Before we get going, I just wanted to thank everyone for the discussion in my previous article, Three Tailoring Classes at Craftsy. The comments were hugely beneficial for me and touched on some deep issues such as how and when to turn an avocation into a vocation. Thank you for reading and contributing to the blog.
I haven’t had enough time to really get acquainted with my new Juki machine – that’s likely to take months. But a few things I’ve noticed:
- The thread cutter is a mixed blessing. It’s incredibly convenient to use, but once it cuts the threads it doesn’t leave a thread tail for the bobbin – the bobbin thread is kept inside the machine. When you start a new stitch, you often get a thread nest at the start of the stitch due to the loose bobbin thread. You can pull up the bobbin thread manually, but that sort of defeats the convenience of the thread cutter. I haven’t yet compared notes with other Juki owners on this issue, but I have read that this is an issue with brands other than Juki. Unless I learn something new here, I have a feeling I will skip the thread cutter on fine sewing projects.
- I’ve shut off the feature that activates the thread cutter when you press the foot pedal with your heel, after I accidentally hit it mid-stitch. I find I gravitate towards using the front panel controls to work the thread cutter anyway.
- The automatic needle threader isn’t as nice as the one on my old Brother PC-210. The Brother took more effort to actuate, but it got the needle threaded better than 95% of the time. My success rate with the Juki is more like 50%. It’s a minor nit, but it’s galling that a $300 machine outperforms the Juki in this regard.
- I’m having to get used the timing on this machine – It accelerates and decelerates a little differently than my Brother, so I’m still working out when to left off on the pedal to reach the end of a seam.
- I’m getting used to using the knee lift feature, and the more I use it the more I like it. It does make handling the fabric easier and quicker.
- I love the single button access to the common stitches on the front panel of the machine, and the dials to set stitch length and width. The engineer in me loves being able to see numeric values for these things.
- Feeding fabric on this machine is sure and smooth, and in general it’s a joy to sew with.
But I have one “getting started” experience I’d like to share.
I’ve resumed the task of fitting the Thread Theory Jedediah Pants pattern (you can see the earlier entries in this series here, here, here and here). This time around, I purchased some actual muslin to prepare fitting muslins, and I’ve sewed up several of them at this point. (More on this topic in a future article).
I’ve been using primarily the straight stitch set to max length as a basting stitch for joining the pieces. And I’ve also been using the overcasting stitch to finish the edges of the muslin pieces. This may be overkill, but I hate dealing with fraying fabric and I wanted more excuses to use the machine.
My love affair with the new machine tarnished fairly quickly after the machine started shredding the top thread. Individual filaments unraveled, leaving the outer filaments of the thread bunched up in the thread takeup, and the single central filament in the needle.
The first and even second times this happened, I dismissed it as a fluke. The third time it happened, I knew I had a problem on my hands.
With a brand new machine, your first thought is, “is it me or is it the machine?” It’s hard to answer that because you don’t have a history with the machine and aren’t familiar with its quirks. My big concern was that machine had a manufacturing defect in the thread pathway somewhere, meaning a trip back to the dealer or to Juki for warranty service.
Still, I stuck with it. I kept putting in thread to see if the problem was repeatable. It was, happening randomly but about twice per sewn musllin. I tried changing thread, tension and needle but the problem remained. I use Gutermann thread most of the time, so unless their quality has gone downhill I didn’t have a reason to suspect poor quality thread.
I got the bright idea to note where the bunch-up was occurring each time the thread jammed. Every time, it was in the final column of the thread take-up right before the thread goes to the needle.
Then I noticed the thread bunching up right in the final guide right before thread feeds to the needle. The arrow highlights the bunched-up thread.
I moved the thread back and forth, and noticed that the thread catched in this guide. Further inspection with a magnifying glass showed that Juki put a groove there to intentionally catch the thread. Maybe this was the source of the problem?
I sewed some more. Listening to the machine while sewing, it made odd tick noises at random intervals. I had the overcasting foot on all this time, so I switched back to the regular zigzag foot but left the machine set to overcast stitch. The odd ticking noises stopped. And with the zigzag foot, I sewed through an entire bobbin’s worth of thread without a problem.
I put the overcast foot back on again. It has a little metal flange on it. While sewing, I noticed the machine sinks the needle perilously close to that little flange.
I suspect (but am not sure) that the little metal flange is a bit to close to the needle, causing both the ticking sound and shredding the thread filaments. Once the thread is shredded, the filaments bunch up earlier in the thread takeup mechanism.
I put on a different overcasting foot than the one supplied by Juki (subject of yet another article), selected the overcast stitch once again, and ran the machine through another bobbins’ worth of stitches without a hitch.
Problem solved, much to my relief. I’d rather replace a $10 overcasting foot than deal with a defective machine.