Just imagine you are in the midst of a beautiful stitching project and suddenly your sewing machine won’t work!
Tangled or broken threads, snapped needles, skipped stitches or a complete lockout – even a minor hiccup of your trusted sewing machine can be extremely frustrating.
However, most of these problems can be fixed easily without needing costly repairs.
Therefore, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the common sewing machine problems and their solutions to get started with your creativity again.
Common Sewing Machine Problems & How to Troubleshoot Them
Here is a guide to quickly fix your sewing machine problems:
1. Tangled Threads
Does the thread get tangled every time you work on a sewing project? May be you need to improve your thread skills!
Most of the times, the tangled mess of threads appear on the bobbin side and it is normal to think the problem lies with the bobbin. However, it is improper threading that primarily causes your threads to tangle as you start stitching.
To fix this problem, unthread the machine completely by putting the presser foot up. Then follow the user manual to thread the machine properly as mentioned in the instructions.
But make sure you don’t do the mistake of threading the sewing machine with presser foot down. It will cause the tension disks to be too tight or engaged. This prevents the thread from properly sitting between the disks.
Some good sewing machines come with automated threading functions with clear instructions mentioned one the machine dial. This will make it easier to thread the machine properly and prevent it from getting tangled.
2. Fabric Not Feeding Properly under the Needle
If your fabric is not feeding under the needle, there may be several reasons behind the same. Check if the drop-feed setting of your sewing machine has not been activated, or there is a darning or embroidery plate covering the feed dogs.
Also ensure the press foot is down and set to the right pressure depending on the fabric – too much or too little pressure can cause poor feeding.
Many sewing machines come with a setting that can lower the feed dogs. This is crucial for free-motion sewing. If you find that the feed dogs are not coming up automatically to move the fabric under the needle, check if some setting has lowered the feed dogs.
If yes, return the feed dogs to their normal setting.
If the sewing machine does not have any such setting, thoroughly clean the throat plate for all thread, dust or lint. Oiling the machine (as per user manual) can also help fix the problem.
Another solution to avoid this problem is by ensuring the fabric is all the way under the needle before you lower the presser foot.
3. Broken or Bent Needles
Broken or bent needle is one of the most annoying and dangerous problems you may face while sewing. Using an old needle or which is hooked at the tip can significantly damage your fabric.
To avoid this, change your needle every time you are working on a new project. Also, depending on the project, choose the right type of needle. For instance, denim or heavier fabric would need sturdy or sharp needles, while knit fabrics work best with jersey or ballpoint needle.
It is also important to install the needle properly by following instructions in the user manual.
4. Thread Keeps Breaking
This is one of the most common problems you face while sewing, especially when you do not use the right type of thread.
Prevent using delicate threads in sewing machines because a considerable amount of tension caused by the machine can cause a soft thread to break easily.
You should also maintain the same weight for your top and bottom threads.
If the thread breaks off, re-thread the top thread with the presser foot up. You can also consider lowering the tension settings of the top thread.
5. Skipped Stitches
Not using the right kind of needle for your fabric can cause the problem of skipped stitches.
The thumb rule of choosing the right needle is: a sharp needle for woven fabrics and a ballpoint needle for knit fabric.
Make sure the machine feeds the fabric properly under the needle. Do not force the fabric in or it can result into skipped stitches or bent needle.
6. Excessive Noise while Sewing
A strange knocking noise from your sewing machine can be worrying. And there may be several reasons for this.
Regular cleaning and maintenance of the sewing machine as mentioned in the user manual is important. Turn off the machine’s power and check for a problem, such as loose screws or if any part require lubrication.
Often too much lint build-up can cause unnatural noises. You can use a soft lint brush to clean the lint and debris from the bobbin area or under the needle plate.
Consider changing the needle.
Check the race-hook area for even the most little piece of thread that can create a tight spot and cause noise.
7. Inconsistent Bobbin Tension
Do you need to adjust the bobbin thread’s tension constantly while sewing? Is the bobbin tension not consistent?
Check your bobbin.
Often due to wear and tear, plastic bobbins tend to grow loose inside the bobbin housing. This makes it hard to maintain the right tension needed for sewing.
Consider using a new and good quality metal bobbin and see if that works.
8. Machine Running Slowly
There may be several reasons why your machine is running slowly or not working – lack of proper cleaning or maintenance, not using the machine for long, any part or tool not working properly, etc.
To avoid these problems, it is important to clean your sewing machine regularly. Remove dust and lint from beneath the needle plate, and see if the speed has increased.
Adjust the speed control as per instructions in the user manual.
Check the presser foot control and whether or not the bobbin winder is engaged properly.
9. Wavy Seams in Stretch Fabrics
If seams in your stretch fabrics are coming out as wavy, it might be a problem of the machine. However, it can also be lack of skills.
To address this problem, you need to first adjust the technique you are using to sew. The weight of your fabric can help the knits or stretch fabrics to stretch as you sew, but ensure it does not drape off the sewing table as you work.
Do not force the fabric to straighten as you sew; allow the feed dogs to work properly.
If you still find problems, adjust your presser foot’s pressure or you can use the walking foot. This will help feed the fabric layers consistently under the needle, giving the perfect seams for your stretch fabrics.
10. Jammed Sewing Machine
Jamming is one of the biggest problems you may face when working on your sewing machine.
If the machine gets worked while sewing, remove the fabric immediately. Next, remove the thread that has become jammed. For this you may need to remove the throat plate, the bobbin or other parts to take the jammed thread out and start sewing again.
Check the needle. If it is broken or slightly bent, it can result into getting the threads jammed.
11. Sewing Machine Suddenly Stopped while Working
This problem may arise if you have been stitching for a long time and at a low speed. To prevent the motor from getting overheated, the machine may stop itself.
In such cases, turn the power off and wait for at least 20 minutes before you start sewing again.
12. The Machine Light or Motor is Not Working
If you find that the sewing machine’s motor or light is not working, check if the power cord is plugged in properly.
Ensure the power strip is on and the wiring and/or the fuse in the outlet is okay.
13. The Motor/Light is Okay but the Machine is not Sewing
If you find the motor or light to working properly but the machine is not sewing, it can be caused due to a wide range of problems.
Check if there is a bobbin on the bobbin winder. If the machine is in the bobbin winding mode, it will not work.
The needle must be properly inserted and the foot control plugged in correctly. To free the pressure foot from any kind of obstruction, ensure the foot control can be completely depressed.
And if the presser foot hits the needle, replace it immediately.
14 The Stitch Forms Loops in Between
There may be several reasons why your stitch is getting in loops in between – the most common reason being a bobbin that isn’t wound properly.
Often less presser may cause the fabric to be loose when the stitch is formed. If the fabric is stretched tight while sewing, it can form loops. To prevent this, fine-tune the stitch tension.
Properly threading the machine can also prevent the stitches from getting in lumps.
15. Needle Gets Unthreaded Before You Start Stitching
After you spent ages threading the needle, it simply un-threads itself right before you start sewing! How annoying this is!
Delightfully, there is a quick fix to it.
Before you thread the machine, keep the needle at its highest point. Simply wind the handwheel towards yourself and check the needle until it reaches the highest point. Do not wind the handwheel backward or it can cause the thread to tangle while sewing.
Some advanced sewing machines also provide the option of “up/down” so you can automatically lower or raise the needle to its lowest or highest point.
16. Thread Shredding or Fraying Every time
If you find the thread to shred or fray frequently, there may be two reasons for this – either you are using a poor quality or old thread, or the needle size and the thread are incompatible.
Always use high-quality threads that are suitable for use in sewing machines.
Also the needle and the thread should be compatible. The needle must be large enough to allow the thread to pass through easily without pulling or catching.
17. The Bobbin Thread Frequently Breaks
Do you find the bobbin thread to break frequently, ensure it does not have too much of thread than required.
It is also important for the bobbin to be properly inserted. A damaged or inappropriate bobbin in your machine can also result in breaking.
Clean the bobbin case regularly and oil the shaft for efficient functioning.
18. Decorative Stitch Setting is Not Working
Are you using a good sewing machine that comes with an array of settings for decorative stitches? Unfortunately, these functions are not working and you do not know why, right?
Make sure you have set the right stitch width and length for the decorative stitch you want to create.
19. Uneven or Unattractive Stitches
To achieve beautiful stitches every time, make sure the presser foot placement, thread tension and stitch regulator are set appropriately.
Check if the machine is threaded properly and there is not too much tension on the top.
If the stitch is loose on the top, adjust the top tension to a lower range. If the bottom stitch is loose, change it to a higher range.
20. Needle Threader not Turning
Make sure the needle is up or otherwise, the needle threader will not turn. For this, you have to turn the handwheel until the needle reaches the highest position.
21. Unable to Do Reverse Sewing
Several machines do not provide the option of reverse stitching.
Alternatively, certain stitching functions like stretch stitch or buttonhole may not allow you to reverse stitch. You need to alter the setting to straight stitch or adjust the stitch control to reverse switch.
If you find these common problems while working on your sewing machine, it is important to thoroughly check the techniques, functions and settings with the user manual.
Regular cleaning and proper maintenance of the sewing machine is a must. On finding a damaged or old part, get it fixed or replaced immediately to avoid bigger and costly repairs latter.