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September 10, 2007

caught by bobbins

loops and loops of nightmare

it was not a pretty sight.

i had some great plans for my sewing projects, the baby package for my sister was coming along so nicely, i designed and made this cute diaper bag for my sister. last weekend, while attaching the handles, my machine decided to quit.

this was the last thing i sewed before the breakdown:

beautiful stitches, even stitches. attaching leather to fabrics

pretty nice, i think. leather straps! i was really surprised to see how well my little machine could do. however, before that thought was properly formulated, i heard a loud pop, a tangled mess. after cleaning up, i realized that the bottom half of my machine seemed to not respond to anything i did. i knew then it was impossible to diagnose without looking inside.

so we did, my husband and i. we split open the sewing machine.

inside the machine

messed up part

my job had me trained to not be afraid of instruments, as i deal with them on a daily basis. i work with robots. so sewing machine is not intimidating to me at all. the moment we peeled the case open (it was really difficult to open, brutal force was needed). it was obvious that the timing belt had popped out. timing belt, driven by the larger belt, runs the lower shaft that drives the movement of bobbins/shuttle. so we decided to put it back where it should be. this particular singer model had what's known the automatic lower thread tension, but in the process of putting the belt back on (wrongly, the first time), we messed with the tension a little bit.

anyway, after we thought we had repaired it, the feed dog seemed a little off. it moves the fabric to be stitched a little jerky. then i realized the stitch length was messed up. so we split open the case again (last night), readjusted the tension, even checked to see if the belt was off, after that, it seemed to work okay. with thin threads and fabrics only. not okay with nylon threads and leather anymore. why?

before the breakdown, i can easily sewed leather, with desired stitch length, now, doesn't matter what stitch length i put it in, it sewed up these micro stitches. any ideas?

ugly micro stitches, what's going on?

even the stitches underneath look really weird. see:

thoroughly confused...

i'm a firm believer in that if i can sew leather before, i should be able to restore the instrument back to where it supposed to be. right?! i am very reluctant to send it in for repairs, as the basic price is like 1/3 of what i had paid for this machine. i think i can fix it (we can!). my next step is to oil the parts, as during the repair process i wiped clean the bobbin thread area. if that still doesn't work, i will probably need to reconsider sending it in for repair.

till then, i can't really sew.


Good on ya for not being afraid to take the geezer apart. I wish I could help you, but I'm sorry I can not.

OMG! Sorry no help over here. But if that happened to me, I'd totally die! But funny thing you mentioned it because last night as I was sewing I was wondering if my machine was due for a tune up as it has been over a year since I took it on. Good luck with fixing it! I hope it's an easy quick fix!

That's awful! I'm impressed that your sewing machine can handle leather. Good luck getting it fixed. Oh, and I loved the skirt in your last post.

I'm guessing if you're advanced enough to take apart the machine then you'll surely have tried a new needle... which is the only thing I ever really do when my machine is on the blink. Sorry I can't be more helpful, good luck getting it fixed.

Oh wow, you are so brave for popping it open! The tension on my machine is always all over the place, and I'm too lazy to bring it in for a check up (not to mention the cost)... But it looks like you have your machine all figured out :)

My machine did that crazy clumping thing before, and it was actually the result of a tiny bit of thread caught in the workings of the bobbin area. It was just short, and not attached to anything else, but it had wrapped around something important.

You're one brave girl, and I'm sure yuo'll be able to show the machine who's boss :)

The timing on my machine got all out of whack a few months ago when I was sewing through vinyl. I wish I had your skills and could have fixed it myself. The repairman told me not to pull the fabric through as that messed up the timing (I had a particularly thick part that I did have to pull (yank) through - stupid on my part). Not sure if that is going on with the leather. My suggestion would be to use a teflon foot so that the leather glides under the machine more easily.

Ouch, I'm a mechanical engineer and I wouldn't have the guts to pop open a sewing machine! I must say, I loved the bohemian shirt, and your Yohji shirt inspired me to go out, get that pattern and rummage through my grandmother's old fabrics as she got me a sewing machine as a new apartment gift last year. I love the ripple skirt!

Good luck with your machine! The only thing I can say is that I second Ry in saying that once something similar happened to me because the bobbin was not moving right (random thread in my case), so maybe oiling it will do the trick.

If your machine is a Singer; there is book for Singer maint and repair. The public library may have it in stock. Did you also check online to the Singer Sewing company for any reference points? I feel your frustration.

Hmm. Do the stitches sew at the correct length if you turn the wheel by hand instead of using the foot pedal?

I had a similar thing happen with my old machine, over and over again, no matter what I did. Finally, I took the whole bottom section apart, oiled the pieces, pulled out any dust, lint, scraps of thread (there were more than I care to admit), and it started working fine again.

Okay, that wasn't very helpful -- sorry! My only other suggestion would be to experiment with different combinations of tension between top thread and bobbin thread... Also, a sewing expert that I trust told me that my old machine was known for having problems with tension. You might check online reviews of your machine?

Good luck!!

I had that trouble with my machine (an elna). Turns out it was a tension issue. But with the hot pink yarn in my machine at the time it made for some cool artsy stitches (and some grand frustration) before I figured out what was going on. Good luck!

Did you consult the trouble shooting section of your manual before you attempted to take the machine apart?

My machine is a much simpler construction and I've been able to take it apart and fix it but I would never have attempted to without checking the correct procedure first. I wish you good luck. If you do have to send it in for repairs make sure you document everything you have already done to it so you can help them diagnose the problem(s) as much as possible.

Did you use a needle specific for sewing leather? There are specific needles for specific fabrics. That may have been your problem. Even if it worked for a while it could have been forcing the machine to do something it was not supposed to do and over time messed up the tension.

Did something get snapped or stretched out of alignment? You know, like on a car when the timing belt goes? If you put one piece back to its place are there others that need to be reset, too?

I have no advice on the machine maintenance part - I'd be the first one taking it in for a good look by a repairer, particularly if that got me a few more years of good service with it.

What I did want to say though, is you took amazing photos of all this!! I know the first one is a monument to disaster, but it's a fantastic close up, and the hints of the bag you are making look gorgeous :)

Well, I have sewed quite a bit on leather. At the shop I worked at we altered some leather clothes. Basically, home machines aren't really built to handle leather. Some can handle it, some aren't heavy duty enough. There leather sewing needles for sewing machines- I am trying to remember if I got mine at Joann's. I think I did. That might seem obvious, but it really helps. Instead of a point at the tip, it resembles more of a blade, so it actually slices instead of just puncturing.

Also, when we sewed on through layers of denim or any other hard to sew fabrics, we would take a hammer to it. If you pound on it a couple of times, it has the same affect as tenderizing. I haven't tried it on leather yet, but I will probably have to because my home machine is cheap and wussy. It might get old fast, but it is worth a try.

Good luck.

Darn... If the stitches are really small I'd guess that the problem is with the feed dogs- maybe they're a bit out of kilter and can't deal with heavier weight fabrics.
Funny that you posted this just now- I was wondering today about techniques for sewing leather with a sewing machine- I used to know but can't remember- thread and needle types, and what sort of presser foot. We had been able to sew leather with our old Singer until the motor died, and now I want to try sewing it with my Husquvarna.

It looks to me like your bobbin tension is too tight and it's pulling the thread through tightly resulting in tiny stitches on top and a continuous thread along the bottom (with loops of the top thread around it). I correct the tension on my machine by using the little screw on the side of the bobbin, and i'd start there. You might also like to check that the thread is not getting twisted around the bobbin casing somehow because i've seen that cause a similar effect.

I've not sewn leather before, but different thicknesses of fabric may well require a slightly different balance of tensions to get them to sew properly, and it might be that the tension you are using at the moment is alright for normal fabric but not for leather.

Hope some of that helps, or that you find someone who can!

Melissa x

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