Juki TL98E

So in a bit of good news/bad news, a good friend’s mother-in-law, who was a quilter, recently passed away and left behind a very nice array of quilting supplies and sewing machines. None of her family members are interested, so they had me over to her house to look through her things and see if I wanted anything. She had a Grace quilt frame and three sewing machines and all the various accoutrements. As nice as it might be to learn to quilt with a frame, I really don’t have the room for it – I rent two bedrooms in my sister’s house and could make use of the basement, but it is unfinished and none of the plug-ins are connected yet – and whenever I wind up moving out of here, the chances of my having that kind of space are pretty slim anyway. She also had a really lovely old Singer sewing machine, which I didn’t take home either:

Look at this thing... So pretty!

So lovely (so dusty!), but I wouldn’t use it (and don’t know if it was in working condition) and again… don’t really have room to store extra things like a sewing machine I wouldn’t use. Even if it is lovely as anything.

What I did bring home was the quilt that was on the frame – which I plan to quilt up and return to my friend and his family – and a Juki TL98E sewing machine.

Juki TL 98E

This straight-stitch only machine was the one the owner used on her quilting frame and it was all set up and ready to go with the aforementioned quilt. I brought it home a couple weeks ago, but haven’t had a chance to look at it until last night, when I finally took off the cover, figured out how to thread it (Thanks to Sarah for the help with that and the bobbin!), and tried it out.


I haven’t been able to sew more than a single stitch with it yet! Every time I try to sew, the top thread breaks… or at least I think that’s what happening. At first I thought it was unthreading, somehow, but looking at it more closely, there’s a shredded thread every single time.


This is what it’s looking like from the top – one, two or three stitches, and then the top thread is pulled through to the back and the needle is just going up and down with nothing in it.


And then from the bottom.

The things I’ve tried include:
1. Changing the needle – I switched it first from a 100/16 to an 80/12. As far as I can tell, she only used Schmetz Universal needles in the machine — all the supplies for the machine were in the same zipper bag and that’s all we found — so I’m not sure if using them rather than the ones recommended by the manual is causing a problem. I also changed the needle again, in case there was a flaw in the first 80/12 needle I used.
2. Changing from the FMQ foot to a regular piecing foot and being sure the feed dogs were engaged. (They were.)
3. Changing the thread – she had a different thread in the bobbin than on the top of the machine, so I wound a new bobbin from a Guttermann spool I recently bought and used the same thread on top and bottom.
4. Cleaning inside the machine. (Repeat this a lot of times, culminating in the time when I took off the throat plate so I could sweep out dust around the feed dogs, dropped one of the throat plate screws on the floor, and lost it down the air vent. (I tried using a fridge magnet to sweep around inside and see if I could get it back, but no luck.)
5. Changing the bobbin case tension (it seemed to unspool more quickly than I imagined from the description in the manual – it was a bit of work to find the sweet spot where it moved without sticking, but wasn’t just falling like happens when you drop a bobbin while holding onto the thread).
6. Back way up near the top of the list: threading and unthreading and rethreading and threading again, lest I was doing something wrong, again and again ad nauseum, pretty much every time I tried anything and it didn’t work, I’d do this again. And then again for good measure. I tried turning the spool the other direction on the spool rod too, just in case that was wrong.
7. Changing the stitch length. That shouldn’t have made such an issue, but it was set to six, so I switched it back to ~2.
8. Fiddling with the presser foot pressure. It seems very tight, regardless of where I set it, but the fabric feeds through nicely regardless.
9. Fiddling with the tension knob – I’ve gone higher and I’ve gone lower, and I still haven’t managed to do any more than what you can see in the picture above.

It was obviously a machine she used, so I do think there’s got to be something I am doing wrong, but I can’t figure out what it is. I haven’t got any spare money at the moment, but I’m a little tempted to take it in somewhere to get it serviced and see if they can’t help me figure it out. It really does need to be properly cleaned (because even after my multiple attempts, I keep finding new bits of dust to fish out of the works every time I open it up) and there was a half an inch of broken needle inside the… well, where you access the bobbin mechanism, so maybe something was damaged by that she hadn’t discovered it yet. Or maybe that’s why the quilt on the frame wasn’t started yet, maybe there was some kind of problem.

I haven’t paid my friend anything for the machine yet – and it was a conditional yes, I’ll take it off your hands, in the sense of being yes, I’ll take it if I can figure it out – but I hate to feel thwarted by a sewing machine. I’ve been sewing for years and years! A piece of machinery, even a complex one, shouldn’t be giving me quite this much trouble!

30 thoughts on “Juki TL98E”

  1. I can’t be of much help with the Juki and do help you get the problem sorted. A service is probably a good idea, there could be a damage issue like a nick in the bobbin case that isn’t obvious but is causing the problem. I have to say that is a stunning Singer machine. I have to admit it would have been my first choice if I was taking home a straight stitch only machine but that’s because in addition to being totally in love with antique Singers I have an old Singer myself and it is still a pure dream to sew with.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I hope it’s something fixable (or just me doing something dumb that someone can point out if I do everything in front of them).

      The Singer was really lovely, and really tempting, but I don’t know if it worked or even if all the pieces were there! I didn’t see a foot pedal, but assume it must need one? I don’t know… it really was beautiful though!

  2. Paula’s comment above i think is right, – a nick in the bobbin case. i was having a problem like yours and did all the trouble shooting you did and then i looked in the manual troubleshooter, lol . it said something about a nick so i took the whole thing out and sure enough there was a nick, was at the back, i have no idea what happened to cause it other than a bunch of broken needles. i ran my finger around to feel where it was, it wasn’t obvious, got hubby to smooth it out with some tool; and problem solved, the thread stop shredding. but i was good to give it a good cleaning, i even figured out how to get the front off the machine and pull out bits of thread, saved me a repair for sure. hate to pay someone to clean something for me. hope this is helpful and good luck too.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! I wasn’t able to feel any nicks or anything in there, but I’d believe it if someone told me there were! I pulled another bit off the machine (the bottom access door) and found another 2 needle points in there, so this machine has had at least a few needle broken in it. I think I’m going to find a place I can take it in for servicing this week and see if I can get it working. I’d love to keep it if I can just get it going!

  3. I have a Juki T98LE machine which was given to me in December by a family friend who is too ill with cancer to sew anymore. I have a lot of trouble threading this machine. I cringe whenever the bobbin runs out as it takes a few tries of re-threading to get it going again. And I have the thread breakage problem as well. Very frustrating! I think it may be an issue with the design of the machine because I have Aurifil and Gutterman breaking but more often it’s Aurifil that breaks. There are the three holes at the top before you go through the tension knob. I only thread through the first and the last hole and not the middle. So if you are threading through all three that could be part of it. I also find that the bobbin sometimes falls out of the bobbin case when I have just changed the bobbin and I don’t know why that is happening. So, though servicing it is a good idea, I think these might be issues with the machine. I haven’t had any lessons on the machine though. I am only going by the manual. Lessons might make a difference. I have been sewing for 25 years or so and I don’t want to spend money on lessons. When I get going though this machine sews super fast and both piecing and quilting go much quicker so I do love that. Good luck!

    1. It’s interesting and too bad that you’re having so many problems with it – most people that I’ve spoken to online really LOVE their Juki machines (both this one ant the TL2010Q that came after). I was just reading that z-twist threads (like Aurifil) will work better in it than s-twist (like Gutermann), but it seems like you’re having the opposite problem! I’m going to try this one again with some Aurifil thread and see if it’ll solve my problem. (Which would be nice, if a bit frustrating because Gutermann is so easy to find in my city, and Aurifil is not.)

      I haven’t had the bobbin case fall out, though I did have difficulty getting it in to begin with – there’s a decent amount of room in the opening, but it’s a bit difficult to get that sucker all the way in there, isn’t it? It’d be nice for my short fingers if it were just a touch closer to the opening… (though I know that’d affect all the rest of the sewing mechanism if it were!) Someone else asked if I use that telescoping bit for the thread, which I have been… but have you? It’s not mentioned in the manual, but it makes all the difference in my ability to get the thread moving at all.

  4. This is probably too obvious, but is the needle facing the correct way, and have you threaded from the correct direction? I ask because I have a Juki TL 2010 ( so very similar to yours) and a Featherweight. In the Juki, the needle goes in one direction and the Featherweight it’s the other. I was scared I’d purchased a totally messed up Featherweight from EBay, but then realized I had the needle turned in the wrong direction (like in my Juki). I hope you get it working. I really love my Juki.

    1. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it in the right way (sideways, with the flat side to the right)… It didn’t seem to go in any other way, at any rate 😀

      But……. I just went to doublecheck in the manual that that was right, and I noticed that they recommend z-twist thread rather than s-twist, because s-twist threads often bread, and a quick bit of google searching found this: “Z-twist threads include Superior Masterpiece, Aurifil, YLI, Madeira, Robison-Anton; S-twist threads include those by Gutermann and Sulky. Silk-finished (mercerised) cottons are fine (e.g. Mettler) as they are coated,” which does make me wonder if I should try it with some Aurifil instead.

  5. I love my Juki, but I’m sad you’re having issues with it. 😦 There’s a couple of things you haven’t mentioned.. Did you oil it? Juki’s require oiling pretty frequently (some say every time you use it, I do it about once a week.) When I first got my machine I had a hard time with the threads and oiling it helped.

    The OTHER thing that helped a ton that is not clear in the manual is that I run the thread through that telescoping thing on the top instead just straight across the top of the machine. You don’t have a picture of it threaded so you may already be doing that, but I was having an issue with it unthreading itself every time I used the thread cutter, and that fixed the issue.

    I wish I lived nearby, I’d be happy to come by and look at it. Maybe you can find a Juki user in your town who can help?

    Good luck!!

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! I haven’t oiled it – I couldn’t find any oil in the owner’s sewing room, so I haven’t done it (my own current machine hasn’t been oiled in all the 10ish years I’ve owned it… so I haven’t got any). I had wondered about that and have been a little worried about running it too much without oiling it because I haven’t got any idea when it might have been done last. I have definitely been threading it through that telescoping thing – I tried without it to begin with, but the thread was SUPER taut without that extra step.

      I don’t know anyone here who sews! (Except a couple co-workers, one of whom has a Husqvarna embroidery machine and another who doesn’t know what kind of machine she has, which suggests to me she doesn’t know much about machines :D) It’s a big city and there’s a modern quilt guild and all sorts of other guilds, but I’ve never met anyone local, except at some of the quilt shops (which are all ~1 hr away by transit). I think my best bet might be to look for somewhere to take it for servicing – regardless of getting it cleaned and seeing if they can figure out either what I’m doing wrong or what’s wrong with the machine, I do need to get another screw for the throat plate, and I’m not sure who sells that sort of screw besides (I assume) a place that takes care of sewing machines.

  6. Weird things to try: a) Watch the whole process slowly using the hand crank and no fabric to see if it’s catching or rubbing anywhere – maybe in moving the machine between houses, it got jostled and something’s out of place by a mm or 2. b) see if you can download a manual for that model online somewhere – it could be something stupid like a button or a switch half held down. c) change your test fabric – I’ve had tension and thread issues with linen, since it looks like what you’re using in the photo. d) Switch to a larger eye needle – use a top-stitching one. 90/14 is what I usually use for quilting – it accommodates layers and minimizes thread-breakage because there’s more room in the eye and a channel to protect the thread in the back.

    That’s all I’ve got right now. Good luck! I hope it works out for you – a Juki is a terrible thing to pass up!

    1. I actually did that today – the hand-crank thing – and discovered that it’s shredding on the first stitch, you can sort of hear it when it happens, but I don’t know… I’m at a loss after that. I pulled it open from the bottom to tonight and found another two broken off needle points, but yeah. I don’t know.

      I did find the manual and spent a REALLY long time pouring over it and can’t find anything from it that I’m doing wrong (or anything from the trouble-shooting section)… and then somehow today spotted something I’d missed – it recommends using z-twist rather than s-twist thread, so the Gutermann that I put in there is not recommended as it’s more likely to break. I’m going to wind up a bobbin of Aurifil and see if that makes a difference…. okay, actually I just went and did that and it didn’t make much difference at all.

      That fabric is actually cotton (it’s cheap stuff from either Fabricland or from Walmart 8+ years ago when they still had a whole wall of fabric bolts), but I’ll try it with something a little finer and see if that helps too…. and I just went and did that too (I typed all this up first, the thought I should go double check that hand-crank thing, and then decided to make these other changes too) and it also didn’t help.

      One of the local shops that has a service dept. does to machine spot checks (if they have someone in and available – you just have to call ahead), so I think I might call them to see if I’ll be able to bring it in one day this week and just get a quick check to see if its something I’m doing or something that needs repairing. It’ll mean taking the thing on the train for ~1hr and then catching a cab to get to the store (it’s SO close to the train station, but atop an enormous hill that I wouldn’t want to walk at the best of times).

      I’m really hoping I can get it sorted out because I think it’d be a great piecing/quilting machine.

  7. I have no experience with that brand, I had never heard of it to be honest, sorry. Personally, I would have snatched the tough as boots lovely old Singer. My sewing partner is a “significantly more than old enough to be retired if it was human” Singer Featherweight workhorse that was not in working condition, but now is because my pop had the cord and corroded wiring replaced. I have used it to sew several layers of fabric, including denim. My thought is that any sewing machine that “prefers” either z or s twist is silly, then you have to own two machines, one for each twist, and you can’t just grab some thread from the store, you have to look around for the right twist in the right color. I just want to thread the machine and go :-), not having to worry about which way the thread was twisted during manufacture. The thread getting tangled and shredding indicates that it might be threaded incorrectly, AND/OR the wrong tension. What tension and needle size to use depends on the thread size and the fabric heaviness. In my opinion, the machine should also not care whether the fabric is cheap or fine, it should just stitch it for you. I suggest that you keep scraps of fabric around and get a couple of rows on the scraps (folded or whatever) before you start a project otherwise the project will shred from too many attempts. Perhaps you need to buy new needles of a different size. I suggest (the same as others) that you take your machine to be serviced, and then find someone who owns one of those machines to show you how to use it and be your mentor. You might also look and see if the company that manufactured the machine has a website to browse, so you can ask them what might be going on. 🙂 I say all of this to be helpful, the problem could be operator error in more than one way, the manufacturer might be able to give you some guidance. 🙂 Below (if it appears, if it does not, I sent it in an email also) is the link to the PDF users manual for you. It indicates where you need to oil it and lists potential problems and corrective measures.

    Click to access TL98E_InstructionManual.pdf

    According to the manual: Needle thread breaks (several reasons) 1.Machine has been threaded incorrectly. 2. Needle thread tension is too high or too low. 3. Needle is bent or the point blunted. 4. The needle is not suited to thread use. (I have no idea what 4 means, but the manufacturer would perhaps it refers to the size of the needle. 🙂 The manual also indicates that it needs to be lubricated every day of use. I hope all of this helps! 🙂

    1. There are a lot of people who would have loved to have that Singer, but I don’t know if it was in working condition either – I’m not sure it had all the parts even! I wouldn’t mind to have a featherweight some day, but it’s a thing that can wait for now. I don’t know enough about that kind of machinery to want anything that’s not already in working condition, which certainly makes my problems with this Juki a bit frustrating.

      My comments about the twist of threads and types if fabric and needles are largely just me trying out anything to see if something will help. I’m sure there’s either a problem with the tension or there is something mechanical wrong or there is some kind of user error. If it’s just tension, then I’m willing to try out whatever I can to get all the bits and pieces into the right tension ballpark so that I can start to finesse it into the exact right place. Changing the little things might have got me there, but alas it didn’t. I do think it’s probably a problem in the machine (because I’m’ certain I have everything threaded correctly/set up correctly), so getting it serviced is going to be my next step! If I can get it working, this machine could probably last me for years and years and years.

  8. I can’t believe you left the Singer! I’d jump at the chance! I’ve been looking for one for ages! To be fair though, it would probably simply be for decorative purposes rather than for practical reasons!

    1. Haha… I’ve had that response from a lot of people! If I had the space for a decorative sewing machine, I might have taken it. Alas, I do not (and it definitely doesn’t fit with my sister’s decor – it’s her house I live in right now).

      1. Hi Kristel.. (Not calling you clumsy, sorry) It’s now Oct. 3rd 2014..I’m curious to find out how this fine machine has treated you since last June, and have you had it serviced?
        These all steel guys are really like the old machines..They really don’t need an expensive servicing…Use a pipe cleaner to get in there and get the dust out, keep it oiled up, and it will do your bidding.. Sometimes I forget to put the thread stand up on my 98, but it lets me know, by unthreading itself..
        I have this TL98E..It was well used when I got it. I love it! Perhaps the 2010 will be next on my list to trade up a bit…Not much difference though…Watched Lea Day quilt on her TL2010Q (Utube) and it kinda makes me want one that also threads itself…and just “NEW”. This is a great machine…

        1. Haha… the clumsy part isn’t even really a reference to myself, I’m not exceptionally clumsy or anything! I used to use the name “clumsy chord” online all the time, but then started using my own name more often, so it sort of blended into Clumsy Kristel at some point 😀

          Anyway, the machine has been great! I did take it in and have it serviced (it took a while because there aren’t any places near to me and I don’t have a car, so I had to wait till I could get a ride) and it’s running great! I like it A LOT – it’s so nice to use a machine with some extra features (the needle down thing is amazing) and I love the extra table room and harp space and it just sews so quickly and smoothly compared to my old machine. It’s great for free motion quilting (and it’s nice that it’s got a walking foot too). I’m really glad I got it! Eventually I think I’d like to upgrade to a TL2010Q as well – apparently it has the speed control knob, which I could stand to have for my FMQ (I’m not very good at controlling the speed of the machine just yet, so I get going too fast and then panic and then take my foot off the peddle and come to a dead stop far too often), but honestly I think I’m happy enough with this machine that I could just keep it. It feels like it could just keep on ticking forever as long as I take care of it and eventually I’ll sort out the speed issue, I just need to put in more time sewing on it.

        2. Hi, I just got a used Juki tl98 and the bobbin winder won’t wind. Does anybody know if the the little slot in the bobbin is supposed to face down on the shaft?

          1. The little notch in the post should hook into the slot on the bobbin. But mine won’t wind certain bobbins.. I’ve been told they’re really fussy machines when it comes to using off-brand bobbins. I don’t know if that’s true but I have one bobbin it won’t wind no matter what I try… I couldn’t guess why but maybe you’ve got a dud too. On Nov 29, 2014 6:12 PM, “Work-in-Progress Girl” wrote:


            1. Thanks so much. That’s what I thought. But the manual shows a picture of the thread going through that slot and it’s facing up? How can that be right?
              Thanks again for your quick response.

              1. My ones have those notches on both sides, so the thread goes through the one on the top and the post hooks into the one on the bottom.. I’m at work or I’d take a picture for you, if you want me to take one though let me know and I’ll do that when I’m home! On Nov 30, 2014 6:55 AM, “Work-in-Progress Girl” wrote:


                1. Thanks Kristel. I don’t think that will be necessary. I think the bobbins I got with the machine must not be Juki then. Because mine only have the slot on one end, which kind of explains everything! I will order some standard Juki bobbins and get back to you if I still need your help.

                  Thanks for your kindness in getting back to me so quickly!

  9. I just purchased a Juki 98Q and I was wondering if the machine gives any notification when the bobbin runs out? or does it just run out and you don’t know it until it is too late?

    1. It doesn’t give any kind of warning – it’s a completely mechanical machine, so there’s nothing computerized to give warnings. It only really bugs me when I’m quilting.

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