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April 18, 2010



I do hope you invest in a new machine. Sewing can be fun, sometimes -- when you're not wrestling with the equipment.
I totally agree with the undoing sentiment, though.

Gina in SF Bay Area

I thought my 30 year old Pfaff was also a goner. It was making those same messed-up-tension loops. It turned out it only needed a good tune-up. I think your challenge will be to find a sewing machine repair shop in SoCal. My mom lives on the LA/Ventura County border and can't find one within a reasonable distance. If you find a good one, would you mind sharing? Thanks and good luck!


I had similar problems and realized how hard I was restraining myself from chunking my old crappy machine throw a plate glass window. I ended up with a Bernina and my life has never been the same since. I just finished baptismal gowns for my new nephew and neice with pics posted of on my blog.


Ugh...so disappointing when your machine's not humming. Seriously, I used to sell machines - fancy, fancy ones- and I wouldn't trade my old Singer with metal parts for anything. She's 30 years old and as long as I send her in for the occasional tune up, she's all I need with my awesome Babylock serger.


I swear I could have made that same comment as Pam. 30 yr old Singer and a Babylock serger. Got 'em. And I agree, you probably only need a tune up. Sitting like that the oil and grease in the motor start gumming up and bind to the dust from the thread to make the parts... un-partable if you know what I mean. BTW don't buy cheap Wal-mart thread... to much dust and fray. Some places take trade in's as my sister and I found out the other day, but you can get a lot more for your machine on Craig's List. Which is what sis did with 3 older models and a cabinet. She bought a new White (I think) for $99 just to have when I come to her house and we are redecorating... she doesn't even sew.


Oh, I used to love to sew. I remember the Charlie's Angels 1 piece blue jumpsuit I whipped up in my 8th grade sewing class. Oh I was soooo cool. Loved that! Even did some home dec sewing in the 90's. But I agree, all that ripping can be frustrating. Does sound like you need a tune up (the machine I mean!)


Yeah, what I have is a Kenmore that must be circa 1984, and at the time it was pushing $300 so it's probably a decent model for the time. It is heavy and there isn't any plastic...And since I don't really want a computerized model I guess I will search for an outfit that will tune it up and see what happens.

Thing is, in these parts, it is REALLY hard to find someone to tune it up. There's an appliance place up the way, but I doubt very much they fix sewing machines. They're more about giving advice about boob implants.


If it was a good machine originally, it might be worth getting an overhaul or at least a servicing. I have an old White sewing machine which I bought used in 1973. It has forward, reverse and zig zag and altho' I don't use it that often it meets all my sewing needs. The tension went kaflooey once and the bobbin winder needed a new rubber thingy but once the machine was fixed and oiled, it worked like a charm.

If you really want to spring for a new machine and you do a lot of sewing, I know some quilters that swear by their Pfaff machines. In addition to the feed dogs on the plate below the needle, there are also feed dogs behind the needle that feed the top of the item in at the same as the bottom feed dogs.

Good luck!


Thanks, Geri, but have you SEEN how much those machines cost? Oy! (As much or more as a house payment!)


Two words: pinking shears. That'll take care of the bandanas.

I agree with everyone who said your machine probably just needs a tune-up. Take it apart, get rid of all the dust, oil it etc. If you still have the instruction booklet it will tell you how to do all of this yourself, so you don't have to pay someone to come and look at it.

I got a hand-me-down machine last year and it broke as soon as I started using it. I figured out how to fix it and it was hugely satisfying!


Kenmore is a brand sold at Sears. In MN the Sears stores have service centers that will service sewing machines and vacuum cleaners. You could try that. Also Joanne Fabric stores have sewing machine shops and may be able to send yours out for repair.

Good luck!


I'm working up the nerve to buy my first, very basic sewing machine. I have Sewing PTSD from growing up with a mother who was a professional seamstress (the woman could make a freakin' wedding gown!) and who was eternally disappointed that her only child did not inherit the sewing gene. Peach out, indeed... :-)


I had cut up my living room curtains to turn them into roman shades and started to sew the first seam when I realized my machine had up and died. So frustrating! The air turned a bit blue and my husband had to take it to the repair man. sigh. I *hate* it when my tools don't work properly!


Pitch that old machine! I just had a very similar experience - wanted to put a lining in a bag I knot for a friend, found fabulous material, pulled the old dinosaur out (I think it could be pushing 25) and found myself so frustrated trying to load a bobbin that I marched it RIGHT out to the trash. Nary a second thought. Found a cheapo replacement at Walmart, opened it up at home to realize I'd bought my old machine's newer iteration, so at least I had some familiarity with it.
I also couldn't agree more with the pain of fixing something sewn vs. something knitted - I'll rip any day over seam ripping. Mostly because I can never find one of the many seam rippers stashed in strange places around the house....


How ironic! I also recently was consumed with the urge to sew again. I pulled out my trusty sewing machine which had very similar issues as yours. With some effort, I was finally able to get the tension working somewhat decently. However, I do believe it will soon be a goner.

My mother had her Singer for 30 years until it croaked 2 years ago.


before you toss it, try replacing the needle. it's saved me from trashing my machine several times. new needle, adjust tension, go!


I just resurrected an old sewing machine the other day that has been sitting unused for a couple decades. It too was paralyzed. Nothing would move. I opened it up and oiled all the moving parts, top and bottom. Just kept pressing on the pedal and in a few minutes it started to move slowly and then faster and faster until it took off! A few tweaks to the tension screw on the bobbin and it was like new. If I can do it myself I'm confident anyone can. Good luck with yours!


Someone at FIDM should know who repairs machines in your area.
Interesting how many knitters are being bitten by the sewing bug. I used to sew 10 years ago, recently pulled out the machine (had it serviced) and now am trying my hand at the fabric arts again. Very different from knitting, frustrating, but I'm soldiering through.
ps thank you so much for all your patterns and Custom Knits, you are my hero.


My first sewing machine was a hand-me-down from my Mother In Law. She'd had the machine since high school or something, but she inherited her mom's machine and gave me hers. I decided to get out the quilt that I started piecing together by hand when I was 9 years old. I spent a whole summer after 4th grade cutting little pieces of fabric and hand-sewing them together. I have enough for probably a twin sized blanket. Anyway, so when I got the machine I sewed a few together, got up to get a drink, and while I was 20 feet away the machine started sewing on it's own as fast as it could, then I saw a spark and a poof of smoke and it died.

On a more related note, though, it does sound like you just need a tune up. I'm not a big seamstress or anything, but my MIL's machine (her new one) was doing some of the same funky stuff and it cost her around $100 to get it tuned up. Now it works like a charm.

Lisa H.

Dude. For a bandana, you don't need a sewing machine - just use a needle and thread.

By the time you've got your machine set up, even if it works, the bandana would be done. Plus, you can sit outside and hand sew. Or up by the window while you keep an eye on the neighbors.

Hand sewing is nearly as satisfying as knitting. And I say that as a fanatical knitter - I knit all the time.


I actually have nothing important to add to this conversation, but I have the same history of being an ultra-seamstress (I was going to say sewer, but that could mean one who sews, or a series of stinky pipes under the road) who now mostly just knits. I mainly wanted to pay tribute to my mom's ancient Viking sewing machine that she passed on to me. It is a tank, older than I am (I'm 45) and is still going full steam ahead. Maybe it's actually a real Viking, reincarnated as a sewing machine.


I've recently been thinking that I want to get a sewing machine and learn how to sew, but that will have to come later after I knit through Custom Knits. Love your book!


As a novice sewer, who occasionally only hems pants (and when I do, I have to re-read the directions for threading the bobbin and machine everytime), I just had a major tension problem this past weekend!
And... this is a revelation to me... it could have been the machine's fault?!?! EXCELLENT! Here I've been blaming myself and not able to figure it out no matter what I tried! (Of course it could still be me, but I feel better thinking it might not ALL be me!). Thanks for sharing Wendy!!

Hanne-Kristine in stitches and loops

Okey! You could try to sew your triangle by hand....

Try this: booklet + dusting + new needle + good tread + try to breath...


Oil her up, rethread with new thread, put in a new needle appropriate for the thread/fabric and adjust the top tension...also, have you cleaned the lint out of the bobbin area? You may be pleasantly surprised how much better a stitch you'll get after a bit of maintenance. If you don't plan on going into the machine embroidering business I would suggest saving the thousands of dollars a new fancy machine would cost and get old faithful tuned-up. Good luck

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