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Sewing issues
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Joslyn Bloodworth
(LynB87) - F

Locale: Southwest US
Sewing issues on 10/24/2010 16:29:04 MDT Print View

I just got a new fleece jacket pattern and I bought some cheap polar fleece from walmart to practice with and my machine keeps getting stuck and I even broke a needle just sewing two layers together!

I'm what I'd call a moderate sewer. I've done more with quilts than clothes but have been sewing for a large part of my life and I know how to follow a pattern, but I'm having real issues with sewing some of this stuff. I have a basic singer machine from Walmart. It is not what I would have gotten for myself at all, it was a gift from my M in L who is not a sewer in the least. Am I doing something wrong or is it machine woes? Help!

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Sewing issues on 10/24/2010 16:39:52 MDT Print View

Can you sew two pieces of regular fabric together?

With the fleece, how far Do you get?

Is the fleece so thick that the foot doesn't compress it enough for the needle to clear?

More clues...more clues..

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
sewing on 10/24/2010 16:51:53 MDT Print View

Try some regular fabric to make sure your machine works with regular fabric.

Sometimes if I am sewing thick "fabric", if I just let go of it, it sews better than if I try to guide it through with my hands.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Sewing issues on 10/24/2010 17:05:57 MDT Print View

First of all, tell us what size needle you are using. If you are using a tiny needle with heavy fabric, you are asking for trouble. Then, change to a new/sharp needle and try again.

The only times that I have broken needles on my Brother machine were when I was trying to force some heavy fabric, or it was the completely wrong size needle, or some similar user error. They say that we learn by our mistakes. Well, I learned a lot about sewing.

By the way, I hate the word "sewer." It sounds so draining.


Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Sewing issues on 10/24/2010 17:41:43 MDT Print View

You need to use a ball-point needle for this and all knits in general.

Also, knit fabrics seem to be where a Serger really shines, and makes life much easier. I've given up working with fleece on my straight stitchers, it's just not worth the aggravation.

Terry Trimble
(socal-nomad) - F

Locale: North San Diego county
sewing machine on 10/24/2010 18:18:50 MDT Print View

Does your sewing machine have a presser foot tension adjustment?
If it does you can compress the fabric with a presser foot. Also go with a stronger needle. Also make sure you get a clean stitch with with some scrap fabric. Check the thread tension and bobbin tension. These are thing you can do with your existing machine.

Joslyn Bloodworth
(LynB87) - F

Locale: Southwest US
Thanks on 10/25/2010 09:18:35 MDT Print View

Greg - I kind of though saying I was decent at sewing meant I could sew. No the fleece is not so thick that I can't compress it with the foot.

Bob - the needle is 90/14 but it's the only size my machine came with and to be honest I'm short on sewing shops in my area. I'm not used to working with knits and stretch fabrics and the pattern did not give a needle size to use just said big. I made it through a whole practice glove without any issues at all with the same fabric so I thought it would be okay. I grew up with my mother's beautiful old Singer from the 80's that cost an arm and a leg and the reason I thought it might be machine issues is because the machine I'm on now was the cheapest one from Walmart.

Javan - I have been using a stretch straight stitch but I might try the Serger instead.

Terry - I have a stitch width and thread tension dials but nothing else unfortunately. I will see what I can mess with to get it to work.

If anyone has a suggestion on needle size and thread tension that works for them I'd love to hear them. We don't have a lot of sewing stores here and I don't want to have to buy a bunch of needles or have to go back and forth.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Ooopps... on 10/25/2010 13:54:33 MDT Print View

My apologies!

"Can you sew two pieces of regular fabric together?"

Was not questioning Your abilites, but the machines' setup...

I can be a little abrupt at times, but am seldom that blunt.


Edited by greg23 on 10/25/2010 13:57:26 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Sewing issues on 10/25/2010 14:30:37 MDT Print View

Hi Jo

Really we need more details.
A photo of the top and bottom of the place where the thread broke would be really good.
What sort of thread are you using?
Do you have any idea of what made the needle break - thread jam, hit steel inside, ??

Fwiiw, I think simple machines can be quite good if used correctly.


Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Sewing issues on 10/25/2010 16:27:51 MDT Print View

Fleece is tough to sew well in my experience, the feed dogs tend to have a hard time pulling the material under the foot. I talked to some of my sewing contacts and they suggested either of two things: A walking foot attachment that pulls the material from the top as well as the bottom or trying tear away backing material on the bottom. I haven't tried either of these suggestions...

Joslyn Bloodworth
(LynB87) - F

Locale: Southwest US
subject line on 10/26/2010 09:47:52 MDT Print View

Greg- lol my misunderstanding! (I have had some real issues with other forums when talking to people who know more than I do. People are really not afraid of making you look stupid when it's not to your face.) Yes, my machine sews well when working with cotton but I have had issues when working with thick layers such as a mid-loft synthetic batting between two pieces of cotton fabric. I'm not sure if that indicates a foot issue or what but I had to give up and sew it by hand.

Roger - At the moment I can't get you a picture due to camera issues but I'm not sure you'd be able to see any detail as it was gray fabric with matching color thread. If I get my camera working I can see what I can get. Since fleece is so good at staying in place I had my pinning needles fairly far away from the foot to avoid any catching or issues with those so I really don't know what it is unless it is the bottom runners just not picking the fabric up well enough. And to be honest it's not the simplicity of the machine that is the biggest issue my mom's machine was no more complicated but this is Singer's cheapest machine out on market today and the parts are flimsy.

Tohru - Tear away backing may be my solution! I have used it before a while ago and if memory serves correct it always works great. I don't know why it didn't occur to me. I will check out that foot as well see what I can find.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: subject line on 10/26/2010 15:11:07 MDT Print View

Hi Jo

Yes, fleece can be tricky, but sewing it IS possible.

Do you have a roller foot for your machine? If not, I suggest you buy one and try it. The rollers make feeding the fleece through the machine much easier, and that may solve your problem. I use one all the time.


Jan Hackemann
(hackemannj) - MLife
bobbin right way? on 11/23/2010 06:37:20 MST Print View

Hi there,
just a technical issue, the bobbin can be placed wrong way round (nose pointing down) into the machines and even locks in that position and you might be able to sew a few stitches with a weak needle...
Make sure its nose points upwards when inserting it in the shuttle.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Thanks on 11/23/2010 08:54:57 MST Print View

There is some simple thing going on here. Fleece is not difficult to stitch. Here are some ideas:

90/14 ball point ought to work with any fleece. But only ball point. Sharps tend to produce tangles.

Use good polyester thread such as Gutterman's, even if you have to mail-order it. It feeds smoothly and consistently through the two different tension systems on your (and all other) machine.

No one can give you a number for proper thread tension; it is too specific to a machine- the numbers are meaningless. This is what to look for/check: If the top thread tangles under the work, the top tension is too light. If the bottom thread pulls through to the top, the top is too tight. If you can't get it balanced, 1) check the threading sequence, different models by the same maker can thread differently; don't assume anything; read the manual; 2) make sure the top thread is caught firmly by the top tensioner (if the thread does not slip between the pressure plates, they can't do their job); 3) Make sure the needle is big enough -(14 is a medium-large size, 16 is large (canvas and denim), 12 is medium and 9 is small); 4) In the unlikely event that you can't balance the top and bottom tension, carefully adjust the bottom tension (a small screw on the bobbin holder). This is a fine adjustment, so go easy.

Of course, test on an easy fabric such as thin cotton. But then test on a single thickness of fleece scrap before trying two thicknesses.
I usually stitch stretch fabrics with a shallow zig-zag because the thread won't break or pull when the fabric stretches. So-called serger stitching or binder stitching can be problematic on general purpose machines because the feed dogs are designed to work only in one direction and some of the binding stitches have to pull the work backwards as well as forward. Try using a shallow zigzag for the basic seam and a deep zigzag to bind the edges. Works for me.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Thanks on 11/23/2010 13:31:38 MST Print View

Hi Vick

> Sharps tend to produce tangles.
Sharps work very well for me. It may depend on the machine?

> Use good polyester thread such as Gutterman's,
Forgive me, but I find Gutermans thread of only average quality. I use Rasant instead for critical things like tents. But Gutermans is OK for fleece.
But whatever you do, do NOT use plain cotton thread!

> I usually stitch stretch fabrics with a shallow zig-zag because the thread
> won't break or pull when the fabric stretches.
Essential imho.


Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Re: Thanks on 11/23/2010 13:54:52 MST Print View

Sharps tend to tangle on knits, synthetic and stretch fabric, but, sure, you can get away with it. Sharps tend to get microscopic burrs on the points after some use, and that is one culprit.

I have to disagree, Roger. Rasant is good stuff, Australian made, I think, and somewhat rare in the US, but the problem is that it is a cotton-wrapped polyester. It is better quality than DualDuty but the cotton suffers all the ills common to cotton, wetting out, mildew, rot. It is about half the breaking strength of Gutternans. I would not use it for anything but test pieces or household items. That said, lots of folks have used cotton-poly thread for outdoor gear. It used to be the recommended thread type on the theory that 1) cotton swells when wet and seals needle holes 2) home machines don't like synthetic thread. Neither theory is true, but long believed.

Robert Coleman
(jbo_c) - F
fleece stinks on 11/23/2010 16:56:35 MST Print View

I agree. It's likely the fabric. Fleece can be a bear to sew.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Thanks on 11/23/2010 17:33:16 MST Print View

Hi Vick

Why should sharps tangle in fleece or knits? No-one has ever given me a good **technical** explanation of this, so I suspect it is a myth. I have seen 'explanation' which focus on the way that a sharp can go through a single thread while a ball-point is more likely to push it aside. However, what this has to do with fleece is beyond me.

Especially as I have sewn a lot of fleece, synthetic and Lycra with stock sharps, without problems.

Rasant is made by Amann & Sohne GmbH of Bonningham, Germany. It is a professional thread, dearer than Guterman, but in my experience better. I note that our local sewing shop does stock Rasant for pro use. They do not advertise this: you have to ask.

> the problem is that it is a cotton-wrapped polyester.
That is is, but there is a reason for this. When sewing at high speeds the passage of the thread through the needle and the needle through the synthetic fabric heats the tip of the needle. If you do this with a pure synthetic thread the needle can get hot enough to cause melting of the individual fibres in the thread - which is a short cut to disaster. The *real* reason pro threads are core-spun poly-cotton is to sheathe the thread in cotton fibres to protect the polyester core from the high temperature of the needle.

True, the average home sewer making little things is unlikely to run into this problem: they are usually sewing far too slowly and for short runs. That's fine.

Is Guterman stronger than Amann Rasant? I have tested this myself, and when matching the threads for size I find Rasant stronger. Amann Serafil is slightly stronger again, but that is a pure synthetic and can have serious problems with tangles.


Donna C
(leadfoot) - M

Locale: Middle Virginia
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Thanks on 11/24/2010 10:45:58 MST Print View

Have you ever used any threads made by Superior Threads? I have only used the cotton for quilting ( King Tut brand) but they do make all kinds of threads. I haven't tried their poly yet. I have sewn with Guterman's poly and don't care for it.

Kevin Beeden
(captain_paranoia) - F

Locale: UK
fabric thickness/foot pressure on 11/24/2010 12:28:34 MST Print View

If you can't adjust the foot pressure on your machine, then it can get pretty hard to sew thicker materials such as fleece; the foot pressure is so high that the material doesn't feed well.

I failed to spot this when buying a machine; I'd been using an old Toyota that had foot pressure adjust, and a proper, to-edge overlocking stitch. The Elna I bought in a hurry has neither. d'oh! I'm afraid I rather rushed the purchase after the old biddies in the department store treated me as if I was Buffalo Bill (the serial killer, not the western legend...)

I need to investigate shorter feet designed for thicker materials; the idea can't be that unusual...