These questions will focus on topics which have been frequently asked by our customers. We hope that these responses will aid you in making your sewing experience more enjoyable!
Feel free to ask us for tips you may wish to have discussed on this page.
Q: What are the Parts of a Sewing Machine?
A: These are parts common to many sewing machines. Since there are so many sewing machine models out there, these parts may or may not be on your particular machine.
- Bobbin - The spool that sits in the lower part of the machine. It holds the thread that makes the underside of a stitch.
- Bobbin Case - The part of the machine that houses the bobbin.
- Feed/Feed Dogs - The metal teeth that stick up above the needle plate. They move the fabric forward/backward as it is being stitched.
- Hand Wheel - The wheel on the side of the machine that can be turned manually to adjust the height of the needle.* Not to be used on Computerized machines
- Needle Bar/Needle Clamp - The part that holds the needle.
- Needle Plate/Throat Plate - The flat surface below the needle that the needle goes down through when making a stitch. It can be changed for different stitching jobs. Can also be called a throat plate.
- Presser Foot - The piece that sits below the needle and holds the fabric down as it's being stitched. It can be changed for different stitching jobs.
- Slide Plate - The cover that opens to allow access to the bobbin.
- Spool Holder - The spindle that holds the top spool of thread.
- Stitch Length Regulator/Selector - The mechanism that allows you to adjust the length of your stitches.
- Stitch Width Regulator/Selector - The mechanism that allows you to adjust the width of a wide stitch, such as a zigzag stitch.
- Take-up Lever - Part of the upper threading sequence, it helps control the flow of thread. It's the part that goes "up and down" as you sew.
- Tension Disks - Disks that the upper thread is placed between that regulate thread tension.
- Tension Regulator/Adjuster/Dial - The mechanism that allows you to adjust the tension of your upper thread.
- Thread Guides - Part of the upper threading sequence, they direct the flow of thread.
Q: Why does my thread keep breaking?
- An incorrectly threaded machine can cause thread to break. Rethread your machine.
- Decrease the tension on your machine. The tension may be too tight for your thread.
- Reposition the spool of thread on the spindle. A little nick in the edge of a spool that's used to hold the loose end of the thread can catch as you sew. Place your spool so that this nick rests against the bottom of the spindle.
- Reinsert your needle. Make sure it goes all the way into the holder and that it's positioned correctly, usually with the flat side away from the bobbin, but consult your machine's manual to be sure.
- Change your needle. Your needle may be bent or dull. The eye of your needle may have a nick in it that's cutting the thread as you sew. Or the eye of your needle may be too small for your thread, in which case, change to a larger needle. And make sure your needle is appropriate for the weight and type of your fabric.
- Change your thread. Your thread may be weak. Or your thread may be fuzzy and irregular, causing it to catch in the eye of your needle as you sew. Cheap thread tends to be weak and fuzzy, so make sure touse a quality, brand name thread. And if you've been sewing with older cotton thread, which can dry out and become brittle with age, try a newer thread.
- Check your presser foot for damage to the needle plate hole. A burr in your presser foot's needle hole may be cutting your thread. Gently smooth any rough spot you find with an emery cloth.
- There may be a burr in one of your thread guides, in which case, you may need to have your machine professionally serviced to have the part replaced.
Q: Why is my lower thread breaking?
- Your bobbin may not be seated properly in its case so reinsert your bobbin.
- Your bobbin may be threaded incorrectly or the thread may be tangled so rethread your bobbin.
- If your bobbin is very full (if it's hard to insert into the case, it's too full), this may be keeping your bobbin from turning smoothly therefore remove some of the thread from your bobbin.
- If your bobbin thread is wound unevenly, this may be keeping your bobbin from turning smoothly then rewind your bobbin thread.
- There could be a nick along the edge of your bobbin spool that's catching your thread as you sew. Try a new bobbin.
- Lint in your bobbin case could be keeping your bobbin from working properly. Clean the lint from your bobbin case.
- Check the needle hole in your throat plate for rough spots. A burr in the needle hole of your throat plate (usually caused by the needle hitting the throat plate) could be cutting your thread. Gently smooth any rough spot you find with an emery cloth.
Q: How do I prevent sewing machine problems?
The Basic of Sewing Machine Needles.
- Use a new, sharp needle for every project or change your needle after eight hours of continuous sewing.
- Use the right needle for your type of fabric and thread. Consult the Sewing Machine Needles
Basics for more information.
- Don't over wind your bobbin with too much thread. Low quality poly thread can elasticated and expand your bobbin and if might deform or explode make it impossible to remove or work in the bobbin case.
- Use a good quality, brand name thread.
- Use the correct pressure foot for your type of fabric.
- Don't sew over pins.
- Don't pull your fabric as you sew.
- Before you start to sew a seam, grasp the thread tails from the upper and bobbin threads. Hold them back and out of the way for your first couple of stitches. This will keep the threads from getting caught in your machine.
- The shank: The upper part of the needle that's inserted into the needle bar - one side is usually flat and the other side, round.
- The shaft: The lower part of the needle.
- The eye: The hole in the shaft that carries the thread.
- The scarf: The indentation in the back of the needle that helps form a stitch.
- The groove: The indentation in the front of the needle that helps guide the thread.
- The point: The sharp tip of the needle that pierces the fabric.
Q: How to choose the right needle?
A: When selecting a needle for your project, consider both the kind of fabric you'll be sewing and the type of thread you'll be using.
For finer fabrics, choose a smaller (thinner) needle. For heavier fabrics, choose a larger (thicker) needle. Why? Because a thick needle used on a fine fabric could leave noticeable holes. And a thin needle used on a heavy fabric could break.
And use a smaller needle for finer thread and a larger needle for thicker thread - the larger needle will have a larger eye to accommodate the thicker thread. Your thread should pass through the eye of your needle smoothly, yet fit snuggly into the needle's groove. If you were to use a small needle with a thick thread, your thread could shred or break. And using a thick needle with a fine thread could cause uneven stitches.
Since it's difficult to judge the size of a needle by looking at it, needles are numbered to indicate their size. The general rule is the larger the number, the larger the needle. And in addition to sizes, most needle packages are labeled with recommendations such as "for medium weight fabrics."
You must also choose a needle point?
Use a sharp point or standard point needle on woven fabrics.
Use a ball point needle on knits. The rounded point of this needle slides between the threads of a knit fabric instead of piercing them.
You can also use a universal point needle to sew most woven and knit fabrics. This needle has a slightly rounded point.
In addition, there are lots of other needles for special sewing tasks such as sewing heavy denim fabrics, sewing leather, sewing with metallic thread, and more. There are also twin and triple needles designed for decorative stitching.
Most needles can be used in most machines, but consult your manual to be sure. Or look on the back of your needle package for a list of compatible models.
Q: How to insert your needle?
A: Raise the needle to its highest position. On most sewing machines, there's a screw on the side of the needle bar. Loosen this screw and slide the old needle out. Insert the shank (the upper part) of the new needle into the needle bar, usually with the flat side facing away from the bobbin area (check your manual to be sure). Push the needle up as far as it will go. Tighten the screw.
Q: Tips for preventing needle problems!
- Use a new, sharp needle for every project or change your needle after eight hours of continuous sewing. Dull needles can damage your fabric and cause stitching problems.
- Use a needle appropriate for your fabric and thread. Using the wrong needle can cause stitch problems, broken thread, and broken needles.
- Make sure to insert your needle correctly (consult your manual) and that it goes all the way into the needle bar.
- Test your needle first by sewing stitches on a scrap of your fabric before starting your project.
- Keep an assortment of needle types and sizes on hand so you'll always have the right needle for your project.
- Most needle packages list both an American and a European size. The smaller number is the American size. But with both numbering systems, the higher the number, the larger the needle.
Q: How to avoid breaking needles:
Cause of stitches looping:
- Use proper size of needles for thread and fabric to be sewn.
- See that the presser foot or attachment is securely fastened to the bar and that the needle goes through the center of the hole.
- Avoid pulling fabric when sewing. The needle may become bent and strike the back of the needle hole.
- Use a needle that is the correct length. If it is too long it will come in contact with the bobbin case and break. If it is too short stitches cannot interlock.
- Be sure needle is tightly fastened in the needle bar. Also be sure presser foot is tightly fastened.
- Sew over pins carefully. Be sure they are perpendicular to the seam and keep the heads of pins away from the stitching line.
Causes of upper thread breaking:
- Looped stitches are usually caused by improper tension. If the loop is on the upper side, it may be corrected by loosening the top tension or by tightening the lower tension. If the loop is on the underside, it is usually best corrected by adjusting the upper tension. (Note: Some new model machines have factory set bobbins which should not be tampered with. Check your own machine manual).
- Make sure that the upper and lower threading is correct and that the needle is of good quality and the correct size for the thread.
- Looping of stitches is sometimes caused by placing the bobbin in the bobbin case the wrong way. Check your machine manual for directions.
- There may be lint, dirt, or thread between tension discs.
Causes of lower thread breaking:
- Needle is in backwards.
- Machine improperly threaded.
- Tension too tight.
- Needle bent or having blunt point.
- Thread too coarse for size needle.
- Burr on needle hole of presser foot (Caused by breaking needle when pulling fabric from machine).
- Needle too long for machine, or not inserted all the way in the needle bar.
- Take-up spring bent or broken (Send for adjuster to repair).
- Tension discs worn so that thread works in groove.
- Needle too fine for size of thread and fabric to be sewn.
- Threads not properly pulled back under presser foot when starting to sew.
- Lint or dirt around bobbin case holder.
- Irregular sewing speed.
Causes of puckered seams:
- Improper threading of bobbin in bobbin case.
- Tension too tight.
- Thread wound unevenly on bobbin in bobbin wound too full.
- Spring on bobbin case worn to sharp groove.
- Burr on underside of throat plate (sometimes caused by sewing over pins or breaking needle)
- Knot in bobbin thread.
- Lint, dirt, or thread under tension spring of bobbin case.
Cause of machine not feeding properly:
- Tension is too tight.
- Stitch too long for fabric being sewn, especially on fine fabric.
- Wrong presser foot used.
- Puckered threads across seams are due to a blunt needle or too large a needle.
- Stitch too short for synthetic and easy care fabrics.
- With automatic machines, the use of the plate with wide needle hole may cause straight seams to pucker.
- Upper thread and bobbin threads are of a different size and/or type.
- Pressure too heavy for fabric.
- Fabric pushed of pulled while stitching.
Cause of machine working heavily:
- Pressure incorrect for the fabric being sewn.
- The feed dog worn smooth. This can be determined by running the finger over the teeth. If they are not sharp, the feed dog should be replaced by a competent adjuster.
- Feed dog clogged with lint.
- The stitch regulator may have been turned back so far that the feed is entirely out of action.
- Needle may be bent.
- Spool of thread may jerk and catch if machine is operated too rapidly or at uneven speed.
- Stitch regulator incorrectly adjusted.
- Throat plate incorrectly positioned.
- If the machine works hard after standing, it may be gummed with oil and in need of a general cleaning.
- The belt may be too tight and hence puts excessive pressure on the bearings.
Q: What is Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance?
A: Performing periodic maintenance on your sewing machine is important. A well-maintained machine will likely run better and prevent annoying, time consuming, and costly problems later. Since there are so many sewing machine models out there, this is meant to be an overview of the basics. Consult your manual for the specific maintenance needs of your machine. Note: If you need the manual for your sewing machine, try visiting your manufacturer's website. They often have old manuals available for download or purchase.
- Keep your sewing machine covered when it's not in use or place it in its case or cabinet. This will keep the dust away and you'll have less cleaning to do later. You can get a plastic cover from a sewing store or you can make your own cover.
- Clean your machine. Important: Before performing any type of maintenance on your sewing machine, unplug it first. Lint from thread and fabric accumulate on the interior parts of your machine. Clean this lint out after every project or after about eight hours of continuous sewing. Unthread your machine and take out the bobbin. Remove the pressure foot and the needle.
- Clean the surface of your machine. Dust the outside of your machine with a soft cloth. Use a damp cloth on any stains. Never spray any liquid directly on your machine. Use a brush or cotton swab to clean out the thread guides and the various nooks and crannies.
- Clean between the tension disks. Raise your pressure foot mechanism to loosen the tension springs. Clean between the tension disks with a clean cloth. Blow the lint out using a can of compressed air. Use a small vacuum tool to draw out any lint or fuzz.
- Clean the bobbin area and under the needle plate. Remove the needle plate (also called the throat plate). Refer to your manual if you don't know how to remove it - some snap out and others have to be unscrewed. Open the slide plate to expose the bobbin area. Clean out any lint with a small brush, cleaning the bobbin area and around and under the feed dogs. Or use a can of compressed air or vacuum the lint out. Use a pair of tweezers to pick out any stubborn lint. Remove your bobbin case (consult your manual) and clean away any lint.
- Inspect your needle plate and before putting your needle plate back, check it for nicks or burrs. Smooth out any you find with an emery cloth.
- Oil your machine periodically, if your machine requires it. Some machine you cannot access areas to oil because they have oil impregnated bearing. When at the service shop oil is added and when the machine is used the oil comes out to lubricate the bearings and returns to the bearing when not being used. Oiling lubricates the moving parts of your machine and helps prevent rust. Some machines need to be oiled, some do not. Consult your manual to see if your particular machine needs to be oiled and if so, which parts to oil. Oil your machine every few months or as instructed by your manual. Tips for oiling your machine. Use just a small amount of oil, one drop on each part and only use sewing machine oil. After oiling your machine, sew some scraps of fabric to catch any excess oil before starting your project.
- Get your machine professionally serviced. Get your machine serviced about every two years or as instructed by your manual. The tension will be balanced and the machine thoroughly cleaned and oiled.