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Thread: My dream 301A is a nightmare

  1. #1
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    My dream 301A is a nightmare

    Got a Singer 301A short bed, LBOW at a local auction recently for $100. Looked to be in very good, clean condition and the motor sounded nice and strong. Got it home, cleaned, oiled the appropriate metal places and greased the gears (appropriate Triflow products for both). It purrs now. One BIG problem: I cannot get the tension adjusted. I've used the info in the instruction book with it to determine the little loops on the top of the fabric are too heavy tension on the top thread or too light tension on the bobbin thread. I have spent days adjusting both and nothing changes. First, I tried not changing the bobbin screw's adjustment and sewing a line with each setting of the top tension from 0 to 9. There was no change from one number to another so I set the top on four and made minute adjustments to the bobbin screw, sewed a line of stitches with no change regardless of where I moved the bobbin adjusting screw. Then I changed the top tension to each of the other numbers before again adjusting the bobbin case screw a tiny bit. No change. The threading is exactly like the book shows. I've replaced the needle and it is seated properly. Using brand new Gutterman thread in both top and bobbin. Black on top and white in bobbin to make it easy to see the problem.

    I am not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination so I rely on the manual, online groups like this one and Treadle On and online searches to show me what the stitches should look like. I have a Singer 15-88 that I inherited 50 years ago that I've played about with making curtains and baby things 45 years or so ago. I decided I wanted to learn to clean up that machine since it had been in storage for almost 20 years. Managed to get her sewing like a charm and picked up a Singer 128 for $9.99 at a Goodwill auction online described as "for parts only". Local pick up so I had nothing to lose and tore her down and reconditioned everything including refinishing the bentwood case. She sews beautifully so in my hubris I jumped at the chance to get this 301A. Big mistake so far

    What else can I try before I send this thing to Craig's List?

    Dorothy in Denver
    Last edited by MamaKitty; 03-12-2014 at 11:07 AM.

  2. #2
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    Does it have the little spring on the tensioner?

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    Super Member amyjo's Avatar
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    post some pics so we can see what is happening. I have cleaned up 3 of them and no problems. are you threading the needle in the right direction?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Cecilia S.'s Avatar
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    Dear MamaKitty, hang in there. We'll get the old stitcher going!

    I am no expert, but I have sometimes found that disassembling and cleaning and reassembling the upper tension can do wonders. Sometimes it is gunked up and therefore even though you are changing the dial, there is no effect.

    Photos of the stitches you have sewn will also help; photograph both the upper and the lower stitches for us if you can.

    :-)
    -Cecilia. Tinkering more than stitching, really.

  5. #5
    Super Member ThayerRags's Avatar
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    Sounds like maybe the tension release pin may be missing in your upper tension. Set the tension to “9”, then lift and lower the presser foot. You should see some movement of the tension discs in the upper tension.


    Without the pin inside the upper tension, the thread never gets down into the tension discs when the machine is threaded.


    CD in Oklahoma
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    barny, yes, the takeup spring is on the tensioner:
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    amyjo and Cecilia S., here are pix of the stitches. Black is the upper thread. top row is with tension set at 9. bottom row is set at 4.
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    Name:  bottom.jpg
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    Cecilia S., the only thing I haven't done is to disassemble the upper tension unit. May be a last resort!

    CD, I tried your suggestion of setting tension at 9 and lift/lower the presser foot. There is obvious movement of the discs when that is done.

    Y'all are great. I'll try anything at this point.

    Edited to add: Yes, the thread path is exactly as shown in the user manual.

    Dorothy in Denver

  7. #7
    Super Member oldsewnsew's Avatar
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    im not the expert here, OP says loops on top. if you get loops on top it's the bobbin tension is significantly lighter than the top. Does the bobbin case have a deformed leaf spring? have you carefully so as to not loose the 2 tiny screws that hold it on and make sure there is no buildup holding it out? try the yo yo test to see if it drops, but only a little. are you using same thread top and bottom.
    Jim

    "What do you mean worrying doesn't help? Everything I ever worried about...never happened!"
    quote by __________ I forget who.

  8. #8
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Is the bobbin case also threaded like the book shows? Double check this as putting in the bobbin backwarcs will cause problems.

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    Jim, I am going by the info in the manual that says "Needle thread lies straight along tip side of material, caused by too heavy tension on needle thread or too light tension on bobbin thread..." That's why I have tried both reducing needle thread tension and tightening bobbin tension (in about 1/8 turn increments each time and then doing a test sew). The leaf spring appears to be undamaged. Has no buildup and seems to work correctly when the adjusting screw is is loosened/tightened. Yo yo tested and bobbin only barely drops. Both top and bottom thread are brand new spools of Gutermann 100% cotton.

    Candace, the bobbin case is threaded exactly as the book shows. When I hold the bobbin in my right hand, the thread comes over the top toward me. The bobbin case latches securely when put on the stud. And the position finger is in place in the notch of the position plate.

    Keep the ideas coming. I'm taking the time to look at the manual's illustrations and double checking everything before I answer your questions.

    SewButch, I have the user's manual and even found and printed out the adjuster's manual. Okay, I'm off to disassemble the needle thread tension assembly. Wish me luck!

    Dorothy in Denver

  10. #10
    Super Member Sunflowerzz's Avatar
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    It may be simple to you but for me personally I hate taking them apart and I also leave it for the last thing to do and I have been known to buy one 'whole' unit and just replace the unit rather than taking it apart. Just my preference and my bugaboo so I understand where the OP is coming from.


    Quote Originally Posted by SewButch View Post
    Why haven't you tried taking the upper tension assembly apart yet? Why would that be a last resort?
    It's very simple.
    I took mine apart, simply laying each piece down in a row in the order that they came off.
    There was a little schmo on the tension plates, as well as a bit of fuzz here & there, but I suspect polishing the plates/discs to a slippery chrome-like shine did the most good. They were a bit oxidized and "flat", which was probably creating a little drag.
    Following the instructions in my manual, it was easy putting it all back on. Now it works like a dream. I just set it on 4 and it's always happy. (you'd almost think it was a Kenmore. *snort*)
    Do you need an instruction manual? I can send you a scan of the page you need if you'd like.
    I have a 15-125, but the tensioner looks similar enough.
    Creativity needs focus and application...
    http://sewvintageuniqueboutique.blogspot.com/

  11. #11
    Super Member Sunflowerzz's Avatar
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    I once bought a machine and upon close inspection it had the wrong bobbin, wrong bobbin case and wrong needle and it had two completely different weights and types of thread. Poor baby. Ran great when all fixed. Keep at the process of elimination Dorothy and eventually you will have a trouble free machine.
    Creativity needs focus and application...
    http://sewvintageuniqueboutique.blogspot.com/

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    Maybe you need a new bobbin case?

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    Sunflowerzz, I had read so many peoples' bad experiences of disassembling the tension unit that I was really leery of messing with it. I took it apart carefully following the book and cleaned all pieces. None were terribly grungy but all are nice and shiny now. Didn't notice any burrs or rough places on the interior pieces.First try at getting it back together didn't go well so have decided to take a break. A little time reading here and playing a couple of games of Words with Friends and I'll tackle it again.

    Bearisgray, a previous poster had me check the bobbin case and there doesn't seem to be a problem there. The leaf spring is not bent and there are no burrs or rough spots. And at $40-$50 for a new one, I really don't want to put good money after bad on this machine.

    You know, it's funny, but I have a habit of naming inanimate objects. The Singer 128 was Goody the moment I picked her up from Goodwill (not very inventive, I know). The 15-88 is Estelle for the aunt from whom I inherited her. Even had a car one time that had a bad habit of getting the horn stuck when the keychain clicker didn't work properly. Named him Horatio after Forester's Horatio Hornblower. But I've had this machine for three weeks now and it doesn't have a name. Guess that should tell me something. LOLOLOL
    Dorothy in Denver
    Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering.
    There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. -- Leonard Cohen


  14. #14
    Super Member JudyTheSewer's Avatar
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    Last time I cleaned the lint out of my 301's feed dogs I didn't get the below "R" finger in the "O" slot correctly when replacing the needle plate. I remember the tension was bad and it did not improve regardless of bobbin case tension changes made or the disassembly and cleaning of the upper tension assembly. But, once I read the manual and saw that "R" was not in "O" and fixed that issue then all was fine.
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 03-13-2014 at 10:30 AM. Reason: remove copyright image

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    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Getting a tension back together is pretty simple - make sure the little pin is in the post and moving easily - a lot of times it can have a bit of gummy oil on it. If the little pin is gummy it won't push in and out right. Put things back in the right order per your diagram - pay attention to getting the bits in the right direction. Getting it adjusted at the end can take a bit of time but don't let the machine think you are in a hurry or are scared. I wish I could reach through my computer screen and do it for you. Most of the time I just pull the tension apart as I clean a machine and re-assemble. Most of the time is is pretty easy. It is also a good idea to pull the tension spring off the bobbin case, clean and re-assemble and adjust if you are doing a deep clean up on a machine. This manual should have a tension about like the 301 - look at the 201 with the numbered dial: http://www.tfsr.org/publications/tec...achine_manual/

    Check to be sure the needle is set in the right direction. Have you made sure you threaded the needle in the right direction? Check your manual.
    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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    Thanks for the pic, Judy. I had that problem when I first started working with this machine. That is what I was talking about when I said "And the position finger is in place in the notch of the position plate."

    Miriam, I have the tension unit back together all nicely cleaned up and shiny. I have been following the diagrams and instructions in the original user's manual. Tools for Self Reliance is a wonderful organization, isn't it? The thread follows the proper path for threading, ending at the needle where it goes from right to left. The needle is placed with the flat side to the left. Fortunately, at least according to the manual, that is fool proof as it will only fit in one way

    After working with the tension unit, the stitching is still exactly as it was regardless of how I set the top or bottom tension. The only thing I haven't done is disassemble the bobbin case and clean and reassemble it. Will wait until tomorrow to tackle that as I'm completely worn out at this point. I've been working on this for over two weeks, reading and researching and trying first this and then that with no good outcome. I'm not a quitter but this is about to beat me.
    Dorothy in Denver
    Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering.
    There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. -- Leonard Cohen


  17. #17
    Super Member JudyTheSewer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MamaKitty View Post
    Thanks for the pic, Judy. I had that problem when I first started working with this machine. That is what I was talking about when I said "And the position finger is in place in the notch of the position plate." <snip>
    Oh, sorry Dorothy. I didn't read all of the text carefully enough. Good luck tomorrow with the debugging! :-)

  18. #18
    Junior Member Redsquirrel's Avatar
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    I would take apart the upper tension assembly and make sure its cleaned. Then I would check my bobbin tension by holding the thread and pulling on it to see if it has any tension to to it at all. If that doesn't work, I don't know?
    1939 Singer 221, 1980 Singer Starlet 496, 1947 Singer 201-3

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    Thanks, redsquirrel. Got brave this afternoon and took the tension assembly apart, cleaned and reassembled it. Tried some test sews and various settings with no change from previous. Also have the bobbin tension set so that the unit will just barely move downward if I hold it by the thread.

    I've never found anything mechanical I can't fix but this has me flummoxed.

  20. #20
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Dorothy, the first Singer 401G I worked on took me about a year to make it work right. I worked on it. Gave up and went back to it again and again. It works beautifully and now I know a lot about Singer 401s, etc. Keep on with it. At least you have a manual and somewhere to turn for problems.

    I had a 401 about a week ago that was giving me fits with it's tension. I replaced the tension and it was still doing it so it wasn't the tension. I looked for burrs & polished up some burrs in the throat plate and on the hook - that wasn't all of it. I took apart the bobbin case area and cleaned. That wasn't all of it. There was a slight adjustment on the spring that did some good. I set the tension real loose on both ends and then tighten a little at a time. Eventually it worked just fine. Some times you clean up a tension and it magically goes back together and works beautifully the first try. Some times not. Keep going on it.
    Last edited by miriam; 03-13-2014 at 01:52 AM.
    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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    Thanks, Miriam. I was so discouraged yesterday I was ready to set the whole thing on the curb LOL I think I'll put it back in the case for a while and use the 15-88 to piece the blocks for my very first quilt.

    I really appreciate everyone who has offered suggestions. Know what I appreciate most? No one has said to just give up and send it to the repair shop. First because the local shops I have checked with want to charge more than I paid for the machine and second because I (usually) enjoy fiddling with things. It's great fun even when it gets frustrating.
    Dorothy in Denver
    Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering.
    There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. -- Leonard Cohen


  22. #22
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MamaKitty View Post
    Thanks, Miriam. I was so discouraged yesterday I was ready to set the whole thing on the curb LOL I think I'll put it back in the case for a while and use the 15-88 to piece the blocks for my very first quilt.

    I really appreciate everyone who has offered suggestions. Know what I appreciate most? No one has said to just give up and send it to the repair shop. First because the local shops I have checked with want to charge more than I paid for the machine and second because I (usually) enjoy fiddling with things. It's great fun even when it gets frustrating.
    time out is good
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  23. #23
    Super Member ThayerRags's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miriam View Post
    time out is good
    I used to like it when I was in trouble and my Dad would take one......


    CD in Oklahoma
    "I sew, I sew, so it's off to work I go!!!"
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  24. #24
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MamaKitty View Post
    Thanks, Miriam. I was so discouraged yesterday I was ready to set the whole thing on the curb LOL I think I'll put it back in the case for a while and use the 15-88 to piece the blocks for my very first quilt.

    I really appreciate everyone who has offered suggestions. Know what I appreciate most? No one has said to just give up and send it to the repair shop. First because the local shops I have checked with want to charge more than I paid for the machine and second because I (usually) enjoy fiddling with things. It's great fun even when it gets frustrating.
    I almost set my 401 on the curb where I found it - I did take it to the shop - the guy looked at it and made a couple vague suggestions... he wanted too much to do it so I dragged it back home but I had a new cord for it... eventually it got fixed - but you can't cure ugly on those...
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.
    good mothers let you lick the beaters - great mothers turn it off first

  25. #25
    Super Member ArchaicArcane's Avatar
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    I doubt that anyone here will tell you to kick a 301 to the curb OR take it in. They're really simple machines, and I'm sure it's something simple causing the issues. Can you post a good clear shot of the bobbin case with the bobbin in and threaded through the tension spring? I want to see if there's anything we can spot. It really sounds like bottom tension, but I'm starting to wonder. There are also some suggestions you could go through on these two posts on my blog:
    http://www.archaicarcane.com/fragile...-equal-stress/
    http://www.archaicarcane.com/bobbin-...obbin-tension/

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