Your Sewing Machine Doesn't Hate You

I've been sewing here and there since I was a kid, but I only started taking it seriously about 5 years ago. The more time I spent with my machine meant more phone calls to my mom whining that my sewing machine was going crazy. It was always doing this - I thought it hated me.

With a little experience, and a lot of help from mom, I finally think I'm getting the hang of this thing. So I thought I'd share the top 5 most helpful tips I've learned, for other sewing beginners still in the getting-to-know-you phase:

1. When your machine starts messing up, first rethread your machine and make sure your needle isn't dull. It helps to review the sewing machine manual every year or so to make sure you're threading it right. Also, I went a couple years before I realized I needed to change my needle - don't wait that long. If you don't have a new needle on hand, you can sew over a little piece of sandpaper to sharpen up the one you've got - but this is just a quick fix, so get a new needle soon.

2. If that didn't work - it's your tension. It usually is. Anytime you change fabric, thread, needles, or toothpaste, you'll probably have to adjust your tension. Check your manual for suggestions, but this is how I remember it: if the bumps are on the top turn the tension down, if they're on the bottom turn it up.

3. For regular quilting cotton or similar medium weight fabric, your tension should be somewhere in the middle of the dial. If it's way low or way high, your bobbin tension is probably off, which you can't adjust yourself (unless you know about those kind of things). So you'll need to take your machine for a tune up. Yep, just like a car. If you treat your machine right, hopefully this won't happen too often, but if you, say, sew with a bobbin that doesn't fit in your machine for a year, you'll have to fork over 70 bucks for labor.

4. Use the appropriate needle for your fabric. Your sewing machine manual should have suggestions for this, but here's how I remember it: a heavier fabric needs a higher number, a lighter fabric a lower number. An average weight fabric should take an 11-14.

5. Keep your project neat! Clip threads and iron your fabric. Wrinkly fabric and loose threads will agitate your machine. You may have figured out by now that when a pattern says to pin something, you can really get by without it. That's so true. But not with ironing. Really. The iron is your friend.

It turns out my machine wasn't mistreating me, but the other way around. Show your machine a little love and it'll work for you. Good luck!


K said...

Thanks for the tips. I'm a beginner. I took some classes last fall, and every time I had problems in class, the machine was threaded wrong or I'd put the bobbin in incorrectly. I'm pretty good at those two now!

Katarina said...

Oh, thank you so much for the tips! I was sure my machine hated me. Sometimes I could continue the day after on the same project, with the same needle, thread and tension and it still messed with me. Although I did change toothpaste, LOL!!!
Thanks again. Now I know what to do next time (and I won't have to hold my breath and hope for the best every time I sew).

Anonymous said...

Great tips. Learned from experience.
Love you Mom

Lisa Anne said...

I want a machine so bad. I don't have a hundred dollars to spend on one. I so want to make the snack bags. I think I might just buy the 40 purple one from walmart. I could always return it. lol

julie said...

Oooh, and always choose the right needle. I sew with a lot of different fabrics, and non-fabric materials, and half the time, if I start to satin-stitch a hem on an upholstery-fabric crayon roll and it looks WAY wonky, it's because I forget to take out the ball-point stretch needle I was using yesterday and put in a leather needle. The other half of the time I still don't know what's wrong.