Zut! Sewing Snarl-ups, Part One.

The machine I am doing some sewing on right now is not my own dear little faithful Bernina Sport. I’m using one made in China, bought some years ago in a French supermarket, lugged over here by one daughter, passed to another and valiantly repaired by a machine shop in Bethnal Green.   For some reason I have snarl ups on the brain.

Is there an unwritten law  that when you need to be super accurate, yet full of hope hurriedly grip a difficult corner or a thick wad of crossing turnings aiming to jam it under the presser foot and  flick the foot down with a spare finger,  the machine will make a grinding noise and stop with the needle stuck half down in the needle plate ?

And right about now what you forgot to check jumps smartly into your head?

(to pull the two threads towards the back before starting,  to lower the needle into the fabric , to check that the stitch length was right and the tension ok, maybe you even popped the bobbin in with the thread going in the wrong direction bobbin or didn’t spot the top thread leaping out of the tension discs or take up lever when you pulled the last seam out?)

Cursing in your preferred language,  you start snipping away, diving into the bobbin race, pulling out the bobbin, and disentangling a birds’ nest of snarled up thread. Where does it all come from by the way? Your machine hasn’t made one decent stitch, and there’s yards of it wrapped round the innards.

Of course,  things would have gone smoothly if you’d taken the time to hold the cursed corner pieces in place with a few judicious hand tacks, or pressed, trimmed and hammered flat your crossing turnings.

Sound familiar? Round about now I remember my own Tip –   thread up a few hand needles with matching thread, jab them into a spare pin cushion and put them by the side of the machine before you start a project.

How is it that the sewing psyche boldly resists stopping mid project to thread hand needles?

A variation on the thread nest theme is the super fine fabric one. Does your machine love to suck chiffon into its guts and churn it round the bobbin race making a gaping fraying hole in the middle of a bodice section? Been there. Naturally, not having checked that I’m using an appropriate needle and thread combo or bothered to find some tissue paper to support the fabric between the feed dogs and the bottom layer. The only save for this one is recutting the piece or some creative embroidery, which makes it all the more surprising that I still employ this foul up in my sewing room.

Next snarl up, the floppy stitch .

Not a technical term, but picture this. You have a thick piping cord to stitch up to. The fabric is hefty. Piping feet don’t come in anything like the right dimensions. No matter, you’ll use a zipper foot and eyeball it. Shucks! The sole of the crappy zipper foot is way too tiny to exert enough pressure through all those layers and the stitch ends up floppy, uneven, weak and ready to pull apart.

Ciel Bleu gives a Gallic shrug, lights up a Gauloise, puffs Turkish smoke in your eyes and says “Over to you babe”.

The only solution, take your life in your hands and press the fabric down hard with a finger as close to the needle as you dare, stitching in short bursts. Or, bite the bullet and hand tack the whole thick wodge into submission first. Or, use a pencil with a rubber eraser tip instead of your finger. Chicken!

More famous and infamous foul ups shortly. Send me yours? 

About jay

I design and draft patterns
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7 Responses to Zut! Sewing Snarl-ups, Part One.

  1. Glad I’m not alone, I’ve done all of these. I also find that the cats add an unpredictable health and safety hazard to machine sewing – often developing an un-shakable fascination with fabric and/or thread at the least convenient times.


  2. Gjeometry says:

    Zut alors!!! Oui!!! Birds nests AND my machine ‘sucks’ any even remotely thinner fabric into the feed dogs. I ‘confuse’ it by putting a piece of paper at the beginning of the fabric when starting out the seam. Still not too sure how to remedy birds nests although it was suggested to me that it had something to do with improper bobbin tension.

    I also wanted to let you know that I have won a Wellington Pattern Pyramid and have posted it on my blog. There are some terrific patterns in it, so feel free to drop by and enter if you are interested.


  3. Pella says:

    Bobbin tension, the bugbear! There’s a screw on the thing you drop the bobbin into on my machine ( thing is the best I can do, sorry). You can tighten or loosen this screw, but its last resort surgery>


  4. mrsmole says:

    I could fill a book with things that have gone wrong in the 40 years I have been sewing for clients…but they are all learning experiences, no? I taught students for years and what I learned was what type of sewing machine was pure crap, no matter how much they paid for it. Once you get a machine that does what YOU want instead of what it wants…you have hit paydirt! Swearing at your machine sometimes helps or threatening to toss it out…try putting tape over your hole where the needle enters the bobbin area and a microtex sharp needle if you don’t have a straight stitch plate…keeps some of the chiffon from diving south into the bobbin. I still hand baste most things…time consuming but better than ripping out later…it’s a trade off…but watching TV programs you have recorded earlier makes hand basting almost pleasurable…I said “almost”!


  5. Pella says:

    Great tips there Mrsmole, I’ll try the tape over the needle plate, and yes, I also hand baste in front of the tv. Its a double pay off, I’m not really wasting time watching crap, I’m saving time ripping out bad stitching.


  6. FabricKate says:

    Been there, done that. Very accurate (unlike some of my preparation). Spent last night altering a Zara jacket for daughter in law. Shortened and narrowing sleeves. Nearly go sleeve in perfectly, just one little bubble, but putting it right again took most of my evening. And its black and synthetic, so impossible to see the stitches, and unforgiving when pressed. It would have been easier to make her a one from scratch.


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