15 Common Sewing Machine Problems (And How To Fix Them)

All of us who have sewing machines know there are some occasional troubles with them. Even the best sewing machines after a while start breaking, or at least some of their parts.

Now, there are problems that are common and expected. But, on the other hand, there is always a slight possibility that something unexpected will happen.

Our priority here is to deal with some of the most common sewing machine problems and how to fix them as fast as possible! Or prevent them.

Broken or bent needles

It often happens that a needle bents or breaks while we’re sewing. This is one of the most usual mechanical sewing problems. There are many reasons that cause this problem but there’s no need to be concerned because there’s always a solution.

Broken or bent needles

Possible causes of the problem

  • Your machine is not oiled well
  • Throat plate isn’t properly aligned
  • Needles are of bad quality
  • Pins break the needle
  • The needle isn’t fully inserted
  • Needles are too short
  • Human factor

How to solve and prevent breakage of needles and their bending?

First, you need to know that if your needle bents or breaks, you should replace it. If it’s broken it’s obvious the only thing you can do is throw it away. If it’s bent, small are the chances to repair it and make it straight and flat again.

Well, what to do? The only thing you can do is prevent this from happening.

Before you start working on your sewing machine you should check if it’s oiled well. The proper maintenance of the sewing machine is the main factor to use it for a long time.

Always check if your needle is fully inserted before you start sewing. Then check if a throat plate is properly aligned. Needle clamp screw needs to be tight as well. These are your first steps to avoid sewing needle problems.

You need to adjust the length of the needle not only to your sewing project but also to your needle. If the needle is to short there are big chances it will bend or break.

It is a must to have good quality needles. If the quality is poor, the only thing you can expect is a problem!

If you are using pins while sewing (most commonly when working with silk or satin) you have to be careful. Always pull pins before the fabric goes under the foot! This is a very common trouble cause, you wouldn’t believe how common!

What do I refer under the human factor? It happens that people are careless. What does this mean? Changing the direction of sewing suddenly can easily cause your sewing needle to be bent or broken. Every rush action in sewing can cause problems and not only with needles so you need to be careful.

You may be pulling your fabric out of the back. This is the NO NO for so many reasons because you don’t want to pull your fabric out faster than your machine wants to track it through. You can throw your machine off of its timing, as well as break needles, and the timing thing is expensive to fix. So, make sure you’re not pulling your fabric out the back faster than the machine wants to go and let the feed dogs do their job.

I know you are keen on finishing your project as fast as possible but there is still some time you need to devote to it if you want to avoid needle problems.

The next thing is that you may not have the right needle for your project. Particularly if you’re using fabrics that are really really heavy, you need to have a needle that can stand up to the fabric that you’re working on, so make sure you change out your needle to a canvas or a denim needle, that is much more heavy-duty. There’s even leather needle if you’re working on really heavy things like leather.

Another possible cause of needle breaking could be that you’re maybe hitting metal. And if that’s the case, it’s likely that you have a front load sewing machine and you didn’t put your parts back in correctly. So, take them all out, put them back in, and slowly make sure that your needle is dipping down using your hand wheel and not hitting any metal, and do it for several rotations.

Bobbin tension not consistent

If you experience bobbin tension inconsistency the first thing you should check is the bobbin itself. It happens sometimes (especially since most bobbins are made of plastic) that the bobbins wear out. In this case, bobbins grow loose inside the bobbin housing and maintenance of the right tension becomes difficult.

Check out Sewing School’s post on tension

What else can cause this problem? The answer is needles. You need to use the appropriate needles for different materials, both length and weight.

Next, like with any other trouble, you need to check if your machine is filthy and whether it needs cleaning or oiling.

What I would also pay attention to is a tension screw. There’s a possibility you need to adjust it (loosen or strengthen).

Quick tip – Try having some spare bobbins, just in case! If the bobbin is the problem you won’t have to rush to do store in the middle of your project!

Thread keeps breaking

Has it ever happened to you that in the middle of your sewing project your thread breaks? If it has, you know how irritating this can be! Why does this happen and what to do?

This can happen because of the low thread quality. But, if you are sure you bought good quality thread here’s what to do.

Start with re-threading your machine. Take everything out. Pull on your thread. Make sure everything moves nicely and smoothly. Cut the tail of and re-thread. This should solve the problem.

If you are still having problems, check the thread tension. Sometimes it happens that it’s high up and causes the thread to break. Or, maybe the thread got twisted somehow around the tension disc.

Fabric not feeding

What to do if your fabric’s not feeding? Here are some things you can check to solve your problem.

Check if the feed dogs are up. Make sure your feed dog is in the higher position. This will help guide the fabric.

The stitch length shouldn’t be set at no feeding. If it is, it’s obvious why you are facing this issue. Therefore change the position of the stitch length. Bump it up to 2.5 and see if that doesn’t resolve the issue.

If your fabric is not feeding properly or at all, you might have been facing needle problems. Check the needle (it could be bent or broken). To keep it safe, change the needle. One more advice about needles: different fabrics require different needles and threads. It all has to get along to work properly!

Fabric puckering

Are you starting to have an issue with your fabric puckering? There might be two reasons for that. So, the first one might have everything to do with thread tension. If your thread tension is too tight on the top you’re going to see that kind of a puckering effect as your fabric is going through, so you might want to loosen your thread tension up at the top. If that doesn’t work, you may even need to loosen your thread tension in the bobbin casing down below. So try those two first.
If you have really lightweight fabric you may start seeing some puckering, so one way to avoid that is to put interfacing that is not fusible or even tissue paper underneath the fabric as it’s going through the machine and that’s going to provide some stability and security and a little bit more loft to stabilize the fabric as it shoots through.

The needle comes unthreaded before sewing

I’ll explain a couple of reasons that might be causing troubles with needles becoming unthreaded.

Kill two birds with one stone. Check the needle. If your needle is bent this could happen. It could be that your needle isn’t installed properly.

Another problem could be bobbin. Maybe you are not using the right bobbin or the bobbin case has a scratch (sometimes even a hole). This is how a thread can tangle in the bobbin case.

Mostly, the trouble arises from thread and threading. If the sewing machine you’re using isn’t threaded properly unthreading can be common trouble. Or, maybe the upper tension is too tight.

Check all these things but if you are still having the same problem I suggest asking for technical support from the manufacturer or some other professional help!

Fabric feed is inconsistent

In sewing, seams are equally important as any other part. Many people pay a lot of attention to how the seams look like. So, what to do if the fabric feed is inconsistent?

Well, feed dog is what most often causes this problem. If your seam isn’t even it could be that the feed dog has worn out. This problem is easy to solve. You only need to replace your feed dog and the machine will catch the seams evenly.

Another possibility, if you have a new machine you might need to clean the feed dog. Even if you don’t face any problems with your sewing machine it’s important to clean it often!

Again, there’s a possibility that there’s something wrong with the needle or your machine isn’t threaded well. Check all the options before you start panicking!

The sewing machine is making strange noises

One of the problems that usually freak us out is definitely a strange noise coming out of our sewing machine. What’s important here? Well, to remain calm and stop doing whatever is that you were doing on your machine.

In this case, something is either jammed or rubbing. The first thing you should do is stop using your machine. Then turn it off.

Let’s check it now. If you see the thread is tangled, cut it. After you unplug the machine raise the presser foot and the needle, take them apart and clean them. I would suggest cleaning the entire machine in this situation.

Take your manual and separate all the parts according to instructions. Clean each part (bobbin, bobbin case, feed dog, presser foot and so on). Clean all that out, get out all that debris, all that lint, that will help it run smoothly. Take off your face plate and clean in between those feed dogs. A lot of lint and dirt and debris can get stuck under there and it’s really thick and condensed and it can cause a big issue when you’re trying to sew.

This is a good opportunity to oil your sewing machine if you haven’t done it recently! You should oil your machine once a year, depending on how often you sew, but once a year at a minimum. Turn your sewing machine on and check if it’s working quietly and normally.

So, once you do all those things I think your sewing machine will be purring like a kitten.

The machine is running, but the needle won’t move!

Here are possible problems. If the needle won’t move there is a chance that your motor belt is either off or broken.


On the other hand, it’s possible you’ve just put the bobbin backward. Check this first in order not to lose your time if this is the problem. Or check the clutch. If the clutch has fallen off the shaft, all you need to do is put it back to the right place.

Another possibility is that the bobbin stopper is in the incorrect position. Put it back in the right position and try again.

Thread bunching or “Birds nesting” of thread under the fabric

Maybe it has happened to you to see so-called bird nesting of thread under the fabric while you sew. Everything worked well and then suddenly you have thread bunching everywhere. How to deal with this?

First, you need to remove whatever is you were working on. Don’t just pull expecting the thread to break. Cut the thread using the scissors.

To work things out, re-thread your machine. Many troubles can be expected from the machine that isn’t threaded well, and that’s why we do this first. Every instructional manual has thoroughly explained steps for threading correctly. Remember that the presser foot should be up during this procedure.

Now re-thread the bobbin and check if its position is as it should be. Use the same type of thread for top and bobbin. Eventually, set the tension. Now take a piece of fabric you don’t need and try again. This should solve your problem. If it hasn’t, contact your customer support or a repairman.

Stitches are coming out uneven or skipping entirely

Thread ends in the needle. They are connected. That’s why, in the case of skipped stitches or any other stitch issue, we’ll first check the needle. It would be the best to (as I always point out) use a new needle for every project. So, check the needle, maybe it’s bent, or even worse, broken. If you have randomly skipped stitches you must change the needle. If everything’s cool after you’ve changed the needle, it was bent.

But, if the problem continuous, it might be that your sewing machine isn’t threaded well. Re-thread it and try! Always have in mind that the needle and the thread need to match. Different fabric weights require different needle size and type.

Quick tip – Did you know that you can turn the needle upside-down. Yes, indeed. Be careful when pointing the needle and you’ll avoid many problems.

Your stitches are Loose or Loopy

Are you stitches looking loose or even loopy? Well, if that’s the case then it’s all about the thread tension. You want to go ahead and tighten your thread tension to make it a little bit tighter and a little less loose and loopy. Now, start with the upper thread tension area and if that doesn’t work, you may need to get into your bobbin casing. The last resort is to get into your bobbin casing to tighten the thread tension there.

Machine not sewing

If this happens, check your instructional manual and general set up of your sewing machine. Bobbin winder shaft has to be pushed to the left. If yours is pushed to the right, correct this.

Lift the presser foot and ensure the threading line on the hand wheel is at its top position. Now re-thread your sewing machine.

Bobbin has to be set correctly. If you have top loading bobbin, the thread here goes in an anti-clockwise direction.

Before you start sewing, a computerized machine will remind you to lower the foot before you start sewing. But, if you have a mechanical sewing machine, you’ll need to remind yourself!

The machine is not sewing reverse

Believe it or not, this mostly happens because your machine doesn’t support reverse stitching. In the case of this scenario, first, check the options you have. If your machine supports reverse stitching, check and adjust your stitch control!

Cannot thread the sewing machine

If you want to thread your sewing machine but you can’t, here’s what to check. First, put the needle in its highest position by turning the hand wheel until it gets to the highest position. Then check the needle. It needs to be properly and fully inserted.

 

Even when you’re working on a high-quality sewing machine, some problems will happen sooner or later. Don’t hesitate because this is completely normal and expected. Nothing is for good and eventually, something will go wrong. As I always point out, whatever happens, whatever problem you come up with, remain calm and start looking for solutions. Every problem has a cause and therefore its solution. Here, I’ve offered solutions for the most typical sewing machine problems you can resolve yourself.

If your problem isn’t mentioned here, the best bet would be to contact a professional repairman or customer support.

So, there you go. The top reasons that people bring their sewing machines in to be serviced and how you can troubleshoot at home. I really hope you found it helpful and I would love to know which tip or trick was most helpful for you, so please leave a comment in the comment section below.

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