Embroidery machines · Machine care · Overlockers · Sewing Machines

You’ve bought a new machine, what now?

A new embroidery or sewing machine can be quite an investment so it’s important to take good care of it. There are a number of simple steps you can take to make sure that your machine stays in good working order, so read on to find out what we recommend for stress-free machine ownership.

1. Keep your packaging

Keep the original packaging, including the polystyrene inserts. This is designed to fit your machine perfectly and will protect it from knocks and bumps while it is being transported, whether that is for its yearly service, if you have to move house or even just to take it to a class.

2. Regular service

It’s advisable to get your machine serviced yearly to make sure that it stays in tip top condition. During a service, the engineer will strip down your machine, clean and lubricate it as necessary, perform a safety check of the electrical parts and reset it to the manufacturer’s specifications. They will then conduct a full sew test, balancing the feed mechanism, thread cutters and tensions. If you’re a heavy user but it isn’t time for a full service yet, then an interim service may also be beneficial – we strip off the covers, clean and lubricate where necessary, balance the tensions and feed and then conduct a sew test. What about if you haven’t used your machine for a long time? This can cause its own problems, from not having the latest updates on a computerised machine, to seizing up through inactivity.

Make sure that you keep a note of your purchase date so you know when to book it in for its first service – I have a reminder set on my phone so that I don’t forget! If you are interested in a service then you can request a call from us to make arrangements and don’t forget to quote offer code Sew22 to get a discount – the more machines you have serviced, the more you save!

3. We register your warranty

There’s no need to worry about registering your warranty, we take care of that for you when you buy with us. Do keep a note of your warranty length though, as once your warranty is up, you can purchase an extended warranty from us. This can include a service in the price, depending on which version you select, so can end up paying for itself!

4. Replace your needle

It’s easy to overlook, but your needle is the part of the machine that does all the heavy lifting. It will become dull over time so make sure to replace it regularly with a new, good quality needle that is appropriate for the fabric and thread you are using – universal needles are not always best! We recommend Schmetz needles.

5. Use good quality threads

It can end up a false economy to use cheap threads. We recommend Gutermann, Madeira and Mettler threads as these produce less fluff and are less likely to shred or snap. Like needles, make sure you use the right thread for the project you are working on. Don’t forget to match your needle to your thread – if you aren’t sure which needle is best for your thread then have a look at the description of the thread on our website, as this gives the recommended needle type and size.

6. Use approved accessories

If you have a Husqvarna Viking machine then it’s best to use Husqvarna Viking accessories. Not all accessories are compatible with all machine models so make sure the accessory you have chosen is suitable for your make and model. If you’re not sure whether a Husqvarna Viking accessory is suitable for your machine then just drop us an email and we will be able to help. There are so many accessories that can make sewing a breeze so check out the Accessories Catalogue to see what’s available – this also has handy information about compatibility.

7. Clean out debris

Debris can build up inside your machine over time so it’s a good idea to regularly remove broken threads and lint from around bobbin area. Some fabrics (e.g. velvet, towelling) create more lint than others so keep an eye on fluff buildup if you are sewing or embroidering on these. Just look at the picture below to see how lint can build up inside a machine – this shows how important a regular service is because it was necessary to take off the covers to remove it (which should only be done by a trained service technician). Neil gives you more information about cleaning out your machine in his January 2022 post, which is well worth a read.

Lint build-up in a sewing machine

8. Check your threading technique

Even the most experienced stitcher can make a mistake in threading their machine, from wrapping it in the wrong direction to missing the tension disks. A mis-threaded machine can create all manner of problems, so checking your threading is always a good first step if your machine isn’t working as it should – you can refer to the guide in your user manual. Overlockers can be complicated to thread (except the amazing air-threading Amber Air S|400 and S|600) but Husqvarna Viking have added comprehensive threading guides to their YouTube channel for the S15, S21 and S25.

9. Maintain your machine

As I mentioned earlier, Neil has already written about how to maintain your sewing machine, and you can also refer to your user guide to find out how to clean out dust and lint as well as oil your machine (if necessary) to keep it running smoothly.

10. Troubleshooting

Having problems? Refer to the troubleshooting guide in the back of your manual – this is an excellent first port of call and can help to resolve a number of issues. If you’re still having trouble then drop us an email or give us a call!

It’s so exciting to get a new machine but you can want to tear your hair out when you don’t get the results you’re excpecting! Following these steps will help to keep your machine working beautifully and make your stitching the best it can be.

Machine care · Offers

Keeping machines in tip top condition

The sewing machine is an invention of advanced engineering developed over several centuries and incorporating mechanisms of horizontal and vertical rotation to produce an accurate and regular stitch. From lockstitch, to buttonhole, decorative, embroidery and stretch stitches, the humble sewing machine is quite amazing. We pick up our sewing machines, thread them up and expect them to work… and mostly they do! But when they don’t it’s easy to assume that there is a fault when really all they need is a little TLC.

The mechanics of the sewing machine

It’s worth taking a moment to think about what’s going on under the fabric because it’s deceptively simple. There is an electric motor driving an upper shaft, which then drives the lower shaft and other mechanisms involved in forming a stitch. The ranges of motions are horizontal for the shafts but this is then translated into vertical motion for the stitch forming mechanism. In addition, gears will be driving the hook that links the top thread to the lower thread, plus shafts and cams (or sometimes belts or gears) making the feeder (moves the fabric along) synchronise with the stitch forming mechanism and hook. There may be additional parts driving the needle from side to side. There could also be a thread cutter mechanism. There is a lot of complex machinery involved in creating a simple stitch!

This animation from Threads Magazine gives a really clear idea of what’s going on when a stitch is formed:

An average domestic sewing machine creates stitches between 800 and 1200 times a minute (and industrial machines can be 5000 stitches per minute!) so there is quite a margin for things to go wrong. We all love our sewing machines, so let’s see how we can help them with a bit of TLC to keep them happy!

Back to basics

First of all, let’s quickly go over a couple of basics that you all probably know, but are easy to forget when your machine isn’t behaving as you would like.

  • You need a good needle – sharp, not bent, inserted correctly and of the correct type for the fabric and thread. A lot of problems can be caused by old or incorrect needles, so make sure you replace them regularly.
  • You also need a decent quality thread. Cheap or poor quality threads will shred more readily, causing breakages and lint to build up inside your machine.
  • The upper and lower threads need to be threaded correctly. Have a look at the threading guide in your machine’s user guide, you might be surprised to find a few useful tips in there. Make sure you floss your top thread through your tension disks and that your bobbin is positioned with the thread in the right direction.

Lint

Owing to the nature of fabric and thread, sewing machines get full of lint and fluff. Over time this compacts down and can almost form another layer over the metal parts. We have seen feed dogs so full of lint they cannot lift the feed teeth above the stitch plate and so much fluff inside the machine that a hamster could be living in there!

An example of lint build-up in a sewing machine

Different fabrics create different amounts of lint. As you might expect, anything with a nap will create more lint and fabrics like velvet and towelling can create a great deal very quickly. You can see just how much fluff can build up with regular use over time in the image above. The grey part you can see to the right with the coloured wires coming out of it is the motor, which can heat up as the machine is being used. With a big enough build-up of lint, the heat from the motor can actually ignite the lint.

Both upper and lower threads are controlled by tension devices. Thread or lint can stick between the two tension disks or under the bobbin case tension spring. The tension device on more modern machines can be concealed into the front of the machine, but just follow the threading path to find them – they are normally near the adjusting dial.

To clean between the tension disks, raise the presser foot to open the disks and drag a non-linty piece of fabric (e.g. calico or quilter’s cotton) or a blunt needle end between the disks.

To clean under the bobbin case spring, gently run a needle between the spring and the body of the bobbin case.

If you want to learn more about tension and how to adjust it, take a look at my post from September 2021, Tension caused by tension.

Please do not remove any covers around the tension device that are not mentioned in the instruction manual as being removable. Leave that to trained service technicians!

Wear and tear

All the surfaces that the threads pass over need to be smooth and undamaged by needles or wear and tear.  Any of the stitch forming parts (thread paths, presser foot, needle plate, and shuttle hook or bobbin case) can become worn or damaged by usage, but they can be cleaned up to a point with a bit of fine emery.

Damage to a needleplate which would cause stitching issues

So, a bit of cleaning (and on some machines a drop of oil – but please check your manual before oiling your machine as some, especially computerised machines, do not require oiling), can go a long way! Have a look at our YouTube Channel for some help with this, your instruction manual will have some information too.

It’s worth cleaning your machine out regularly to prevent build-up and compaction of lint. You can use the pipe attachment on your vacuum cleaner, after removing any loose items of the machine that might disappear up it first of course! It is advisable to wear a dust mask as well as glasses or safety glasses to protect your eyes.

Safety warning: Please turn off the power to the machine and remove the needle before doing anything. A dust mask and safety glasses are also strongly recommended.

Getting a service

Even with a regular cleanout at home, every 1-2 years (dependent on usage) it’s a good idea to have your machine professionally serviced and set back to the manufacturer’s specifications. This will ensure that all the stitch forming parts are polished to allow the thread to flow over them freely, that all the mechanisms and timings are correctly set up so they work together correctly, and that the tensions and reverse stitches/buttonholes are correctly balanced. It will also include a check of the electrics for safety and condition, as well as a PAT test. You should get a service report with the machine, giving a list of checks performed, and pointing out any advisories.

Special service offer

If your sewing machine or overlocker is in need of a service, why not take advantage of our current special offer and get at least 10% off the regular price? If you have more than one machine serviced at the same time then the discount is even bigger, so why not get together with friends and save?! All you need to do is quote voucher code Sew22 when you book your service. If you can’t get your machine to us then don’t worry, we can help with collection and delivery too. Please see our service page for more information.

The more machines you get serviced, the more you save! Simply quote voucher code Sew22 when you book.

Hopefully this will help you to keep your machine in tip top condition, ready to serve you on projects old and new! Happy stitching!

Embroidery machines · Machine care · Sewing Machines

Tension caused by tension!

One of the biggest issues people have with their sewing machines seems to be tension. The tension is the amount of pressure placed on the upper and lower threads to form the stitch. There is an upper tension and a lower tension: one controlling the top thread and one controlling the bottom thread.

A basic view of a sewing machine tension unit: the discs for the thread, spring and adjust dial (clockwise tighter, anti-clockwise looser)

Before you adjust your tension

The first and simplest thing to do to correct a tension issue is to check the needle is okay – check it’s the correct thickness for the fabric (heavier fabrics require a thicker needle) and not bent or blunt. 

Secondly, check and re-check the threading!  Ensure the presser foot in its raised position when you thread the upper threading, as this opens up the upper tension discs that control the thread flow. The thread needs to go in between the discs, and through all the relevant thread guides. When threading the bobbin case, follow the direction of threading as per your manual, and ensure the thread goes under the tensioning spring (please check your manual for precise guidance on how to thread your machine).

No matter how experienced a sewer you are, it is surprisingly easy to mis-thread your machine so if you find a big bird’s nest of thread underneath your stitching then the chances are you have missed a critical part of the threading, so check, and check again!

Looping like this is a common sign of a mis-threaded machine

If the tension is still not good, there may be fluff or a lump of thread under the bobbin case tension spring, or in between the thread tension discs. Work a used needle in between the upper discs and under the bobbin case spring, you may be amazed at what comes out!

Adjusting your tension

If the knot is showing below the fabric, then the upper tension needs increasing, (clockwise) e.g., from number 4 to number 5.

If the knot is showing on the top of the fabric, then decrease the upper tension (counter-clockwise) e.g., from number 4 to number 3.

Only adjust the upper tension, the lower (bobbin case tension) is factory set and should not be adjusted! Always keep a note of the original number setting to refer back to – it can be helpful to take a quick photo of your current settings before you make any changes.

Increasing and decreasing the upper tension on your sewing machine

If the fabric is puckering, change the needle for a finer (new needle) and use a good quality thread. If there is still a slight pucker, then decrease the upper tension (anti-clockwise) by half a number at a time until it looks okay.

So if you find yourself with tension issues, don’t panic – the majority of problems can be solved by following these steps!