How do I get rid of my sewing machine's stubborn case of thread monsters?
May 25, 2011 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Sewing machine filter: I can't get rid of thread monsters and my bobbins aren't winding properly. Normal troubleshooting tips not working.

I have a Kenmore 385.192 that recently had to have the fuse changed on it. Twice. (Hooray for a very handy husband!) Since we got it back together, I've been under attack by thread monsters. I've done a fair amount of googling and read this thread and followed every suggestion I could find, but still I have those damn thread monsters.

I've rewound the thread numerous times, used different types of thread, needles, bobbins, fabric, tension settings, and everything else I can think of. Can't. Get. Rid. Of. Thread. Monsters!

I'm trying to sew mostly quilting fabric together right now, and have the proper needles and thread. To add to the frustration, I can't get bobbins to wind evenly unless I wind them s-l-o-w-l-y. Troubleshooting that has failed, too.

Help needed and very much appreciated.
posted by luckynerd to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you hold the two thread ends taut as ou begin to sew?

If you tend to only get thread monsters at the beginning od sewing, try using a bumper of scrap at the beginning and end of each seam. Like, start sewing on a scrap piece, run off the end, and just feed your real seam in after it, like you would when chain piecing. Feed another scrap piece in at the end so it's ready for the next seam. Snip the twisted bridges between when you're done. Thread monsters stay on the scrap this way, at least.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:33 PM on May 25, 2011

The causes of excess needle thread looping (thread monsters?) on a home lockstitch machine are generally (in rough order of frequency of occurrence):
  • Incorrect needle or incorrect needle installation
  • Jammed or dirty needle thread tension mechanism (foot lift usually releases tension via a cam/pin which can jam tension discs slightly open if presser foot is way low, etc.)
  • Lint or dirt clogging the hook mechanism, typically behind the bobbin case
  • Rough or bent bobbin case
  • Bobbin case retention finger too close or tight in retention groove, pinching needle thread passage, usually due to bending of finger, or unusual hook movement
  • Hook damage, typically to the point of the hook, caused by striking the needle, but also to the bobbin case race or hook mechanism edge
  • Non-standard hook timing, usually due to needle bar being shoved up in its adjustment clamp during needle break incident, or hook slipping its timing adjustment on its shaft
Most of these issues require expert mechanical adjustment or some disassembly and repair to rectify. Might be time to take your machine into a sewing shop for a thorough cleaning, lubrication and tune up. If your hook is badly damaged, or you need a replacement part like a new bobbin case, the shop will normally give you an estimate for replacement parts and labor, by phone, before doing any work.
posted by paulsc at 9:37 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Is this a new problem, or is this a new (to you) machine? I have an older Kenmore that gave me the same sort of fits until I realized that I wasn't pulling the thread taut enough as I threaded the machine, so the upper thread wasn't snapping into position between the lightly sprung plates that control tension; the upper thread was thus untensioned regardless of where I set the dial. Now I just hold the spool still and give the free end of the thread a gentle tug before passing it through the eye of the take-up lever. It makes an obvious click as it slips between the tensioning plates.
posted by jon1270 at 4:00 AM on May 26, 2011

For the thread monster problem: If you aren't already doing this, I'd suggest using a thread bunny or starting a leader-ender quilt with some of your scraps, so you never let the machine have more than a stitch or two between pieces of fabric unless you're changing thread or refilling a bobbin or something. You can do amazing things with leader/ender piecing bits sewn together as you work on another project -- see's discussion of the method.

For bobbins, I have read that it's actually better to wind your bobbins slowly, because the thread stretches less and you get a more even stitch.

That all being said, though, it might be time to take the machine in for servicing.
posted by pie ninja at 4:04 AM on May 26, 2011

When the thread starts gobbing up on the underside of the seam I'm sewing, it's been because a) my needle was too dull and needed changing b) the tension needed tightening or c) tension was as tight as it could go and the machine therefore needed servicing.
posted by orange swan at 5:37 AM on May 26, 2011

Do you have the same type of thread in the bobbin as on the spool? Like identical?
posted by ashtabula to opelika at 5:48 AM on May 26, 2011

Good God, paulsc. Do you repair machines? Can I mail you an ornery old Singer?

My first thought was upper thread tension - either it's off because the threading's off, or something's just dead wrong with your upper tension. Having it serviced is a good idea, if you can afford it (and if there is a competent person around).
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:11 AM on May 26, 2011

I take my machine in for servicing on a regular basis, because it's the most expensive appliance in the house. There are shops out there that will do a great job for around $60, I think. When I had a Kenmore, i would clean and lube it regularly myself, but it sounds like you might need to take it to a shop.
posted by annsunny at 2:28 PM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks! :)

I'll finally have time to try the suggestions here this afternoon. :)

I'm using identical thread at the moment, but I've tried every combination.

The machine is a few years old, and I bought it new (great sale, too!).

I believe there's a repair place around here... it won't be hard to find out. :)
posted by luckynerd at 12:39 PM on May 28, 2011

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