“Timing” is often the most feared word in a sewer’s vocabulary, but it’s also one of the most over used. True timing problems are rare, especially on older machines. Unfortunately, newer machines have less rigorous manufacturing standards and do get knocked out of time more easily than their ancestors, but the problem is still fairly uncommon.
When a timing problem happens, it is usually caused by the needle hitting a hard object like a pin, button, zipper, or even thick layers of fabric. Timing can also be affected by forcing the handwheel too aggressively when trying to free a thread jam or pushing the needle through heavy fabric.
If you think your timing may be off, it is important to first identify your symptoms to see if these could be caused by any other issues. Skipped stitches, no stitches, or broken needles could be timing issues—but they could also be problems with bent needles, thread size and weight, fabric type, or other causes. Detailed information on these problems can be found in our comprehensive e-book.
If you have examined your symptoms and still think you have a timing problem, the following simple test can help you verify whether your timing is off.
Note that this test works the same on a machine with a top-loading bobbin as a front-loading bobbin. The only difference is that on top-loading bobbins, the hook is horizontal. This tutorial shows pictures of both.
STEP 1 (showing with vertical/front loading bobbin): Keep the needle threaded. Remove the needle plate, bobbin case, and shuttle hook cover (if applicable) so that you can see the shuttle hook of your machine. If have a bobbin that loads from the front (like this picture) and your hook falls out easily without the shuttle hook cover, turn one of the latches slightly to the right to hold it in place.
|STEP 2 (showing with horizontal/top-loading bobbin): Hold the thread loosely with your left hand, like you would do when you are “fetching” the bobbin thread to sew. With the bobbin area exposed, turn the wheel by hand and watch how the hook turns. Does it “catch” the thread from the needle in the hook, every time it turns? If not, you may need to try the next steps.|
|AGAIN: Note that this test works the same on a machine with a top loading bobbin as a front-loading bobbin. The only difference is that on top-loading bobbins, the hook is horizontal.|
STEP 4: Now that you’ve raised your needle up 2.5mm or 3/32″ from its lowest position, look to see where the point of your shuttle hook is. It should be peeking behind the needle, just above the top of the eye. If it looks significantly different from these images below, your timing may be off.