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How to Troubleshoot Your Sewing Machine

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Sewing machines may seem as though they are experiencing large problems when only small solutions are needed. Many sewing machines come with a few tools to do repairs, along with directions. Here are some small problems to check for before you look into costly repairs.

Troubleshooting Your Machine:

  1. Empty bobbin: This makes it impossible to create any stitches. It may seem like a simple thing to overlook, but it happens to many beginning sewers. Don't forget to fill your bobbin and thread it into your machine according to your sewing machine's manual or the diagram on your sewing machine.

  2. Wrong needles: You will end up with wavy lines or snagged fabric. There are ballpoint needles for sewing through knits (the rounded tip won't catch on the fabric) and sharp needles for sewing through woven fabrics. Using a universal needle can help avoid this problem but might not produce the best results every time.

  3. Bent needles: These cause skipped stitches. Needles can bend when you sew over a pin or pull fabric through too quickly. Changing a sewing machine needle only takes a minute.

  4. Dull needles: This problem also causes wavy lines or snagged fabric. Replace needles every two or three projects, depending on the size of the project. If you are sewing on smooth fabrics, like silk, make sure to replace the needle before beginning the project.

  5. Lint in machine: A dusty machine can cause the thread to knot or make uneven stitches. Lint will always form, but you can reduce it by using higher quality thread and cleaning your sewing machine with canned air or a small sewing machine lint brush.

  6. Incorrect threading: This causes irregular stitches. Sometimes you can fix uneven stitches by rethreading the bobbin and the upper thread. Just take it all out, make sure the presser foot is all the way up, and rethread according to your sewing machine's manual.

  7. Worn bobbin: This issue can cause uneven stitches. Metal bobbins aren't likely to have this problem, but the edges of plastic bobbins can wear down, causing them to wobble when spinning. Check the bobbin's edges before every use.

Preventing Sewing Machine Problems:

  1. Regular professional maintenance will considerably lengthen the life of your sewing machine. Most towns have a sewing machine repair shop; this is a great place to turn to when you are unsure about problems with your sewing machine or when these troubleshooting steps don't solve the problem. It's recommended that you take your sewing machine in for a tune-up once a year. This usually costs about $50, but prices vary, so you may want to call around and compare prices.

  2. Performing home maintenance is essential to keeping your sewing machine running well. Tighten loose screws regularly with the screwdriver that came with your machine. You can also oil your machine to prevent wear with the clear oil meant only for sewing machines (don't borrow oil from the kitchen or garage!). Your manual will direct you to the parts which need to be oiled. Sewing on some scrap fabric after oiling will catch any excess oil.

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