When the zig-zag only zags.

My wife sat down to an afternoon of sewing only to discover that her reliable old Pfaff 262 sewing machine wouldn’t sew a zig-zag stitch any more.

A bit of careful examination showed that it not only didn’t zig-zag, it was permanently stuck at “zag.” That is, the needle was off to one side rather than centered.

The 262 has a three position lever to set the needle off to one side or the other - the three positions are left, center, right. The lever operates the same mechanism that the zig-zag does.

Moving the lever made no difference - the needle should follow the lever, but it never moved.

Needle position lever
Needle position lever

The position lever is the one pointing down - that’s the center position.

The silver ring with the numbers controls the width of the zig-zag. Zero is a straight stitch.

The lever pointing off to the right is for “quick zig-zags” - when you’re zipping along doing straight stitches you can pull the quick zig-zag lever down, sew a few stitches of zig-zag, then release it and return to straight stitching. I have no idea why you’d do that, but there it is.

Neither of the other controls worked properly, either. Setting the ring to a number higher than zero should make zig-zags - it didn’t. Pulling the quick zig-zag should have made zig-zags - it didn’t.

All the controls felt “gummy” - as though there were something blocking the controls themselves.

After more than an hour fiddling with things - including oiling the whole machine and adjusting the needle threader - I figured out that it was the zig-zag mechanism itself that was gummed up.

That’s this area:

Zig-zag mechanism
Zig-zag mechanism

You can see the zig-zag control there in the lower right corner.

The zigzag mechanism is rather complicated. Besides zig-zag, the Pfaff 262 can also do some fancy patterns. It uses the zig-zag and some additional cams to vary the zig-zag width and position with each stitch.

The silver thing with a black screw and a big spring attached to it are a big part of the zig-zag mechanism.

I found that if I pushed the silver thing to the right then the needle position lever would work. That meant the spring was too weak or the mechanism was too gummed up.

I gave everything in that area another couple of drops of oil, then got out a bright lamp and looked in and under all the moving parts and found more places to oil that weren’t clearly marked (and that were partially hidden by other things.)

That helped - the quick zig-zag lever got less gummy - but it wasn’t enough.

I gave everything another drop of oil, then got out a hair dryer. A good gust of hot air through the mechanism freed up the quick zig-zag lever.

Another round of oiling and an even hotter blast of air (a minute or so on high) got everything moving - until it cooled off.

Another couple of rounds of oiling and heating got things free and functional - even after things had cooled off.

Here are a few of the places (that aren’t marked) that you really need to oil:

Unmarked oiling spots
Unmarked oiling spots
  1. Down the hole marked in green is a spot on an axle with an oil hole.
  2. The thing marked in blue is a fork that is moved by a cam. The fork is the thing that moves the needle. The surface between the fork and the cam needs oil. You can get to it from the right side.
  3. The purple arrow points to an oil hole under all the gadgets. Look around and through the parts. You’ll find it.

You need an oil can with a long spout to get at those points.

You also need to oil this thing:

Zig-zig pivot
Zig-zig pivot

That’s the pivot for the zig-zag motion of the needle.

In summary, when your 262 doesn’t zig-zag:

  1. Oil everything in and around the zig-zag mechanism - if it looks like it could move, give it some oil.
  2. Oil the pivot behind the nose plate.
  3. Heat the zig-zag mechanism with a blow dryer to free it up.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the zig-zag works even after it has cooled off.

The heat makes the dried up oil soft enough for the fresh oil to penetrate and thin out the gummed up crud. If you repeat it enough (adding fresh oil each time,) the old crud washes out and the joints stay free.

With the zig-zag operating correctly again, my wife finished up her task. She had cut some shawls in half the long way (making two narrower shawls out of each one) and needed to hem up the cut edges. That’s all done, so it’s supper time now.


Maybe nobody else out there needs this information. I need it, though, for the next time it happens.