A blog about "nothing"!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sewing Frustration!

There is nothing worse than wanting to sew and not being able to.  Or to be afraid to even try because you know that it is going to end in disaster.  That was me recently.  A pile of projects I wanted to do, but no incentive to do them because of previous experience.
Just over 4 years ago I bought myself a new sewing machine.  It wasn't a case of my old one not working, but more a case of wanting some features I didn't have.  After doing some research I found out which machines had what I wanted and which ones seemed to be the highest rated.  As luck would have it, I found a place where the one I wanted most was not only on sale, but I also had received a coupon for an additional discount.  I ordered it, it came and I sewed like crazy on it.  I made a rag quilt, countless scarves, tote bags, a few clothing items, doll clothes--you name it.  All was good.
Then I started having problems about 2 summers ago, but I realized that the problem might be with the bobbins I had.  I had purchased bobbins not made by the same company and after doing some comparisons, I confirmed my suspicions.  I replaced all of the Dritz bobbins (which are thinner) with Singer bobbins and my problem seemed to be mostly solved.  For a while.
Last fall I noticed the problem seemed to be back and getting progressively worse.  Last week I decided to give it another go and this time I was completely frustrated, to the point of tears.  After ruining several pieces of fabric, and about ready to toss the machine in the trash, I e-mailed a friend who sews all the time.  She gave me a piece of advice that turned out to not only be an inexpensive solution to the problem, but confirmed what I suspected all along.  And now I'm going to share it with you!
The bane of my existence...
The sewing machine I have is called a Singer Superb.  It is a top loading, drop in bobbin style machine.  It has a lot of nice features, ranging from a multitude of stitches to the ability to sew without a foot pedal.  I did a lot of research before buying it and because of the good reviews and several features, it seemed to be the ideal machine for what I wanted to do.  I was impressed with how well it sewed straight out of the box and how easy it was to use.  My other machine is an old school Pfaff, so it had some big shoes to fill.
The problem with the bobbin begins with the location of the thread within the bobbin case.  It's an easy machine to thread, both for the bobbin and the upper portion, but keeping it that way is the trick.  The thread from the bobbin has to go across the bobbin, and if it doesn't, there is going to be hell to pay.  Side effects range from just bumpy/uneven stitches to full out knotting/nesting of the thread.  It totally messes up all of the tension.  What I discovered with the Dritz bobbins is that because they aren't the same size, the threads end up where you don't want them because the bobbin jumps.  Not good.
However, I started having this problem with Singer bobbins too.  Not sure why it wasn't an issue to begin with, but I've read several comments from people who are having the same problem, and I suspect it's because the bobbins aren't heavy enough.  They are made from plastic (or something similar) and they just don't have the weight to keep them from moving too much from within the bobbin case.  Plus, because they are plastic, they tend to warp from the heat built up.  I suspect that is more of what my issue may have been because I'm someone who sews at a high speed most of the time, and all of that friction was wearing them out quickly.  Combine that with the jumping issue and it was wreaking havoc.  
This week I was sewing some fabric that wasn't the easiest to work with, and between that and the bobbin issue, it was disastrous.  At one point, this is what it looked like:
Yeah, it's as bad as it looks.  I had already cut away most of the fabric and then removed the top plate that covers the bobbin case.  It took a little bit of work, but I finally got it cleared from the machine.  Keep in mind that this was the 3rd time this happened.   Stupid machine keeps on sewing, even after an error message, jamming it further in!  Not impressed.
My friend Maggie has been sewing for years and has a business on Etsy selling doll clothing, that's how we got to know each other.  Her machines get a ton of use, so I e-mailed her with several questions, ranging from what brand of machines did she have to asking her if she ever had this issue.  Lo and behold, she had!  I really hadn't gone into great detail, nor did I give her my suspicions of what was wrong, so you can imagine how surprised I was when I got an e-mail back from her, not only describing the exact problem I was having, but also what she suspected the problem was, confirming my initial thought.  And she took it one step further, a solution!
Would you believe that it was as simple as buying METAL bobbins?  I had thought about doing this before, but was hesitant because I couldn't find an explanation on if it was safe or not, but also didn't know anyone who had tried it.  She had and said that it seemed to be the only thing that made her machine work properly.  I was definitely willing to give it a try, a package of bobbins costs under $3.
I will warn you, this will not work with all machines.  Some machines have magnetized parts that will prevent this from working, but in my situation, it worked better than expected.  My machine now works like it did when it was new out of the box.  I sewed multiple items after and had little to no trouble, I didn't have to cut a single piece out of my machine!  I also noticed that my stitches were much more consistent, better than they had been in quite a while.  And, when I'm filling the bobbins, they seem to be much more balanced than the plastic ones, another issue I suspect caused by the lack of weight.
I'm not sure how hard this is going to be on my machine, but to be honest, I don't care.  Prior to this I had a big white paperweight, so just being able to use it at all is good.  If it all turns into a disaster, I'll be sure to update this.  I have my doubts that it will though, I'm sure Maggie would have warned me of any impending doom.  I still have my old machine if something does happen.  I suspect that the only issue may be that my machine may need serviced at some point and perhaps some parts replaced, but even so, that is to be expected with any machine.  I'm just happy to be able to sew again!  Thanks Maggie!!
All of this made me think back to the sewing machine that my mom had that I learned to sew on.  It was a Singer Golden Touch and Sew (frequently referred to on different sewing forums as a "Golden Touch and Scream!), a machine that was better than a basic machine but very temperamental.  My mom spent a lot of time toting it to the repair shop.  However, one issue she had with it was solved with a Band Aid.  Yes, you read that right!  She was having tension issues with it and one day while sewing, she noticed it had a tendency to throw the thread from the top part WAY out and that is when it would jam.  As the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention" and she figured out by running the thread under the padded, non-sticky part of the Band Aid, it prevented the thread from being thrown.  Crazy, huh?  Whatever works!  I'm sure the guy she took it to for repairs/maintenance wondered what the purpose of that Band Aid stuck to the top was.  Sometimes simple solutions are the best. 


dan said...

Funny story of your mom's sewing machine! But, yes, sometimes simple solutions really Work!! :-)
Luckily you solved the problem of yours with metal bobbins...another simple idea which works!!

Sue @ A Colourful Canvas said...

I've seen plastic bobbins in fabric stores but have always used metal. I'm happy you were able to resolve the problem without a big expenditure. I know people with the newer electronic machines and they can't do a thing when something goes wrong, except take it into a repair shop.

Flo said...

It was definitely a relief to figure out a solution Dan. Of course now it's too hot to even care about sewing, but I know now that when the weather does break, I'll be ready!

Sue, I was pretty sure I was going to have to take mine in as well. Especially when I got that piece of fabric jammed in it. Fingers crossed that this will work for quite a while. Otherwise, it's time to get the old Pfaff out. I just have a horrible time seeing to thread it, but I did pick up a threader with a light on it! I just hope I can remember how to thread it LOL.