zig-zag stitch. Have you checked the top tension on your machine? It may be set too high and is actually drawing up the needle, causing the “twitching”, especially if you’re using invisible thread which can be quite recalcitrant. I would definitely re-thread the machine, sometimes the simplest procedure will solve the problem[half the time it does] Good luck, and re-post before you throw the darn thing against the wall. Been THERE more than a few times.

Okay, now y’all have got me confused! :slight_smile:

First, I will check the video to be sure they really said to use the zig-zag stitch and the zipper foot, and to check that I’m correct on the other settings.

Second, I will check the instruction booklet to be sure that the foot I’m using is the zipper foot (assuming that’s what’s called for).

Third, I will rethread the machine.

If they really did tell me to use zig-zag and zipper, then perhaps they’re wrong, in which case I will try another stitch and the regular foot. I’m fairly certain that I attached the foot properly; I don’t see what I could have done differently, at any rate. :confused:

I said from the start that I was not going to let this new endeavor stress me out. I will progress slowly until I get it right.

Also, a friend is coming to visit tomorrow. I have reason to think that she might know how to work a sewing machine. Interestingly, I chose the material for this project with the intention of giving it to her. Now it’s a matter of, if I do a good job, it’s for her. :wink:

quiltguy is right about the standard foot—it should accomodate a zig-zag stitch. I had a brain fart there for a moment and didn’t think of that. :wink:

But since you’re using a zipper foot, he’s right—you can’t zig-zag with that.

Don’t sweat it. It doesn’t sound like you are. Personally, if I were you, I’d shelve the zipper idea for a little while and just try to get a regular stitch on regular fabric, then try all the different stitches and just get used to your machine. Goof around a little. It’ll be fine. :slight_smile:

Keep us posted on your progress!

Yeah, I think I’ll do that. It’s just that the video said “You must start by attaching the zipper”, and because I’m new at this, I didn’t even think to question that :smack:. I’ll try just attaching two pieces of scrap fabric until I have the hang of that, then tackle the rest of the project (it’s a tote bag), and then get back to the zipper.

Thank you again! I’ll let you know what happens.

Check the tension of the thread.

Is the needle you are using meant for whatever kind of material you are working with? If it is meant for a lightweight fabric and you are working with denim ( or multiple layers as it seems you are) this will snap the needle easily.

Is the thread getting wadded up on the underneath of the fabric? If yes, it isn’t feeding properly. Your sewing machine wants steak and potatoes :stuck_out_tongue:

Also, does the top spool thread and the little doohickey of thread spool that goes inside the machine ( I’ve just had a brainfart, excuse me.) are they the same type of thread? I have ruined more needles until someone explained to me that you cannot mix your threads: Quilting threads and general all purpose threads used at the same time will screw up everything, if you get the picture. **Top thread and bottom thread must be the same kind of thread. **

Look through the trouble shooting guide in the instruction manual.

Bobbin. The missing word is bobbin.

Other than that, I can’t help much. My sewing machine is an old Singer Lightweight, made in 1941. I’m sure yours is more technical than mine! And besides, I barely use it!

**BOBBIN! **
That’s it.
Thank you for ending my misery.

I agree it is probably the tension. My mom sews alot, she started when she was like 6 yrs old and is now 76. Guess what she lives in Long Beach with me, so send me an email and I will see if we can persuade her to help you. She can sit at a machine and have it sewing like a charm in a couple of minutes.

But on your own, what you need to do is take some scrap material and sew on them while you set your tension right.

Note: Mom owns a Singer Featherweight sewing machine from the 1940s and it still is the best machine I have ever seen.

Yes, that may be another piece of the puzzle.

It’s the right kind of needle, and I’m not using a heavy fabric. I was sewing on a zipper, which may cause the same complications as denim, but right now that’s moot, until I can get the needle to actually hit the fabric.

No, no wadding up, but again, moot point until I can stitch anything at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s my next hurdle, though.

They’re the exact same thread. I filled up the bobbin from the top thread spool.

I did. They don’t seem to directly address this problem.


It was fine until it broke! :wink:

No, I made sure to check that.

…maybe. Or maybe it’s too loose! But first I have to get to the bottom of this presser foot thing.

No, I made sure of that, too.

No. And anyway, it’s a lightweight fabric.

Other conditions (needle thread breaks, bobbin thread breaks, skipped stitches, seam puckering, cloth not feeding smoothly, machine doesn’t work—I love that one. “Machine is not plugged in/turned on.”—and noisy operation) don’t apply at all.

I’ll give it another shot this afternoon or evening and let y’all know. Thanks again!

There is another factor that might be coming into play. I have heard (anecdotally) that some of the newer machines do not work well with cheap thread, including ordinary Coats & Clark. Many people have reported that their problems evaporated when they switched to Gutermann or Mettler thread.

What kind of machine do you have? I think we might be able to give you better answers if we knew what you were using.

Kenmore. I got it at Sears. And the thread is Coats & Clarke.

It’s true. I’ve given up on Coats and Clark. I use the Gutterman (or however you spell it) thread. It makes all the difference in my newer machine. I absolutely cannot use the cheaper stuff.

I have a Kenmore.

I use Coats & Clark.

This explains alot.

It really does.
It just may not pay to be a cheapskate.

On carefully reviewing the video, it turns out that they didn’t tell me to use zig-zag stitch after all. What happened was (and I can hear Mr. Rilch saying "A good artist does not blame his tools) that the visual showed the wheel being turned slowly past zig-zag, and then resting on straight stitch for less than a second, while the voiceover mumbled “width setting five” in such a way that I heard “stitch setting five”. So that’s that: I was always supposed to use a straight stitch (with the zipper presser foot); they just made it about as clear as pea soup.

Nothing wrong with the tension, or the needle threading. Tried a few practice seams, and Coats & Clarke did not let me down.

Managed to get the zipper attached to the pocket, and the pocket attached to the side of the bag. Close up, it looks like a five year old did it, but I chose a pattern in a busy fabric, and carefully matched the thread, so from a distance, it’s good enough for cable. I was also supposed to do a decorative stitch on either side of the zipper. Suffice to say that I’m going to have to cultivate a very steady hand before I can do that the way it’s really supposed to look. But for now, at least it somewhat disguises my crooked functional stitching.

One more obstacle: I sewed right over the “mouth” of the zipper, and now it won’t open. Well, manana for that. Again I say, I’m not going to tackle the whole thing at once.