It Isn’t Always What It Seems

Have you ever jumped to a conclusion only to later, sometimes much later, discover your conclusion was very wrong?

Years ago I learned a valuable lesson relating to this that I have tried to apply in most situations, but recently forgetting to be careful in jumping to conclusion I spent needless time and effort going in the wrong direction.

About the Lesson I Learned

Years ago early in the year of my first year of teaching 7th grade science, I had a boy who was constantly causing an undercurrent of a disruption in class by leaning over to talk with first one neighbor, then another and another.  This happened nearly every day in spite of my warnings.  Finally I had enough of it and sternly told him to see me after class.  By the time the class ended he was in tears.  Trying to understand why he didn’t comply with my “no talking in class” rule, through tears he told me he was only trying to find out what I had written on the board. He simply could not see the board clearly and was trying to keep up with the class notes.  At this point I felt terrible for him.  I had pegged him as a trouble maker, but he was only trying to keep up.

Immediately he was assigned to a front row seat.  I contacted the school nurse to perform an eye test, and I also called his mother to let her know what had happened and that he probably would need a professional eye exam.  I was sure his situation and behavior in other classes was probably the same.  About a week later he showed up with glasses and he became a very good student.  What a lesson for a new teacher to learn about never assuming what you think based on appearances, but to get to the root cause so that there could be a positive outcome.

Summer Adventures and Wrong Assumptions

This past summer was hot and humid.  Had I been more diligent in trouble shooting these issue, I could have spent more time enjoying my sewing and quilting instead of being frustrated.

Experience #1 – My Home Sewing Machine

star blocks delightful quilting and sewing

Star blocks made from Alaskan theme fabric.

Because of the heat, I set up my travel sewing machine in our air conditioned first floor.  For a couple of hours on several days I happily stitched patches together making sub-units for star blocks.  At first the stitching was OK, but then seemed to erode.  The machine just didn’t seem to work as well.  The patches were getting caught under the presser foot, sometimes being pushed down in the needle hole.  It couldn’t be the humidity, that was taken care of by the AC unit.  I thought it must be the machine.  It is not an expensive machine, just one for travel.  I began thinking that I had made a poor purchase decision and because it wasn’t a top of the line machine, it was failing already and wasn’t going to last.

One afternoon after discovering a LOT of lint impacted in the feed dogs of my very nice machine, I decided to clean it.  I also discovered lint below and behind the hook and in bobbin area.  Working with cotton fabric, cotton thread, and quilts is a linty job.  I cleaned, oiled, and replaced the needle.  Since I was cleaning that one, I decided to take a look at my travel machine.  Very little lint, but I cleaned anyway, oiled where needed, and replaced the needle.

The next day when I worked on the star block sub-units using the travel machine, I was totally surprised.  The machine stitched beautifully.  You would think I would have thought to change the needle at the first sign of stitching problems, but I didn’t.  Yes, such a simple thing as a new, sharp needle made all the difference.  A good lesson refreshed in my mind.  Next time at the first sign of stitching problems, I will be changing the needle first.

Experience #2  – My Longarm Quilting Machine

As a Nolting longarm dealer, both my husband and I are factory trained to make some repairs on Nolting Longarm machines, as well as make adjustments, such as timing the machine.

Awhile back I began having trouble with the screw that holds the needle in the longarm and discovered that the threads in the needle bar had gotten stripped.  After talking with Nolting tech, we decided to replace the needle bar.  This is not difficult to do.  The needle plate comes off and the hook assembly is removed so that the old needle bar can be removed pulling it down and out through the open space in the throat of the machine.   Replacing he needle bar is the opposite procedure with timing the machine the final step.  When replacing the throat plate we noticed a little needle prick and smoothed that off, too.

I have timed many machines over the years.  Once you get the feel for it, it isn’t difficult.

damaged throat plates delightful quilting and sewing

Damaged throat plates – pricks and burrs from needle flex.

This day it did not go as well.  Every time I tried stitching after adjusting the timing, the thread would break. Several times I adjusted with the same results.  Finally my husband suggested replacing the throat plate with a new one.  Yes, something I should have through of right away, but didn’t.  Guess what?  It stitched perfectly.  My timing was perfect and not causing the thread breakage. Someplace in the needle hole of the throat place there was a sharp spot or burr that was catching the thread and causing it to break.  Again, a fresh reminder to me that it isn’t always what it seems to be.

Problem Solving

  1. Take a good look at the problem.
  2. Think about the possible causes.
  3. Don’t jump to a conclusion.
  4. Check out each of the possibilities starting with the most likely and easiest to fix, like changing the needle or replacing the throat plate.
  5. If the easiest fix doesn’t work, move on to the next possibility in the list until the solution is found.

Having an organized system for looking at a problem and checking out each possibility systematically can save time and long hours of frustration.  Because these situations are frustrating anyway and taking us away from what we want to do, we must step back, clear our thoughts, and look at the issue with fresh “eyes” and use systematic problem solving techniques.

For help trouble shooting longarm problems, “Guide to Quilting with Your Nolting” is available for Nolting longarm owners and may be an excellent resource for other longarm brands.  The book includes a trouble shooting chart with possible solutions and references pages in the books for help.

 

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