Sewing machine headaches

Sewing machines. My first machine was a Singer, I’m not sure of the model but I can tell you it was very heavy. My mother in law purchased it for me for Christmas one year. It was a used machine that she bought from her machine repairman. At the time I thought it was a little tacky  but I was happy none the less. Her reasoning for buying used, all the machines manufactured today are plastic and the machine would last me for years. Sure it would, I didn’t even know how to use a sewing machine.

Fast forward a couple years to when I was pregnant and on bed rest. If you are an active person accustomed to working 40 plus hours a week and suddenly you are told to stay off of your feet I don’t need to explain how quickly the boredom sets in. I can’t really say how many days or weeks I had laid there trying to come up with something to do other than watching television. Almost every activity I could come up with required me to be on my feet, I couldn’t even do dishes, darn the luck.  I decided the rainy day had come and I was going to learn how to use that machine. So when my husband came home from work he pulled it out of the closest and set it up on my coffee table and taught me how to use a sewing machine.  For 10 years I’d been storing a quilt top I had hand pieced  and decided this would be my first real project on my machine, I wish I still had that top. It was such a disaster, it wasn’t even fit for a dog bed. I went on to use that machine for 6 years. Knowing what I know now about machines I wish I hadn’t given my son a screwdriver and turned him loose. He pulled parts off and gave me the part numbers, told me if I had the part he would fix it for me. He had removed every part possible and put it back together so many times that he could have done it blind folded. I did learn just how many working pieces there were in a sewing machine.

My second machine was also a Singer and I paid $150 for it. Keep in mind I still knew nothing about machines and thought I really had something with this new machine.  I made several applique quilts and quilted coats with this machine before I retired it 10 years later for a 1970’s model Singer. Remember the old blonde furniture? The mother in law of a co worker was selling her Singer Slant O Matic for $35 in a blond cabinet. She didn’t know much about the machine herself but I took a chance anyway. I purchased the machine sight unseen (I am back to the heavy last you forever machine). When I brought it home and opened it up it was clear the machine hadn’t been used much if at all. No one could clean a machine this well. In my first test strip with this machine I knew exactly what my mother in law was talking about. This Slant O Matic would pull 2 layers of denim, 2 layers of cotton batting, a single layer of pleather, and 2 layers of cotton fabric under the needle without hesitation or bogging down.  It was like comparing a weed-eater (the new model Singer) to a small block Chevy motor (Slant O Matic). I was in love. With that machine I made hand bags, applique quilts, patched Levis, made many quilt tops, you name it. There was nothing I would hesitate to put under that needle. When it became less reliable, mainly just needing a good service I retired it. For the last 5 years I had spent 3-4 hours weekday evenings, and all day on Saturday and Sundays at that machine. Lets say a well deserved retirement.

My next purchase was a Juki TL2010. Again, I am in love with this machine. It is only a straight stitch machine but holds it own again the Slant O Matic.

My next purchase was a Sunshine 16 long arm machine. After dropping $100 bills + at the quilter I decided I would be ahead if I just quilted my own tops. On a limited budget the Sunshine was the best fit for me. I had read negative reviews on the machine but I am always up for a challenge and knew that I would not be one of those people with negative results. With this machine you had to stay on top of your tension.  It is nothing like the Gammill I have today. Again, comparing a weed-eater to a small block Chevy.  The Sunshine taught me so much about adjusting machine tension and maintenance. Today I can time a machine, adjust a needle bar, adjust tension “with confidence”, change a shuttle/hook assembly, and I am sure there is more to this list that I just cant think of right now. Which leads me to why I started this post to begin with.

Yesterday I began having an issue with my Juki.  This machine has been the most reliable machine I have owned, so far. Its not finicky with thread and takes what I give it with a smile. So imagine my shock when it would not pick up bobbin thread. I was stitching along as I had been for the past 6 hours then all of a sudden it wasn’t stitching. It hadn’t been that long before when I changed the bobbin, cleaned the dust and lint and oiled the machine.  So I went through all the steps I had mastered with the Sunshine. Check the bobbin, rethread, change the needle, gave it a good cleaning, rethread with a new spool, check/change the needle and it still would not pick up my bobbin thread. I shut everything off and cooked dinner. The thought of sending the machine back to the place of purchase (in California) and being without my machine for God knows how long, or traveling into St Louis  to a repair shop and still being without my machine for at least a week was devastating.  At one point I even wondered where I could take a sewing machine repair course and how could I become an authorized service center for Juki.  There is no one in my area who repairs machines and I could pick up a few machines for some extra fabric cash. Hey we all have a habit to support. Because the machine is still under warranty I didn’t want to take a screwdriver to it and jeopardize my warranty so I had to do it by the book. It was clear the machine had jumped out of time.

After dinner I sat back down at the machine. I did a thorough cleaning and vacuumed it out,  checked my needle again, rethreaded the machine. rechecked my bobbin case for lint, still no thread pickup. I have read hundreds of websites regarding machine adjustment and cleaning. One of the things they all share, do not use canned or compressed air in your bobbin area because it blows lint and dust into tiny crevices. Before you judge. it worked. Apparently there was lint or thread  unreachable by brush that was preventing the bobbin thread from being picked up.  Glad I didn’t take it to a repair shop, I would have felt very foolish.

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