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Top 10 Sewing Machine Troubleshooting Tips

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It never fails.

Sewing machines act up ONLY when you are using them. (Kind of like finding things in the last place you look…)

But seriously, when a sewing machine acts up, what are the first things to check?

HERE are 10 most common trouble areas of a sewing machine:

1. Change the Needle
Needles are the easiest and cheapest part of a sewing machine to change yet is makes up 50% of seam. Without a new needle a sewing machine can not work correctly. End of discussion.

2. Clean the Machine
Sewing machines need weekly if not daily removable of lint and fluff from underneath the throat plate. First, remove the throat plate and bobbin case to expose areas that lint gathers. Using a brush or a Q-tip, remove all visible lint and dust bunnies. If the machine requires oil, add a drop of oil after cleaning. Do not use canned air. 

We found this FREE Craftsy class Sew Ready: Machine Basics with Amy Alan to be extra helpful for new sewers.

Don’t let broken needles or skipped stitches ruin your sewing! Learn how to fix common sewing machine problems in this free Craftsy class.

3. Check the Top Threading
If there are huge loops on the back of the fabric, the problem is that the top thread is not in the tension disks. Be sure to thread the machine with PURPOSE. No wimpy threading! Firmly seat the thread in each groove and guide of the machine. If the machine is not threaded correctly it will not sew.

4. Quality Thread
Sewing machines like good thread. How can you tell if thread is good? Thread that is from Grandma’s sewing box from the 1950’s is old. Thread that is 2/$1.00 is not great thread. Purchase thread from a quilt store or a store that sells sewing machines to be sure it is quality thread. Sewing machines can run on low quality thread, but remember, thread makes up the other 50% of the seam. Are you sure it’s going to hold together after a few washings? Don’t take the chance. Always use good quality thread. Your sewing machine will thank you and you will have less headaches.

5. Bobbin thread not in the bobbin tension 
The bobbin too has its own tension. If the bobbin thread is not in the its tension, the stitch will look unbalanced. Be sure the bobbin thread “clicks” into bobbin tension. 

6. Not having your machine cleaned annually
Just like cars, sewing machines need regular tune-ups. Having a local sewing machine center professionally clean your sewing machine will help with many troublesome issues. Sewing machine technicians know how to keep all those moving parts perfectly aligned for precision stitching. If you want your sewing machine to last, have it serviced on an annual basis.

7. Wrong bobbin
With so many different brands of sewing machines all taking a difference size of bobbin, it is easy to accidentally be using the wrong size. Just because a bobbin is plastic does not mean it will fit your sewing machine. If you are unsure if you are using the right size of bobbins for your machine, take the sewing machine to a local sewing machine service center. They will be happy to confirm that you are using the correct size. If you have not had your machine serviced within the last year or two, have them service it while it is there.

8. Needle not high enough
Sounds simple but not getting the needle all the way up into position will make stitches not form correctly. This problem is often hard to spot. Loosen the needle screw and gently lift the needle up. Another way to check is by using the built-in needle threader. If the needle threader does not line up with the needle’s eye, the needle is not high enough.

9. Needle too small for thread 
Thicker thread must go through a bigger needle. A needle’s groove down the front of the needle must fit the thread size. Small needles and thick thread are a bad combination. 

10. Nicks in the throat plate 
Check the sewing machine’s throat plate opening for needle strikes or small rough nicks. If you have been breaking needles lately, there may be small burrs on the throat plate. Thread can get caught on these rough areas which leads to thread breaks or uneven stitching. A sewing machine technician can usually file these rough spots out. 

These ten troubleshooting suggestions usually can fix the common sewing machine problems. Beyond these simple fixes it might be time to call a professional. Sewing machine service technicians are trained to spot common problems. They see sick machines every day.

If your sewing machine has reached the end of its life, say a short prayer and than SMILE…you get to go shopping for a NEW sewing machine!

Check out a variety of sewing machine and embroidery machine videos on SewingMastery to find which features are a must-have on your future machine.

93 Comments
  1. Pat says:

    Oh, how I wish SD and FL were closer together!

    You have the very most helpful and professionally run business I have EVER encountered. Even as far apart as we are, what all of you do and how you do it makes my sewing life grand. Thank you for accepting long distance students and customers.

    My Husqvarna and Ihave been promised a visit this coming summer. Crossed fingers.

  2. Kassandra says:

    I have broken every needle I have bought. I will double check for the hight and the burs, etc., but is it possible (as a serious novice) I bent or shifted something in the needle mechanism?

    1. Sara says:

      Hi, If you are breaking needles all the time it is time to have your local sewing machine service center realign your machine.

    2. Margie says:

      My Kenmore needle hits the presser foot at an angle which will break the needle. What’s up? Thank you

      1. Sara says:

        Hi Margie,

        If the needle is hitting the presser foot, that is not good. You will need to have your local sewing machine service technician help you. They can also tell you if it is worth fixing or not.

  3. Barbara says:

    I’m very new at this and I was trying to embroider a 100 x 100 hoop and a message popped up that said to be sure I had the right size hoop, which I did, and to make sure the hoop was in the machine, which it was. What can I do?

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Barbara, Can you tell us which brand and model of embroidery machine you are using? We are happy to help. Thanks, Sara

  4. jennifer says:

    I got issues..like its really giving me a hard time..my stitch keeps bobbing up thread at the back of my stitches… please what can I do?

    1. Sara says:

      Watch this video and see if this helps. All tension works the same on all machines so don’t mind that this is not your exact machine. Let us know if this helps. https://youtu.be/-JyoFweWGnw

  5. Busayo says:

    I have a new home machine I have been trying to fix it for sometimes now but it not yielding. It not making any stitches and sometimes it won’t pick up thread. Please can you help me with this

    1. Sara says:

      Sounds like it’s time to consult a professional. Contact a local sewing machine store in your area. Most stores can repair Janome/New Home sewing machines even if they do not sell the brand.

  6. Kaye Jackson says:

    The feed feet on my machine are not moving. How do I fix it. Thanks

    1. Sara says:

      You can check to make sure the stitch length is set to 2.0 or longer. Be sure all the lint is cleaned out beneath the throat plate and if this does not help, it is time to ask your local sewing machine store to check it out. We recommend annual full services on all sewing machines to keep them running smooth.

  7. Brooklyn Johnson says:

    Thank you for stating that you should make sure you’re using quality thread when sewing. My sewing machine has been having issues and I don’t know why. I will definitely keep all of your great tips and information in mind when trying to fix my sewing machine.

  8. Patricia says:

    When pressing my presser foot my sewing machine sometimes doesn’t go. What is going on, help.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Patricia,

      When foot pedals are not fully functioning, it is best to have a local sewing machine service center look at it. If you have not had your machine serviced within the past year, have them service the entire machine as well.

  9. Spring says:

    I just got a sewing machine and everything seems to work just fine except for my reverse stitch. I would push down the lever but it would just keep sewing forward.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi, This problem needs to be checked out by a local sewing machine service person. Thanks.

  10. Mrs S Storey says:

    Thank you I was having trouble with my sewing machine and I read all your advice and amazing results it’s now working. I had just put a new needle in, so made sure it was as high as possible and altered the tension like you said and hey presto. Thank you

    1. Sara says:

      You are welcome!

  11. Abby says:

    It will be sewing perfectly then it just balls up.

    1. Sara says:

      When this happens the thread is coming out of the TOP tension. It might be time for a cleaning at your local sewing machine service center. Those tension disks do get dirty over time and they need to be cleaned out.

  12. Brian Hardy says:

    My wife bought a new Brother sewing machine two years ago in a local promotion.
    To date, the machine has sewn exactly nothing. It appears to require a genius to make it sew properly.
    We have on many occasions jointly watched the manufacturer’s video and followed the recommended threading and tensioning procedures but without a single success.
    My wife is an extremely versatile lady, and I spent a lifetime as an engineer, but we both admit to being beaten by this unforgiving little beast.
    So Monday the metal fiend is off to the charity shop and we are back to our local, and very expensive, alterations lady.
    It seem that sewing is not for everyone.

  13. Ronnie says:

    When I’m sewing, if I hit the reverse button, it leaves giant bubbles in the fabric on the top part of the stitch, from the bobbin thread. My regular stitches have the bubbles but they aren’t as large. The stitches are loose enough that if I pull the thread, the top thread actually pulls out and the stich comes undone. I’ve changed needles, I’ve rethreaded and tried different thread in the bobbin…None of the settings have been touched as I sew the same things with the same types of fabric consistently. It just started doing this, as I’ve never had any issues before. I’ve cleaned it. I’ve oiled it. I’m out of ideas.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Ronnie, We do not have any extra insight into this problem for you. Please have the store you had it serviced at check it out for you.

  14. Myrtle berdin says:

    My machine has been stored away I got it out and it sounds like a new machine but it doesn’t have a needle in it will have to get one but the place where needle goes doesn’t move up and down is that because of no needle.

    1. Hi Myrtle, You will want to get that checked out by your local sewing machine service center.

  15. Catherine says:

    Sara. My needle is not picking the bobbin thread. What’s the reason for this and is there any solution for it.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Catherine,
      When a needle does not pick up a bobbin thread it can be a couple things:

      1. The needle is bent or is not high enough in the holder at the top.
      2. The bobbin area needs to cleaned out.
      3. The machines timing is off.

      If it is the third option, it is time for the machine to have a full cleaning.

  16. Doris says:

    Hi. Thread keeps winding the thread take up lever.🤨

    1. Sara says:

      This problem may need some professional help. Please contact your local sewing machine store for assistance.

  17. Marie says:

    Bonjour,
    Ma machine ne fais plus avancer le tissus, il reste sur place, est-ce que vous pourriez m’indiquer ce que je dois faire ?
    Merci à l’avance ! 😀

    1. Sara says:

      Assurez-vous que les dents d’alimentation sont en place. Nettoyez les peluches de dessous la plaque. Si la machine n’a pas été réparée au cours des deux dernières années, il est temps de procéder à un nettoyage professionnel.

  18. Leah says:

    Hi how i’m i supposed know that the machines timing is off

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Leah,

      If the needle can not bring up the bobbin thread when a stitch it taken, the time is off. Your local sewing machine store can help with this problem.

  19. Temmy says:

    Hi my machine the bobbin is not stay inside is used to make sound and it we see rougly

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Temmy,

      We are not sure exactly what is going on. It would be best to have a sewing machine store look at your machine.

  20. Sherry says:

    Hi,
    My question is what would cause my Viking 1100 to make a loud noise when I am sewing? It sews fine and I checked everything in your list. Cleaned it and it still makes a noise thar wasnt there before.Thank you.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Sherry,

      It sounds like it is time for a professional cleaning on your Viking 1100.

  21. Denise Greyling says:

    Hi
    Got me a brother nv800e embroidery machine but second hand, works perfect, but see there is a service sticth count and sticth count both have the same number. Wil the machine just stop working for tgd reason of the service stitch count
    Denise

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Denise,

      The machine will not stop working, it is just a gentle reminder to have the machine service on a regular basis. We recommend once a year.

      Sara Snuggerud

  22. Carrie D kostrubiec says:

    Hi Im trying to use my zigzag stitch and when I turn the dial the needle is staying in the same position the needle will not do the decorative stitches. Ive looked everywhere to find an answer…hope you can help. Its a singer simple sewing machine 2263 model Number Thanks

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Carrie,
      Double check that the stitch width dial (the one directly above the word “simple”) is turned to 5. If it is at 0 you will only get a straight stitch.

      Let us know if this helps,

      Sara

      1. DALANON WAYNE says:

        GOOD DAY MAM CAN I ASK FOR HELP BECAUSE THE OLD SEWING MACHINE NOT SEWING WELL … AND THE THREAD IS BEING CUT AND CUT UNTIL IT IS NOT FUNCTIONING WELL

        1. Sara says:

          We would recommend having your local sewing machine technician look at your machine. They will probably recommend having it cleaned and serviced.

  23. Lena says:

    my mini sewing machine is not stitching the two threads what should i do

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Lena,

      Double check that you have a new needle and quality thread. If you are still experiencing trouble, you may need to have a sewing machine store check it out for you.

      Sara

  24. Michael Harrison. says:

    My old singer will not take thread from the upper bobbin, After about 6 stitches after setting up the thread pulls out of the needle even when the tension is at a minimum. Timing is fine, I checked it.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Michael, Usually this means the machine needs to be serviced. If it is an old sewing machine you can choose if it is worth having it serviced or if its time just to buy a new one. You can try a different brand of thread and make sure it has a new needle in it.

      Let us know what you decide. 🙂

      Sara Snuggerud

  25. Carol says:

    I have an older New Home sewing machine. It is clean and I checked the 10 main problems and I think it is all fine. But I am unable to pull up the bobbin thread .What might the problem be?

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Carol,

      If you have checked everything, it is time to consult a professional. When the thread is not coming up the hook timing may be off. Hope this helps.

      Sara Snuggerud

  26. Barb G. says:

    Hi, I have a 2 month old Singer 2337 and last night it started messing up. I am making squares for a quilt and when I start sewing one the thread wants to tangle under it or it sews with a ruffle like affect that you and pull on the material and straighten it out and you can pull on one of the threads and it completly comes undone. Sorry I do not know if it is the top or bottom thread, I have rethreaded, changed needles and tension. I am using a straight stitch.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Barb,

      We would recommend watching a few of these free videos and see if you can discover what you are doing differently that is causing the problem. https://sewingmastery.com/singer-tradition-2277/

      Thanks,

      Sara Snuggerud

  27. Ceal says:

    I have a brother sewing machine. Have not put many hour on it. The wheel is hard to turn on it and the needle shakes when it goes up and down. Cleaned the machine but does the same thing. Any suggestions?

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Ceal,

      Sounds like it might need some internal lubrication. Your local sewing machine store can help you with this.

      Sara

  28. Bobbie says:

    Does anyone know why my needle won’t stay in when changing to a new one? The screw stays in just fine without the needle, but when the needle is inserted, it comes loose and falls out. This is a Luby brand for introducing this to kids, brand new.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Bobbie,

      This can happen when screws are over tightened. On a better quality sewing machine, it is worth getting fixed at your local sewing machine service center. On this particular machine, it is not worth fixing. If it is a brand new machine, see if you can return it. Sorry.

      Sara

  29. Frozenheart says:

    How can i fix my sewing machine?? Stiches are skipping in jersey fabrics..hope u can help me..ty..

    1. Sara says:

      Hi,

      Try a stretch needle.

  30. Faye Shelton says:

    Is it possible for a machine to pull the fabric to one side or the other? I feel I am always fighting to keep it feeding straight.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Faye,

      Yes, if the feed dogs are not aligned, the fabric will feed funny. Kind of like a car when the tires are not aligned. Please have your local sewing machine technician assist with this fix.

      Sara

  31. Anne says:

    Hello I am using singer 3337 and my bottom is loops. I did fix everything they say in the manual but it’s not working I try to retread and retread but it’s not working please help anything.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Anne,

      Please try our tension test…here is a video that will explain what that is: https://youtu.be/aSHBVStdTfQ

  32. Glenda M says:

    I used to teach classes for a Viking store. One of the tips I used was when inserting a new needle, use your fingernail to push until needle seats into the highest position. If you use a hard object to push, it can damage the needle tip. The fingernail is strong yet porous enough that it won’t damage the tip.

    1. Sara says:

      Thank you for adding an extra tip!

      Sara Snuggerud

  33. Merrie says:

    Old machine sewing fine but often top thread is doubling up and collecting under plate. No negative affect to project, just makes it hard to pull project off of machine when finishing hem and is a waste of thread (trying to conserve)

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Merrie,

      Thank you for asking. When sewing you must start and stop with the take-up lever at the top. That is the piece that goes up and down near the front of the machine. If you only raise the needle out of the fabric but do not finish the stitch you will see the doubling of the thread you describe. Continue to turn the handwheel toward you to bring the needle all the way up AND the take-up lever all the way to the top.

  34. Joann Hoy says:

    This is very helpful. However, I am having trouble with looping on the underside when sewing thickness changes. I am making masks and am using rounded elastic because flat was not available. The corners are a mess. Please help if you can.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Joann,

      When looping occurs on the back of the fabric it means the thread is not in the top tension. Try rethreading the machine. Also, if you are having to lift the foot to go over the thicker round elastic, make sure you are putting your presser foot down. This would also give you loops on the back of your fabric. Hope this helps!

      Sara

  35. Luly Davis says:

    Hi Sara,
    I am making surgical grade masks and suddenly my machine started making the loops on the back. I rethread, open and clean (Viking Diamond) and everything works better except now the Fix stitch doesn’t Fix. And if I do use it, the top thread is the only thread showing on the underside (I am using 2 different colors to source the problem), where it should be tacked down.

    I’ve also tried using the Vinyl fabric setting, changing needles. I can’t find anything addressing Fix stitch issues.
    Thank you for your assistance!
    Luly

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Luly,

      Make sure your machine is plugged into a surge protector or a battery backup…NOT THE WALL. Try this and see if it corrects itself after you turn the machine off and on.

      Sara Snuggerud

  36. Sharon Buke says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for all the troubleshooting tips.
    My sewing machine is not pulling and moving the fabric.
    Why?

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Sharon,

      If you share which machine brand you own and even send us a video of you trying to sew, we can try to help. Please send pictures/video to info@sewingmastery.com.

      Thanks,

      Sara Snuggerud

  37. Lola Marcial says:

    Hi I love my sewing machine it’s a brother gx37 n i went to use it today n the power cord is working cause the light goes on but when I press the petal to sew nothing happens at all what can k do I can’t afford a knee machine b I got this one this lady Christmas so it’s fairly new

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Lola,

      Just something to check…make sure the bobbin winder is not pushed over and engaged.

      Sara

  38. Margarita says:

    I have a Sanger 2662 and it won’t do any zigzag stitch at all I have tried cleaning, looking up videos and no singer 2662 please help. Thank you

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Margarita,

      Thank you for reaching out. It sounds like your machine’s timing might be off. Please contact a local sewing machine service center. They will be able to get it back stitching like new for you.

      Sara Snuggerud

  39. Nancy says:

    My friend has an older White sewing machine that only sews backward and not forward.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Nancy,

      Have your friend take her White sewing machine to her local sewing machine service center for a good cleaning. 🙂

  40. Simone says:

    My sewing masjien is not running the material thru it stays still

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Simone,

      Check to see if the feed dogs, the teeth that stick up through the throat plate are actually coming up and touching the fabric. If not, you may need a service person to adjust the feed dogs for you.

  41. Paramjeet kaur says:

    My machine is not working. It takes power supply n making sound źzzzz
    But not moving.
    I don’t know now what to do. Can you help me

    1. Sara says:

      Hi,

      Sounds like it needs to visit a local sewing machine service center. They will be able to help.

  42. John says:

    So I have a DRESSMAKER brand sewing machine w/ table used to be Grandma’s.
    I’ve never used it as I came into my home 3yrs. Ago. I jus started trying to use it today. But the front part where the needle is that moves up and down doesn’t seem to be working? The back where the belt is seems to run fine. The light works. The pushing hand pedal to make the machine turn on and off works. I did try opening the machine part in the front it looks pretty rusted I could say so I don’t know if that would be the issue???

    1. Sara says:

      Hi John,

      If you want to use this machine, please have it serviced at your local sewing machine service center. If you compare this sewing machine to a car that is vintage and has sat in a garage for 3 years, you know it needs a complete tune-up before it can be driven.

  43. Funmilayo Adedipe says:

    Pls need my sawing machine stop stitching pls what can I do.

    1. Sara says:

      Please contact a local sewing machine store for help.

  44. DORAS FASHION AFFAIRS 'N' MORE says:

    Good morning, my butterfly sewing machine needle didn’t pick thread from bobbin. What could be the cause, pls help

    1. Sara says:

      Hi,

      When the needle does not pick up the bobbin thread, the sewing machine timing is off. This is an adjustment a sewing machine technician can fix.

  45. Jenny says:

    Hi. I bought this FHSM-505 sewing machine last year. And it was working perfectly. But then i was sewing a denim and i think my needle or machine was not iquiped for it that i broke the needle and i heard a loud click. And since then my problems with it started. First it skipped stitches a lot and it the metal thing that moves up and down with the needle above the machine sometimes hits the corners of its slots making such a noise of metal hitting plastic whenever i sew but when i just turn the hand wheel it doesnt hit anymore. I got so frustrated that i hid it in my attic and 1 year later i picked it up again and tried troubleshoot fixes. I think i fixed the timing. The hook can finally pick up the bobbin thread. But when a fabric is actually placed when sewing it goes back to not getting picked up by the hook. Please help.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Jenny,

      A sewing machine service technician will be able to get everything back on track for you. We recommend you find a local sewing machine store for repair.

  46. Laura Semerano says:

    I have a problem with Viking #1 +
    embroidery unit. Top thread keeps breaking. I have checked everything. Thanks for any help!

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Laura,

      This sounds like it is time to have your machine serviced. If it has been over a year from your last service, please visit your local sewing machine service center for help.

      Thanks,

      Sara

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