I Have a Dysfunctional Relationship with my Sewing Machine

Pic: brand name smudged to protect the guilty. 
Like a woman in a bad relationship, I have tried for far too long to make things work with my sewing machine. I bought it, what? Twenty years ago? I tried, goodness I tried. I thought it was me. The ongoing problems with thread tension - perhaps I was pulling too much? Not enough? Maybe the thread was cheap? Too thick? Was the thread spool paper grabbing the spindle? Oh, I cleaned that machine. Oiled all its parts. Every time I needed to use it, I'd check it out. Make sure it had the right needle for the fabric on hand. I'd carefully test-sew on fabric scraps to make sure the bugs were worked out before starting any project. Sometimes I could get an hour of sewing done before the thread tension would vomit all over. Other times, it'd take only five minutes for tension failure. 

I finally took it in for a professional tuneup last year. Perhaps there was some glitch that I, in my ignorance, had overlooked. Brought it home, started sewing, then kerplooey - tangled, broken thread, from either the bobbin, or from the top side. 

You'd think I'd learned my lesson. Nope. It took a few more months...

The bags I use to haul sorted recyclable goods to the Transfer Station have been falling apart. Took a look at one person's method of re-using feed bags, got inspired to do my own variation, and picked up some emptied bags that were returned to the local feed store. Scissored some leftover pant-legs from cutoff jeans for handles. Then started sewing.

This project brought me to tears. Four measly bags, nothing fancy, no lining, and yet: missed stitches. Broken and snarled thread. Even the heavy-duty needle, made for denim & woven fabric, broke. Then came that watershed moment where I snapped, when I finally realized...

"It's not me, it's YOU! Yes, YOU, you good for nothing piece of @#$!! sewing machine! I've had it! I've made excuses for you, stood by your side when others made fun, and yet you still let me down. You've taken advantage of my good nature for the last time."

"Don't try to sweet-talk me. Don't start batting your eyelashes. I've fallen for every trick you've played, and I AM FINISHED. I'm not even going to bother trying to sell you or give you away to a thrift store - I wouldn't want anyone else to suffer the misery you've put me through. At this moment, I  am mentally searching for the last place I left the sledge hammer. Tell you what, I'm a good sport - obvious from all that I've put up with over the years - I'll give you a five-minute head start to hit the road. Just know that if I ever catch up to you, they will never find your body."

UPDATE: My mother-in-law, who has decades of professional tailoring/sewing machine experience, says that inexpensive plastic sewing machines like mine have issues with parts overheating and shifting, which is most likely causing the tension problems. Wow, whodathunkit? 


  1. Boy! Can I relate to this post! I've always fought with sewing machines. From the treadle Singer Sewing machine, to the ancient one I used for decades that had been thrown out by the Singer repairman, supposedly working fine, just too old to sell, to the current one that came to me used when it didn't sell at an estate sale. I don't sew enough to justify a new machine, but it sure is frustrating doing any small job when you have to fight with it.

    The best machine I ever had was the foot-powered Singer. I wish I had that one back. Good luck to you, and if you find one that works consistantly, please post about it and I'll go out and buy one.

    1. I'm so sorry to hear you're suffering from sewing machine blues, too!

      I'll be sure to post on what I buy next. We've already an old-school industrial straight-stitch machine, a hemmer, and a serger, but I really pefer the flexibility of a multi-stitch machine. Stay tuned!

    2. The big cone thread is meant for big commercial Ues regular thread and really check your threading of the machine. Go by the instruction book. Do not use different weights of thread on top aor in the bobbon. Hope that helps.

    3. Thanks for taking the time to offer suggestions! Oh, I know about the cone - in this photo I'm using an adapter, and the bobbin is using the same thread as well. I've tried all sorts of threads on standard spools, too. I've just about memorized the manual (being a tech geek, RTFM is ingrained), and as far as "really checking" the threading, believe me, I have :-). I've sewn on many different machines, including my grandmother's old Singer and Spouse's 1920's tailor machine, and none have given me problems like this machine. Sometimes you just get a lemon, you know what I mean?

  2. You've told my story almost word for word, (except for the feed bags which are a great idea!). My machine sits in my closet waiting for me to decide to take it back to the repair shop (again), but you've just helped me make a decision. Thanks!

  3. Wow, recycled feed bags? We're doing well to turn them into garbage sacks but this is great! I was just contemplating throwing my feed bag stash into the dump run but you have saved them!

    The sewing machine.... spend the $$ and get a good one. Until I was 40 something I thought I couldn't sew. I scrimped and saved in an economically hard time and got a simple but good machine (pfaff) for doing quilting and crafts and have never looked back. It has been in for repairs once after some particularly heavy sewing but has been a steadfast and faithful companion through quite a few winters now (around here we only have a few good months of summer and the rest is a lot of winter.) Any kind of thread or fabric it's up to the task. Pfaff was using all metal gears and parts in the machines at least 5 years ago but I'd check to be sure they still do.

    BTW this is Connie off the food storage group

  4. Just had my mother's 1951 Singer with foot pedal repaired and moved into my kitchen. It was working in the shop, but had tension problems when I tried to sew until I made sure the thread on the bobbin and the spool were the same. I also have an old Singer treadle machine that I used for making blankets until the belt broke. If you have a chance to pick up an old Singer, I think you'd be happy with it. Miss you on Facebook, but I enjoy your blog.


Of Mice and Various Snakes and new Duck Feed Station

As mentioned in the previous post, our region is experiencing a near-Biblical plague of mice. "It's due to all the moisture we had...