Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Craft-tastic Tuesday - Dealing With a Temperamental Sewing Machine

Since I am still waiting on my Norwegian Woods fabric for the bedding series I decided to talk today about all the cursing and groaning that has been heard coming from my sewing room this last week.
I am still pretty inexperienced with sewing, so I have a lot to learn, when it comes to loose, loopy stitches, or knowing what stitch length and tension I should be using. It is trial and error for me. I didn't take sewing and textiles in school, as I was in the concert band instead, so all of my sewing knowledge comes from my mom, my step mom, a few books and of course the internet. Probably not the most thorough of educations, but I have been learning a lot and rather quickly.
I few months back, my step mom gave me her old serger, and after I let it collect a thick layer of dust, I finally braved up and learned how to use it. This meant, reading through the manual, threading, and rethreading (yes, cursing too) until I got it running smoothly, and then rethreading again because I still didn't know what I was doing. And, I still don't know what I am doing with that machine, but I can thread it pretty quickly with out referencing the manual now, that's something.
Not long after I started acquainting myself with the serger I decided it would be a good idea to read through my sewing machines manual and properly acquaint myself with all of it's functions as well. This time marked the end of a lot of my frustration at the sewing machine. I was no longer completely clueless as to how to adjust tension, or understanding some of the issues I have had with my stitches. Things have run much smoother for me in the sewing room since then, well, until last week.

A week ago, I bought some colour coded machine needles, as the needles I have on hand are a little disorganized and I don't really know what is what anymore. Actually, I never really knew. And since I started using these new needles I have had nothing but troubles. Large stretches of skipped stitches, threads fraying, threads that seemed to just be flying loosely off the machine... It has been a headache and I have been so frustrated. I had absolutely no idea what was wrong. I played with tension, I threaded and rethreaded the machine, I wound fresh bobbins, changed needles, and cried. Crying really did nothing to help, and I have used the seam ripper more times than I care to admit this week.
Perhaps I just assumed it was the knits I was sewing, but that theory was proven wrong, when I changed my needle and went back to sewing wovens last night. My issues got worse. After several hours of extremely slow progress, ugly stitches, many being ripped out, and repeated, and repeated, and repeated, I finally had that epiphany. The problem was ME!
For some reason, when I switched my needles last week, I started inserting them backwards. And every time I reinserted the needle because the troubleshooting section of my manual said it was likely a needle issue, I still inserted them backwards. I had never ever inserted a needle backwards before so I am not sure why I suddenly thought this was the way to do it, but it happened.
I guess the moral of this story is, don't be too proud, use your manual, and listen to what it is telling you. I read so many times the phrase "Needle is inserted incorrectly" but it took me a week, to turn to the instructions for inserting a needle and walk through the process carefully. Had I done that on day one I wouldn't have wasted hours, or thread, or patience.

Other things that I have learned this week:
  1. You can use baby powder to help PUL fabric run through the machine smoothly but the shuttle hook doesn't like it, and you will have to tear out some crazy loopy stitches and take apart your machine to clean out the threads wound behind the shuttle hook too. So don't do it.
  2. The walking foot may be your friend, but it isn't good for every stitch. Not sure yet, but it may only be good on straight stitches. I need to test it on zigzags now that I fixed my machine issues.
  3. When trying new things out, like your walking foot, don't be an idiot and use a scrap first.
Well, I did get my minky for the blanket from Wazoodle (their anniversary event is almost over, so check out the sale while you still can. I got some amazing deals) and I expect my cottons to be in any day now so work is about to begin on the bedding series. So you can look forward to some tutorials in the not to distant future. Hooray!
Until then, happy, stress free crafting.
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