Posted by: Kate | July 27, 2010

The Tale of the Sewing Machine

Three years ago, my old sewing machine blew up its plug. I was sewing a wizard cape for Bush Boy’s Hallowe’en costume and BOOM, the plug blew with a big spark and black flash up the wall. The machine had been Mr. Kate’s grandmother’s, and had seen a lot of sewing work through the years. Its time was up.

I couldn’t justify replacing it with an expensive new machine, as I don’t sew enough to make it worth it. Yet a sewing machine was useful, as I did make simple clothes as well as curtains, etc. So when I saw a cheap model on sale at the local hardware store, I took the opportunity and bought it.

From the beginning I found the machine ornery, but I figured it was my lack of skill. I don’t know a lot about correct tension and needles, etc. So although there were a lot of glitches and pulled threads, I persevered, and kept trying to work with the grumpy machine.

Fast forward to the other week when I was sewing my skirts. By the time I was working on the second one the machine was driving me crazy, and I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. We had planned on making some privacy screens for our deck, and we had bought the fabric a few weeks ago. So the other day Mr. Kate held the long piece of fabric and I started to sew. It was quickly evident that the machine was just not cooperating. We grabbed a spare piece of fabric and tried to figure out what was wrong. We adjusted the tension to no avail, the thread was still pulling and breaking frequently. I knew you could adjust the bottom bobbin tension, so we opened her up. I took out the bobbin case, which I hadn’t done before, as I normally could just thread the bobbin in from the top. The problem was quickly revealed.

It had nothing to do with me and my sewing ability (or lack thereof)! The frame under the bobbin case was broken, a big chunk of plastic had been knocked out, and there was a jagged edge that was catching the top thread when it went around the casing. We can’t break the edge off (not sure what could have broken the plastic in the first place, as it is very hard plastic) or push it out of the way. It is a cheap machine with a limited warranty and no receipt around, which means it is simply a write-off.

So now I have a completely useless machine. But at least it wasn’t me that was completely useless.



  1. Aww that sucks! But on the other hand probably makes you feel a bit better that it wasn’t you after all :) It was in fact totally and completely “The Machine.”

  2. i’m glad you figured it out!
    and you should feel extra impressed about your sewing abilities now that you’ve made two skirts on a bum machine!

  3. I’ve learned over the years that I tend to get a better finished product if I start with better tools. When I needed a new sewing machine I didn’t scrimp – it cost almost $2000 12 years ago. It has only needed to be serviced once in all that time and I use it several times a week. It is a Bernina and I LOVE it. Keep watching Craig’s List in your area. Used ones come up often at very reasonable prices. Get yourself a good machine! You deserve it.

  4. I am a firm believer in having the right tools. I bought myself a Husqvarna-Viking machine for my 50th b.d. after finding that my previous Husqvarna didn’t have enough toys for what I wanted to do. I had that first one for 20 years and now it is my daughter’s. Seven years into this machine (which was, I think, around $1200) and I couldn’t be happier. It is a real workhorse. It never needs oiling, just routine collecting of lint buildup. Every couple of years I take it in for a service. My first machine was never serviced but kept chugging along.
    I agree with Liz – keep your eye on Craigslist. You just never know.

  5. Can you, like, melt it or something? Smooth it out?

  6. I’m impressed you persevered for that long with a machine that was so grumpy! Hopefully you can find another machine in your price range…cuz considering your skillz on a crappy machine, I’d love to see what you’d make if you had a functioning machine!

    (and it’s always nice to know it’s not us isn’t it!).

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