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Sewing Problems
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Jim Cowdery
(james.cowdery) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Sewing Problems on 07/06/2010 13:06:23 MDT Print View

My wife has a Bernina sewing machine that I have tried to use to sew through webbing.

Every time I try the thread gets all tangled on the bottom of the fabric. I have tried using a thicker needle and have tried adjusting the tension. This does not solve the problem.

We recently took the machine to a Bernina dealer and they told us that the machine couldn’t sew through webbing.

Does anyone know what is causing this and how to correct it?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Sewing Problems on 07/06/2010 13:18:33 MDT Print View

I'm certainly no expert, and I have a different machine.

However, when I get those kinds of problems, it generally stems from a few factors. 1. Bad thread or wrong thread, 2. Thread tension set wrong. On some machines, there is an upper thread tension and a lower thread tension. 3. Dull needle. Replace it. Needles are cheap, and time is a-wasting when there are trails to be hiked.


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Sewing Problems on 07/06/2010 13:22:00 MDT Print View

I bet you can sew through webbing just fine. Here's the trick I was taught.

The problem is that the webbing is a big hump you are trying to sew over. Kind of like how if you were sewing denim and had to go over a big, thick seam.

What you do is you take a scrap of fabric and fold it over several times to make a thick piece about as high as the webbing. Sew right up to the webbing then stop (or if you aren't sewing the webbing to something, just stick the needle in where you want to begin). Lift the foot up, stick the shim in behind the needle and put the foot down. Now the sewing machine doesn't think it is sewing over a hump and will carry on, Eventually it'll push the shim out behind it.

I use a shim now anytime I try to sew something really thick.

Hope that made sense.

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
top thread tension on 07/06/2010 13:48:43 MDT Print View

As mentioned earlier, both thread tensions may need to be pretty high to get good stitched in webbing i've found. The deal is that all the layers of material cause a lot of friction on the thread and the machine may have trouble pulling it taut with normal tension.

The top tension is set by the knob and the bottom by the screw that is on the bobbin carrier. Try sewing the webbing with two different colors of thread so you can easily see that the threads are crossing in the middle of the stack of webbing.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
sewing webbing on 07/06/2010 14:11:45 MDT Print View

Here are some things to consider:

While sewing, be sure the presser foot is engaged and the presser foot tension release is not released.

Be sure the thread is properly fed through the mechanism. One little snag will cause what you are seeing.

Sometimes, I have to disassemble the mechanism that holds the bobbin, clean it all and oil it with a light oil like WD40.

Try a couple pieces of 4 oz nylon (pack cloth), and see how it does. If it will not sew that, try a different type of needle. I find ball ends work best for everything outdoor, but the sharp leather cutting ends can sometimes be needed. I use only Singer needles, others give me problems similar to yours. 100/16 should be an OK needle size for webbing.

If a different needles don't work, adjust thread tension, above, and below if necessary, until the threads above and below the fabric are pulled into the stitch to the same extent; that is, none sticking out or loose on one side after sewing a line of stitching.

Check out your thread. If it is too heavy, like C&C button and carpet, it probably will not work on a home machine. Also, some of the nylon threads sold on spools in gear shops do not sew well, and tend to unravel. C&C Dual Duty Plus is good, and there are even better polyester/cottom weaves in the embroidery shops. Some of the much touted threads break easily. I check how much force it takes to snap the thread before using it - exception, Kevlar, which is very strong.

If none of the above works, I'm stumped. Have an old Kenmore that works much better than a newer "industrial" White I purchased. Beware the cheap discounted imported brands. Singers are good.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Sewing Problems on 07/06/2010 17:32:20 MDT Print View

> they told us that the machine couldn’t sew through webbing

The dealer was right.

To sew through webbing the presser foot has to be able to operate while lifted up a fair distance, and the thread tensioning system has to be able to handle significantly higher tensions and significantly thicker thread. Most ordinary domestic machines were not designed for this, and fail. Not their fault: wrong application.

Edit: and you have to be able to crank up the force on the presser foot to, in order to resist the drag when the needle is coming out of the webbing - especially with heavy thread. In practice that lift is often why the needle misses stitches and gives a tangle mess underneath.

The old black Singers were designed in the days when the owner was as likely to be sewing up a feed sack as a pair of undies, and they can handle thick stiff like webbing and heavy packcloth. (They can also handle light silk.) That's why old black Singers still fetch a high price on the second-hand market.

Face it: you need at least two sewing machines.


Edited by rcaffin on 07/06/2010 23:40:14 MDT.

Dan Stanko
(Dinsdale) - F

Locale: Loozerville,USA
Re: Sewing Problems on 07/06/2010 17:57:55 MDT Print View

I don't do the sewing so FWIW;

I have my mother do all of it on a mid level Bernina,and she had contacted customer service via email for recommendations for ultra thin and webbing sewing.Needles,tension and such.

No problems so far and all she does is run a few test pieces to double check adjustments.

I am not doing the super heavy webbing,but not having issue with the ribbons or mid weight stuff you would encounter for lighter gear backpacking gear.

Even when I do a bit of the machine work it comes out darn good....LOL

In sewing circles Bernina is know for first class stitch mother does commercial quilting work with hers.Funny cause she hand stitches her quilts like you are supposed too.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
sewing webbing on 07/08/2010 23:26:52 MDT Print View

If you are correct, how is it that I have no trouble sewing webbing on my older Kenmore, even the heavy webbing used for hip belts. Maybe the Singer heavy duty ball end needles are what make it possible.

When going back to light fabric, like silnylon, I recheck the tension and do some scraps first. Always do some scraps first when changing material, and adjust as needed.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: sewing webbing on 07/09/2010 00:44:25 MDT Print View

Hi Sam

>I have no trouble sewing webbing on my older Kenmore, even the heavy webbing
At the risk of displaying my age and cynicism, can I suggest that the answer to your question lies in your question? It's an OLDER Kenmore, right?

As everything has gone computerised and low-attention-span throw-away, so the assumptions made by the sewing-machine manufacturers have changed. Once it was a requirement that a sewing machine be able to handle a wide range of fabrics, because owners did actually USE their machines; today it is a requirement that it connect to the internet and do fancy embroidery. (Hello Kitty?)

Actually make clothing? Nah - cheaper to buy it from China.
Repair clothing? Nah, throw it away and replace it (from China).

OK, OK, I exaggerate - but only very slightly. The elderly ladies in our 'local' sewing shop continue to be amazed that a) I know how to use a machine, and b) I know how to diagnose and repair a machine.

Ball needles: yes, these can help in some cases. They help to make sure that the needle goes through an open bit of the fabric rather than punching through a tightly twisted bit of thread. To be sure, the down-stroke of the needle is likely to go through the fabric, but the withdrawal can be a problem for modern low-pressure machines.


James D Buch
(rocketman) - F

Locale: Midwest
Old Sewing Machine Guy Discussion on 07/10/2010 06:57:01 MDT Print View

Once in a while, I stop by the local Sew & Vac store to pick up something, look or talk to the OSMG (Old Sewing Machine Guy). One day, I got the son of the owner.

He showed me a display treadle (foot powered) machine from the 1800's which still works and it produces a great stitch. He said these old machines were designed to last a long time, and they were designed to sew everything -- back when there were few WalMarts, Targets, KMarts and large department stores carrying cheaply manufactured foreign clothing. They were all metal - as plastic gears weren't invented at the time. If maintained, they operate smooth as silk.

I have never had long experience with the expensive Top Of The Line machines of today, but have had some experience with the plastic geared low cost machines. They don't "feel" good.

I'm not saying that all new machines are "junk", but the old machines were designed to last a long time, and to sew pretty much everything needed to make lots of clothing.

I have several machines. They are all "old" and none of them was more than $42 US (including wood cabinet and stool).

I have spent more on service/repair manuals and books on sewing machine repair than on the basic machine purchases.

Some of the old machines will appear "frozen" from evaporated lubrication, and when cleaned and lubed operate perfectly. Some machines that are "almost perfect" can take a lot of troubleshooting to get them right. Some are ready to go. Some are somewhere in the above spectrum.

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Old Sewing Machine Guy Discussion on 07/10/2010 14:36:59 MDT Print View

If you have the time and inclination, prowling craigslist is a great way of finding a vintage sewing machine that's 100% mechanical. Look for the ones pre 1990's with only straight and zigzag stitches and whose case is metal. These use all mechanical linkages to drive the sewing action and are usually very durable and may only take an oiling to get back to operation.

The new computerized ones use stepper motors (the same kind as in your printer) to get all the fancy stitch patterns. Steppers have a limited torque and just quit if you ask too much of them. With a mechanical, you can drive the stitch by hand using the handwheel...

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Old Sewing Machine on 07/10/2010 15:55:11 MDT Print View

Love my '52 Necchi BU Nova. Sews everything. Now I have two of them.


Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
sewing on 07/10/2010 18:09:25 MDT Print View

Thought I finally disagreed with you about something, but after reading your second post, agree after all.
The Kenmore machine is circa 1975, modern enough to have a lot of stitch options, but not ancient. It has been back to Sears repair a couple times for maintenance.
This is very helpful, because at some point the old machine will go, and you have alerted me to take some hard to sew items, like slippery sil and webbing, to the store when I try before I buy.
BTW, neglected to mention in the earlier posts that DMC quilting thread is the one I love the most.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: sewing on 07/11/2010 01:37:58 MDT Print View

Hi Sam

> at some point the old machine will go

If it is an old metal one, YOU might go first ... Some of them aren't half rugged.


Jim Cowdery
(james.cowdery) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
machine on 07/12/2010 16:23:57 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the comments.

I have found several old steel machines on Craig's list in the $30 to $40 range. There are several black singer machines made in the 20's - 40's. There are also some white (kenmore?) machines from the 40's and 50's.

What should I be looking for, which is the best option and how can I get new needles?

Jim Cowdery
(james.cowdery) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Dan's Mom on 07/12/2010 16:31:16 MDT Print View


I wish my mom were still around to help..... ah well....

Can you send/post some of the e-mails she received on how to sew through webbing on her Bernina?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: machine on 07/12/2010 18:28:11 MDT Print View

> There are several black singer machines made in the 20's - 40's. There are also
> some white (kenmore?) machines from the 40's and 50's.

Without even looking at craigslist, I would have a very strong bias towards any old motorised Singers. Note: You can still get things like needles and belts and brushes etc for them: Singer does offer considerable support.

I have never seen an old Kenmore, so I can't comment on them.


Jim Cowdery
(james.cowdery) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Update on 07/19/2010 18:13:44 MDT Print View

I have found an old White Model 77 with a green finish dating from the 1930's on Craig's list. Price $20.

I have found a manual on-line, price $0.00.

I will use some of my Wife's needles from the Bernina (I think they will fit!) Price $0.00

Price of 2 yards of 60" Spinnaker fabric $20.00

Straps/buckles/ foam are all in my extra stuff bin. Cost $0.00.

Since I am currently underemployed this is the only way I am getting new gear this year.

I am in the process of cleaning and lubing the machine.

I will wait for the article coming out tomorrow before I start cutting any fabric.

I will post photos when I finish the project.

Thank you all for your excellent advice.