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Loosen your needle. Turn your handle towards you. You may have to turn a little hard. Now, throw that needle away.Take your fabric away and check the area where your bobbin goes and clean it out of fabric and thread. Now load your bobbin again and load a new needle. Pull your thread up from the bottom by turning the handle towards you while holding the needle thread with the foot down. Now look and place something under the foot and slide it forward while still holding the needle thread. The bobbin thread should come up. Let me tell you this though. Adjust the bobbin thread before you start. This is done by placing the thread in the carrier (usually unwinding counterclockwise) and place the thread under the tension spring. Hang this from your finger and bob it up and down lightly. It should fall about one inch. If it doesn't then loosen. If it falls too far then tighten.
Oh boy! I've worked on industrial sewing machines for over 30 years, but the home sewing machines are like comparing cadillacs to mopeds. No offense, but if you want performance out of a machine try an industrial. It will shock you with the difference. Be glad to help you find the right one.
Anyway, the problem you are having is quite common. First, make sure it is threaded right especially the moving spring on the needle thread tension) and the needle is new. This generally covers 75% of the problem. Make sure the bobbin thread is threaded correctly.
If you are still having the problem remove the bobbin/bobbin case and observe the needle/hook point relationship as you turn the handwheel. The hook point should pass behind the needle at the scarf of the needle (indention just above eye of needle) If it is not so the needle bar may have moved up on you. Did the machine get jammed?
I'm not sure about the rod you're talking about but lets try this first.