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Most likely a tension problem. Tighten the upper thread tension. If the top and bobbin threads are not interlocking, then the machine is out of time. Search for sewing machine timing or take it for service.
A manual feed is used primarily in freehand embroidery, quilting, and shoe repair. With manual feed, the stitch length and direction is controlled entirely by the motion of the material being sewn. Frequently some form of hoop or stabilizing material is used with fabric to keep the material under proper tension and aid in moving it around. Most household machines can be set for manual feed by disengaging the drop feed dogs. Most industrial machines can not be used for manual feed without actually removing the feed dogs.
Make sure your needle and tread match your project. There simply isn't such a thing as a "universal needle." Also try lengthening your stitch. Heavier fabrics typically need a slightly longer stitch. Upon commencing to sew always grasp the 2 threads and slightly pull as you begin your seam.
I assume your garage sale find has a manual. Be sure your bobbin is unspooling in the correct direction. If it didn't come with a manual.. http://www.singerco.com/uploads/download/430_8280_es.pdf
Usually universal, just be sure that it is a low shank because that is what your machine looks like to me. I looked up your manual online at www.singerco.com and here is a little bit of advice. Go there and download a copy to your computer. That way, you will always have a copy when you need it. You can make ruffles by using your machine stitch length, just make it the longest stitch, loosen your top tension, then pull on the bottom thread. Or you can do a basting stitch by hand and pull the thread and distribute evenly, then machine stitch to lock it down. I haven't used a ruffler in years. Try it first and see if you like that idea before you invest in a ruffler. They can be pricey, try ebay for a used one but be sure that it is a low shank . I am also sure that Singer sells them too, 1-800-4singer. Good luck and happy sewing.
On your Singer, you don't actually raise / lower the feed dog. Instead you attach a "darning plate" (which should have come with the machine) which covers the feed dogs so they do not come in contact with the fabric. See a page from the owner's manual using this link within my web site: http://www.sewvac1.com/Singer3080_Feed_Drop.pdf
take the thread off your machine, set your tension to the middle setting. rethread your machine up to the needle. before threading the needle, put your presser foot down. If your thread pulls hard, then the machine is threaded right. If it pulls easily, you need to chead the thread thru the tension wheel.
Rule of thumb.
Loops on the bottom, problem on the top.
Loops on the top, problem is on the bottom.