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04 Oct 2013 - 21:29107898
Sewing machine woe - can anyone help? (Pictures included!)
Hi guys,

I am having some major sads while attempting to do applique on my fiance's Brother XL 5500, and I thought if I described the problem and provided some pictures, some lovely person might be able to tell me whether I'm doing something wrong or if it needs to go in for a service.

My problem: After an unpredictable amount of time stitching, extending from the first/second stitch to 20cm of stitching, the following will happen -
Width of the applique stitch will spontaneously narrow
The machine will start to make a nasty noise
The join between top and bottom thread shifts to being in the middle of the stitch instead of being on one side
The thread falls out of the bobbin case instead of being under the tension spring (Fig. 1)
The thread gets wound around the central post that the bobbin case goes onto (Fig. 2)
If I were to continue sewing, the bobbin thread would loop horribly because it is no longer under any tension and cause a nest in the feed-dog, requiring it to be cut free (Fig. 3)

So. This all cries out at being a tension issue, doesn't it? But in that case, why can I sometimes sew for a good 20cm length with no problems (with both top and bottom threads being nice and tidy) and then that just happens? I can even get at it before the feed-dog nest happens because I can see the applique stitch narrowing and the join moving, and can open the bobbin case, put the thread back under the tension spring and continue. But that shouldn't be happening in the first place DX

I've tried the following things to fix it:

Rethreading top and bottom threads
Increasing and decreasing top thread tension
Decreasing the stitch length (so the applique is less applique and more zig zag)
Decreasing the stitch width (making a narrower applique line, it was set to the widest during most attempts)
Tightening the tension screw on the bobbin case as per this advice: http://www.coolcottons.biz/blog/2011/8/4/a-tensioning-trick-you-may-not-know.html
Changing the needle
Changing the bobbin
Winding the bobbin on another machine
Cleaning dust/lint out from the bobbin area
Pouting/crying at it

Nothing works Always the exact same problem. And I've done applique on this machine before - I use it for all my applique projects. I did have this problem happen occasionally during my last project but it was nothing like as bad as it is now.

So I'm at my wit's end, guys. I really like doing applique but this latest project has been a nightmare because of the machine being so unpredictable. 99% of problems I've had while using a sewing machine have been my own error but this one has me completely mystified.

I should add that straight stitch is absolutely fine and I have no problems with that at all!! I'm also using the same grade of Gutermann thread on top and bottom.

Any thoughts? I'll try anything!!



Last edited by madmazda86 (04 Oct 2013 - 21:31)
05 Oct 2013 - 21:01107922
I think your best bet is to take the machine to a professional, I'm not sure what's causing the tension issues but if I were you, I wouldn't risk using it any more until you've had an expert take a look at your machine. It could be some kind of internal issue and something inside might be wearing away. Sorry to hear you're having the troubles


05 Oct 2013 - 21:34107923
Have you tried every combination of tensions? Like, tighter on top loser on bottom, tight both etc. It does sound like a tension issue, but if nothing seems to work you're probably best getting it looked at professionally.

I had an old machine that was fine one day, then decided to stop working properly the next. Was skipping stitches and all sorts. That was a tension issue but not one I could fix. Since it was such an old machine I just decided to get a new one.

Doesn't sound like yours is very old though, so just get it looked at. Although, my old machine was sent for repair once (before it was mine) and it came back with a dodgy tension. So be careful =p


05 Oct 2013 - 21:40107924
It does sound like a tensioning issue but how to fix it is beyond me too.

Apologies if you've tried this but...
- does the top thread become looped around the cotton reel holder at all? I had this recently & it completely messed with my tension.
- have you tried oiling it?

Other than that I'd suggest a service. Sorry I can't help any more but I'll pass on your dilemma to other sewers that I know.


05 Oct 2013 - 22:36107927
Thanks for the advice, folks! Somebody else has told me that they had a similar problem and had to take the machine apart and clean it to fix the issue. I'm going to speak to my fiance about what he'd like to do, but we may end up taking it in for a service as it's about 5 years old and has never had one!

The top thread only gets looped around the cotton holder after that sequence of problems has occurred - there's a little bent piece of wire that the cotton goes through on its way to the tension disc, and that gets pulled out of its plastic holder when the problem happens. It's only at that point that the cotton reel gets jerked and so spins round on itself, which can sometimes cause a bit of thread to fall down beneath the cotton reel. But that only happens every once in a while, whereas this sequence of problems listed in my first post happens every time.

I haven't tried oiling it - I'm not confident that if I took it apart I'd be able to put everything back together (I tried oiling the bobbin race of my Singer ages ago and had a right panic fitting all the components back in again...!) I might leave that to a professional XD



Last edited by madmazda86 (05 Oct 2013 - 22:41)
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