Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sewing Machine Repairs You Can Do DIY

A sewing machine usually has a 25-year warranty on the head, but that doesn't cover everything that can go wrong. A sewing machine is relatively simple (if it's not a new electronic one) and you can probably repair and do the maintenance work yourself. We purchased our Kenmore sewing machine in 1974 for $200 new. It's on its second 25 years now, out of warranty and relying on our ability to keep it operating.

If all that's standing between you and sewing is that your machine doesn't work, it's time to take a look at it. You can troubleshoot your sewing machine and repair almost anything that keeps it from sewing. If your stitches are less than stellar because the sewing machine doesn't cooperate, check the basics:  bobbin, needle, thread and tension.
Here's how to make repairs and keep your sewing machine operating.

Start by unplugging your sewing machine. 

Your bobbin is either horizontal or vertical, and it is located under the feed dogs where the needle goes down. Remove the plate that covers the bobbin, remove the bobbin and clean everything in the bobbin area with a dry toothbrush. You need to remove all lint, fuzz and threads from the bobbin area and under the feed dogs. It doesn't take much lint to mess with the stitching and it's probably the most common problem with most sewing machines. You don't want to pay someone to clean this when you can do it yourself.

If your bobbin is uneven, too full or not filled with similar thread as the top thread, you may have loose threads and skipped stitches. Use a bobbin wound evenly with the same thread as the top. Also, cut the starting thread close so it doesn't hang out of the side hole. Assemble the bobbin by the instructions in your manual. You probably need to pull the thread through a slide that is the bobbin tension and listen for it to click into place. Once you have it right, you'll open the lever on the bobbin cover to insert it into place. This keeps the bobbin from falling out of the cover while you're working.

When you wind a bobbin, you loosen the little wheel on the big wheel. Don't forget to tighten the little wheel again. This common error may make you think your machine is broken. This repair takes the repairman ten seconds and costs you a minimum repair fee. 

Use the thumb screw to remove the needle. Check to see how it's installed -- the flat side usually faces the thumb screw, but check so you'll get it right. Change to a new needle. If your needle has a burr or is even slightly bent, your sewing machine will notice before you do. Don't trust your eyes on this -- just do it. It might save you repair expense. 

Use the manual to thread the sewing machine if you're having a problem. It may show you something you're doing wrong, a skipped guide or even threading the needle from the wrong side. The general idea is to place the thread on the spool holder and run the thread from behind to the first guide. You loop down around the tension guide and back up to the guide that moves up and down when you sew. Thread the guides down the side of the machine to the needle and thread the needle. Most of these machines call for threading the needle from the left or from front to back. Once you have a bobbin in the machine and thread from spool holder through the needle, you can turn the machine on to check the tension. 

If the sewing machine tension isn't correct, you'll have loops on one side of the fabric, skips in the stitches, or a thread that runs on the top or bottom of the fabric that pulls out easily. The sewing machine tension is regulated by a dial on the front of most machines, and experimentation is the best way to determine the correct adjustment.

The bobbin also has a tension adjustment that is a little screw on the cover. If you can't get the tension correct by adjusting the dial on the front, open the sole plate and remove the bobbin in the cover. Use a tiny screwdriver -- you probably got one with the sewing machine -- or a paperclip to loosen the tension. Remember lefty loosey and righty tighty when adjusting the tension screw.

Place a piece of fabric under the needle, close the presser foot and sew a few stitches.  Remove the fabric and check the stitching on each side. Pull on the fabric and see whether the top thread or the bottom thread breaks first. If neither breaks, you've got the tension right. 

General Issues

If your sewing machine sounds like rocks in a tin can, it probably needs oil. Unplug it and oil with sewing machine oil ONLY using the manual to locate the oil ports. Plug it back in and use some old fabric to test it and remove any oil drips. 

You no longer have a manual for your sewing machine? You can get all the information you need online. Check the brand website first, then look for helpful sites that have the scanned manuals available. I've never seen one I couldn't locate for free. A recent search for a newer Singer Simple directed me to WalMart and an excellent video for threading this new sewing machine. 

Feed Dogs
The feed dogs move the fabric through the needle path. If the feed dogs are lowered, your sewing machine won't move the fabric. Quilters and crafters lower the feed dogs to freestyle stitch, but if your sewing machine won't move the fabric, you need to check the owner's manual to see where the button or knob is to raise the feed dogs. It's usually on the base of the machine on the right side. 

Presser Foot
You probably have different presser feet attachments with your machine. You need a presser foot that has a horizontal opening if you use a zigzag stitch. A presser foot that has only a small hole works great for straight stitching with a straight needle, but if you change stitches often, it's a great opportunity for you to break a needle. Use a zigzag presser foot and avoid the danger. The tip of a broken needle may get under the feed dogs and waste your sewing time while you try to figure out why your machine won't work.

If you've been through all these procedures, your sewing machine should spin like a top. If it doesn't, review the manual or ask a friend who sews. Take your machine to a repairman as a last resort. We're always into saving money. We have published the Retirement Living Guide Tips and Recipes for Easy Cooking on Smashwords. You can read a large sample for free: 

Get ready to make Halloween costumes and Christmas gifts now that the weather is changing and you'll be indoors.



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