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Big frustration with big machine!

Welcome | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

Hi, ALL!  I am new here, sent by a helpful soul from another BB.  My name is Lisa and I have a 1959 Singer 144 W 305.  In case you don’t recognize it, this is one big powerhouse machine.  I got it to do horse blanket repairs on.  It is the key to my work at home freedom and the lynchpin to quite an operation, you could say.  It runs great by and large- imagine floating through multiple layers of heavy duty nylon webbing without the slightest resistance.  This thing is a source of great satisfaction when it is running well, but can really take us over the brink of frustration and despair when it binds up, as it does almost daily now.  It is too big to bring into a repair shop and we can’t locate anyone to come look at it.  What happens is that it can be humming along fine and then the needle thread gets stuck between the bobbin case and the sewing hook; sometimes it jams UNDER the sewing hook.  My very capable, mechanically inclined husband has struggled with it time and again, using the Instructions and Parts List which came with it.  Each time requires quite an effort with several sizes of screwdrivers- some of those screws are soooooo tiny!  The poor man has thrown in the towel and now we are stuck with tons of work piling up and nowhere to turn! 

We would be happy to pay someone to take a look at it if we only knew who to contact.  Can any of you suggest a travelling tech in the northern Virginia area?  Is there a technically inclined someone out there who could talk to us on the phone or online?  Does anyone have any IDEA what could be going on?  ( Yes, the needle, bobbin, thread and tension are all OK. The machine is clean and oiled and runs beautifully other than this.) 

I can hardly overemphasize the frustration involved.  HELLLLLLLLLLLP!!!





  1. SewTruTerry | | #1

    I know something about Singer machines but not the one that you have.  So let me give my 2 cents worth and see if it will help you.  First of all have you just started experiencing this problem or has it been only occasionally happening?  Also have you changed brands of needles?  I know with my experience with older Singer machines that they will only use Singer needles.  They get really cranky when you feed then other needles.  Also have you changed thread brands or has the material that you are sewing on changed?  Any of these things could cause you the problems that you are  talking about. 

    1. stitchmd | | #2

      First see if you can find a good book on machine repair. I saw mention of one recently on one of the many forums like this, but can't remember which one.Next take a trip to G Street Fabrics (there are three in NoVa) and to any other fabric store you can find, and see if they have a bulletin board where local people leave business cards. Most of them will be from people who sew but there should be someone who does repairs. You have a great machine. I learned to sew on an old Singer industrial machine and home machines seem weak and pathetic by comparison.

  2. raven99 | | #3

    Hi Welcome, I don't know if you have gone this route yet, doesn't sound like you have. I googled your machine name and came up with this url for a company in Oregon.


    and they have an email address as well: [email protected]

    and their phone number: Phone: 503-759-4373

    They seem to carry a lot of the Singer industrial machines similar to the one you have so maybe they can help you over the phone or even help you find a local person to service your machine. It sure does look like a monster!

    Hope this helps and Good luck!


    1. Welcome | | #5

      Thank you all so much for taking the time and trouble to reply!  Somehow I feel less desperately stranded alone out in the country with this big broken beast.  There IS hope! 

      To clarify what I should have included in the first place:  Yes, this problem has been with me ever since I started working with this machine 4 months ago.  Sewing can go along just fine for hours before it jams up, or it might catch thread right away from the very first stitch.  A miserable way to start the day! I use the Singer needles, HEAVY thread and bobbins which came with it.  They have all been changed out and exchanged repeatedly with the same on-again, off-again results.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.  This is a big part of the frustration, especially for my logical, methodical, rational and now beleagered husband. ( I feel more frustration on his account as the Maintenance Man Extraordinaire than I do for myself. )

      I will gladly look up the sewing store mentioned as a source of help. ( I wish I could scroll down to view the name of who suggested it.  Sorry, but THANKS!) My local JoAnne's Fabric store is frankly more a source of annoyance than assistance.  No one there knows anyone who works on industrial machines.  They seem scandalized somehow.... Well, in all fairness, this IS an unusual machine and occupation.  Yes, I must agree with those of you who say it is a monster.   Compared to it, my "normal" homeuse machines seem like flies around the face of a draft horse.  How does a 30" arm strike you? I LOVE it and have such a serene satisfaction when it is running well- time just flies by without realizing it, and the work done forms big piles around my workshop in the hayloft. 

      Marionc, I can't thank you enough for this contact information!  Your online research skills are clearly superior to mine. I can hardly wait for the holiday weekend to be over so we can get in touch with these folks!

      How wonderful to have such a kind, helpful community here.  You have done more good than you can know.   


      1. MaryAnnD | | #6

        depending on where you are in Northern VA, you might get some help thour Jim's Sewing Machine Repair, Inc.  I don't have personal first hand experience but did refer a sewing student to him once because she had a machine she could not physically take to a repair place.  Jim's service is mobile, he comes to you.  The dispatch office number is 703-435-2060 and he's got an ad in the yellow pages if you want to check that out.

        let us know on the list how it goes.

      2. Teaf | | #8

        Ah, the infamous "crud" stitch--I agree with the others that the problem is nearly always the needle, even though the tangle occurs below.  Brand-new needles can be defective, right out of the package--jamming immediately.  A good needle will work well until it becomes dulled by the fabric--jamming after many hours of sewing. 

        I once got an entire package of brand-new needles that jammed; the next package was fine and solved the problem.  It's probably a good idea to get the recommended repair manuals for a machine that is so vital to your business, but in the meantime, start with a systematic substitution of different sizes & brands of needles.

        Some webbing products have sticky bindings that will build up on the needle and make it harder for it to pierce through cleanly--you might need to wipe it periodically. Good luck, and let the forum know what works! 

        1. Welcome | | #9

          AH HA!  Lightbulb moment from the post referencing sticky bindings and needle problems:  I use 2 sided carpet tape by the yard to hold the patches on horse blankets. OF COURSE it leaves sticky residue on the needle.  This could explain a large part of the issue, it seems.  Well done!  ( There is No Way I pin these hideously thick, tough layers, even with long quilt pins. Picture 1200 dernier nylon with rubbery waterproof laminate backing over 300g Thinsulate and an inner lining of who-knows-what wicking fabric in addition to 1-4 layers of massive binding. )

          Oh, I am so happy to be able to hone my technique to include cleaning/changing the needle to make such a major difference.  I never realized how important this is and feel so dumb. Though I have sewn since childhood, I am self taught and must confess to only changing needles when I break one.... (blush).  Do you think that rubbing alcohol on cotton pads would clean the residue off the needles sufficiently?  Obviously, I need to and switch them out long before breaking them. They are 7x3 harpoons that seem invincible.  How will I know it is time?  Sorry to be such a novice, and I sure appreciate your experience and help. 

          Also, thanks to your tip, I contacted the helpful folks at G Street Fabrics who steered me to a 2nd generation sewing machine repair man named Ray Berger in Manassas who didn't bat an eye at the prospect of working on The Beast.  The only problem was that it had to be brought to him which turned out not to be the ordeal I thought it would be.  2 of us managed to detach it from the table and stagger downstairs with it to haul in the back of my truck. 

          He finds what he calls minor issues:  timing, hook hitting too low, and something else I'm not remembering.  Frankly, timing is a Major Pain in MY book, so I'm glad he thinks it's minor! 

          I also had occasion to chat with the owner at GLOBE in Ohio in my desperate search for help, and it is his experience that the reverse on the Singer 144 W 305 leads to jams more times than not.  He advised me to sew forwards, then lift the needle and presser foot, pull the work back again, and continue forwards thus locking in or reinforcing as needed without backing.  John, the helpful tech guy from Singer Corporate doesn't see what backing has to do with it, as the hook continues in the same direction, the feed dog just reverses..... There is no agreement. 

          As a point of interest, Mr Globe Corp (sorry sir, I didn't catch your name) told me that 18 months ago these big machines were snatched off the market by military contractors to sew tents, convoy covers, etc.  He had an order for 15 of them and couldn't come up with that many in a world wide search.  They are quite rare and sell for around $4,800 at this point.  Since I paid 1K for mine, - reconditioned by Kaplan a few years back- I am all the happier with it.  If only I can figure out this leetle problem!  I have turned into a sort of bi-polar personality:  When the machine is humming along, I am so HAPPY and when it is snarled up... well, I'm sure you understand. 

          Thanks again for your interest, advice and support.  What a great community! 

          1. SewTruTerry | | #10

            Ah the aha moment. I just read your post and I will suggest another solution to your problem. Do not use rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol on your needles.  I did not realize that you were sewing through the carpet tape.  What you need to do is use a product called Sewers Aid, it comes in a little bottle and a little will go a long way. It is actually liquid silicone and just a drop on the needle before you start and again after a couple of minutes of sewing in your case will make the needle slide through like butter.

          2. Welcome | | #11

            Thanks for the tip, Terry!  I will get hold of some Sewers' Aid before I sit down at my machine again.  Never heard of such a thing.  The more I learn, the more I suspect The Beast's problems have originated with operator error, and the more determined I am to do things RIGHT! 

            Can any of you offer advice on adjustments which I should make before switching from one type of material/sewing to another?  For example, I seem to get jammed up when going from long straight runs through heavy nylon and Thinsulate, to box stitching 3 layers of heavy elastic.  This type of variety is entirely commonplace in the course of horse blanket repair work.  Are there adjustments I should be making to the machine before switching from one project to the next?  I beg your pardon if you are choking over my absolute ignorance and these matters are entirely self-evident to those of you with experience.  Unfortunately, it is all new to me; but I DO WANT TO LEARN!! 

          3. Elisabeth | | #12

            It just takes practice to get all the variables working together for any specific task. You get a feel for it after a while. If you are not changing the needle before going to the elastic it could be a dull needle? Nylon fabrics dull a needle quickly and even though the needle will still sew the nylon apparently fine, the elastic is more particular and needs a nice sharp needle to cooperate. I tend to use needles longer than I should, I just haven't quite learned to accept how many needles one really goes through and what a very disposable part of the sewing machine needles are.

          4. Welcome | | #13

            Thanks for the sympathetic advice, Elisabeth.  Looks like I'm going to be tossing away a lot more needles from now on.

            On another matter, does the little yellow envelope icon next to this thread title mean I have a private message or what?  It doesn't open when I double click it.  What am I supposed to do?  TIA!

          5. Elisabeth | | #14

            Hm, I have no idea what such an icon would be, can't think of what it even looks like. Anyone out there know what it is?

          6. Welcome | | #15

            The envelope icon in question is directly to the right of the title of this thread.  Maybe it only shows up on MY screen, as I am the author?  I thought maybe it meant there was a private message I should open, but I don't see how.  Oh well!

          7. Jean | | #16

            If  you run your cursor over the envelope, you will see what it means. If you click on the word subscribe next to the envelope a popup box will appear where you can instruct the forum to notify you when new messages appear in this thread.

          8. Teaf | | #17

            Anyone who tackles projects and machines like yours isn't ignorant at all! 

            Sewing elastic is always a pain for me, although a Forum suggestion to use a ball-point needle helps.  Used for knit fabrics, a ball-point needle goes in between the fibers rather than piercing them, as a standard point will.  On elastic, I imagine the standard sharp point keeps bouncing off the rubber so that it can't complete the stitch.  (Can you tell that I've always been fascinated by magnified diagrams of How Things Work?)

          9. Welcome | | #18

            WOOHOO! Another lightbulb moment sewing tip.  This makes so much sense.  You guys are great!  I wonder if Singer makes ball point needles in the 7x3 harpoon size The Beast uses...? 

            It should be ready to bring home from the repair shop any day now.  I can hardly wait to get back to work with it again with my newfound knowledge.  Thank you all so much for your help!! ( DH is also EXTREMELY appreciative! )


  3. Stitchitup | | #4

    Have you changed the type/brand/supplier of the bobbin you are using? That can make a difference.

  4. SkiNsew | | #7

    There is a very helpful message about sources for repairing singer machines on another forum.  Go to this web site:  http://sewing.about.com/mpboards.htm and register.  Then look up message 13298.4.

    Hope this helps.


    Edited 7/7/2005 8:40 am ET by mare

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