Mike's Sewing Machine Repairs

Sewing Machine FAQs

Mike and Penny are both happy to help you with your sewing machine questions. Always feel free to contact us, but there are quite a few questions that we get asked more often than others. We’ve posted these Frequently Asked Questions and there answers here to help you 24/7. Just click on a question for the answer.

First thing to check is that your USB stick is not too big. Try to stay under 2GB sticks – which you’ll find tough to buy from a shop any more (you’ll most likely need to buy them online). Your machine’s memory might struggle to actually handle the amount of memory on a stick larger than this.

Second thing to check is if you have put the right format of files on your stick. Janome machines will only read files that have the extension .JEF (Janome Embroidery Format). Check that these are the files on the stick – people often put .JPG files on their sticks by mistake (photos of the embroidery design) – you can put these on your stick but your machine wont notice that they are there.

Finally (and this is the most common reason), your Janome designs need to go into a specific folder on the USB stick called embf5. The best way to explain this is to compare your machine and embroidery designs on a stick, to you in a library. If you could only read English, then you would only go to the English book section of the library. Once there, you would browse the books until you found the one that you wanted. In the same way, when you put a USB stick into your Janome machine, it is programmed to only look in the embf5 section of the stick. It can read any designs inside this folder, letting you browse for what you want. Just like you wouldn’t notice an English language book in the foreign-language section of the library, your machine won’t notice an embroidery file anywhere else on a USB except in the embf5 folder. The best way to make sure that your USB stick is ready to be read by your machine, with the embf5 folder installed on it, is to format the USB stick on the sewing machine itself. To do this on a Janome 350E (and it’s pretty similar on other models):

  • make sure that there is no information on the USB stick that you want to keep as formatting wipes previous data off it
  • turn on machine
  • plug in USB stick
  • on screen choose MODE, then SET
  • scroll through pages until you see FORMAT
  • choose USB option – TAKE CARE not to choose MACHINE option or you’ll clear the designs built-in to the memory of your machine
  • wait patiently for a minute
  • remove USB
  • check it has been done by plugging USB stick into your computer and you will see the embf folder

Still not feeling confident in this? Book a private, one-on-one computer lesson with Penny to learn more about your computer, file management, and your embroidery machine. Click HERE to find out about classes.

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If the design looks good, and you have a nice balance of embroidery thread and bobbin fill (top embroidery thread is supposed to pull underneath), then your tension is most likely not the problem here. Instead (more-often-than-not) the fabric in that you have embroidered into has been stretch too tightly in the hoop.

Essentially, if you stretch your fabric super-tight when hooping up, the fibres of the fabric are pulled wide apart. Then you embroider a big design over these fibres and when you remove the fabric from the hoop and the hoop is no longer holding the fibres pulled apart, they want to bounce back to their normal position BUT the embroidery design’s stitches are in the way, so all the fabric can do is gather around the outside of the design. Try the same design again, but this time, you want your fabric nice and smooth, instead of the often-used phrase “drum tight”. Now, don’t make the mistake of thinking that loose is OK, that will pucker up as you embroider in another way, so you need to find a happy medium of smooth and flat. Here’s a few simple steps to get the balance right:

  • hoop fabric and appropriate stabiliser
  • screw hoop-screw tight but not as tight as you can just yet
  • flatten any visible wrinkles out of your fabric by gently pulling it (not the stabiliser) from around the edges of the outside of the hoop
  • place a finger firmly in the middle of the hoop, pinning down the fabric and while it is there –
  • drag anther finger all over the hooped fabric looking to see if it wrinkles as you do
  • if it does, pull the fabric a little tighter and try again; when it does not, you are good to go
  • now tighten the hoop-screw as firmly as you can *if you have arthritis you may need to use a small screw driver, but otherwise finger tightening is enough

Some other points to remember:

  • use the right stabiliser for what you are doing
  • whichever stabiliser your use should fill the entire hoop
  • use the RIGHT bobbinfill in your machine as recommended by the manufacturer – the wrong weight will change tension results
  • iron your fabrics before you hoop them, and try BEST PRESS starch alternative to get stubborn fold marks out, without leaving residue on your fabric

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Overlockers are a fussy machine and there is a couple of things that you need to keep in mind when re-threading. First of all, thread order is important. Even though our head is telling us to work from the left to the right, overlockers generally need you to thread from the right to the left. You need to thread your loopers first to make sure that the final order of your threads all catch each other to form a stitch, are in the right order.

Secondly – needles. Make sure that you have the correct needles for your overlocker model. Many overlockers don’t use a standard sewing needle. If you are unsure, check your user manual, look for a little sticker somewhere near your needles on your overlocker, or give your overlocker manufacturer a CALL. Needles are like people – flat at the back – so make sure you have them in the right-way-around, and expect your needles to be offset at different heights. This is normal for an overlocker, and makes sure that when you have pushed your needle as high up as possible in the needle block, the needle is in the right place for your loopers.

Once you have that step all sorted, finally you should check whether all of your threads are actually caught in the tension of your overlocker, and not just laying over the top trying to trick you. To check this, firmly grab each thread on each side (before and after) of the tension dial of your overlocker, then give a firm pull to make sure the thread is dragged in between the tension disks. Do this for each thread, including the needle threads.

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