Friday, February 26, 2016

Disaster averted

So I've been a Bernina owner since -- I can't exactly remember, but sometime in the 1980s -- and I don't believe I've ever taken the opportunity to look inside the top section of my machines.  I didn't think you could even go inside if you wanted to.  But this week I had an epiphany.

It started badly, when the top thread got itself terminally caught somewhere inside the tension disk/takeup lever area.  There was a nice long end to it, so I got a good grip and pulled, but nothing happened.  I moved the takeup lever this way and that way but nothing would dislodge the thread.  And of course the mechanism is so well shielded that I couldn't see what was happening in there, just catch glimpses of the frayed end.

I contemplated having to take the machine in to Roy the Sewing Machine Guy (without whom my fiber art career would be a disaster) just to get that thread out, because you can't get inside a Bernina, can you?

Wait -- there's a screw in the middle of the side panel.  Not an ordinary screw, of course, that might yield to one of my dozens of home screwdrivers, but a fancy six-sided-star-shaped screw.  Trust Bernina to be fancier than your ordinary machine.  Roy must have that kind of screwdriver, because he takes care of this machine.

I cussed.  I sulked.  I pouted.  I tried to think of when I could get to Roy's.  I searched around my sewing machine things, found a box full of old presser feet that I never use, and there was no fancy screwdriver in it.

Pouted some more.  Then I found, in the back of a storage compartment at ankle level, the big plastic box that all the Bernina stuff came in when I bought it.  A cute cabinet with doors and little drawers that is stashed away and totally empty because it's totally dysfunctional -- it falls over any time you try to access it with only one hand, and besides, its footprint, with those opening doors, is way too big for my sewing table.

But wait -- it wasn't totally empty.  It held... a fancy screwdriver!

So I unscrewed the fancy screw, got inside the machine and dislodged the thread.  Contemplated how beautifully the sewing mechanism is engineered and how elegantly it moves.

And while I was there, figured I might as well clean things up.  Used my trusty sewing-machine-oil-on-a-QTip method and removed three QTips' worth of disgusting dirt and crud.  Put it back together and I swear it runs more smoothly and quietly than it did before.

Resolution #1: throw out that stupid empty plastic box/cabinet that's taking up space in my storage compartment.

Resolution #2: keep that fancy screwdriver in a more accessible place and go in and clean the machine up every month or so.

Of course there's still the big question: why didn't Bernina just build this machine with a regular screw?


  1. This fancy Torx screw (yep, it has a name) gets less wear when screwing and unscrewing (sounds naughty) than an old time screw with a straight grove across the top.
    My Pfaff didn't come with such a fancy tool so I had to buy one that lives in my sewing tools drawer next to my work table. The screw to open up the side of my machine is not mentioned in the manual, it is out of sight, buried in hole under the carrying handle.
    I had an emergency like yours once and after much searching I found the screw. I battled with my better judgement, bought the screwdriver, thinking: "The worst than could happen is that the buttocks will fall off", what ever might constitude buttocks in a sewing machine. Then I'd have to take the machine for servicing and have my service guy laught at me. But I got the thread out and cleaned the filthy insides.
    Every time I need to have my machine serviced I play a blondine, which is way too often for my budget. It costs a fortune to have my hair bleached every time my machine breaks.
    I guess I should post this reply to my own blog. :-)

    1. Glad you mentioned buying a Torx screw. I need to get one for my Pfaff. At some point I had directions from someone on the web on how to open the side for little things like Kathy's caught thread. But this newer Pfaff doesn't seem to be so easy and the screw is so tight I can't get it to move with the type of screwdriver I used to use for the old one.
      Sandy in the Uk

  2. Wauw, you opened your machine. And nothing happened. I think I' ll be too afraight to do something like that. And now I go searching for that screwdriver.

  3. My opinion (after living 6 years in Europe) is that this particular screwdriver--with the handle-- has better torque for turning the screw without stripping the threads. American tools really aren't that good. Or that specific to the task.

  4. Not a screwdriver but an Allen wrench I believe. They come in sets from very tiny to very large as evidenced by what's in my husband's toolbox. They've always puzzled me but the two theories put forth in the comments above make sense. Plus they can fit into tighter spaces than a regular screwdriver. Isn't it funny that we instinctively fear opening up our machines to clean them as if there's some magic involved only a repair person is privy to?

    1. My curiosity got the better of me. Hex screw & hex keys are other terms & Allen wrench is a bit like the way a company name becomes the generic term for something (kleenex vs tissue). You might find this info on the Allen company website interesting:

  5. Love this. I can't wait to get home from St. Louis, clean up my sewing area, find that little screw driver, and open up my machine. Such a feeling of power!

  6. I haven't needed that implement yet but thanks to you, I now know where to look when I do!