Why is my sewing machine not stitching???

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by , 01-07-2013 at 04:49 AM (1191 Views)
Quote Originally Posted by miriam View Post
Sewing machine not stitching
Does it need a new needle? That is usually the quickest/easiest/cheapest fix.
Change the needle... some times we hit pins or sometimes people pull the material through the machine and the needle bends. Sometimes needles get dull? When was the last time it was changed?

Look at your upper thread. Is it catching on the little notch on the spool?
Turn it over and see if that helps...

Some times the wrong thread can be a problem. Or the wrong needle for the thread.

Make sure the needle is inserted all the way

Know how your needle needs to go into your machine.

Is the needle is the wrong length? size matters - a few of the vintage machines take a different from normal length needle and the machine won't work.
Check the owner's manual and double check your needle size

Check to see if you have the correct needle diameter for the fabric you are using. Smaller needle number for light weight fabric - larger needle number for heavy weight fabric.

Does the needle size match your thread size?

If you put your needle in backwards your thread will break... ask me how I know this...
If the needle is put in backwards it won't work - the owner's manual should show how it goes
Make sure the needle is threaded in the correct direction. - it usually goes through the groove side first
The curve side of the needle usually goes toward the bobbin so the shuttle can pass and grab the thread

Is the tension is too tight? too loose? (See your manual for that) Is the thread in the tension in correct position between the disks?

Try this first. Take apart the throat plate then try putting it all back together as seen in your owner's manual - sometimes that helps a 301 or a Featherweight - maybe your 319, 221, 401, what ever has to go a certain way - make sure the plate hole lines up with the needle - nothing crooked...

completely unthread and rethread the machine

Is it a Slant-O-Matic - they have a spring loaded bobbin holder - Is it in right - check the manual - be sure it is in tight.

While you are in the bobbin area, clean out the lint and oil the machine - some times that can be the cause of your skipped stitches - I had a machine buggered up and the thread kept breaking - the tension was full of lint and dried oil

check to see if the bobbin thread is correctly threaded through the bobbin holder (counter clockwise)
is the bobbin worn out? warped? illfitting? the correct bobbin for the machine - sticky/gummy oil on the race?

If it is a Singer 15 or a knock off made in Japan - a Japanese 15 clone - here is a video by Muv

If that doesn't work open up the throat plate and take off the feed dogs. It is easier to watch the thread and needle closely.
Does the needle, thread and shuttle engage? If so it is not timing. If it engages but does not complete the cycle it may be a burr. Burrs happen.
You can smooth up the burr with some emery cloth.
You can feel a burr with your fingers. You can see a burr. You can take a piece of thread and 'floss' through there until it hangs up on the burr

Do you have "help" When you aren't looking do kids/GKs mess with the machine?

Muv & Fav have made a very good set of videos on cleaning up sewing machine, etc. Warning - you will NEED a cup of tea while you watch.

Here is a very simplistic and rather generic cartoon of how some machines work:

If the hook misses the needle's eye it could be timing.
I bought a machine that the needle hit the foot and broke every time. It plagued me for months trying to figure it out. Finally I swapped the needle bar for one from a donor machine. So it WAS a bent needle shaft. Judging by the lint in that machine someone sewed on really heavy material. It can bend your needle shaft. Just because the people selling a vintage machine say it can, doesn't mean your machine was intended to sew on that heavy stuff all the time. It may be they pulled that heavy fabric or that the fabric was so heavy it pulled when it got enough weight on there.

I sent my Singer 401 out of timing by putting a Necchi foot on it - the Necchi foot was a high shank foot and the 401 a slant shank foot - When I dropped the foot down the needle bar sipped and it went out of timing.

Cathy wrote some timing instructions recently on the vintage sewing machine shop
it can be hard to find so I copied her words here: This is post #31859 and #31861

"Most sewing machine problems are due to the carbon based unit in the chair in front of the machine"

The needlebar movement is usually measured at the bushing just where the bar enters and exits the head. The best way is with a gauge until experience allows you to eyeball it.
Many Singers (ie 401, 500 and others of that era) and sometimes other brands have two timing marks (score lines) on the needlebar. On these you lower the needlebar to it’s lowest point (DBC) the upper timing mark will just be at the bottom of the bushing. Then raise the needlebar until the lower timing mark is in the position that the upper mark was at before moving. This movement was .093”.

You said that the machine is stitching with its new needle. Leave it, after all this is your goal. The .093” measurement is an old industry standard. The factory and techs in the field learn that you sometimes have to fudge this due to casting and machining variances.
Use the .093” as a starting point.

The Japanese 15 machines with the bobbincasse/ hook facing the left usually have the timing pin set. If this has been changed it is very evident. The pin will have been punched or drilled out and the hole threaded for the set screw and usually another hole will be drilled and tapped for the second set screw.. So unless there is a set screw or two at the timing point, I doubt that the timing has changed. It probably has always been just barely off of the standard .093”.
Hope I helped.

I was referring to the Japanese class 15 machines that Joe is in working on. The Singer 301 is a completely different animal. The timing and hook clearance on the 301 is adjusted by loosening two set screws and moving the hook. The 301 does get out of adjustment.


Timing by definition is most anything that affects the stitching. Things like the timing of the hook to the needle, the distance of the hook to the needle, the needlebar height, the movement of the fabric by the feeddogs in relationship to the movement of the needle.
I think possibly at times we all are talking about different things. I was talking to Joe about needle to hook timing (which in the case of some machines is not adjustable) and needlebar height (which is usually adjustable).

I have certainly had to time machines. If you servey old time sewing machine repairmen they will tell you that
hook timing is very seldom off. All of the other things I listed should be considered first. And also always consider that a bad/ bent/ dull needle is to blame.

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