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Singer 527, thread breaks, AND I don't know what dials MEAN!! Help please Answered

Many thanks in advance if you can help me. 
I have a singer 527 it worked fine from the basement after it's 10 year 'rest' (it was my sisters but she moved to the states!) Then the needel broke because it was too small for the work I was doing (curtains!) so I bought the ones the shop said were best.

NOW though the thread breaks continually and the real problem is that I think I did something with the dials that I don't actually understand? 

Can anyone help with that? I don't have the instruction booklet and can't find one online --
Many thanks if you can -- JB


Looks like Frollard has the knobs covered very well, so here are a couple of alternate things that might be causing your problem, if it's not the tension:

Needle In Backwards -
Yeah, I know... it's silly, but it does make a difference. If you look closely at the needle, there should be a groove running up the shaft all the way from the eye hole to the top. On my machine, the groove needs to face the front of the machine. If it faces the back, the thread breaks every five stitches or so. Your machine may be the same way or the opposite, so check and see how the needle is oriented,  turn it 180 degrees, rethread and give it a whirl. You have nothing to lose, and it may actually fix your issue.

Not Threaded Properly -
All sewing machines are very finicky about threading. If you miss a loop somewhere or don't get the thread between the tension plates just right, they are guaranteed to barf on you at exactly the wrong moment. Doublecheck your threading diagram and make sure you're properly threaded, paying extra attention to the tension plates and even the direction that the thread comes off the spool. Also check to make sure that the spool rotates freely, as a sticky spool can also cause breakage.

Needs Tune Up -
It may be that the timing of the machine is a bit off. You can usually get a tune-up at your local sewing center for not too much money, and it's totally worth it, especially since the machine has been in storage for a while.

Hope this helps, and if worse comes to worst, here's a site where you can buy a manual for $5.00.

This tiny text is only here because my Pro membership just kicked in, so now I can make tiny text. Woot!

 Dear Friends! RavingMadStudios  & Frollard

Thank you SO much you were both right in some ways! anyway now 2.5 hours later I am up and running again!  In the end it was actually the thread and that was my last port of call!

I checked the needle and think it may have been right anyway as it seemed to only be insertable that way - that didn't help altho I learnt more about inserting it in properly, then I tried the tension dials - but to be honest still didn't really know which of the rings to place it in! so it was uncertain - so then I purchased the manual, thanks for the link it was a well spent £3.50!  It wasn't tho much clearer on the tension dials IE which one to place the cotton in between. 

However going well now, I then checked the 'loops' and find that indeed I am not threading it properly and didn't even realise some where there, near the needle etc, so the manual is earning me points now as I can see them on the diagrams!!  I learnt - what I was certain COULD happen but didn't know how to make it - to reverse sew! GREAT... and what the dial meant that lengthens or shortens stiches and then the foot pressure dial...... I set them all according to the instructions -- WONDERFUL? well yes but still it didn't sew my material without the thread breaking. At this point I did something typically British, had a cup of Tea (well another actually!).

I re read the responses and though aha the thread --- surely it can't be that? It 's the same thread I was using on the other piece of material before the needle broke??? could it ?? YES it was the thread, I tried pulling it back the other way and it broke easily, I imagine it may be old perhaps? It was in the box with the machine.......

So if I can award stars you both get 10 and if you lived near I would offer you a cup of tea, failing those can I thank you so much: 1. for taking the time to answer these kinds of questions and 2. For the knowledge you have and shared! 

I award myself stars because I didn't put the machine away and 'forget' it and have learnt SO much in an afternoon ----- here I go everything will now be repaired and renewed.

Again Many many thanks for the help -- JB 

I'm very glad that everything back on track, and good luck with the rest of your project. If any further weirdness occurs, just give a yell.
I'm off to go slice up a few beer bottles. Ciao!

Thanks very much! AngryRedhead is my new favorite person that I've never actually met.

Glad you got it working, I'll take a raincheque on that tea - next time I'm in the uk I'll give you a shout! :)

Now on your shoulders; "How to thread/adjust a [your particular] sewing machine" - make an instructable! (if you're bored)

Great question!

There will be a few dials:  
Tension -
This is a knob that you will thread the thread directly under; like a pulley.  This is likely your problem - The higher the number the more...tension...that pulley puts on the thread before the puller arm (thingy) and then down through the needle.  Try adjusting this first;
Tension too high = stitches bunch up on the work piece and thread often breaks
Tension too low = stitches aren't tight; they form tall(er) loops and dont lay flat.  These stitches are NOT strong; and need adjustment.

Feed Speed
The claw under the foot drags the work piece forward at this speed, 'distance per stitch'.  This number works in conjunction with the tension to get even flat stitches at any given speed.  Higher speed needs less tension.

You might also have very fine/weaker thread; or a malfunction with the machine - try these knobs first and see if that helps.

Ahhhhhhhhhh Eeeeeeeeeek ;0) The Home Ec. Teacher might catch you! "She Who Must Be Obeyed" reigned down terors of threats if we ever touched the tension. Be careful keep looking over your shoulder. She's everywhere she's everywhere. Buh hah hah ha :P ;0) ;0)

...or ask to get it fixed, since its clearly wrong - then have evil home-ec doom teach show the proper way to do it, their job, instead of setting it before class then getting pissy when people mess with it :D

Things are so different now. That was back in the early 1970's. Now thankfully, there are classes were students would be able to dismantle a sewing machine, and put it back together. My kids were always taking things apart, and it didn't upset me. They usually were able to put them back together, and they gained a lot of knowledge and self confidence from the experiences.
A super book that was full of ideas for children to explore is called, "The Mother's Almanac". I don't know if it's still in print, but I personally found it a superb resource. :0)You can do it JB! We're all rooting for you!!!

Tension is what I would have said too. Seems you were right


Thanks for your comment. It was finally the very old thread I was using it breaks just on any pull even by the fingers, I hadn't realised it was so old and probably had become both damp and naturally 'aged' after all that time in the box in the cellar!! 

Regards JB

Ah, yes. But dampness can enhance strength also, materials behave in weird and unpredictable ways sometimes...
Glad you fixed it anyway.


Ravingmadstudios, thanks you so very much for posting that link for the manual, I have been looking for a copy for 2 years ever since I bought this lovely machine second hand, and I love it to pieces, so I bought a copy immediately.

For the ladies who are having problems, you will get none if you find out it's preference for it's thread, mine only likes the old type Sylko, which is still easily available.

I use mine for quilting, which it is perfect for and for ordinary sewing it is not too fussy but for the actual free motion quilting it will only suffer Sylko so because I love it so much I will only use this thread on it for all sewing.

BTW I have 4 machines and this is my favourite it is brilliant.

Three other possibilities to check:

Another place on the machine to check is the bobbin race.  This is the little round case where the lower thread lives.  Sometimes when thread breaks (or even just through regular use) bits of thread and lint can get loose from their usual places and get stuck in places they should not be.

Usually the bobbin sits in a small, round metal cup with lots of holes and pointy parts.  This cup slots into the machine.  The upper thread loops around both the bobbin and cup with each stitch.

As a sewing machine moves at high speed with precision placement of all parts, the smallest bit of misplaced thread in this area can throw off the movement of the upper thread looping around the bobbin race and cause jams/breakages.  This used to happen almost constantly on one my newer electronic machines until I figured it out.

After hours and days of frustration the solution was very easy - Remove the bobbin, bobbin case, and any removable race parts.  Examine the bobbin area under good light. Pull out any threads and lint you can see with tweezers.  Thoroughly blow out the area with a can of compressed air a couple times.  Then put everything back together and give it another go.

Two: Sometimes when a needle breaks it can bend and poke another part of the machine.  Look for any jagged or rough spots in the bobbin area/parts that could be snagging the upper thread as it goes by. There shouldn't be any whatsoever.  If you do find such a spot, either very carefully polish it out with an emery board or take the part to a shop to be replaced.

Three:  Fabric choice.  Sometimes I run across a difficult fabric that simply won't work, or will only work with a very specific combination of needle, needle position, thread, tensions, etc, etc.  They're a total pain!  Usually these trouble fabrics are knits, really cheap or have had some kind of treatment applied that makes the fabric a little sticky.  The treatment causes the upper thread to not move smoothly and makes a big gnarly mess of thread breakage.

Test sew on a different fabric.  Something very basic that always sews well like muslin, quilting cotton, cotton napkin or light denim. Even lightweight paper in pinch. If that sews up without a problem then you will either have to just experiment with different settings or try your trouble fabric on a different machine which might handle it better.

 Thanks very much for your time and comments, I will keep them as I think the problem maybe also came about because the first bit I did was on one piece of material the second after the needle broke was double..... obviously the thread couldn't manage it.

I note your time says 8.40 am so you must be in the USA maybe? 

Thanks again for taking the time to respond to me -- Regards JB 

 Addendum to Three:  If it's your fabric that's troublesome, you can also try sandwiching it between tissue or tracing paper, top and bottom, when you sew.  This works especially well on loopy, uneven fabrics like terry cloth and boucle's.  The paper will tear away easily after you're done sewing.