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it's very possible that a cam or gear has worn down or broken inside the machine and also if the sewing machine is computerized then there could be a problem there, having the machine checked would tell you for sure.
you start with the broad zig zag stitch bar across the top then you go down the left side using a smaller zig zag stitch then you make the the broad zig zag stitch at the bottom then you make the smaller zig zag stitch on the right side all the way to the top broad zig zag stitch & your done the right side zig zag does not go beyond the top broad zig zag stitch
put in a new needle rethread the machine top & bobbin--use every thread guide make sure the zig zag settings are correct it's also possible that the machine could have a worn or damaged gear or cam--which would have to be checked at a sewing machine shop
it's very possible that the machine is slightly out of time & needs to be service at a sewing machine shop is the fabric & thread & needle compatable with each other? did you use every thread guide when threading the machine? is the bobbin in correctly? is the bobbin warped?
You might have the zig zag set for z-z left or right-hand. Make sure you are choosing the zig zag centre stitch. Also check you are using the correct foot - it should be the A or B foot with the wide opening.
When you select a pattern does the needle move back and forth? do you make sure the stitch width lever is on straight stitch then select your pattern then select the widest stitch width? if when you select a zig zag stitch the needle does not move from side to side then you need to look in the top at the finger that goes round the cam.
THis problem occurred as I was sewing on Neoprene. I was using Gutterman all-purpose thread and a size 80 needle. Tried switching to a size 70, then to size 90. Still unable to zig zag. After inserting a test sample of cotton, the zig zag worked perfectly, so I knew it was not a mecahnical problem. I switched needles again. This time to size 90 for stretch fabric. Voila! Problem solved.