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Thread: Missing something simple - skipped stitches

  1. #1
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Missing something simple - skipped stitches

    So on almost every Slant-o-matic I've had here, I've had this problem at some point. This week, it's on a Singer 431G (basically the lock stitch and chain stitch capable, open arm, German cousin of the 401A)

    Test sewing on a "regular" quilting cotton or similar thickness (or lighter) other cotton, or cotton poly, 2 layers, no batting.
    • The straight stitch is beautiful and no problems whatsoever. Tension well balanced right out of the gate.
    • The zig zag stitch, or other decorative stitches will skip the occasional stitch, always on the same side.
    • If I go to a thicker fabric, or fold the cotton so I have 4 layers, I have absolutely no problems.
    • This occurs with or without upper tension adjustments when changing fabrics.


    What I've done so far:


    • All tests are done using a Gutermann Sew-All thread top and bottom, with a new Universal 90/14 Schmetz needle. (I may have also tried an 80/12 quilting needle, but it's a little dim, because it was a few days ago)
    • I'm reasonably sure that the tension is right or at least equally balanced. i.e. they both could be a smidgen too tight or both a smidgen too loose.
    • The machine has been fully serviced and oiled, both tensioners disassembled and cleaned and set back to the recommended setting per the Singer Adjuster's manual
    • timing has been checked again and again. It's right as best I can tell ( the hook point is never -exactly- behind the needle at the mark on the needleshaft, it's usually a smidgen advanced, but no matter how I mesh the gears, I can't get it bang on. Also, all 5 of the Slants I have here have exactly the same timing, and I've only timed two of them - one that I changed the hook on (which sews beautifully now), and one that I should change the hook on, but filed the "curled burr from a needle strike" off the tip of the hook instead, because the hook that machine uses is rarer than gold plated diamond encrusted hen's teeth. )


    I have never truly learned the presser foot tension rule, I generally just "futz" til it works, so my poor little brain feels like there's something there that's missing.

    I can't help but think it's more sewing theory I'm missing, than something "wrong" with the machine.

    Of course, I really want to hear other things I can try

  2. #2
    Junior Member MadCow333's Avatar
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    It comes down to timing. I've heard that there is a "timing error" or something associated w/ needle swing for the zz stitch, and that exacerbates the skipped stitches occurring on zz vs. straight stitches.

    There seems to be a lot of problem with this, across the board, on all zig zag machines. That makes me think it's some sloppy quality control on the needles or the threads or both. Your mechanic skills are more advanced than mine, but I'll give it a shot.

    What I have seen suggested:

    • Adjust the timing on machines, which you did.
    • Try different brand of needle or type of because there seem to be slight differences in the length that can make one brand work better or worse on any given machine. (Needle length "just right" = good timing vs. "timing is off.") And also the piercing power of a needles and machines varies, so you have to "mate" those two things so that the there's not a delay in when the thread loop being formed.
    • Try a small or a larger needle. Sometimes the opposite of what you expect works.
    • Fabric feeding rate has to be right: Adjust presser bar pressure to keep fabric from rising up. Or loosen it, just for giggles.
    • Change the brand of thread. Or go thicker or thinner.
    • Use silicone spray or Sewer's Aid on the needle to make it slicker.
    • Spray thread with Static Guard b/c some threads apparently either develop static electricity or heat (they melt going through the needle?), and then the thread drags, and throws off the timing of the loop enough to mess with the stitches.
    • Keep lint out of the tension assembly and bobbin case.
    • Thread delivery system, too. Inspect the front of the machine for work parts or a burr or notch in the actual front side and the edge of the machine where the thread descends toward the needle. Some machines wind up with a groove carved in them from years of use. Someone said bend the thread guides a bit so they stand out enough to keep the thread up off the surface of the machine worked.
    Last edited by MadCow333; 05-07-2013 at 01:12 AM.

  3. #3
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I'm having problems with skipped stitches with a 'newer' Singer - I've racked my pea brain trying to figure it out on my own... it only skips when it trying to do zz and only on one side. Makes me think the timing is off slightly. If you can't change it from the gear end maybe you can change the needle bar just a little. Is it centered? Is the needle bar bent just a little? About the only way to tell if one is bent is to pull it out and look at it unless it is obviously bent a lot. I had a 411 give me fits until I pulled out the needle bar and tried rolling it across the table. Once you learn how to put it back it isn't a bad job. The first time I did one I was shaking like a leaf and I had my sister there to observe. Best to make marks - that needle bar is slippery.
    Last edited by miriam; 05-07-2013 at 02:30 AM.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
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  4. #4
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    When I set the tensions on my older machines I use Size 50 thread. I have several Singers and other brands that actually state in the manual to use that size thread when adjusting the tension. The thread I use is not the new stuff, but the old stuff from when the machines were made. There is a difference. It's my experiance that once the tensions are set with the old Size 50 thread, my machines are much less picky with the modern stuff.

    On the ZZ machines that skip stitches on only one side I've usually found the needle is not centered in the needle slot on SS so when on ZZ the swing is more to one side than to the other. When centered the skipping is greatly reduced or eliminated. I've got a couple I had to do that with.

    I also always use a thick material such as denim or at least a double layer. Seriously, how often do we really sew single layers of fabric? Almost never when making things. Even when I do a pattern test on my ZZ or cam machines I use a double layer or a thick fabric. It's my thinking that with one layer of normal cotton or similar, the needle drops down just a teensy bit too far and doesn't always catch the thread on the way back up.

    Joe

  5. #5
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I tested multiple layers of various fabrics. I don't know how the needle could be any more centered unless the needle bar is slightly off.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  6. #6
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Hmmmmm, perhaps that machine was just being contrary? I've got a couple like that. Darn things.

    Joe

  7. #7
    Junior Member MadCow333's Avatar
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    inspect the front of the machine for work parts
    Should say worn parts. I have one laptop with an abysmal keyboard, and that's what I was typing on when I wrote that post. Plus I had a cat trying to lie in the keyboard at the same time.

  8. #8
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    MC333 - I completely believe the quality control issue you mention. I think that's why most people tell you to use Schmetz, rather than Singer needles, etc. There definitely is a variance in quality, so I try to use Schmetz or Organ when I have them.

    The funny part is, I lack a lot on the sewing theory side, and the mechanical quickly passed that knowledge, but I've always worked on cars, motorcycles, bicycles, computers, etc, so it's probably more "natural" for me even though I've been sewing bits and pieces since I was 10, and servicing sewing machines about a year.

    Is my theory right with the presser foot tension? Thin materials will have more presser foot tension, just because there's less bulk under the foot, because all we're doing is making sure there's -just- enough pressure to move the fabric evenly, and not schmush it as hard as we can. - now that I write it out, it looks wrong to me. Am I mixing pressure with height?

    I had not realized the thing with the static.

    I will double check the thread path. This one is weird because there is a "groove" (on all of the German machines) as the last guide before the thread leaves the "body" area, and descends toward the needle bar area.

    I'll snap a couple of pics too, to see if anyone can spot anything I'm missing.

    I have a laptop like that too. I try to just use a USB keyboard with that one to save my sanity.

    Miriam - Is yours always skipping on the right or left side? This one is the right. I suppose I could look at the needlebar. I guess I just thought if it was the NB, that it would manifest more consistent skipping issues. I'll double check the centering and such. There is a section in the Service manual about zeroing things out, maybe now's the time to try that one out. I'm hesitant to raise or lower the NB, just because all 5 of the slants here (4 of them German) look virtually identical for timing. I removed the NB on a featherweight I've got disassembled to paint. I hear ya on the slippery part. I guess that's what happens when we insist on oiling everything.


    Joe - Sew-All is supposedly 50wt. I know the test you're talking about, it's how I set these ones up too. but a "barely perceptible tension" is a little subjective, and I think it would vary from day to day depending on a lot of mostly carbon based life-form factors (for instance, I spent several hours on Sunday in the garden and backyard, getting sun burned and sore muscles. I feel everything more acutely than usual today. I think that today's tension adjustment may be different than last week, when I was being a sloth.) I can try using some of the old thread, to see if there's a difference, though. I'm always up for trying something else that will let me keep my hair.

    I try to test sew with a couple of different weights (always at least 2 layers though as mentioned above) because you never know what people are going to throw at the machine. I sew everything from light quilt cotton, to nylon webbing for the dog's harnesses. I don't want it skipping stitches when I'm using it, because when I'm using it, I'm not usually in the mood to be servicing at the same time.

    The needle though would drop the same distance with or without fabric. It's not dependent on anything under the presser foot to determine height. I can see how less resistance from a thin single layer of fabric may make the loop form differently than with a thicker stack of fabric.

  9. #9
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I had a White I worked on briefly today. It skipped stitches until I put in a new needle. And usually a new needle or different thread will change things. The Singer I have that skips only on zz does it only on one side. ss is ok - I didn't get a chance to really look at it today. You can bet I will when I get a chance. Kidos showed up and we just made mudpies and cut hair.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  10. #10
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    *mumble mumble mumble* I lost a whole day fighting this machine. I timed it again, I just wasn't happy with the stitching, and wanted to rule it out for sure. No change, so I guess that's good, it wasn't wrong before.


    • I tried Joe's old thread to set the tension. Tried to sew a strip to see what would happen. skipped even on the straight stitches on heavy fabric. Hmmm.. something's not right. It's going to be a long day, I can tell.
    • Went back to the Gutermann.
    • Looked at the thread path, the top guide (first one after the thread) was bent a little. Fixed that.
    • Felt like the return spring on the tensioner was too loose, so rejigged that.
    • Fiddled around a little with the position bracket, tried to get it to fit more like the one on the 411G, possible small success there.
    • Tried 80/12 Quilting needles, 90/14 Universal, 90/14 topstitch.
    • The 90/14 universal did the best on the heavy fabric - no skipping, the 80 and the topstitch needle both skipped something fierce. Interestingly, the TS needle skipped on both sides.
    • Tightened tension, loosened tension. Tightened presser foot tension, loosened it.
    • Checked and changed the bobbin case tension.
    • The needlebar looks like one screw and a little convincing. Does that sound right? I may look at it,.. uh probably thursday now.
    • The needle is maybe a ¼mm off on the left. Which is about 0.00984249 of an inch... it throws further to the right than the left.
    • Didn't have any of the sprays, so I didn't do that today.
    • I figured out that it skips stitches a heck of a lot less if I hand turn the machine.
    • It never skips if I take the bobincase out (i.e. the hook grabs the thread everytime)
    • the point of the hook in this machine looks ever so slightly longer than the other 4 that work (apparently there are 5 german Singers here, I lost track, much to DH's amusement) but carries the same part number - possible revision? The longer one is the older hook.


    Thursday, I think I'll try Cotton thread, just to see if there's a better result. I don't believe in "My Machine doesn't like X brand of thread "on a well setup, serviced oiled and adjusted machine that has its tension is adjusted appropriately for the thread, but maybe I just met "that" machine.

    Thoughts? This one is really beating me up so far.

  11. #11
    Senior Member vanginney's Avatar
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    A lil devil

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    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I wonder if there is a bit of gummy in one of those little piston that go in and out for the zz? Did you try the 'centering the needle adjustment' described in the service manual? It is the least invasive but intimidating the first time. Adjusting the needle bar would be after that - I had a bent needle bar in a 411G once - I was so frustrated with that machine until I swapped it out for a donor. I couldn't see any bend until I removed it. It didn't take long and it was easy to re-time. I'm hoping I can find the adjustment info to center the Singer I have. It is a bit newer but it skips like that, too. I will be flat out up to my eyeballs in paying work for the next 3 weeks so I don't know how much I'll get into my shop to play. GKs have a habit of showing up when I'm off. So we make mudpies.... Well some times I let them help me.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  13. #13
    Super Member Mitch's mom's Avatar
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    Did you check to make sure the needle bar is swinging the full range of motion? If it is the least bit gunked up it will cause skipped stitches. Also, switch to cotton 50 wt thread. Some of the old gals don't like poly thread; they were set at the factory for 50wt cotton and to sew cotton. Singer didn't get into the knits until the Touch n Sews of the 70's.

  14. #14
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    On mine the needle bar swings full motion - it just doesn't pick up on one side. It would still pick up no matter how far it travels. Tammi knows about that too but some times I wonder if a little gum gets left in - that said mine had an extra dose of T-F to no avail.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

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    Super Member quiltinghere's Avatar
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    "NEVER LET A SEWING MACHINE KNOW YOU ARE IN A HURRY.."

    MIRIAM - this is totally off topic here but I had to tell you that your signature line made me laugh out loud this morning...thank you!

    It is so true! Hahahahaha!

    Nan - NW Indiana
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  16. #16
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vanginney View Post
    A lil devil
    LOL! believe it or not, this isn't her. I came across another one here in town. vanginney named the first 431 that came to live with me. She was quite the challenge as well. The 431s have challenged me more than any other singer so far. The bernina, I suspect will give them a run for their money.

    Miriam, I'm quite sure that the machine is moving well, but I can marinate in case I'm wrong. I will try that centering the needle thing tonight if I don't go to the guild meeting, or tomorrow if I do.

    The thing is, it seems like sometimes it's OK, for a long time (5 -6 "), then it goes berserk. Then other times, it just skips all the time. No change of thread, no change of needle or fabric. Oh. I guess that could be gum. I had to step away last night because I was getting repared to toss it out the window.

    Mudpies are good for your sanity.

    Mitch's Mom - The swing mechanism seems completely free. The machine interestingly was completely mobile when I got it. I know that they had oiled it before I came, but nothing was stuck on it at all. I went through and oiled anyway, to help displace the hair clipper oil that they'd used with tri-flow, but it was really good otherwise.

    I will pull out that cotton and see what I can do. The problem is, if down the road I sell this machine, it's hard to tell someone "it must use cotton thread". The other 431 isn't nearly so picky, which is why I'm convinced I'm missing something.

  17. #17
    Junior Member MadCow333's Avatar
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    http://mysewingmachineobsession.blog...ening-and.html
    ^ Scroll down a bit and there's a little writeup about lapping a 301's needle bar to take out the high spot.


    eta: Look real closely at all of the stuff in the bobbin case to make sure there isn't something in there that thread can stick on. My rusty 404 was a bit "grabby" after I picked out all of the lint that had rusted to it.

    I am practically no help, but I try anyway. I will run this question past my mother the retired home ec teacher and see if she has a technique for dealing with these Slants.
    Last edited by MadCow333; 05-08-2013 at 11:33 AM.

  18. #18
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    Tammi,

    If everything else is the same from first stitch until the skipped stitch, I'd say that gear is slipping and throwing off the timing. Did you make sure you were retiming on a proper gear? Most retiming is done on the gears that have two set screws. If you retimed on a single set screw gear did you make sure that the setscrews in the gears were tightened down on the flat spots of the shaft. If you tightened down on an edge of the flat or on the round of the shaft the gear can move/ rock slightly.

    Cathy


    Quote Originally Posted by ArchaicArcane View Post
    LOL! believe it or not, this isn't her. I came across another one here in town. vanginney named the first 431 that came to live with me. She was quite the challenge as well. The 431s have challenged me more than any other singer so far. The bernina, I suspect will give them a run for their money.

    Miriam, I'm quite sure that the machine is moving well, but I can marinate in case I'm wrong. I will try that centering the needle thing tonight if I don't go to the guild meeting, or tomorrow if I do.

    The thing is, it seems like sometimes it's OK, for a long time (5 -6 "), then it goes berserk. Then other times, it just skips all the time. No change of thread, no change of needle or fabric. Oh. I guess that could be gum. I had to step away last night because I was getting repared to toss it out the window.

    Mudpies are good for your sanity.

    Mitch's Mom - The swing mechanism seems completely free. The machine interestingly was completely mobile when I got it. I know that they had oiled it before I came, but nothing was stuck on it at all. I went through and oiled anyway, to help displace the hair clipper oil that they'd used with tri-flow, but it was really good otherwise.

    I will pull out that cotton and see what I can do. The problem is, if down the road I sell this machine, it's hard to tell someone "it must use cotton thread". The other 431 isn't nearly so picky, which is why I'm convinced I'm missing something.
    Cathy

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

  19. #19
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quiltinghere View Post
    "NEVER LET A SEWING MACHINE KNOW YOU ARE IN A HURRY.."

    MIRIAM - this is totally off topic here but I had to tell you that your signature line made me laugh out loud this morning...thank you!

    It is so true! Hahahahaha!

    Nan - NW Indiana
    I have it on my chalk board at my shop - helps me a lot...
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  20. #20
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mizkaki View Post
    Tammi,

    If everything else is the same from first stitch until the skipped stitch, I'd say that gear is slipping and throwing off the timing. Did you make sure you were retiming on a proper gear? Most retiming is done on the gears that have two set screws. If you retimed on a single set screw gear did you make sure that the setscrews in the gears were tightened down on the flat spots of the shaft. If you tightened down on an edge of the flat or on the round of the shaft the gear can move/ rock slightly.

    Cathy
    Thank you. Mine came off time on one side but not the other. I dropped the needle and now it zzs. I'll have to check the screws on there - I'd like to make it work right. Mine is a 5102 - the needle does not center in the hole at all. It wants to go to the left. Not a fabulous machine but if it would work...
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  21. #21
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadCow333 View Post
    http://mysewingmachineobsession.blog...ening-and.html
    ^ Scroll down a bit and there's a little writeup about lapping a 301's needle bar to take out the high spot.


    eta: Look real closely at all of the stuff in the bobbin case to make sure there isn't something in there that thread can stick on. My rusty 404 was a bit "grabby" after I picked out all of the lint that had rusted to it.

    I am practically no help, but I try anyway. I will run this question past my mother the retired home ec teacher and see if she has a technique for dealing with these Slants.

    Of COURSE you're helping! One of the things I love a forums (fora?) is that you can talk it through, and any little comment might light up the "aha moment"

    I will definitely look at lapping the needlebar if it's not straight. I don't have a spare to work with, and I know what the supplier I use here in Canada will say if I ask them: "That's a very old machine...."

    I can take the bobbin case out, switch it with another one, and it still skips. The hook area has been scrubbed clean with a tooth brush and a paint brush. I can't see anything that's causing it, but I think I'm too close to it now.

    The bobbin position bracket looks "crooked" to me, compared to the other machines, and it's fully adjusted per the service manual, but the thread travels over there after the hook grabs it.. So I don't think it should be relevant? Unless the BCase is moving too much as a result.

    The grabbiness can be fixed with a,.. uh, I think it's a scotch brite pad? (Used for pot scrubbing, some sort of plastic or such, not metal, green pad about 4x5") It will stay black and pitted, but the raised stuff will come off and it will be smoother.

    I'd love to hear from your mom. I can't help thinking it's a setting / technique, etc, but of course I've had it all apart now,
    Last edited by ArchaicArcane; 05-08-2013 at 09:10 PM. Reason: Bracket, not finger....

  22. #22
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mizkaki View Post
    Tammi,

    If everything else is the same from first stitch until the skipped stitch, I'd say that gear is slipping and throwing off the timing. Did you make sure you were retiming on a proper gear? Most retiming is done on the gears that have two set screws. If you retimed on a single set screw gear did you make sure that the setscrews in the gears were tightened down on the flat spots of the shaft. If you tightened down on an edge of the flat or on the round of the shaft the gear can move/ rock slightly.

    Cathy
    I checked all of the gears (but the vertical one, I can't get a screw driver on it without serious dis-assembly) and all were tight, with one on a flat spot. I did check the vertical one for slippage. If it is, it's moving with more torque than my fingers could put on it.

    I did time from the gear right below the hook, because the feed dog timing was correct. I usually time at the back end (2 screws) when the FD timing is off too.

    I did a cursory look at the needlebar last night, it looked like it was timed right. Perhaps the things that are left -are- the big things and I haven't missed the small things? Needlebar and hook?

    I should mention that I knew the machine was skipping stitches when I bought it. I also knew about the needle strikes on the bobbin case and the hook. I saw the slightly bent tip of the hook after I bought it, though. I believe the hook to be "fixed", but I'm thinking of pulling the hook from a 411G, and trying it to see if I'm wrong about the original hook. I will try the cotton thread first though.

    It just seems to me that if it will sew on thicker fabric, it shouldn't be a "major" problem....? But "Denim or Heavier only" is not appropriate

  23. #23
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miriam View Post
    Thank you. Mine came off time on one side but not the other. I dropped the needle and now it zzs. I'll have to check the screws on there - I'd like to make it work right. Mine is a 5102 - the needle does not center in the hole at all. It wants to go to the left. Not a fabulous machine but if it would work...
    Not only is mine out of time but the needle is positioned to the left of center. Then when sewing the needle goes farther to the left than to the right when it zzs. so all is off center. Shifting the needle lower made it pick up stitches when it zzs but doesn't really fix the real problems. It is hard to know what to fix first. I'm thinking the needle has to be adjusted first. Actually the machine Lovie is cleaning in my avitar is that machine. 5101 Singer. It is a piece of junk but I think maybe it is a learner for me. This one would be much easier to part out.
    Last edited by miriam; 05-09-2013 at 02:00 AM.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
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  24. #24
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    Well, I threw everything I knew how to do at it last night. I timed it again, and from the back this time. I don't like how the Slants look for timing, they always look advanced. 5 out of 6 of them came into the house noticeably advanced, meaning that there's about 3/16" - 1/4" of the hook past the eye of the needle when the lower timing line is in place (one was out of time and the gears loose when it arrived), but the other 4 of them sewed correctly. I was trying to set it the same as the others, and it wasn't working. I figured last night, unless it hit the hook, what did I have to lose by timing it the way it says to in the manual?

    Between that, centering the needle in the hole (it still swings a tiny bit more to the left than the right), raising the feed dogs (found the bobbin case from another machine was getting hit by the dogs, so I set the dogs correctly), adjusting and readjusting the bobbin case retaining bracket (get it wrong and the thread makes a "snapping" noise as it goes past, and makes the tension go haywire), lowering and turning the needlebar a tiny smidge, re-setting upper and lower tensions,...

    It's no longer skipping stitches. I just didn't want to disassemble, reassemble, test, disassemble, reassemble, test, disassemble, reassemble, test - so I did a multitude of things before testing, so I can't tell what exactly fixed it, but I suspect that it was a combination of a bunch of things.

    I'd still like to know though, why all of the slants are advanced despite what the adjuster's manual (AM) says, yet sew just fine 5 out of 6 times... does anyone else have a slant that's actually timed the way the AM says (ie the hook point is behind the needle at the lower timing line on the upstroke of the needle?) Part of me wants to re-time the others, but the rest of me just wants to put all of the slants in the corner and forget about them and go sew on one of my less belligerent machines.

    Hey Miriam, think of it as a character building machine. Like my 431s, there's a lot of character being built. I'm probably turning into a caricature of myself thanks to these machines. You say the machine "is" out of time, not "was"... so with the dropping of the needlebar, still out of time, it's not skipping stitches?

  25. #25
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I didn't drop the needle bar - I just dropped the needle. I think I need to figure out how to center the needle first. It is off center - goes to the left. Then I'll check the timing. I don't think I have manual info how to center that beast though.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

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