My machine is headed to the shop to have the timing fixed, so projects are on hold for now. What is timing, you ask? I’ll get to to that… but story first: I was merrily sewing along the other day, trying to do a decorative stitch on another stuffed animal from the Simplicity 2613 pattern, when I noticed that the pattern was a bit lopsided. In fact, every third or fourth left-side stitch was being dropped. I figured I was using the wrong needle size for my fabric, and didn’t pay too much attention at that point, since it wasn’t in a conspicuous place. I hoped it was just a needle issue, because the other option is that the machine is out of time.
What to do when your machine drops stitches
As I alluded to in the intro, dropped stitches can be caused by something as simple as using the wrong needle size for the fabric you’re using. If your machine starts dropping stitches, try the following before jumping to the conclusion that it is out of time:
- Change the needle
- The needle could be causing the issue for multiple reasons:
- The needle is dull: a dull needle will have trouble going through the fabric, causing it to bend and cause difficulty picking up the bobbin thread.
- The needle is bent: even a small bend in the needle can cause issues.
- The needle is the wrong type: especially if it is too small/light for the fabric you’re using, the wrong needle can have issues getting through the fabric, being pulled by the feed and bent. Using the proper needle size is vital to good machine sewing.
In general, you should replace your needle before starting a new project, and after about 8-10 hours of sewing (so, judge by the latter if you do many small projects).
- Check your tension
- Check your tension settings to make sure they haven’t been changed. If they have, play with the tension to see if it is causing the issue.
- Re-thread the machine
- Sometimes the issue can be caused by funky tension in the machine and in the bobbin. Rethread the machine to see if that fixes it.
- Respool the bobbin
- Unwind the bobbin and respool it. If the bobbin was wound incorrectly, it could cause this issue.
The fact that my machine was only dropping left-hand stitches on zig-zag and decorative stitches was a good indication that it wasn’t a tension or thread issue, in my case. It continued sewing perfectly fine on the right-side and down the center. It still could have been a needle issue, as you’ll begin seeing many issues with a slightly bent or dull needle (or one that is too heavy/light) when you start having the needle move around horizontally that just don’t appear when the needle is sewing straight. But alas, when I got around to working on additional projects with different needles, thread, and fabric, I found the issue was still occurring. That, my friends, was a bad sign.
What is timing?
When you have a machine with many moving parts, all of those parts need to be moving along in a well-choreographed dance. The right movements have to happen at the right time to make sure everything functions properly. Over time, friction and other issues can cause these movements to slow down or speed up, resulting in minute differences between movements that need to happen simultaneously. This causes things like missing the bobbin thread when the needle goes down for a stitch. When that happens, your machine is said to be out of time.
Other things can cause the machine to become out of time, aside from use. In my case, it is probably because of my using the wrong needle type/dull needles at a couple of points in the couch project (like when I forgot I’d removed the upholstery needle, and tried using a size 70 on my heavy upholstery fabric.). That resulted in some nasty thread knotting in the bobbin case that I pulled a little too hard on to remove. Otherwise, my machine, which is only about 8 months old at this point, shouldn’t be having issues.
Is it the timing? What should you do?
If you’ve tried all of the above and it is still happening, the issue is probably the timing. I’m sure you can find information out on the Internet somewhere about how to fix the timing on your machine, but your best bet is to take the machine to a repair shop with people who know exactly what they’re doing. Especially if you machine is still under warranty (like mine). Oddly enough, this is similar to what happened to my other machine that caused me to buy the current one, except of course, the gears that help control timing happened to rot and fall apart completely, which isn’t as easy of a fix.