Friday 29 May 2015

How to Reverse Stitch on a Vintage Sewing Machine

When using a very old sewing machine, you may have noticed that you only have a straight stitch in one direction. On an electric sewing machine there is usually a button that allows you to sew backwards for a couple of stitches to secure the thread at the start or end of the run. This isn’t an option on a vintage handcrank or treadle sewing machine - If you don't secure your thread it will come undone and your piece will fall apart and nobody wants that.

You may have figured out the hard way that you can't turn the wheel backwards, don't try, it'll be messy.

You can, of course hand-stitch the ends of thread in place after sewing on the machine. I find this method time consuming and fiddly, and I am frequently short on time and patience.

My preferred method is to turn the work on the machine. 

It's not as hard as it sounds, or looks. I have made everything from heavy lined curtains to fancy dress clothes and I have never had a major problem.

Here is a detailed explanation:

I'm doing this on a wee scrap of fabric just for the camera but it will work on almost any project.

Start by sewing 4 or 5 stitches then lower the needle into the work and lift the foot.

Slowly and carefully turn the work - do not strain the needle, be very careful.

When the work is turned 180° lower the foot back down and stitch back along those few stitches. 
Lower the needle into the fabric and lift the foot.

Turn the work 180° again.

Lower the foot and sew your little heart out.

When you finish your run you simply do the same process (turn, sew back along 4 stitches, turn and sew forwards again) to secure the thread.

This is how the end of your run should look, nice and neat.

You can then snip the threads off without fear of unravelling.

Crucial points:

  • Always have the needle fully dropped before lifting the foot. This will make your work pivot neatly on one point and not pull the thread.
  • When the foot is lifted DO NOT PUT ANY STRAIN on the needle, this may snap, or bend the needle, it could pull at the fabric and damage your work.
  • Don’t forget to lower the foot back down each time before you try to sew - you will end up with tangled threads that will need to be cut free of the machine, again it could damage your work, and its a pain in the arse. Don’t do it.
  • When sewing something very large and heavy you might need to roll or fold the work carefully to help it fit under the arm of the sewing machine. 
  • If you are in doubt that you might damage the needle or the work take the long route and hand sew the ends in.

1 comment :

  1. Very good to know. I've always wondered if I were doing it right by turning my work around, or if I just didn't have my machine tuned when trying to reverse my treadle, lol.


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