How To Troubleshoot And Fix A Sewing Machine

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No matter what brand of sewing machine you have, at some point during its lifetime, it will give you trouble. Whether you are a beginner or a professional with the scars to prove it, messing with the various moving parts of your sewing machine can make for a frustrating afternoon. You most likely can figure out what's probably vexing your sewing machine and promptly fix the issue so that you may move on with your project.

How To Troubleshoot And Fix A Sewing Machine
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Common Problems and Easy Fixes

Right needle size and type for the fabric: Make sure you are using the correct needle size and type, thread and tension for the fabric and make adjustments. If the thread is too fine, it will cause a backlash as it continues to unwind after the machine has stopped. Your pressure foot tension (if applicable to your machine) may need to be adjusted, depending on the thickness and type of fabric you are sewing. The fabric type also influences what thread tension you should use. Refer to your manual for guidance on what tension settings to use with what fabric. If these settings need to be changed, do so and rethread your machine. Most issues can be solved by adjusting that and rethreading the machine.

Next, check your bobbin area to see if the bobbin thread is getting caught anywhere or tangled. Bobbins improperly fitted or threaded can cause a machine to halt all forward motion. Check the bobbin and its casing to ensure that it is properly installed in its compartment and unwinding in the correct direction. Blow out any dust with a few blows of compressed air to reduce damage to needles and bobbins. By keeping the machine covered when not in use, you'll cut down on dust and loose fibers and animal dander and hair finding their way into the delicate areas of the machine. A lot of sewing or sewing fuzzy fabric can cause the area to clog and the bobbin to not unwind properly, leading to tangles and even needle breakage, if you force the machine when it's all tangled up.

If your thread is bunching on the bottom but giving a straight stitch on top, you may have thread tension trouble. The best way to solve this is to start over. Raise the presser foot and re-thread your machine with the needle and take-up lever positioned as high as your machine allows, so you can get the correct tension on the thread.

When no stitches are forming, threading is often the culprit there, too. Make sure to have the presser foot and needle up in order to release tension when you are threading. You should also check the needle to ensure it is inserted properly and tightened. The usual culprits include the thread in the incorrect slot or the tension dial setup being all wrong for the thread you are using.

Other Possible Solutions

If you just wound a bobbin and the machine is in bobbin winder mode, it won't know that you want to go forward with your sewing project. If it is not the bobbin, the presser foot can cause the machine to not work. Confirm the presser foot is free of debris and in its proper position and that the needle is not crooked or otherwise hitting the presser foot.

Routine cleaning, if you can't clean the machine after every use, will keep your machine in fine fiddle. Take a muslin cloth folded in half through the tension discs and, if the hook mechanism is removable, give it a light oiling. Remember to follow your manual instructions and don't over-oil.

Know When to Go

If you've attempted to fix your problem to no avail, it may be time to gather the underperforming machine and take it to a professional. If your material isn't feeding no matter what you do, the feed dog may be damaged. The timing may need attention if the fabric and needles don't do as they are instructed by your machine. Also, the motor itself may be faulty and need an expert's eye or the wiring for the plug or foot may need care. Sewing machine repair is relatively inexpensive, considering how expensive good machines can be. It's always good to take your sewing machine in for regular maintenance to keep the motor clean and the appropriate parts greased and in good order.

One of the best things you can do to troubleshoot with your specific machine is to have a long sit down with your manual. Knowing the ins and outs of your particular machine, its labels and where every little bob and hook go will help you troubleshoot faster in the future.


Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at

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