Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

Learn how to solve sewing machine problems and knotting thread

Dressmaker using sewing machine
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How many times have you been in the middle of a project and your trusted sewing machine has decided it doesn't want to sew? The fun part of sewing is completing our creative inspiration, not fighting the machine!

Many times it is a very simple problem that we overlooked while absorbed in our project. Here is a simple checklist for mechanical problems. Many things vary by machine and this list is not a complete guide to your sewing machine. Rather it is a guideline to save you an unnecessary trip to the repair shop and a load of frustration. Always refer to your sewing machine manual.

Skipped Stitches

  • The most likely cause for your machine to skip stitches is the machine needle. If your machine was sewing fine and suddenly decides to skip stitches, change your sewing machine needle.
  • That machine needle is a sliver of metal and you may have inadvertently bend it while tugging the fabric or by hitting a straight pin. Learning and understanding sewing machine needles can save you hours of frustration.
  • If you find yourself changing the needle often, be sure you are allowing the feed dog to feed the fabric through the machine and that you are not forcing the fabric which can lead to bent needles. Even slightly forcing the fabric can bend the machine needle. Let the feed dog do the work.

Knotting or Breaking Thread

  • Are you using a quality thread? Most bargain threads throw off excessive lint, have loose fibers and knots which can all affect how your machine forms stitches.
  • Check the way your machine is threaded. Completely un-thread your sewing machine and re-thread it. Remember to always thread your machine with the presser foot up. Knotting thread on the bottom side is usually caused by upper threading errors.
  • Check the bobbin and be sure the bobbin is threaded correctly and that the bobbin case is correctly threaded. Be sure the bobbin is in the bobbin case in the correct direction.
  • Always watch for bobbin wear, especially on the plastic type of bobbins. If the edges of the plastic are showing abrasions, the size of the bobbin has changed and may be the culprit. Although the size change is a minute, it allows the bobbin to wobble in the case and changes the tension.

Helping Hands

  • Is it possible that you had some helpful little hands at the sewing machine, while your back was turned? Children may know better than to touch your sewing machine, but all those knobs and buttons can be irresistible.
  • Always unplug your machine when you are not using it and children are in the area. It is very simple for them to step on the foot pedal while their small hand is on the needle bed.

Tension Adjustments

  • These adjustments vary depending on your machine. The rule of thumb for a turning disk style adjustment is "righty tighty, lefty lucy". The disks are actually helped in place by springs and screws, by turning them to the right you are tightening the spring, by turning them to the left you are loosening the spring. 

Regular Maintenance

  • Have you been so "in to" your projects that you have not taken the time to do basic maintenance on your machine? We all do it, but we shorten the life expectancy of our sewing machine by not properly maintaining it. There is nothing like machine problems to force us to take the time to do basic maintenance that is described in your machine manual.