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This may be a silly thing to ask you, have you made sure the machine is threaded up correctly, if yes is you shuttle bobbin full and fitted correctly so the tail of the cotton enters the side tension spring if applicable, if the answer is yes to both of these questions, then, check that the needle is the correct way round if all is okay there, then the next question is have you jammed the machine with cotton whilst trying to sew or have you broken a needle, if the answer is yes the possibility is that the pick up hook on your shuttle case as been knocked out of timing and is unable to pick up the shuttle bobbin thread, and are you confident enough to set the timing of the hook your self, the hook should be just and only just approaching the needle in it's lowest position as it is about to rise up again, depending how tight the hook assembly is on it's shaft is without undoing the clamp screw that secure it in place. Remove the bobbin and sole plate and rotate the machine by hand in the correct rotation and watch what the hook does as it approaches the needle if it's found to be out of position then hold the hand wheel tight, then gently rotate the hook case to it's correct position as described a above, you will need to use a screw driver or something of that nature to achieve this, only lever a small amount at a time you will feel a slight resistance to rotate in either direction. Once satisfied you done it correctly recheck before you run machine.
all sewing machines are basically the same, the hook that rotates to pick the cotton up off the needle must just enter behind the needle when it's on it's way back up which then grabs the cotton to form the stitch, so you must remove the sole plate to expose the shuttle case remove the shuttle and put to one side, now rotate the hand wheel on the sewing machine in the correct rotation and watch the hook rotate round until it goes behind the needle, just as the needle is starting back up from it's lowest position the hook should just be going behind the needle to pick up the cotton, if this is not the case then loosen the screws that clamp the hook assembly to the shaft and rotate the hook assembly gently until the hook is just going behind the needle and make sure the hook is close to the needle before retightening the clamping crews , and final give it a few turns by hand to make sure the hook locates the same all the time and the hook is not catching the needle, when your happy, then reassemble.
What makes you think your timing is off? What is it doing/not doing that makes you think it's off? Before you do anything ,make sure your needle is all the way up in the clamp. A needle inserted too low--even a little--can cause the same symptoms.
Do you understand how a stitch is formed on a sewing machine? The needle goes down to its full down position. At that point the shuttle hook should be pointing right at the needle scarf, ready to go past it as the needle starts to go up.
When the needle starts its upward travel it forms a loop... the shuttle hook enters the loop and the bobbin thread is "captured" in that loop.
If your machine's timing is advanced, the needle will hit the hook and break or make nasty thumping noises. If your timing is ********.... the hook misses the loop entirely and does nothing.
So... open up the entire bobbin/throat plate area.... take the foot off so you can see. Clean if necessary. Then turn the hand wheel by hand until you see that the needle is at the lowest point of travel. Where is the shuttle hook?
From there you'll have to use your logic to find the right screws and adjust the hook.
Here' is a Parts Chart for your machine. http://www.parts.singerco.com/IPpartCharts/404-1_4_5.pdf
Easy to do remove sole plate remove shuttle and case, don't forget to pull the spring loaded plate to one side by inserting a electrical screw driver in the slot and twisting it anticlockwise to release the case, remove drive dogs this will the expose the cotton pickup assembly turn the hand wheel anticlockwise until the hook gets close to the needle now watch the needle it should be in the lowest position and just as it starts it's way back up the hook should be just going behind the needle to pick up the tread if this is not the case and it's out of position then hold the hand wheel tight and insert a small screw driver into one of the gaps in the base were the shuttle case fits in away that you are able to move the hook assembly one way or the other with a gentle pressure and move the hook just to make it enter just behind the needle as it only just starts it's way up at this position it is now complete and you can reassemble and run slowly at first just to make sure things are okay.
There should be one or two set screws behind the bobbin shuttle, they could also be in the bobbin shuttle. You will loosen them st the timing and then retighten them. The Timing on a sewing machine is really straight forward, but that doesn't mean its not a pain in the but. When the needle is at the bottom of its travelthe hook on the shuttle should be coming around to meet the needle. As the needle starts back up it will create a loop in the thread for that hook to catch. Therefore the needle needs to start up before that hook is directlly in line with the needle. But the hook has to be above the eye of the neelde. So rotate it back and forth with no thread and watch to see when the hook passes the needle. It will probably take several attempts but you can do it. Do it in small movements. and only tighten the set screws enough to hold the shuttle in place to check it. Do not forget to retighten them.
If you broke a needle and cannot get it to pick up the thread from the bobbin you need to check your timing. Remove the needle plate and turn the machine over watching the needle, when it is at the bottom of its travel the hook on the shuttle should be right next to or a fraction from the needle. So that as the needle begins to move upward the hook should pass it if it passes to soon it will miss the loop of thread. Check to make sure your needle is installed all the way up in the bar. If your machine is out of time and you are fairly handy, you can retime it. There should be 2 set screws some where behind the shuttle. Loosen them, one loose and one only as loose as need be to turn the shuttle. The needle must have moved upward about 1/16 before the hook is in place to catch the loop. This can be time comsuming, and you will have trial and error. Good luck. P.S. always check for simple stuff before you go for the hard stuff.