The Sewing Machine is Back

My sewing machine came back from the repair shop yesterday.

IMG_1520Mid-week, I got a phone call from the tech I spoke with when I originally dropped off the machine. The verdict: he couldn’t find anything wrong with the machine.

This was not the answer I had been hoping for.  I always hate when you take something in for service because it has an intermittent problem.  More often than not, it works great for the tech that’s trying to fix it, and then you wind up back at square one.

He put it through its paces, and didn’t find anything out of line in terms of behavior. He did say the machine could use some lubrication, but that it wasn’t absolutely necessary.  They could go ahead and do a tune-up, but that it wasn’t likely to have any bearing on the problems I noticed with the machine.  Or I could just come back and pick up the machine, no charge.

I thought about it for a night – this is a $90 tune-up repair on a $300-ish machine – and decided to go ahead with it.  After the service was finished, I brought it home and started playing with it.

With some Gutermann black thread, stitching samples on some scraps of my purple plaid shirting fabric, the machine performed just fine.  I can tell they did something to the machine. For one, the mechanism sounds slightly different.  Not in a bad way, just — different.  There’s a few more mechanical clicks I didn’t hear before.

Another way I can tell they actually did something to the machine is that the stitch length is now calibrated differently.  The default stitch length (chosen by the machine unless you override it) is noticeably longer than before.  I measured it with my seam gauge, and it now seems to be about 4 stitches per centimeter, or about 2.5 mm.

Looking at some “before” stitching samples, the machine’s default had been about 5 stitches per centimeter, or 2.0 mm. The instruction manual says the default straight stitch length is 2.5, so it looks like they fixed the machine to be on-spec.

They also slapped a sticker on the side of the machine. It covers the seam at the case halves.

IMG_1521I’m guessing this is so they can tell if I’ve busted into my own machine, so they can’t be held responsible if I mess things up on my own.  I’m okay with that, but I’m not okay with the sticker.  At least I’ll know who to call when it breaks again, I suppose.

I loaded the machine up with my greenish-yellow Madeira thread and resumed work on the yellow shirt that’s currently in progress.  I got the side seams done and flat-felled, as well as the sleeves and bottom hem.

IMG_1525How does the machine perform now? Better than before, but I still have encountered a few problems.  I got a few skipped stitches while finishing one of the side seams, and also a thread nest on the bottom hem.  On the hem, I actually saw and heard the bobbin jump in the bobbin holder right before the thread nested.

It could be a bobbin winding/tension issue, or else my machine might be allergic to this Madeira thread I’m using.  I have a sampler pack I purchased from Nancy’s Notions, and only rarely use the stuff.  In this case, it was a good color match for the project. The machine had no problems with the black Gutermann thread I tried.

I think it will take some more time on the machine to find out if it’s simply a thread issue, or maybe something else I’m not doing properly. For instance, I retightened the needle just in case. Perhaps the skipped stitches happened because I’m using a 70/10 needle for this shirting fabric and that’s just a little too fine.

In the meantime, the machine is working well enough to finish this project. I have to sew the front placket, attach the collar, then do buttonholes and buttons.  And then I’ll be ready to show it to you.




8 thoughts on “The Sewing Machine is Back

    1. mportuesisf Post author

      They did tell me my needle was very dull. I start each project with a new needle; I think the needle was dull because I hit a pin by accident.

      The stitch plate does have a nick on it, which I discovered when removing it to clean it. I don’t know when it happened, but I’ve broken some needles and have had a few epic thread jams, so it must have happened during one of those incidents. It’s hard to miss, so I assume the service tech would have said something about it when he inspected the machine.

  1. Susan Campbell

    I should have added that my machine tends to knot up about the third buttonhole. I have completely quit sewing buttonholes on my machine. Snaps are my friend. :-)

    Sue C

  2. Joselina Huber

    Hi Michael,

    I have had similar problems with my machines. If there is knicks on the the plate, get a fine sand paper to smooth the neddle hole plate. I suppose you use compatible bobbins. I have a Bernina that will not take cheap threads, it refuses to work. The size of needdle, the fine thread, needdle(over 8 hours of use) may be the problem.
    Keep working at it, the problem may resolve eventually.

    Have a great sewing day

  3. Wil

    My Brother machine is finicky with the way the bobbin is wound. I wind it slow and carefully every time, but every third or fourth time I will start to sew and I get terrible stitching. I stop, re -thread the bobbin and perfect again. So, I always test on a scrap fabric after a new bobbin.
    Your shirt is looking good.

  4. Bobbin Doctor

    Using too small of a needle is a common source of skipped stitches and thread jams. If you are using “standard” size sewing thread (i.e. Gutterman, Metrosene, Coats and Clark Dual Duty XP, etc.) a size 80 needle is the standard size for most fabrics and stitch/sewing applications. The older C&C Dual Duty (cotton wound polyester core) required a size 90 needle. You can verify this by visiting the manufacturer’s web sites.

    My most common suggestion to customers who experience skipped stitches and/or thread nests is: “Be sure the needle is in properly and thread the machine with the presser foot in the “up” position. Hold your thread tails (both of them!) for the first 2 or 3 stitches, and use the correct needle type and size for the sewing/stitch application you are doing. If you still get skipped stitches, then go up one size in needle. If you STILL get skipped stitches and/or a thread nest, walk away, take two aspirin and call me in the morning – the machine might have issues.” Fortunately, following this prescription seems to cure most sewing machine ailments.
    Best of luck!
    Steve P aka the “Bobbin Doctor”

    1. mportuesisf Post author


      Thanks for the tip. I’ll try an 80 needle on the project and see if that improves things.

  5. Joselina Huber

    Hi Michael,
    I hope you don’t mind my responses with a fair amount of mispelled words. So much for higher education NOT in English( I could write in portuguese). Of all the blogs I follow you are the one I respond often.
    Enjoy knowing your adventures in sewing. On home sewing machines, they are not designed for extensive use. To bad you lack space…

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