My Sewing Machine and Other Animals

I’m sure anyone who has ever used a sewing machine has, at times, found the whole process to be extremely frustrating.  I’ve always assumed it was down to my own lack of knowledge in part, but also partly due to some sort of karmic twist which gave my machine a cruel sense of humour.  No matter, we plough on regardless, even when the walking track grabs all the little threads on the underside of your work and snatches them like the troll under the bridge, or when your needle insists on repeatedly unthreading itself, despite your best efforts to make sure there is always plenty of thread pulled through.

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Up until about a month ago, I was sharing a sewing machine with my Nana, as I’d been using her new one (because she didn’t like the new one as much), but her old Pfaff has now been lowered 6 feet under in the landfill so she’s taken that one back.  However, she spotted a new Singer on sale when she was out with my Grandad and he bought me it.  Brilliant, right?!  The workings were fairly similar, but the dials and reverse lever were in different places, and it has a horizontal spool pin, rather than a vertical one.  All in all, it’s a much stronger machine, and I’ve been teaching myself to use it ever since (you learn from your mistakes right?  anyway, I’ve decided to work my way through The Great British Sewing Bee books, starting with the simpler projects and moving up, whilst also finishing everything I had planned to make for my flat.  Oh, and I have a quilt in mind too!

So far, I have had two relatively major dramas with the new machine.

The first came when I was making my kitchen chair cushions and somehow hit the zip tab with the needle. Crack, split, ching: needle broken.  this resulted in panic, and a lot of huffing and puffing as I tried to unscrew the screw which holds and releases the needle using my fingers alone.  It wouldn’t budge.  Grr.  Ouch.  I tried a knife in the little indent, then a screwdriver, and plier, to no avail.  Then I tried a hand sewing needle thinking it would be narrow enough to fit into indent, which it did, but it immediately snapped.  Great – two broken needles!

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As Google is my usual go-to for all things troubleshoot, that was my next bet  – “needle screw too light”…”how to loosen needle screw”…..no dice!  Finally, remembering there was a weird metal tool in the accessories pack for my old machine (I had to use it to undo a different screw to oil the machine in the past), I had a rummage around for that. Lo and behold, the narrow edge was perfect for the screw’s indent, so out came the old needle, in went the new (keeping the flattened side tot he back) and it was easy enough to tighten the screw up again.  First lesson learned.

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Lesson numero dos.  The details will have to remain sketchy for the time being as this happening was part of  a new project I’ve been working on over the last week or so, but it’s a present so I don’t want to advertise it just yet (pattern will follow in due course).  Anyways, I was stitching on a patch pocket when my needle decided to unthread itself repeatedly, no matter how many times I rethreaded and started again.  The fourth or fifth time this happened, I Iooked at the end of the thread and realised it had been almost chewed up and stretched.  That’s when I realised that I was trying to coax thread at a normal sewing tension through 4 layers of fabric (due to the pocket having a double hem).  So I turned the thread tension wheel down a notch from 3 to 2,and tried again, and the needle passed through as easily as it would have through 2 layers of fabric.  I suppose you have to think of the sewing action as a sort of wave – loosen the tension and the wave will deepen; tighten it and it’s grow shallower, pulling the fabric tighter.

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