SOLVE Your Sewing Machine Problems

It's simple when you do it step-by-step!

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You CAN learn to diagnose and fix your own sewing machine problems to save yourself unnecessary trips to the dealer and unwelcome repair bills.

Diagnosis is straight forward.

You can see the evidence and symptoms of the problem in your stitching.

Learn that by adjusting one thing at a time, you can usually fix the problem yourself.

Remedies are simple and easy to do.

And best of all they're free.

Solve your sewing machine problems

This is the list of the sewing machine problems that are covered.

Do take a minute to watch the video on our page, Learn How Sewing Machines Work, (this link opens in a new window) to get a better understanding how all the parts function together.

The videos on that page provide clear illustrations why the simplest things are so important.

Now let's get to solving our problems!

Breaking Needles

This usually happens when there's a physical impediment—like the needle's off center but you're using a straight stitch throat plate and it NEEDS to be centered—or the thread is pulling it out of position so it hits the throat plate.

  • Properly insert a new needle. It may have broken because it was defective. Also, remember the groove goes in front (you can feel it with your fingernail.) A needle must be inserted all the way so the thread loop is in the proper position to form a stitch. 
  • Don't pull your fabric as you sew. It is common for new free motion quilters to pull on the fabric when they are learning to quilt. This bends the needle and it breaks when it hits the throat plate.
  • Check for a proper tension setting. Tension that's much too tight can pull/bend needles out of position.
  • Is it in the proper position. If you are using a single stitch throat plate the needle must be in the center position or it'll hit the edge of the throatplate and bend or break. Is it?
  • Don't sew over pins. If you hit a pin, change the needle. Hitting a pin can throw off your sewing machine's timing.
  • Make sure that the foot and the throat plate are inserted correctly and tightened appropriately.

Click here to read about the problems our readers have had with breaking needles and the remedies offered.

Return to the Sewing Machine Problems List

Fabric doesn't feed properly

  • Make sure your feed dogs are in the “up’ position. If they're not, nothing is pulling the fabric through.
  • Make sure your feed dogs are clean and free of lint and dirt. No sewing machine company puts a felt pad around the feed dogs. If you see one, it's actually a build-up of lint.
  • Check that you are using the proper pressure foot pressure (some machines do not have this control—check your manual). Have you recently been machine quilting and removed the pressure?
  • Is your presser foot installed correctly so that it is making contact with the fabric?
  • Is your stitch length set higher than 0? Again, if you've been free motion machine quilting you may have forgotten to reset your stitch length.

If none of these work, your timing may be off. It's time for a dealer visit.

Return to the Problems List

Skipped stitches

Skipped stitches happen because the thread is not delivered to the exact point at the exact time for the stitch to be formed.

Either there is no loop for the shuttle to catch and form a stitch or the loop forms at the wrong time.

  • First change to a new needle.
  • Make sure it is correctly installed and in good shape – no burrs, not bent, no nicks.
  • Is there enough pressure on the presser foot? Have you recently reduced the pressure foot pressure because you were quilting and forgotten to increase it again?
  • Check your top tension. A too tight tension can cause skipped stitches.
  • Make sure the machine is properly threaded. Is the thread in the take up lever?
  • Consult your manual to confirm you are using the correct brand of needle for your machine. Some machines use slightly longer or shorter needles.
  • One of our readers wrote to suggest changing your presser foot if all else fails. She went from her open toe appliqué foot to a standard one. Presto! Skipped stitches disappeared.

If none of these fixes work, there is a good chance that your machine's timing is off. This can only be fixed by a trained repairman.

If skipped stitches are driving you nuts...

Click here to read the skipped stitch problems other quilters have reported and the suggested solutions. Your particular set of circumstances may be listed here.

Return to the Sewing Machine Problems List

Thread Vomit Forms on the Bottom

OK. Most people politely call this a 'nest', but frankly it looks like thread vomit to me—just a big ol'mess to have to deal with.

This is a 'not enough tension' issue.

But almost always NOT because of your tension settings. If you see this problem, you've probably missed a thread guide somewhere when you set-up your sewing machine.  

Or possibly the strand is not seated in the tension disk (top) or tension spring (bobbin).

  • With your presser foot in the 'up' position re-thread your sewing machine. Make sure the thread is in the tension guides—floss it in there is you have to—as well as in the take up lever.
  • Raise your feed dogs if you are piecing and not quilting.
  • Hold the both the bobbin and needle thread tails in your fingers as you begin a line of stitching. This keeps the tails from tangling on the underside.

Return to the Sewing Machine Problems List

These are easy to do fixes for the simple sewing machine problems

Again, and I can't stress this enough, many of these sewing machine problems are caused by your needle being damaged.

MOST times you won't be able to see it.

Keep plenty of needles on hand in different types and sizes.

If you are unsure or are uncomfortable with any of the remedies to any of these sewing machine problems, consult your dealer for assistance.

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