If you have had experience with a faulty or uncooperative sewing machine, then you can testify that such situations are frustrating. Snapped needles, tangled threads, and skipped stitches can delay your sewing process and discourage you from taking up more projects. On that account, a discussion on Sewing Machine Problems and Remedies is appropriate as most of these issues are resolvable without incurring expensive repair services.
A sewing machine’s purchasing price is significant, and you may not afford to get expert repairs every time the device fails. Therefore, I have compiled some of the issues you will encounter when using the machine and recommended remedies.
You will also observe that some of these problems you can solve while mid-project.
Please read through till the end to get maximum benefit.
Table of Contents
1. Thread Inconsistently Loosens, Tangles, or Knots
This issue is sensitive because it directly affects how the sewing machine handles the fabric. Unfortunately, it can be hard to track down the root cause because one minute; everything is okay, the next minute, you find skipped and tangled stitches and knotted threads.
If the thread problems are inconsistent, you may have messed up the tension or threading settings. However, if they are frequent, you need to look at lint and dust accumulation issues in the machine.
To solve the above issue, you can do the following.
- Frequently check the sewing machine for tiny dust and lint bits, especially the bobbin case.
- Regularly clean the device using the recommended vacuum attachments and brushes.
- Avoid using compressed air cans as they may drive dust further into the sewing appliance.
2. Faulty Decorative Stitch Settings.
Making patterns and decorative stitches requires unique settings that allow you to follow complex designs. They also require specific adjustments to give a lovely finish. However, you may observe that the decorative stitch settings are not working.
Below are some steps to help you get back on the job!
- Check the stitch width and length settings.
- Double-check the manufacturer’s manual to confirm if you are using the correct stitch width and length.
3. Broken and Bent Needles
A faulty needle is both annoying and dangerous. Professionals recommend a new needle for every new sewing job as you will avoid the stress of working with dull and damaged needles.
However, you may get a new needle, and it breaks or bends as you work. You may also pick a needle and later realize that it is not the correct one for the job. These scenarios require you to act fast to complete the sewing project successfully.
You need to know that needle problems may arise because you wrongly inserted the needle or used an incorrectly attached needle plate.
In other cases, an incorrect foot attachment may be the problem. Therefore, explore all the possible problem causes before adopting a remedy.
Below are solutions to needle-related issues.
- Ensure that you use the correct needle time for the sewing application. For example, handknit fabrics work well with ‘jersey’ or ballpoint needles, whereas denim, vinyl, or leather materials need sturdy and sharp needles.
- Check the needle plate and position it correctly.
- Attach the foot and feed the fabric at its average pace.
- If the needle bends or breaks during sewing, stop immediately. First, carefully remove the faulty needle and dispose of it properly. Then, replace the needle and ensure you follow the sewing machine’s manual.
- Please get an expert to examine the machine if you notice that needle breaking or bending results from underlying mechanical problems. The machine may also have an issue with the timing technique, requiring professional repair.
4. Thread Bunching up Under the Fabric
Your sewing project is most likely to go south if thread bunches underneath the fabric. Therefore, it is an issue you should avoid or sort as soon as it occurs. Additionally, you need to know why your thread would bunch up, as it will help determine the most appropriate solution.
The above occurrence is because of broken thread pieces and loose fibers, and accumulated lint.
Fortunately, you can deal with the situation as recommended below.
- Remove the fabric from the machine and cut all the extra thread. Please do not pull it as it may damage the machine and the fabric. Then, remove all cut thread bits.
- Remove and re-thread the bobbin. Again, please consult the manual as some machines are specific on how the bobbin unwinds.
- Adjust the tension settings and match them with the fabric nature. Also, if you were working on light fabric and switch to a heavy-weight one, please remember to customize your settings.
- Consider removing the top thread and re-thread the sewing appliance according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Also, ascertain that the presser foot is up as you make these threading changes. The practice helps to through the machine discs properly and, therefore, do not ignore it.
- Use the correct thread type in the bobbin and top thread as the thread weights lead to frequent knots and tangles.
5. Sewing Machine Jams or Won’t Sew
An occasional machine jam that you solve by turning the handwheel should not cause any alarm. However, if you need to turn the wheel forcefully or the appliance does not run after some assistance, stop sewing immediately.
You’ll find that probably the fabric is too rigid, and if you insist, you may damage the sewing machine.
In such a situation;
- Check the needle to ensure that it is the correct type. If you find it is faulty, replace it immediately. Also, if you discover it was not the correct one, get a replacement.
- Assess the needle installation procedure and verify if it is correct. If you missed a few critical steps during installation, remove it and install it again.
- Check the needle for bends and breakage, and get a new one if the current one is bent or broken.
- Clean the machine as fuzz build-up compromises the effectiveness of the machine’s mechanisms. Follow the manual instructions to do a thorough clean-up.
6. Breaking Thread
Thread breaking is another issue that can frustrate your sewing project. The most common cause is a manufacturing defect where the needle has a rough ‘eye.’ You may also experience a sudden jerk when sewing, and your thread breaks.
Sometimes, the thread may wrap around the spool holder and break due to pressure.
Thankfully, despite the above probable causes, the following tips will help you keep your peace during working hours.
- Check the thread type and ensure it is suitable for use in a sewing machine.
- Ensure that the top and bottom thread weights are similar.
- Lower the top thread tension for persistent breakages, yet the thread quality and type are excellent.
- Rethread the top thread with the pressure foot up.
7. Inconsistent Bobbin Tension
This scenario causes you to constantly adjust the bobbin thread tension, which can wear you out.
It may also occur because of the bobbin material. For example, plastic bobbins wear out and grow loose, and cannot maintain the correct tension.
If you find yourself with the above issue,
- try working with a metal bobbin.
8. Fabric Not Feeding Into the Machine.
Sometimes the fabric does not feed into the sewing appliance as you want. Probable causes for the problem include:
- Lowered feed teeth.
- Negligible pressure foot pressure.
- Improper thread selection.
- A lump on the stitch.
The above may exert unnecessary pressure on the machine and fabric and ruin them. Luckily, if you follow the following guidelines, the issue is as good as no more!
- Make sure the fabric is under the needle anytime you start a seam. Also, ensure that you lower the presser foot before you run the machine.
- If your sewing appliance has a drop feed setting, deactivate it. Then remove any darning or embroidery plate covering your feed dogs.
- Adjust the machine to the correct pressure as too much or too little pressure gives a poor feed.
- Raise the feed teeth and increase the stitch length.
9. Unthreaded Needle
Imagine spending a significant duration trying to get the thread through the needle’s eye. Then as soon as you begin sewing, the needle unthreads itself. How annoying! Fortunately, you can quickly fix the problem in this simple step.
- Before threading, ensure that the needle is at its highest position. Wind the handwheel towards yourself and watch the needle. You can also maximize the up/down function on some sewing machines that lower or raise the needle to its lowest or highest points.
10. Inconsistent Fabric Feed
You can only rate your work as perfect if your seams are even and uniform. Therefore, a machine that draws the fabric unevenly can mess up your work.
Some of the reasons for the problem include;
- You are using an old machine, and the machines are too worn out to catch the material evenly.
- The machine has accumulated lint, especially if it has a drop-feed function.
Remember the following remedies to sort the inconsistent feed;
- Replace the feed dogs if they are too old and cannot keep up with the fabric.
- You can also feed the feed dogs to remove lint.
- Finally, if you cannot attribute the inconsistent feed with the above issues, consider increasing the pressure foot pressure to keep an even contact between the fabric and the feed dogs.
11. Machine Skips Stitches
The reasons for a sewing machine to skip stitches are a bent or blunt needle, wrong needle installation method, and insufficient foot pressure. You may also find that the top thread does not reach the bobbin: therefore, they don’t lock properly.
Some of the steps that will help to solve the issue include;
- Check if you have correctly installed the needle and it is in good shape.
- Re-thread the machine properly, both bobbin and top threads, and test.
- If the machine skips stitches after you have done the above, there may be a problem with the timing, and you need to get expert repairs.
12. The Needle Won’t Move Despite the Machine Running.
Though this problem may catch you unawares, it has a simple solution.
- First, check the winding post or lever for the bobbin and reposition it. Most likely, the machine is in bobbin-winding mode.
13. Wavy Seams on Stretchy Fabrics
Wavy seams result from two scenarios: one, a faulty sewing machine, or two, a faulty technique. Therefore, as you think about the remedies, they should address either of the two causes or both.
Some common remedies include:
- Adjust the way you are hemming and adopt the most suitable style.: one
- If you are working on a piece of heavy fabric, do not let it drape off the sewing table.
- Avoid pulling the material to straighten it during sewing and allow the feed dogs to do the work.
- Pin the fabric well before you begin the job.
- If you still find wavy seams after the above recommendations, adjust the pressure foot or switch to a walking foot. A walking foot feeds the bottom and top fabric layers under the needle at a uniform rate and avoids distortion.
14. Puckered and Distorted Seams
Seam unevenness can quickly go away by pressing. However, pukers and distortions may be a machine issue. They happen because there is a high thread tension, high stitch density, long stitches compared to the fabric’s thickness, or extensive zigzag patterns.
You can address the issues using these tips;
- Check the thread weight and confirm it matches the fabric’s weight.
- Change to a narrower or shorter stitch.
- Adjust the thread tension to accommodate lightweight or heavy-weight materials.
- You may consider getting a walking foot to get an even feed.
15. Sewing Machine Makes Strange Noises
You may be going on with your sewing project then you notice random thumps or clunks. Of course, the first step is to stop sewing and removing your foot off the pedal: and since your machine may be asking for a thorough cleaning, proceeding with the work will cause more harm than good.
Get rid of the noises by considering the following tips.
- Clean and oil the machine according to the manual instructions and test it on scrap fabric.
- Additional unusual noises are a sign that you need to see an expert.
16. Brunching Threads or Fabrics at the Start or End of Seams
For excellent results, seams should lay flat from one end to the other. However, you may notice tangled threads or bunches at the seam’s end. This scenario is a result of backstitching over the fabric ends.
Here is how you can avoid these bunches;
- Sew a few millimeters into the fabric before backstitching the seams. This practice helps you backstitch through the fabric, not at the edge.
- When ending a seam, backstitch before you get to the edge and sew for a perfect finish.
17. Thread Fraying or Shredding
If your thread gives the impression that it has been through a mill experience, the needle has an issue. Therefore, avoid the problem by doing the following;
- Match the thread and needle sizes. The needle’s eye should be large enough for the thread to pass through smoothly.
18. Machine Fails to Turn On
Sometimes you switch on the device and ops! Nothing happens. Before you dispose of the machine or call for help;
- Check for the switch and turn it on.
- If the switch is on and the device is not running, check if the power supply is sufficient.
19. Birds Nesting
This concept refers to loops down the bobbin area and at the back of the fabric. The problem occurs due to; incorrect threading, the thread does not pass well through the take-up lever, the balance wheel is in a clockwise motion, or general incorrect machine threading.
Solve bird nesting by choosing to;
- Re-thread the machine properly.
- Turn the balance wheel in an anti-clockwise position.
- Check and control the pressure.
20. The Sewing Machine Cannot Sew in Reverse.
Here, you need to verify if the machine has a reverse stitching capacity. Since various machines have different capabilities, ensure that you confirm the one you choose can deliver reverse stitches. Also, stretch stitches and buttonholes do not reverse stitch.
So, if your machine has the reverse setting;
- Check the stitch control function and adjust it accordingly.
21. The Machine Is Running Slowly.
Sometimes the machine slows down or does not pick up with your desired speed.
In such a scenario;
- Check the foot control.
- Remove dust or lint from the needle plate.
- Check whether the bobbin winder is engaged.
- Adjust the speed control to your preferred pace.
NB: If you have not used the sewing machine for an extended duration, the long storage period may damage the motor.
22. The Motor or Light is Not Working
This problem is usually a power issue. Therefore;
- Ensure you plug the power cord into the wall and the sewing machine.
- Make sure that the power strip is on.
- Check the wiring in the outlet or the fuse.
Maintaining a Sewing Machine
One of the common causes of machine issues is dirt and lint. Therefore, I will give a simple guideline on how to clean the sewing device: Because as we know, prevention is far much better than cure!
NB: Remember that the manufacturer’s manual dictates how you will clean and oil the sewing appliance. Also, the frequency of use and the fabrics you work on will prescribe how you maintain it.
For example, if you work on ‘shedding’ materials such as velvet, you need to clean the machine frequently. On the other hand, if you moderately or lightly use the device, you can clean it after a few months.
However, the rule is if you see build-up or hear clinging or squeaking noises, clean up immediately.
How to Clean up a Sewing Machine
Unplug the machine and prep it for cleaning. Then, remove the throat plate as it is where fabric fibers and dust gather.
Let me add that you should go through the user’s guide to remove the plate professionally. For instance, you’ll find that some machines have a screwdriver that uninstalls the plate, while others slide off effortlessly. Therefore, adopt the recommended strategy.
Gently use a nylon brush to collect dust. It gets in between the crannies and nooks and leaves no stone unturned. If you have a bobbin case, consider taking it out to give room for a thorough clean-up. Also, ensure that you do not forget the feed dogs.
NB: Please avoid using compressed air to blast out dirt as it pushes it further into the device. Please use a screwdriver’s end to push out the dirt or stick to the nylon brush.
After you have cleaned the lower part of the device, you need to oil it. Please note that there is a uniquely designed lubricant for sewing machines that keeps their parts working smoothly. The oil reduces friction and the resulting wear and tear to provide you with a durable appliance.
During application, use one hand to turn the handwheel and focus on moving parts that touch and create friction. Put tiny drops of oil on these parts and crank the wheel a few times to work the oil.
Use a muslin fabric piece to absorb any additional oil on the body of the machine. You want to keep oil remainders away from the next sewing project. Then, reinstall the throat plate, and you can use your machine.
Besides that, you can use a dust cloth to the entire body and brush along the thread path.
Finally, plug the machine back in and get a scrap fabric for some tests.
Here’s how to clean a sewing machine:
How to Handle a Sewing Machine Safely
Some general tips and procedures help you handle the machine in the best way possible. They focus on;
- Setting up the sewing machine,
- Adopting safety measures before starting to sew,
- Adopting safety measures during the sewing process.
Setting Up the Sewing Machine
- Ensure that the machine is on a hard and leveled surface.
- Select the most suitable needle and install it into the needle bar.
- Choose the appropriate thread according to the fabric type.
- Carefully wind the thread on the bobbin.
- Thread the machine following the thread guide. Preferably begin from the spool pin to the needle.
- Adjust the stitch length to your project requirements.
- Customize and balance the thread tension. Ensure that you use the lower tension to set up the upper one.
Safety Measures to Adopt Before Sewing
- Verify that the machine cord is in good condition. Also, switch it off as you thread and after every sewing session.
- Ensure that the sewing area is well lit to avoid accidents.
- Keep your feet away from the treadle as you set or thread the machine.
- Always use the handwheel to position the needle to its highest position during sewing.
- It would help if you held the bottom and loose top thread ends before running the machine.
Safety Measures During Sewing
- Test the machine on scrap fabric to check for oil stains.
- Observe the way the device sounds. If you hear any abnormal sounds, contact an expert.
- Use a slow and steady sewing pace.
- Get a needle guard to protect your fingers.
One usually begins every new sewing project with great enthusiasm and anticipation. However, the machine may refuse to share in your psyche by having hiccups, leading to immeasurable frustration. But, fortunately, we can avoid some sewing machine issues by engaging with the topic
Sewing Machine Problems and Remedies.
We can now agree that it is much easier to deal with a problem when you know its causes and recommended remedies.
Also, you will be surprised by how these issues are easy to eliminate once you follow the guidelines in this article.
Finally, remember that machine maintenance and proper set ups help avoid the above issues. However, if you find yourself in a sewing machine hiccup, help is at hand!