If You Own a Sewing Machine, DO NOT DO THIS!

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What happens when unattended thread is left next to a sewing machine’s hand wheel? 

It gets sucked in!

Photo provided by Heirloom Creations, Sioux Falls, SD

The first time I RESCUED a sewing machine all by myself was at a sewing retreat around 10pm at night. One attendee reported that her machine was starting to run hard. 

“It feels like it’s dragging”

With some careful prying we were able to detach the hand wheel and start the endless process of slicing all the thread from mechanism. This particular sewing machine purred safely through the rest of the weekend thanks to it’s owners removal of all unused thread from anywhere near the sewing machine. 

Photo provided by Jessica from Red Roxy, Bernina retailer in Decorah IA



This is an easily avoidable issue. But this is almost a normal occurrence to sewing machine technicians when they open up sewing machines for service. They find thread, and sometimes more than one color, wrapped around the hand wheel. 


Storing bobbins on an empty spool pin is an open invitation for disaster!  

Once a loose end of thread gets sucked in, if left unnoticed, it will continue to wrap and wrap until bad things happen or the spool itself runs out. If this happens you might not even know this has even occurred. You just think to yourself, “Hum, I thought I had a full spool of thread sitting there?”

Photo provided by Bernina of Oklahoma City

When thread is left unattended, the spinning AND the sucking power of a sewing machine hand wheel is MORE than you realize. It takes only the slight dangle of a thread and once it is caught in the spin, it keeps going until one of three things happen: 

Photo provided by Bernina of Oklahoma City
  1. The spool of thread or bobbin runs out. 
  2. The hand wheel is so full of thread that is prevents the wheel from turning and starts burning up the motor. 
  3. The thread starts wearing through the moving parts within the hand wheel area. (Not good).

I took one look at her machine and saw the problem. In preparation of a long weekend of sewing, she had pre-wound extra bobbins full of Aurifil 50 weight bobbin thread. If you use Aurifil 50 weight thread you know how many EXTRA yards of thread will fill a bobbin full. One bobbin was completely empty and the sewing machine had already started eating through the second one!

Photo provided by Heirloom Creations, Sioux Falls, SD

If this senerio happens while embroidering, that extra spool of thread will be gone even quicker. If you have a 10-20 minute color area to embroider, the machine is not going to stop anytime soon. The machine is running also running at FULL SPEED allowing the hand wheel to fill up even quicker. If you are in the habit of walking away from an embroidery machine to work on other projects, this tangling problem could get out of hand quickly.

Just – don’t ask…

This mess of thread ended up behind this machine’s screen. Don’t ask.
Photo provided by Jessica from Red Roxy, Bernina retailer in Decorah IA

We love thread stands – BUT BE CAREFUL!

You must use thread stands responsibly. 

If you use a built-in thread stand or one beside the sewing machine to handle large cones, metallic thread or clear threads, be sure to not leave any thread dangling in mid air. This is yet another silent killer of sewing machines!

Do You Own a Serger?

Having a serger sitting too close to a right of the sewing machine can also feed this “thread eating machine”. We have seen serger threads that were also left unattached, hanging from the serger’s thread stand be drawn into a sewing machine’s hand wheel. Once again showing us how much suction that hand wheel produces while you so innocently stitch. 

Photo provided by Bernina of Oklahoma City

So take some time and clear all non-currently being used thread from your sewing area and promise your sewing machine you will protect it to the best of your ability.

Your sewing machine thanks you and your local sewing machine technicians thank you too!

  1. RRH says:

    Thank you! Would never imagine this way of winding up my machines. The photos are so much easier to understand than jus being told never ever do this…

  2. Marsha Ruff says:

    Yikes! Thanks for the reminder. Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a pound of thread knots!

  3. QuiltrKate says:

    Been there, done that. I’m more careful now. Thanks for the explanation of how it happens!

  4. Susan says:

    Oh wow, I would have never thought of such a thing happening. Thank you for the warning. You can bet I will be super careful to avoid this ever occuring.

  5. Nyssa Lanzafame says:

    What is the best way to remove the hand wheel cover? TIA!

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Nyssa,

      It depends on the machine. We usually let a service technician do this. 😉

      Sara Snuggerud

  6. Soni says:

    Makes me want to take my hand wheel off & look.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Soni,

      Why not! LOL

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