Sewing machines sometimes seem to have a life of their own when it comes to working properly or not. Fortunately, many common sewing problems can be fixed or prevented just by making sure the machine is set up properly and has regular maintenance. Furthermore, many other problems may be easily resolved by slightly altering the methods by which one sews.
Sewing Machine Manual
The machine's manual should always be reviewed for troubleshooting steps when problems arise. It is a necessary source for information regarding machine maintenance and proper settings. While locating the manual could certainly be a problem for some users, all is not lost. Sewing machine manuals can be found and purchased online at eBay or by contacting the manufacturer. It's best to keep the manual near the machine along with other common supplies such as needles and scissors.
Common Sewing Machine Problems
With the manual on hand along with the following tips, many of the most common sewing problems can be resolved.
1. Machine Not Sewing
If the machine is simply not sewing or has other related errors, the easiest thing to check is whether the thread and needle are set up properly.
Threading the Machine
Check that the machine is threaded properly according the manual. When threading the machine, remember to always do so with the presser foot up, which releases the tension. Once threaded, putting the presser foot down will apply tension to the thread.
Sewing Machine Needle
Be sure that the needle is locked and facing the correct direction for the machine. If it's not, the thread will not be picked up by the hook when sewing. The flat side of the needle shank faces away from the bobbin insertion point in most machines. Blunt or damaged needles can contribute to a number of sewing problems, so don't wait until the needle is broken to change it.
Fabric Not Feeding or Is Jamming
Both the presser foot and feed dog may have raise and lower settings. Without enough pressure on the fabric from the presser foot, the feed dog cannot do its job. On the other hand, having the presser foot too low may cause too much pressure or prevent the fabric from feeding through, causing jams. Check that the feed dog is in its raised position when sewing. If the feed dog seems to be jammed, it may be due to lint and debris.
2. Breaking Needles
The needle is often the easiest part of a sewing machine to change; that's fortunate because it is also the part most prone to wear. Needles may break due to simple reasons like prolonged use or hitting a straight pin; these breaks can be difficult to predict. However, needles also break from very controllable factors such as forcing the fabric through the feed or by using the wrong needle. Forcing the fabric rather than allowing the feed dog to do its job can bend or break the needle; a bent needle may hit the hook when sewing, which can lead to broken needles and damage to the hook.
Using the wrong size needle is often the culprit of a broken needle. Needle size should be relative to the thickness of the material being sewn. American needle sizes range from 8-19 while European sizes range from 60-120. Needles will often be listed with both sizes, such as 70/10. There are also specialty needles for fabrics such as leather and denim.
3. Skipping Stitches
Skipped stitches are usually due to a bad needle. The needle may have become damaged or bent by sewing material too thick for the needle, forcing material through the feed dog, or hitting a straight pin. If the problem seems to be consistently reoccurring, it may be due to forcing the fabric. Sewers should allow the feed dog to pull the fabric and only use their hands to guide the fabric through the feed. When sewing knitted fabrics, using a stretch needle can help prevent skipped stitches.
4. Sewing Machine Thread Is Tangling, Bunching, or Breaking
Having the thread not cooperate as intended is a problem that can lead to stress among those who sew. The good news is that thread problems usually arise from very fixable issues.