This tip is on why the start and stop position of a sewing machine is so important. This is the position in which the machine is either ready to start forming the next stitch, or is finished setting the previous stitch. They are both one in the same, as far as the machine is concerned. This is the position in which the machine is ready to let you remove the bobbin case, install or remove the needle or raise the presser foot and remove your work. It is the machines start and stop position. It is NOT just when the needle is up. If you'll look at the animation below, you'll see the action of a stitch being formed. What you don't see is the thread take up lever in this animation. Let's take the formation of a stitch one step at a time.

The cycle begins with the last stitch being set. The starting point is when the take up lever is all the way up. If you own a sewing machine that automatically stops with the needle up, it also brings the take up lever all the way up. If your machine does this, you could stop reading now and go purchase The Universal Thread Holder because your machine automatically goes to the start and stop position. Or you could continue on and learn why the position of the take up lever is so crucial. Then you can go and purchase The Universal Thread Holder.

On some machines you cannot see the take up lever, it is hidden behind a cover. In this case simply turn the handwheel the way the machine runs until the needle is at it's highest point. Continue turning the handwheel until the needle comes back down a few millimeters (around 1/8 of an inch for the metric challenged). At this point the take up lever is at it's highest point. Otherwise known as (you guessed it) the start and stop position!


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Following the animation, as the needle starts it's downward travel, the take up lever is swinging down at the same rate. When the needle reaches the bottom of it's stroke the hook DOES NOT grab the thread as shown in the animation (sorry, it's the best I could find). It actually has to start back up, anywhere from 1.8 millimeters to 2.5 millimeters (depending on the brand and model of machine) forming a thread loop. This happens because as the needle rises, the fabric is holding back the thread, forming a loop. The take up lever is still traveling downward at this point, supplying more thread. As soon as the needle has risen by it's prescribed amount, the hook can now catch the thread. This is commonly referred to as the hook timing, and, like all adjustments, is critical.

Now things start to get interesting. As the needle continues rising, the take up lever actually increases the speed at which it is traveling downward. It is allowing more then 4 inches (over 100 millimeters for the metric savvy) of thread to pass through the eye of the needle and be pulled around the bobbin case by the hook. As the hook passes the halfway point of it's rotation (or the end of it's travel if it's an oscillating shuttle) the take up lever starts moving upward, pulling this excess thread out of the bobbin case area.

At this point the needle has definitely cleared the fabric, but the stitch is still in the machine. If you were to stop the machine at this point and tried to remove your work, you would be presented with what looks like a multitude of threads. This is usually when a new vocabulary is learned. It's not the machines fault, it just isn't quite done forming a stitch yet.

   When The Needle Is Up But The Take Up Lever Is In The Down Position...      The Unfinished Stitch Is Still Down In The Bobbin Case Area...

 Resulting In Unkind Words Being Said About The Last Mechanic Who Supposedly Fixed It!

As the take up lever continues it's upward motion to it's highest point, the fabric will start to feed. The upward snap of the take up lever, the motion of the feed (feed throw timing) and the amount of tension on the thread, all contribute to a properly set stitch. This is the machines stop point. And it's starting point.

But When The Needle AND The Take Up Lever Are Both In The Up Position...      Everything Is Happy Happy!

And then it starts all over again for the next stitch! This process repeats itself for every complete rotation of the handwheel. It really is amazing that this ballet of motion works as smoothly and as fast as it does. 

It is also important for the thread to be supplied to your machine in a resistance, tangle and snag free manner. Any problems in the thread supply will wreck havoc with the delicate balance of the workings of a sewing machine. Did I mention that The Universal Thread Holder is a resistance, tangle and snag free thread stand? I'm just sayin'...

Happy Sewing,



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RJS Designs Inc.   Saint Petersburg, Florida USA