simply re-threading your machine when you have problems with it.
A quick note today folks! I’m inside waiting for the anti-inflammatories to kick in before I go back outside to do some bodywork on the truck so I thought I’d jot down a little note for you.
The traditional advice when you start to have tension problems with a machine seems to be “Re-thread it. Everything, the bobbin case and the top”.
Most of the time that usually means that people yank the thread out from the back – or some will cut it and remove from the front – then they re-thread and…. it doesn’t fix it. Sometimes it will but often it doesn’t.
Often what’s happening – especially if the problem is a fairly consistent one – is the machine IS being threaded wrong, or something’s causing the thread to jump out of where it belongs.
When we simply re-thread without investigating the current state of things, we’re not learning anything.
Anyone remember the definition of insanity?
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
I want you to approach tension problems differently. In fact, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but tension is a huge part of what this blog is about. 😉
Before you un-thread the machine, I want you to look the machine, at its threading and see what’s really going on.
Look at the machine and try to determine WHY it’s not working right:
- Has the thread slipped out of a guide?
- Check the bobbin case – the thread may have slipped out of the tension spring.
- Is it in the take up lever still?
- If you still can’t see it, break out your manual or download an electronic copy – many of the manufacturers have their manuals – even for vintage machines – online and then there are other sources like ismacs.net. You should almost never have to pay for a copy, even if you didn’t get it with your machine.
- If you still can’t see it, it may be in the tensioner – especially if your tensioner is not exposed like on many vintage machines.
- You are threading the machine with the presser foot up, right? Every time? If you’re not, the tension disks are not loose enough for the thread to slip between them and you will have inconsistent results.
Sometimes it’s subtle. This Singer 411G has the thread behind the 3 tension disks. At first glance, it could look like it’s correctly threaded between the 2 back disks. How it’s threaded here though will cause a really loose top tension and possibly thread nests.
To be clear: The 411G has 3 tension disks. Threading between 1 and 2 will work fine. Threading between 2 and 3 will work fine. For that matter a thread between 1 and 2 and a thread between 2 and 3 at the same time is also OK and how Singer designed the machine to stitch with 2 threads at once. Threading behind the third as in the photo will cause problems.
Sometimes it’s a design flaw. Some of the early Pfaff Quilt Expression machines had a take up lever that would release the thread and cause all manner of tension headaches. There’s a fix for it and any Pfaff dealer should be able to help you out with it.
I advocate investigation because often when we simply re-thread, we’re so focused on the goal (getting back to sewing) that we don’t notice what causes the problem over and over again. By being aware of a potential trouble spot, we can change the way we thread or know to watch it in the future. It also gives you something to mention to your service technician when your machine goes in for service – or something for you to work on the next time you do maintenance on your machine.
Alright, I guess this is as much as I can realistically expect any pain relievers to work. I better get back outside and remove some more rust.
What about you? Have you got any tips on how to stop the (tension) insanity? Anyone out there want to swap some bodywork skills for a couple of really great vintage sewing machines? 😉