These are some common tools used to work on this device. You might not need every tool for every procedure.
Background and Identification
A sewing machine is a machine used to stitch fabric, cards, and other material together with thread. Sewing machines were invented during the first Industrial Revolution to decrease the amount of manual sewing work performed in clothing companies. Since the invention of the first working sewing machine—generally considered to have been the work of Englishman Thomas Saint in 1790—the sewing machine has vastly improved the efficiency and productivity of fabric, clothing, and needle industries. Home sewing machines are similar—designed for one person to manually sew individual items while using a single stitch type. Modern sewing machines are designed in such a way that the fabric easily glides in and out of the machine without the hassle of needles and thimbles and other such tools used in hand sewing, automating the process of stitching and saving time.
Thread bunching up under your fabric when sewing
If you are seeing knots of extra thread on the underside of your sewing, start by removing your sewing from the machine and cut through all the excess thread to get it free. Remove your top thread and carefully re-thread the sewing machine according to the threading schematic provided in your machine’s user manual (if you still have it). While threading, be sure that your presser foot is up, as many machines lock the tension disks when the pressure foot is down, making it impossible to thread the machine properly. Next, remove and re-thread your bobbin, making sure it is unwinding the correct way (again, consult your sewing machine’s manual). Check to make sure you are using the same type of thread in the bobbin and top thread, as different thread weights can cause the machine to draw threads at different speeds, causing tangles and knots. Also, take a look at your tension settings and make sure the setting is appropriate for your type of fabric (heavy versus delicate. Use a piece of your project’s scrap fabric to test the settings before resuming work on your project.
Bent or broken needles
It is generally recommended to use a new needle for a new project to prevent the needles from getting dull or hooked at the tip. Knit fabrics should be sewn with a ballpoint needle or jersey needle while leather, vinyl, or denim requires sharp, sturdy needles. If your needle bends or breaks, stop sewing and carefully remove the broken needle. Replace the needle and install it according to your machine’s user manual. Re-thread the needle and continue your project. If you continue to have issues with needles bending or breaking but are using the correct needle, you may have a mechanical issue with the machine’s timing mechanism, which may require expert repair.
Fabric not feeding
If your sewing machine has a drop-feed setting, make sure that it is not activated and that you do not have an embroidery or darning plate covering the machine’s feed dogs. A set of feed dogs generally resembles two or three short, thin metal bars with crosscut diagonal teeth that move back and forth in slots in the machine’s needle plate. Make sure that your presser foot is down and is set to the correct pressure for your fabric. When starting a seam, make sure that the fabric is underneath the machine’s needle before lowering your presser foot.
Thread keeps breaking
This problem is most likely caused by not using the correct thread type. Your top and bottom threads should be of the same weight, and the threads should not be the delicate variants designed for hand sewing. If your thread continues to break after re-threading the top thread, lower the tension settings for the top thread.
The machine is skipping stitches
A skipped stitch occurs when the top thread is not reaching the bobbin and the threads do not lock properly. Check to make sure that your needle is installed correctly, is not bent or damaged, and that you are using the correct needle type for your project. Re-thread the sewing machine and test it with a scrap piece of fabric from your project. If the machine continues to skip stitches, there may be a problem with its timing mechanism, which may require professional help.
Bobbin tension not consistent
If you have to constantly adjust your bobbin’s tension, check that the bobbin itself is not worn down. Worn plastic bobbins can become loose, causing the tension to become inconsistent. Replace the worn bobbin with a new plastic or metal bobbin that is not worn.
Sewing machine seizes up or won’t sew
If your sewing machine becomes stuck, you may need to help it by turning the handwheel, especially when you are just starting a seam. If the handwheel does not turn easily or the machine does not start with some assistance, your fabric might be too tough for your machine. If you are not using a tough fabric, make sure that your needle is properly installed, is not bent, and is the correct needle type. If your machine continues to not move, check your manual for cleaning and maintenance instructions. Built-up fuzz, lint, or dust can make your machine’s mechanisms stop working.
The needle comes unthreaded before sewing
Before threading the sewing machine, make sure that the needle is at the highest point in its path. Wind the handwheel toward yourself to advance the machine while watching the needle. Some machines may have an “up/down” function that allows the user to raise or lower the needle automatically to its highest or lowest point.
Fabric or threads are bunching at the start or end of seams
Bunching or tangles threads at the ends of seams are often caused by backstitching (also called back-tacking) over the ends of the fabrics. Backstitching changes the tensions and causes tangles. To avoid this, sew an extra few millimeters into your fabric before backstitching at the beginning of seams so that the backstitches are not over the edge. When ending a seam, backstitch before you come to the edge and then sew straight off of the piece for a clean finish.
Thread inconsistently knots, loosens, or tangles
Small bits of lint and dust can build up inside your sewing machine and cause issues like inconsistent tension, knots, or tangles. Avoid these problems by regularly cleaning your sewing machine according to the instructions in your user manual. Unless recommended by your manual, avoid using cans of compressed air, as the air can drive small pieces of lint or dust further into the machine.
Thread fraying, shredding, and breaking
Thread fraying, shredding, and breaking is likely due to a needle problem. Make sure that your needle is large enough for the thread to pass through the eye without pulling or catching.
The machine is making strange noises
If you hear unexpected thumps, clunks, or clangs coming from your machine, stop sewing immediately. The machine may just need a good cleaning, so consult your user manual for the recommended cleaning and maintenance procedure. After cleaning the machine, test it on a piece of scrap fabric. If you continue to hear unusual noises, there is most likely a more complicated problem at play.
The machine is running, but the needle won’t move
If your machine is running but the needle is not moving, check that the lever or winding post for your bobbin is in the correct position, as your machine is likely set in bobbin-winding mode.
Decorative stitch settings aren’t working
If your machine has a variety of decorating stitch settings, check your length and width settings. Most decorative stitch settings require specific settings to work properly. Consult your user manual to check that you are using the correct settings for the desired type of stitch.
Seams are puckered and distorted
If your seams are coming out distorted or puckered, check the weight of the thread you are using. A thick or stiff thread can cause distortion in lightweight fabrics and alter your tension settings. If the thread is sufficiently lightweight for the project, check the machine’s tension settings. An uneven feed can be another culprit for distorted seams, so check that your presser foot pressure is correct and that your feed dogs are working properly. Using a walking foot can help even out the feed for heavyweight or slippery fabrics.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important to know the single parts of your sewing machines?
Knowing the basic parts of your sewing machine and how it works enables the user to properly use the machine and make troubleshooting easier when problems arise. Knowing the parts of your sewing machine will also make it easier to follow instructions and perform basic maintenance. It is also important to know how to clean and lubricate the appropriate parts.
How often should I have my sewing machine cleaned and serviced?
When you should have your sewing machine serviced and cleaned depends on how often the sewing machine is used and the type of sewing done on the machine. Cotton fabrics and thread cause more lint to build up in your machine than if you are sewing with nylon or other fabrics. Servicing and cleaning your machine helps it to operate smoothly. If your sewing machine has been in storage for a long time, it will likely require servicing because the lubricants can dry up over time. If you use your sewing machine regularly, it may need to be serviced once a year.
What are the advantages of a sewing machine?
From a repair perspective, sewing machines can be used to repair worn, torn, or unused clothes by yourself. Having a sewing machine and preparing your own clothing, backpacks, and bags will help you to save money. Sewing machines are also much faster than hand sewing, saving sewers time. Sewing machines are also very convenient, once you learn how to use the machine. As opposed to hand sewing, sewing machines produce professional-quality stitches that are hard to achieve when sewing by hand.
- Wikipedia: Sewing Machine
- Sewing Machines Plus
- 17 Common Sewing Machine Problems and How to Solve Them
Bernina 830,831,832 Adjustment manual Bernina_830_831_832_adj.pdf