mama whose curiosity knows no bounds

Posts tagged ‘sewing machine’

my first sewing machine repair

Oh, there are lots of firsts, recently. I think it’s a good thing.

I’ve been frustrated by the quality of sewing machine service. It’s expensive (about $90+tax), and the dealer is at least two hours away. Then I have that bird’s nest problem, soon after I resumed using it. When I bring to a dealer, I expect the real fix, and I don’t think it’s wrong.

So, I decided to learn to repair myself. I bought a text online, at $99. It’s not the easiest read, but at least contains information I need.

I needed a machine to play with. I don’t want to sacrifice my Brother or Bernina for the practice. I still have things to sew.

Then I got this old old machine at a yard sale. It was $20. The lady told me that it was functional.

Well, if functional means that needles goes up and down, yes. But I couldn’t do the initial sewing test (according to my text book, that’s the first thing to do). Presser foot didn’t go down.

Now I started to explore the cause. I opened the side panel.


It seems like the Presser foot bar is stuck. I used the everyone’s trick: soaked in WD-40.

While soaking, I cleaned the other part. I used WD-40 to clean any metal part. At first I used it for the outside casing (painted cast iron) but I found that glass cleaner with ammonia worked better. It seemed like the previous owner was a smoker. 

After several minutes, it started moving! I moved up and down, cleaning with old toothbrush while moving. The reset the height and put things back after lubricating everywhere I can reach. I inserted the needle – it was a sheer luck that I had a needle for this machine. It is not standard household machine needle (also called 130/705H), but some industrial or serger one called (EL x 705). I think I bought this needle when I bought my brother serger some 11 years ago, without knowing that my serger takes regular household needle. Anyway, it took some cleaning to insert the needle, and threaded. There were several bobbins that came with it, so I used them.

Voila! It sewed! I had to lower the upper thread tension to minimum to get the right balance (of course bobbin tension was balanced correctly) so I think there is some problem in the tension disks. I haven’t got it yet, as this is my “initial sewing test!”.

I tested how thick it can go.


Great, it can go 6 layers of 12 oz.(for men’s jeans) denim! 

But when I switched the upper thread to jean thread, it stopped working. I guess this is tension problem. And the discs can’t take thicker thread.

This machine has other stitches like zig zag, button hole, stretch stitch, etc. none of them worked. Gear problem, maybe?

At least I managed to fix the Presser foot, so I should think it’s a good start! I can spend as long as I want to fix and then sell or disassemble apart and save the parts. That sounds fun.



Bernina frustration – bobbin thread bird’s nest

I have two sewing machines: Bernina 140 Patchwork Edition that is about 15 years old and Brother —- about a year old.

I bought the latter for carrying convenience AND speed control.  S has shown interest in sewing and almost ready to use sewing machine. In Japan, first sewing machine use is 5th grade home economics class.  So S is just about right age-wise. And I was very sure that S cannot control speed of my Bernina, which requires careful footwork. Otherwise, the machine is so powerful and fast – posing danger. So far, the Brother turns out to be great machine and I really appreciate automatic threader!

Yet I have a special attachment to my Bernina – heavy-duty, fast and beautiful stitches. I couldn’t afford the fancy embroidery model so it has useful 22 stitches but I use about 6 and that’s it.

But from time to time, my Bernina loses timing. As a result, bobbin thread bunches up under the fabric.  This is extremely frustrating. I have done extensive web search looking for answer and in a few quilting message board there are a few fellow Bernina timing losers. Yet the overwhelming response was “I love my Bernina, I’ve never had such a problem”. I love my Bernina, too, except when losing the timing. Or, I would see messages like, “when Bobbin thread bunches up or nests, it almost ALWAYS upper thread problem. Did you clean the tension disc?” YES, I DID. SO MANY TIMES. I cleaned the tension disc, oiled moving parts, etc. they won’t fix it. I know it. But I do anyway insanely.

I know the answer to the problem. I need to take out the bobbin hook,remove any lint if any, and PUT IT BACK IN PLACE. This is an extremely difficult task and most frustrating part is I can’t tell why. Once in a while I succeed and I go back to sewing. Sometimes I had to have a break on sewing altogether. Now with my Brother, I’m tempted to switch. But I don’t want to abandon my Bernina. I bought machine cabinet with acrylic board custom fit to it so it works like old fashioned sewing machine than a portable one!

Here’s how to fix.

Tilt the sewing machine so the bobbin is facing UP. Of course turn the power off.

Insert the hook. It should “sit in its natural place” only it seems like there is only one truly working place out of thousand natural spaces in this small space!

Yo lose the plastck and metal door. Make sure the metal door clicks.

Here’s the time saving trick. Test before you insert your bobbin and bobbin case and make another birds’ nest!

Turn the wheel while holding the upper thread as if you are pulling out the bobbin thread. If the upper thread is stuck like this, you had no luck. Disassemble everything and reinstall again.



But if the upper thread enters the lower area about 3/8″ and go back,and you can repeat, there is a good chance that you did it right. Stand up the machine, insert bobbin case and try. I usually just turn the hand wheel. When it doesn’t go right, you will hear clicking noise under (this is the sound that the hook is getting out of place), or feel unusual resistance from the wheel. Then stop. Go back and reinstall. But if you don’t hear any noise and wheel moves smoothly, go ahead and step on. If you are lucky, the hook is in place.

My fellow Bernina lovers suffering from this constant birds nest problem – you’re not alone!



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