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Author Topic: singer sewing machine -technical hitch  (Read 6949 times)


  • Joined May 2013
singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« on: October 20, 2013, 06:13:10 pm »
Iv inherited 2 singer sewing machines which are playing me up as I'm a beginner, and there is no handbook.
One is electric and about 30 yrs old and the other is antique with a turn handle , both are in good nick.
I think it's the tension in the bobbin of both that needs tweaking, as i keep getting loads of loose snags under my stitches. Iv now adjusted everything possible and nothing has helped. The electric machine in particular is dodgy as the bobbin seems to get tangled and there is then loads of thread jamming everything up. Iv rethreaded and changed the cotton. I know it was fine before it came to stay with me  :-[
Does anyone know of good book that teaches you the basics of using a sewing machine, please? As opposed to patterns.
Iv just started a home study dressmaking course so need to work it out pretty sheepish.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 06:18:07 pm by shygirl »


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  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
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Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2013, 06:56:13 pm »
Have you tried googling the model for an instuction manual ?

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  • Joined May 2013
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2013, 07:01:51 pm »
No, that's an idea. I did look on the singer website but couldn't see anything.


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2013, 07:37:13 pm »
Whereabouts are you Shygirl?  I'll cheerfully take a look for you if you're anywhere near me.

A few pointers though:

If you're getting tangles on the bottom of the fabric, that's usually due to the TOP thread tension, not the bottom.  Try putting a different colour of thread in top and bottom and see what happens. (My bet here is that you've got the top tension too loose, but it's all a matter of balance really).

Start by doing a simple test on the bobbin thread though, just to check: Put the bobbin in the holder, thread it, then dangle the bobbin from the thread in mid air if you can, as if it was a yo-yo. The tension will be about right if the bobbin hangs in mid air when your hand isn't moving, but starts to let thread out if you jerk your hand upwards a bit. If the bobbin falls without you moving your hand, tighten the tensioner screw just a little, but be aware that this adjustment is usually very sensitive.

For the top thread, make sure it's definitely threaded correctly, and that you've threaded the needle in the right direction. Then it's just a matter of adjusting the tension until the threads meet in the middle of the two pieces of fabric. If the top tension is too high, the top thread will be a straight line on the top of the upper piece of fabric, and the bottom thread will be pulled all the way through until little loops of it are also visible on top.

If the top tension is too loose, you'll be pulling too much thread off with every stitch, and this ends up underneath the fabric in big loops, and can also get caught up underneath.

So, summary:

1) Put different colours of thread top and bottom so you can see what's going on
2) Check bobbin tension is correct by doing yo-yo test
3) Check machine threaded correctly on top
5) Check top thread tension and adjust until the loops meet in the middle of the seam, i.e. between the two bits of fabric.

I hope that helps - let me know how you get on  :thumbsup: .

"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

Lesley Silvester

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Telford
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2013, 11:39:25 pm »
Womble, I've been using sewing machines for years without knowing that you could alter the tension on the bobbin so thank you for this useful information.


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2013, 11:57:37 am »
Hiya,  TBH, the bobbin tension is usually "set and forget". However, if you're starting with a machine you know nothing about, it's wise to at least check it's in the right ballpark before worrying about anything else.
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett


  • Joined Jan 2012
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2013, 12:27:12 pm »
Womble,  hope you realise you could be adding to your already heavy work load as a lot of us have sewing machine issues.....I have one too :innocent: ...mine worked fine until I tried to put new thread in, things started falling off and now as its hard to see properly, I have just left it in a huff........may go back as I do know it makes so much difference how the bobbin and the needle are threaded....I keep watching clips on You tube, thankfully my model is still around!


  • Joined May 2013
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2013, 09:56:37 pm »
Thanks sooo much.
I sorted the bobbins and all working fine now. I made a skirt and trousers for my kids so I'm chuffed. Iv just got to convince them they are trendy,lol
When I get the manual machine to go in reverse it tends to loop up, but works fine going forward. A bit scared to mess with it again in case I break it again.
Anyone any idea how to do a zigzag thread on an old machine? That's my homework for my course. can all machines do this I wonder? I have an overlocker to play with too. You tube is coming in handy, . Lol
Thank you x


  • Joined Oct 2013
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2013, 08:52:29 am »
Most old black style machines don't have a reverse stitch, they only go forwards. It depends though. Is it a Singer? You can look up the year and model if so, there's a small brass plate with a unique serial number on the front of the base and the tables are here.

Once you've got the model and year it's easy enough to get Singer manuals.

For spares for old sewing machines you want this lovely lady...

As to machine problems, the first thing I'd do is give it a good clean and oil. Dirt and fluff build up under the presser foot and bobbin plate and you need to get this out. On a vintage machine you can pick out an egg cup full of greasy old lint if it's not been cleaned recently and this will affect the stitch quality. Clean, oil and then put in a new needle. This is important, blunt or bent needles make bad stitches. The vast majority of old Singers take the standard modern needles you can get anywhere so don't be mean about changing needles, you're supposed top put ion a fresh needle for every major project.

As to getting a straight stitch machine to do zig-zag well, there are attachments for this (see the Helen Howes site) but they're not cheap. If your more modern machine will do zig zag I'd just use that one tbh. I have a 1959 semi-automatic Singer for doing all the things my black vintage ones can't do. There are a lot of really cool attachments you can use on straight stitch vintage machines though, for ruffling and hemming and embroidery and quilting and such. Do you have a box of these for your machines?

I collect vintage Singers btw, I've cleaned up quite a few more. They're almost indestructible and usually after cleaning, oiling and a needle change they're good to go.


  • Joined Aug 2013
  • Cornhill, Banff
    • The Roundhouse
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2013, 09:24:53 am »
I have one of those gadgets for making a straight stitch machine do zigzag stitch, they work by swinging the work as opposed to the needle. It makes a helluva racket and isn't ideal but is an ingenious bit of kit. Instead of faffing with gadgets I'd recommend learning the original methods of seam neatening and making button holes. At school we learned to use French seams or a tiny rolled hem for seam neatening as there was only one swing needle machine and it was state of the art at the time - god I'm old, lol. Bound button holes (think 'mini bound pocket edges') look so professional and are really easy to do. If your hand sewing is neat you can use a close blanket stitch to create buttonholes.
As your sewing course progresses you'll no doubt find yourself wishing for a machine with a few utility stitches once you see how useful they are, but it's good to know these older skills, you never know what they'll come in handy for.
Permaculture and smallholding, perfect partners


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Leafy Surrey
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2013, 10:40:14 am »
Sounds like my old Singer electric machine.  If it was ever getting loops like you describe it was always because the thread from the bottom bobbin was on upside down in ts case and the thread, if you pulled it sent the bobbin in the wrong direction.  Sounds like you've sorted it well though!


  • Joined Sep 2011
  • West Yorks
Re: singer sewing machine -technical hitch
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2013, 12:12:36 pm »
I inherited an old 'Alba' electric machine (better than nothing), no info so I googled it, downloaded an intruction book for 5, well worth the money. Machine runs as good as a new one (but MUCH heavier  :(  )


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