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Troubleshooting 25 Sewing Machine Problems and Solutions

Certainly, nobody is born with a perfect set of built-in skills on how to diagnose sewing machine problems.

But above all, whenever there is a problem, there is also a suitable solution out there.

The truth is, in order to become sewing machine masters, we need many years of practice. However, there are also some basic sewing machine troubleshooting tips and tricks that can make sewing feel like a breeze.

Thus, below is a compilation of the top 25 most common sewing machine problems, as well as their best solutions.

Consequently, we can continue sewing without feeling confused, stressed out, or puzzled. If you also want to learn how to diagnose sewing machine problems on your own, then keep reading!

#1 - Machine is Making Strange Noises

Machine is making strange noises

For a start, we need to stop using the sewing machine as soon as possible. Next, we need to take appropriate actions.

Check for lint build-up

Indeed, excessive lint tends to accumulate in the bobbin zone and/or under the needle plate. For this reason, we need to clean up any possible debris using a suitable lint brush.

Nevertheless, it’s important to address the race-hook sector as well. To illustrate this, we want to clean the area with the help of a needle or a pin.

Keep in mind that the presence of even the tiniest thread left behind can cause the sewing machine to keep making excessive noises. Above all, knowing how to diagnose sewing machine problems is key.

Inspect the thread closely

First of all, we need to check out if the thread is in the right position. Specifically, we want to inspect if the thread is snatched around the shuttle. Even more, we have to clean it very carefully.

Secondly, we should watch out for the thread getting bundled up right around the take-up lever.

Nonetheless, we can try replacing the needle.

Lastly, we can lubricate the sewing machine after going through the manual thoroughly.

#2 – Sewing Machine Needle Getting Stuck

Sewing machine needle getting stuck

Above all, it can be very frustrating to fight with the needle getting stuck over and over again. Indeed, this can make us feel as if we will never learn how to diagnose sewing machine problems efficiently.

However, the truth is, the solutions to this issue are actually very simple and straightforward.

Adjust the stitch length

Most noteworthy, if the stitch is too fine, this will affect the sewing process adversely, and in particular, the job of the needle.

Adjust the size of the needle according to the thread you are using

As a rule of thumb, each type of thread is intricately related to the size of the needle. For example, working with thicker thread requires using a lower thread number.

Clean the bobbin case

In order to do this, we need to read the manual of the sewing machine and proceed with the cleaning process accordingly.

#3 – Sewing Machine Needles Breaking

Sewing machine needles breaking

Seemingly, a broken needle is not supposed to cause too many complications when it comes to learning how to diagnose sewing machine problems. However, we mustn’t underestimate the issue either.

Reinsert the needle

More often than not, we may have just inserted the needle the wrong way. Therefore, we need to reinsert it properly.

Inspect the quality of the needle

In short, we might be dealing with a needle that is already bent or blunt. Ultimately, we simply need to replace the faulty needles.

Tighten the needle clamp screw

For instance, the needle clamp screw might become loose. As a result, this can cause the needles to break.

Adjust the thread tension

Similarly, if the needle thread tension is high, this will affect negatively the ability of the needles to work without breaking.

Make sure not to pull the fabric too rigidly

Generally, pulling tightly while sewing may be the reason for the needles breaking, so we need to adjust the grip.

Check if the needle matches the fabric

Certainly, working with a fine needle on a rough fabric and vice versa can be the very essence of the issue we are experiencing. Therefore, we want to adjust the type of needle accordingly.

#4 - Thread Bunching Up Under Your Fabric When Sewing

 Thread bunching up under your fabric when sewing

Interestingly, thread bunching is also known as the birds nesting syndrome.

And, indeed, it seems like this is one of the most annoying issues we can face while learning how to diagnose sewing machine problems.

Check if the bobbin is threaded the right way

Above all, by following the manual of our sewing machines, we can make sure the bobbin thread is fully and correctly engaged.

Inspect the bobbin case tension

In some cases, we may loosen the screws of the bobbin case in order to adjust it for working with thicker threads. Subsequently, we can forget to bring it back to the normal setting. As a result, problems with the tension can cause the thread to bunch up under the fabric.

Thread the needle thread accurately

Although threading the needle seems like an easy-peasy task, we want to make sure that the tension discs have fully grasped the thread. This can help stop or prevent fabric bird nesting.

Clean the sewing machine

In brief, the best way to stop and prevent stitching issues from ever happening is to dust, clean, and oil our sewing machines regularly.

#5 - Sewing Machine Needle Keeps Hitting the Metal Plate

Indeed, experiencing issues with the needle hitting the metal plate can feel very discouraging. However, that’s an important part of knowing how to diagnose sewing machine problems.

Inspect the bobbin case

Firstly, we need to make sure that the sewing machine is OFF. Next, we need to raise the needle and proceed with removing the needle plate cover.

Afterward, we can remove the bobbin case. Initially, we can inspect it for possible damage. If there are no visible issues such as scratches, for example, we can simply clean it thoroughly.

However, if we stumble across serious damage, we will have to replace the bobbin case.

Position the needle precisely

Surely, adjusting the needle bar is one of the most overlooked aspects of sewing. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of patience, an eye for detail, and practice in order to learn how to position the needle perfectly.

As a rule of thumb, we need to pay attention to the hook-needle clearance.

In short, the term hook-needle clearance means that the needle should penetrate fully from the center back to the front. What’s more, the needle should not touch the very point of the hook. Despite that, we need to position it as close to the hook as possible.

#6 - Fabric Not Feeding

Of course, learning how to diagnose sewing machine problems can’t happen overnight. Moreover, when fabric refuses to be fed, there is more than a single one-size-fits-all solution.

Check the stitch length

Typically, an incorrect stitch length that is too short can cause troubles with the fabric being fed properly.

Remove accumulated dust under the needle plate

Firstly, we need to remove the needle plate itself. Next, we want to clean the debris that blocks the teeth from rising up to a suitable height.

Adjust the presser foot pressure

For instance, if the fabric we are sewing is too heavy, we may need to increase the pressure by following the manufacturer’s instructions. In short, a presser foot that is set on too low can also lead to troubles with the fabric getting fed properly.

Inspect and adjust the feed teeth

For a start, we need to check if the feed teeth are well positioned. For this purpose, the feed dog has to be raised while sewing.

Next, we can examine the condition, as well as the positioning of the teeth. To illustrate this, worn out teeth can cause the fabric to slip. Meanwhile, we may have to adjust the teeth if they are uneven. Nevertheless, we may also have to replace them with new ones.

Last but not least, we can check if the needle plate is seated tightly. Besides, the thread might have just bundled up beneath the fabric.

#7 - Sewing Machine Needle Keeps Cutting Thread

Sewing machine needle keeps cutting thread

Above all, knowing how to diagnose sewing machines problems requires a healthy dose of patience and persistence. Because of this, it’s important to try out different possible solutions before giving up.

Similarly, if the needle keeps cutting the thread, we may need to go through several potential fixes.

Rethread the sewing machine

Although this one seems obvious, simply rethreading the machine and sticking strictly to the instructions in the manual can turn out to be the perfect solution.

Mind the thread tension

Indeed, high thread tension can cause the continual cutting of the thread. Therefore, we may need to adjust the settings.

Check out the needle for damage

For example, the needle can sometimes break or bend without us being able to notice this immediately. Therefore, we may need to replace the needle.

On another note, it’s a good idea to check if the needle is pushed all the way into the sewing machine.

Rewind the bobbin

As a rule of thumb, we want to check if we have wound the thread evenly first. Next, we need to examine the wounding of the bobbin and rewind if necessary.

Finally, we may be using low-quality thread. This can affect the process of sewing, leading to issues with the needle constantly cutting off the thread.

#8 - Seams are Puckered and Distorted

Seams are puckered and distorted

Although seam puckering can be quite bothersome, it’s mainly due to the fact that we need to adjust the tension back to normal.

Opt for high-quality thread

First of all, using high-quality thread can quickly resolve the issues we face when it comes to seam puckering. Also, it’s a good idea to apply low-friction lubricant.

Adjust the needle thread tension

Ultimately, we need to set the needle thread tension to the lowest setting available. What’s more, while reducing the thread tension, we also want to achieve a well-balanced stitch.

#9 - Sewing Machine is Skipping Stitches

Fortunately, the most common culprit behind this annoying issue is a bent needle. Thus, start by inspecting the condition of the needle and replace it if necessary.

Thread the sewing machine carefully

Also, when pulling the thread through the machine, it’s important to make sure the presser foot is up.

Match the thread and the needle

As a rule of thumb, we need to remember that each type of fabric requires using a needle of a suitable size. Opting for the right combination of thread and needle is also crucial to prevent and eliminate skipping stitches.

#10 - Bobbin Tension Not Consistent

Above all, when we start learning how to diagnose sewing machine problems, and specifically those related to bobbin fixes and maintenance, we need to be careful and precise.

Balance bobbin tension by the upper-tension assembly

Firstly, select the appropriate thread for the needle, as well as for the bobbin. Afterward, we can fill the bobbin. Next, it’s time to thread the machine.

Do a tiny test on the fabric to examine the stitches. Doing so can help us cope with inconsistent bobbin tension by balancing the sewing process through the upper-tension assembly.

However, this particular fix may prove to work only temporarily. Therefore, if the issues with bobbin tension persist, it’s important to know that plastic bobbin tensions tend to wear off very fast.

#11 - Seams in Stretch Fabrics Coming Out Wavy

Working with stretchy fabric can prove to be quite challenging. In fact, stretchy fabric is one of the top reasons we end up with wavy seams. However, there are several possible ways to deal with this issue.

Adjust the pressure on the presser foot

As a rule of thumb, the softer the fabric, the less pressure we need to apply in order to enjoy less stretching (and the resulting wavy seams). In short, we simply need to reduce the presser foot pressure by following the manual of the sewing machine.

Try working with a walking foot

In case we are using a regular sewing machine (and not a serger), a walking foot can greatly help to stop seams from becoming wavy. In a nutshell, a walking foot assists in feeding the fabric layers evenly.

#12 - Sewing Machine Seizes Up or Won’t Sew

Of course, when we don’t know how to diagnose sewing machine problems, dealing with a sewing machine that has abruptly seized up may seem like a nightmare. However, there are several possible solutions out there.

Turn off the power for 20 minutes

Many sewing machines will automatically seize up in order to prevent possible overheating. Thus, we can simply turn off the power of our sewing machines and let them cool down in order to start working again.

Adjust the bobbin winder

In short, a sewing machine will automatically stop working (or it simply won’t sew at all) if the bobbin winding mode is ON.

Adjust the foot control

Above all, we need to make sure that the foot control is completely free of obstruction. Surely, any obstruction can cause the sewing machine to seize up or refuse to start working.

Therefore, we need to check if we can press the foot control all the way down.

#13 - Needle Comes Unthreaded Before Sewing

If the needle keeps coming unthreaded, here are 8 simple and effective ways we can resolve the issue. These are achievable even if we are at the very beginning of learning how to diagnose sewing machine problems.

  • Thread the upper thread correctly
  • Reduce the upper thread tension
  • Remove any tangles from the thread
  • ​Install the needle the right way
  • ​Change the needle if it’s bent or broken
  • Check the bobbin case for possible damage, such as scratches, and replace it if necessary
  • Inspect if the spool cap is the right size
  • Double check if the spool cap is installed precisely

#14 - Sewing Machine Needle Holder Fell Off

Sewing machine needle holder fell off

First things first, we can check if the needle clamp assembly is properly set up according to the manual of our sewing machine.

Secure the needle clamp screw

For a start, it’s a good idea to tighten the socket set screw. Secondly, we can adjust and tighten the needle clamp screw by inserting a new needle first.

#15 - The Machine is Running, But the Needle Won’t Move Up and Down

Certainly, a motionless needle is probably one of the most overwhelming issues we can face when trying to learn how to sew.

Inspect the sewing machine for lint or thread jam

Firstly, we need to make sure the bobbin winder is off. Then, we can take out the thread and inspect it thoroughly for any possible jams. Next, we can proceed with cleaning the sewing machine carefully.

Tighten the hand clutch

Oil the sewing machine

Ultimately, we can oil our sewing machines after referring to the manual. In some cases, we may need to seek expert help in order to lubricate the sewing machine.

#16 - Fabric or Threads are Bunching at the Start or Ends of Seams

As a rule of thumb, dealing with fabric or threads that keep bunching at the ends of seams is essentially quite similar to the bird nesting syndrome we discussed above.

However, there are some additional options when it comes to possible solutions we can adapt while learning how to diagnose sewing machine problems.

Feed the thread up from the bobbin

We want to start by holding up to 4 inches of the thread behind the hole and the needle. Afterward, we need to keep holding the thread behind while making up to 4 stitches very slowly at the start of the seam.

Insert a new needle

Also, it’s a good idea to check if the needle is tightly secured all the way up in the clamp.

#17 - Thread Inconsistently Knots, Loosens, or Tangles

Another common issue we can face while mastering how to diagnose sewing machine problems is none other but a faulty thread.

Clean the sewing machine thoroughly

Above all, it is the nasty fluff which accumulates inside the sewing machine that is to blame for the inconsistent knotting, loosening, and/or tangling of the thread. Moreover, we should pay extra attention to the possible lint and dust build-up around the bobbin case.

As a rule of thumb, if this particular issue becomes persistent, we should address the tension and threading settings.

#18 - Thread Fraying, Shredding, and Breaking

Match the size of the needle and the thread

All in all, our best move is to check if the needle, as well as the thread, are fully compatible with our sewing project.

Next, we also need to make sure that the combination of both the needle and the thread is a suitable one.

#19 - Sewing Machine Needle not Catching the Bobbin Thread

Sewing machine needle not catching the bobbin thread

Certainly, this is one of the most common issues that sewing enthusiasts face when it comes to learning how to diagnose sewing machine problems.

Adjust the position of the needle, the bobbin, and the upper tension discs

Firstly, we can re-insert the needle. Afterward, we can proceed with checking if the bobbin is placed correctly. Finally, we want to thread the upper tension discs properly.

Push back the bobbin-winding spindle

Ultimately, if our bobbin-winding spindle is not in the right position, the needle will simply fail to pick up the bobbin thread.

#20 - Fabric Feed is Inconsistent

Surely, failing to produce even seams can be quite frustrating even for the most patient sewing enthusiast.

Most noteworthy, it is the feed dogs which are to blame. Therefore, if the solution below doesn’t work out, it may be high time to replace the worn out feed dogs with new ones.

Increase the pressure of the presser footer

It is the low pressure that causes the fabric to lose proper contact with the feed dogs, resulting in an inconsistent feed.

Clean the area around the feed dogs well

Then again, the nasty lint build-up can become a key factor for dealing with an inconsistent feed. Specifically, this tends to affect sewing machines that possess a drop-feed function.

#21 - Sewing Machine Needle Misaligned

As a rule of thumb, a misaligned needle is the culprit behind the sewing machine hitting the metal plate.

What’s more, a misaligned needle can further lead to problems with stitch tension, as well as proper stitch formation. Hence, we need to adjust the needle positioning very precisely (check out #5).

#22 - Decorative Stitch Settings are Not Working

 Decorative stitch settings are not working

The major reason behind issues with decorative stitches is the mismatch between the stitch length and width.

Thus, our best move is to check the manual of the sewing machine thoroughly. Next, we need to adjust the width and the length of the stitch accordingly.

#23 - How to Fix Sewing Machine Hook Timing

For a start, we need to remember that learning how to diagnose sewing machine problems can be very, very tricky.

Generally, fixing the sewing machine hook timing varies from one machine to another, so we must always follow the manual carefully.

However, before blaming all our issues on the hook timing and setting it up, it’s best that we check several key factors that are closely related to the production of even, consistent stitches.

  • Make sure the needle is straight
  • Mind the needle’s, as well as the thread’s compatibility with the fabric
  • Check if the needle is tightly screwed in

#24 - Sewing Machine Bending Needles

Similarly to dealing with a sewing machine that keeps breaking the needles, fixing issues with bent needles can put our patience to the test.

Fortunately, there is more than one solution that can help us learn how to diagnose sewing machine problems in the future, too.

Switch to needles of the highest quality

In short, the reason why the sewing machine keeps bending the needles can be closely related to their quality.

Oil and clean the sewing machine

Most importantly, we need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. Also, we want to check for the proper alignment of the throat plate.

Remove any pins away

Ultimately, if there are any pins holding the fabric before it goes under the foot, our needles will keep bending or breaking.

#25 - Bent or Broken Needles

Bent or broken needles

Indeed, bent or broken needles are among the most common issues we face while sewing. Of course, above all, we need to replace the damaged needles. However, this may prove to be challenging. Thus, below are 3 smart tricks.

  • Use a fine screw to push the damaged needle
  • Use another needle to push out the faulty needle
  • Take the broken or bent needle out with a magnet

Take the broken or bent needle out with a magnet

All in all, when dealing with bent or broken needles, we need to know how to act accordingly. We have compiled more solutions for this issue at #3 and #24 on this list.

The Bottom Line

Did we manage to help you out with our Troubleshooting 25 sewing machine problems and solutions guide? Indeed, we’d be happy to hear your tips, comments, questions, insights, or anything else that can contribute to the sewing enthusiasts’ community!

Finally, we believe that to share IS to care, so don’t hesitate to show this article some love and support.

After all, knowing how to diagnose sewing machine problems is not the biggest quest. On the contrary, it is having a neat cheat sheet of smart solutions that can make a true difference in our lives as sewing aficionados.

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