Is this just because i have a cheap machine??

polarprincessMarch 7, 2009

My husband bought me a 90 dollar kenmore sewing machine that i use basically only to sew muslin doll bodies and items, and a few doll dresses made out of various fabrics such as homsepun and silk. I have alot of issues getting the perfect stitch,going around tight corners or curves, and either it is too loose or too tight or some of both in the same stitch line, or the needle breaks and i have to start over. I have tried adjusting the tension, make sure i change needles when in change fabric thickness,, etc..but i just constantly fight with it and i am wondering if it is just the machine or is it the user? How do you know how to adjust the tension?? i just cannot figure out how to get it right?or is it just because it is cheap? I keep thinking i should just try and better quality machine, but my needs are so simple, i feel like this machine should be enough.. Are there machines out there that come with auto tension? What is the difference between a $90.00 machine and a more expensive one as far as quality and how things work? I have read on some bernina's you can change fabrics without changing needles etc... how is that?/ Thanks for any advice

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Tension can be a very tricky thing, indeed. Years ago I had a Kenmore with tension problems like yours. One day I got it right and it worked for almost everything else I sewed. I have no idea why.

If I remember correctly, my old Kenmore had a bobbin tension, as well as a top tension. Perhaps yours does? I also know I avoided changing the bobbin tension until I was so frustrated I had no alternative but to start adjusting the bobbin tension. By that time I was a screaming mimi!

I have a 36 year old Singer that works perfectly, but occasionally I have to spend a lot of time getting the tension right on a particular fabric. It takes an almost infinitesimal change in the setting to adjust the tension, and it takes a lot of time and testing to get it right sometimes.

Truth to tell, I seldom change needles or tensions on my Singer. I do a lot of sewing on many different kinds of fabric and just use what's already in the machine. If I'm doing fine work, I do change the needle, but then I use that needle on the next project!

For starters, go back to a middle tension and adjust from there, using the tiniest change the dial will allow. Maybe a trip to the sewing dept of your local Sears might help. My mom used to sell Singers; people were always bringing their machines to her with minor threading and tension problems that she could solve.

Keep trying. I know how frustrated you are, but you'll get it right pretty soon.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 11:22AM
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It might help if you make a row of stitches, about 8" long and look at both sides closely. When looking at the underside, if it appears that the stitch in the form of a loop is loose, the top tension needs tightened. This will work in reverse for the top side.

I have a Euro-Pro now and I don't have any problems making adjustments, but for years I sewed with a no-name, first making curtains for our house, baby clothes, casual clothes and later I sewed for other people, making anything from casual to bridesmaid gowns and wedding gowns, etc. It served me well, but the one I have now has a lot of features and stitches the other one did not, and I am now back only sewing for my home and family.

My husband was an industrial sewing machine mechanic for years, and people also had him check their home machines. I know this sounds so basic, but the very first thing he checked was if the machine was threaded properly. I have sometimes been in a hurry and threaded it wrong myself.
My first machine had a boddin case that you could adjust the tension on. It takes practice, but give the thread a pull, and if the bobbin feels real free (like it spins the bobbin), tighten it slightly. For the top tension make sure the pressure foot is down and then pull the thread. It should be free enough to pull without a struggle.

Sorry I got so long. I started sewing in 4-H when I was 10 years old and really have enjoyed it ever since.

Good luck. Jane

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 12:57PM
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If you got a manual with your machine, go through it front to back, sewing practice stitches on scrap fabric, and working out the bugs of each stitch. I've done this with each new machine I've had. The manual should have a trouble shooting section and pictures of what the stitching should look like. It's a pain to take the time to do this but it really helps you get to know the machine. In addition to the tension and stitch adjustments, there should be a lever that increases/decreases the foot pressure for different thicknesses of fabric.
If you're pushing or pulling the fabric too much while sewing, this would affect your stitching also. Try to let the machine do the work.HTH

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 2:32PM
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Also, check your manual for the correct placement of the needle. Sometimes folks get them in wrong and everything gets messed up!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 2:55PM
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The problems you are having sound like they are coming from forcing the fabric around in order to sew the tight curves and corners. This could give you strange looking stitches and broken needles. By push the fabric you are flexing the needle. The needle breaks because flexing it has caused it to hit the hook or the needle plate. It would be a good idea to check the hook for burrs cause by needle strikes.

On tight curves and corners it helps me to place the needle down in the fabric, raise the presser foot a little and pivot the fabric versus trying to force it to turn. A shorter stitch length may also help.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 9:35PM
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thanks for the responses. I do have a bobbin tension, and i can never figure that out either.. I am just a mess lol... i don't have my instruction book anymore, but i sure feel like my needle and machine are threaded properly, but maybe i will have to mess with that some more. I have to push my fabric through, because the machine does not feed it automatically... that is a problem in itself right? or should you have to push it though at least some? I have always wondered about that from the beginning...

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 8:42AM
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If the fabric isn't feeding through the feeddogs may not be engaged. Check and see what your manual says about them.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 2:57PM
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Are the feed dogs locked in the "down" position? That could cause the fabric to not feed properly. You should not have to push, pull, or force the fabric through at all.

Tell me the name and model number of your machine and I'll try to find a manual, on-line or otherwise, for you. That's the place to start.

Also, if I remember correctly, and if you're the right "Princess," don't you live close to me? I'm in Larimore and would be glad to come look the machine for you (no charge). I'm not an expert, but I've restored a couple older machines and have kept my wonkie floor display model going since 1975. Maybe I could help.

You can email me through "my page."

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:07PM
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Thanks again everyone.... my machine is actually put away in the garage right now because i am going through chemo and haven't done much with it since summer, but i will be finished with treatments soon and trying to decide if i should get a new sewing machine or if the problems are just my own lol..lot of good suggestions..i will have to have my husband get it out for me this weekend so i can play with it a little bit and see where i am at. Carol, yes! we do live close...we just played larimore in BB tournaments this past weekend... what a generous offer. i just may have to take you up on that..that would be awesome.. i can check online for a user's manual..never thought to look online...thanks for that info as well.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:05PM
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