Friday, June 3, 2011

Sewing Machines and Operator Error...

I'm a little embarrassed this morning.

You see, last night, I was sewing away, when my sewing machine started to snag the fabric and I thought "I know what to do! This sewing machine needs a new needle!" bubbling with confidence that this was in fact, something that I was capable of doing. And I easily changed the needle in a few seconds. Or at least I thought I did...

I began to sew again. And the stitches were like an inch long. I played with the tension. I readjusted the needle. The stitches remained erratic and weird looking. I took the needle out yet again. I tried another needle thinking, maybe there was something wrong with this brand new one, fresh out of the pack.

But by then it was beginning to dawn on me. Maybe those problems that my other sewing machine was having wasn't entirely the machines own fault. Maybe it was.... Operator Error...

I began to have an inkling that my bubbling confidence was misplaced.

Now let me say that, with the other sewing machine, I read the part in the manual about replacing the needle and the bobbin and cleaning the bobbin casing. I read it over and over again when I was struggling with a not fun bobbin casing problem. And nowhere do I remember reading a part that explained that a sewing machine needle has a front and a back.

You see, there are things that are just assumed to be known by people with even minimal intelligence when sewing I guess. And somehow I missed that part.

You would think, that, while taking the needle out and putting it back in over and over again I would have randomly gotten it right something like 50% of the time. This was not the case. Reviewing the past few weeks I think the odds I achieved were more like a 90% failure rate when inserting the needle.

After a solid half hour of panicking I was looking at the needle and wondering what the heck I should do and realized that one side was flat and the other was round. And it dawned on me that the flat side should probably go against the back. Voila! The sewing machine was revived and worked perfectly... and I was (and am) a bit embarrassed (although apparently not embarrassed enough to keep from sharing it here or from calling my mom and saying "Do you know what was wrong all this time with the other sewing machine and now this one?!?! Me!" or something along those lines...).

So yeah... if you're new at sewing... those machine needles have two sides... and if your machine is like mine, you need to put the flat side against the back...

I am still thrilled to be using this other, much more sturdy sewing machine though. It can actually sew through more than two pieces of cotton at a time... and that is saving me hours every night...

Any common sense sewing machine tips from all you sewing experts are very much appreciated. You now have a clear idea of how sewing-machine-impaired I obviously am!


  1. In computer terms, that's known as a PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard.) I guess in your case, it would be PEBCASM (problem exists between chair and sewing machine?). :)

    Just kidding. I am jealous of your sewing skills; I'm afraid I have neither the time nor the talent to make such beautiful things!

  2. I'm constantly amazed at how many different ways I can make mistakes with this thing! :)

  3. *giggles* My mom taught me to sew. She also taught me to put in the needle and how to thread the bobbin. But every machine is different.

    I realized after not having used my machine after a while that I was looping the thread through backwards. I "thought" I remembered the instructions enough to not need to rely on the diagram with the bobbin threader thingy. Now I know I need to review them every time.

    It happens even to people who've been theoretically sewing for a long time.

    I suppose my advice is to read everything: the package the needles came in, the instruction manual, even online set-up, just in-case it's human error not machine problems before tossing a perfectly good machine.

    Sewing machines are more complicated than a computer. At least they are to me. Part of it is more manual set-up and having to work with really tiny things. Plugging in speakers is a piece of cake compared to getting thread through the eye. And once you've set up the computer, you're done. But you always have to keep setting up a sewing machine for a new project.

  4. Awww.. Thanks for sharing though, I'm sure I'd end up doing something similar when I get a working machine (praying that's soon!)

  5. Ops. Haha. I've done it too. My mom taught me that a few years back when I was SOOO lost. I still am not a great sewer. But I'll learn to do that after I finish learning to Kint, and crochet and cross stitch and maybe needle point. Ok So I'm not very crafty but I'm working on it.

  6. Don't feel bad on this one. I started sewing when I was 9 or so and worked in the theater costume shop at my college for all four years. The week I graduated from college I got a "new" (old) sturdy sewing machine (much like your's) and couldn't get the thing to work for months. I finally took it to the local sewing machine shop where they showed me in 5 seconds how to properly put the needle in the machine.

    RM in MO

  7. Your experience is important to those who are learning too, which is why you're not that shy in sharing. I've made many mistakes too. Here are some of them:

    Always read the manual. I don't care if you've used many machines before. They're all different and sometimes a new "feature" is added or they move something. If you don't have a manual go to the internet. Often the manual is there, even on the older machines.

    Wind the bobbin exactly as instructed. I would be lazy and leave the machine threaded through the needle, bring the thread up top and wind the bobbin that way. It will bend your needle and the thread will wind with bad tension. Don't do it.

    Never knot your thread to the bobbin to get the thread to stay. This will damage your machine when the bobbin thread runs out. I've seen it done though not done it myself.

    Always put the bobbin in the bobbin case correctly. If you pull the thread your bobbin should spin clockwise in the case. This is on a front loader - doesn't apply to top loader.

    Always install the bobbin case in the bobbin housing correctly. If it's not locked in it will make a big mess.

    I have a top loader that if you don't run the thread through the chase before pulling the thread through the plate then the tension will be off. haha That took me a while to figure out.

    Clean your machine often of lint. And oil your machine every 12-18 hours if it needs to be oiled (some are self oiling).

    Have fun and share your sewing machine problems when you have them.


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