Breaking needles · Vertical oscillating hook

Breaking needles, or how to kill a sewing machine – and then resurrect it

Yesterday was a bad day – I killed my sewing machine. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Today I attempted resuscitation and failed. Ouch! I will try again, of course, but for now Dragonfly is out of business.

Skip to resurrection.


It happened while I was doing free hand embroidery with a hopping foot as I described in the previous post. When the needle is down, the foot is pressing on the material and the machine forms a stitch. Do not pull on fabric then! But when the needle is up, the foot is also up, and that’s when you move the fabric.


Trouble is, when you are going a bit faster, it all blurs together, and there it happened: I must have jerked the fabric when the needle was still in it, there was a big crash, the needle broke, and the machine is no longer forming stitches!

Upon investigation, I concluded that the timing got knocked off a little, it is out by a fraction, but it makes all the difference between stitching and not stitching!

Dragonfly is a vertical oscillator, and I know how to set timing on them, even wrote a post about it. But this is a vintage machine, and the one screw that I need to undo, is stuck… completely stuck… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The above picture is from another machine, they used more screws. But it’s the same idea, you need to undo all available screws to fix the timing, but the most important ones are on the shaft of the bottom gear. Dragonfly just has the one screw there, and I can’t undo it!

I gave it some creeping oil and put it to soak, I’ll try again in a week or so. Not giving up yet!

And the moral of the story is: don’t use your favourite super-gifted machine for free hand stuff where you have to pull the material yourself! One unfortunate jerk, and you’ve lost the whole machine! From now on, I’m using a simple straight stitch machine for this, since no additional functions are required.

Lesson learned!


The timing wasn’t off after all. I had not believed my eyes previously, and I should have. The timing on a Haid & Neu Primatic cannot be knocked out because it’s been permanently set at the factory.

Where most forward-facing oscillators have two screws for the bottom gear, the Haid & Neu Primatic has one screw and one fixed pin. I think once they set the timing using the screw, they drilled through both shafts and inserted a pin fixing the driver in the right position. I had noticed this pin already on Harris Automatic, but now for some reason I disregarded my own prior knowledge.

It is also not possible to change the timing by loosening the needle bar fixing screw. All that does is raises or lowers the needle.

No, the cause of non-stitching was something different entirely. I should have consulted the manual because it talks about this!

Step 1: Replace the needle. Of course I’ve done this, seeing how I had broken the previous one. But the replacement turned out to be dodgy!

Step 2: Replace the needle again. Examine the needle closely this time. This one had damage around the eye (who put this needle in the “good” box?).

The machine was now stitching, but the upper thread invariably broke after a few stitches.

Step 3: Check the tension. In all the panic the upper tension dial got turned to impossibly high! All by itself, obviously. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Step 4: Check the bobbin assembly and general area for rough edges. Of course! I broke a needle with a big crash, so of course there will be damage and rough edges!


I found that the needle must have hit the tip of the hook and created a “cuticle” big enough to draw blood from my finger when I discovered it. The hook then scraped through the race producing a rough scratch along the way, then also scratching the surround. When the thread is slipping around the bobbin case, it now has numerous opportunities to get cut on those rough edges.

And if that wasn’t enough, the needle also bored through the needle plate making a “cuticle” on the inside of the needle hole, and then it proceeded to hit the plate on the bobbin assembly surround, denting that one too. The two plates now featured beautiful thread cutters.

Ok then, get your files and fine sandpapers and get polishing… Half an hour later – problem solved! The Dragonfly is back in business! ๐Ÿ˜€
Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee ๐Ÿ™‚

9 thoughts on “Breaking needles, or how to kill a sewing machine – and then resurrect it

  1. Oh, no I hope you can fix it. Have you tried heating the area around the screw? It should help your penetrating oil move faster, and loosen things up. When trying to turn a stuck screw, I try to quickly heat the area around the screw, but not apply heat directly to the screw, hoping that the area around the screw will expand more than the screw.


    1. That’s a good point, thank you! I shall try that. I am working during the week, so will only be free again on Saturday. I don’t want to force the screw because it’s already getting damaged under pressure, and if I damage the cut on its head, I won’t be able to turn it for sure!


  2. See if you can adjust the needle bar instead of the hook. Might be an easier screw to loosen, and is probably what you knocked out of alignment.


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