Woman hands sewing with a sewing machine

Easy Fixes For 10 Common Sewing Machine Problems

Sewing machines are great and, if you have invested in a durable one, it can last you for a long time. However, even the best sewing machines run into problems from time to time.

There are many sewing machine problems, some of your own design, and some that naturally occur. No matter what the problem is, it can cause much frustration.

With so many moving parts, and intricate machinery, a complication will eventually rise, and you will have to fix it. Thankfully, you can repair most sewing machine problems all by yourself.

In This Article

Common Sewing Machine Problems And How To Fix Them

Leave your sewing machine in the cupboard, and you’ll probably never have to fix it. But, the more you use it, the more likely something will go wrong.

Related: Your Complete Guide To Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance

You do not want to have to stop sewing, nor do you want to have to take your sewing machine to the repair shop. Most problems can be fixed in your own home in a matter of minutes.

1. Knots of thread on the underside of your sewing

If you’ve ever used a sewing machine, you’ve ended up with knots on the underside of your sewing. This common problem can be frustrating and halts your sewing project temporarily, but it can be rectified easily.

The first thing to do is to remove your sewing by cutting it away. Avoid tugging on your project, or you risk damaging the machine and your fabric.

Remove all of the cut thread, and grab a piece of scrap fabric to use in your troubleshooting. After each step, sew on the scrap fabric to find if the issue has been solved.

You are ready to identify the problem:

  • Remove the top thread from the machine and rethread it. If you are new to sewing or are using a new machine, you may have to consult the manual. Keep the presser foot raised while you are rethreading as the tension can be locked when the presser foot is down, and this can make rethreading difficult.
  • Next, try the bobbin. Remove it and rethread it just as you did with the top thread, consulting the manual if you need to. Pay strict attention to the way that the bobbin is wound.
  • Check that the top thread and the bobbin thread matches. If the threads are different weights, then that can commonly lead to knots and tangles. Switch one of the threads out and try sewing on your scrap of fabric.
  • Have you changed the tension setting? If you have recently moved from one thickness of fabric to another, you may have forgotten to change the tension setting. Adjust the setting and try sewing on your scrap of fabric before returning to your project.

2. Needles keep breaking or bending

Another common problem that can be extremely annoying; not to mention dangerous. Not only can a snapped needle put you in danger, but it is also extremely annoying when you are in the middle of a large project.

Thankfully, this simple problem is easily avoided. If you use a new needle for every sewing project, not only will the project be smoother, but you will be less likely to break your needle. A sharp needle will prevent your fabric from becoming damaged.

You should also check that you are using the correct needle; different fabrics need different needles.

If your needle does break or bend when you are in the middle of a project, stop immediately.

When using a sewing machine, you should know how to replace a sewing machine needle. First, remove the broken needle and place it, and any other pieces, in a sealed container to be disposed of later. Replace the needle with the correct type for the sewing project, and rethread your machine.

If needles continue to break, then you may have a mechanical problem, and you should consult a professional for repair.

Learn the different reasons why your needles keep breaking
How to change or replace the needle on your sewing machine

3. Thread keeps breaking or shredding

Threads are going to break, it is just something that happens, but it should not happen all of the time. If your thread is always breaking, or if it constantly shreds and jams your machine, then stop and check the following:

  • Take a look at the thread spool. There is a nick or notch in the spool that secures the end of the thread. Try moving the thread so that it feeds off of the spool in a different direction.
  • What about the thread? Is it old? Is it cheap? If you answer yes to either of those questions, you may have to invest in some better thread.
  • How about the needle? If it has become blunt by sewing over any pins or through repeated use on heavy fabrics, it can ruin the thread. A blunt or broken needle can cause breaks and shredding. Check the needle and switch it out for a new one if needed.

If your thread still continues to break, the give the sewing machine a light clean, paying particular attention to the bobbin area and tension disks. Check the thread by running your fingers along the length of it from spool to needle. Remove anything that could be causing it to fray or break.

Common causes for thread breaking and how to fix them

4. The thread is getting tangled

The thread bunching up and coming tangled is extremely common and can be fixed easily. The most common cause of the problem is the machine being improperly threaded. It does not matter which side the tangle comes from, it could be caused by either thread.

This is one of the easier sewing machine problems to fix, and rethreading the machine will usually do the job. Remove all of the thread and rethread the sewing machine, consulting the manual if needed.

Ensure that you keep the presser foot raised when rethreading your machine. If the presser foot is down, it can create more tension in the tension disks, and prevent the thread from being threaded correctly.

Learn how to fix a caught thread in your machine

5. Fabric feeding problems

There are a few things that can cause feeding problems, and most can be fixed in a minute or so. If you are free-motion sewing, then make sure that your settings are correct. Some machines are set to lower the feed dog, and you do not need that when sewing freehand. This is your first stop in troubleshooting the problem.

When using your machine for regular sewing jobs, the feed dogs will move your fabric. Check to see if the feed dogs are actually doing this, you may have set the machine to lower them. If that is the issue, return them to their correct setting, and continue with your project.

If there is still a problem, remove the throat plate and clean out all of the dust and dirt. Once done, oil the machine, especially the part around the feed dogs, consulting the manual to ensure that you do it correctly.

If all else fails, troubleshoot your sewing machine problems by consulting the appropriate section in your manual.

Learn how to clean dirty feed dogs

6. Stitches are getting skipped

Skipped stitches are an annoying problem, but usually one with easy fixes.

The most common reason for this issue is using the wrong type of needle for the fabric that you are using. Consult your manual to ensure that you are using the right needle for the project that you are working on.

If you are using the correct needle, but find that you are still skipping stitches, or having to switch the needle frequently, then it could be the way that the fabric is fed through the machine. Make sure that you are letting the machine feed the fabric, and you are not forcing it through.

Forcing the fabric through the machine can also cause your needle to bend slightly, and that can cause even more skipped stitches. Replace the needle if you think that this might be the case, and you will likely overcome the issue.

7. Loopy knotted threads

Sometimes your thread starts to loop as you are sewing, and that creates a giant mess of knots and loops. Too much, and it can jam up your machine, and it can be a nightmare to cut away from your fabric.

The only thing that you can do here is to remove the knots (a seam ripper will do this efficiently) and try again. More often than not, it is due to feeding the fabric. Look for an even feed, and you should not have problems anymore.

8. Tension problems

If your sewing machine seems a little off, the tension may be to blame. This is a hard problem to pinpoint and comes with experience; you can just feel that something is wrong. This is also the reason why the presser foot should be up when you are threading your machine.

The most common problem created by the wrong tension is uneven stitches on the front and back of your fabric. If you suspect that the tension is wrong, then the manual is your best friend. Check your manual and follow the directions contained there on how to fix the tension on a sewing machine.

Learn how to adjust the tension on your sewing machine

9. Jammed sewing machine

A jammed sewing machine is one of the most common problems that you will come across.

Knowing how to fix a sewing machine jam always starts with removing your fabric. This should be done gently, and you should cut away the threads before you pull the fabric from the machine.

Next, remove any jammed thread, removing the bobbin and throat plate if needed, along with any other parts that are included in the jam.

Check the needle, rethread the machine, and you should be good to go again. If you continue to have jams, you may need to take it to a repair shop.

Simple and advanced techniques for clearing a jammed sewing machine

10. Sewing machine is making clunking, banging, or grinding noises

A noisy sewing machine can be worrying, and you might be tempted to take it in for repair, but the solution can often be simple, and you can do it yourself.

Mild warning! If you ever hear unusual noises coming from your machine, always stop sewing immediately. Continued use can cause the problem to become worse, and you might need to seek professional help (for the machine, that is).

Usually, a weird noise means that something is jammed, stuck, or rubbing. The best place to start is to clean your machine (unless it was cleaned recently). You can oil it too. Consult the manual for proper cleaning and oiling techniques.

If this does not solve the problem, then look for any obvious problems. Is the needle rubbing? Is the bobbin stuck? Remove and replace any parts that could be causing an issue and try again. If all else fails, take it in for repair.

When To Call A Professional

We did say that most problems can be fixed at home, but there does come a time when a professional may be needed. So, when should you make that call?

If you have tried all that you can to fix your machine, then a professional is probably your only hope. Take the hit, pay a little, and get back to sewing in no time.

Some problems really do need a professional touch:

  • Damaged feed dogs
  • The timing
  • A faulty motor
  • Wiring
  • Replacement parts

If you have invested in a high-quality sewing machine, then it is worth paying to have it fixed.

Do a quick Google search to find a sewing machine repair service near you.

Fixing a sewing machine can be easy, but can also require professional help. Before you even start using a sewing machine, we recommend having a thorough read through the manual, especially the troubleshooting guide.

If you know your machine inside and out, then you can better diagnose problems and rectify them.

Knowing where everything should go, and how all the parts are supposed to work, will help you to identify issues, and have you back to your projects in no time.

Your sewing machine will have a manual with it (or you will have access to an online one). If you have misplaced the manual, or do not know where to find it online, then a quick search will help you to locate it. Here are some of the most common sewing machine manuals and troubleshooting guides:


Manuals: https://www.singer.com/manuals
Troubleshooting: https://www.singer.com/troubleshooting-tips


Manuals: https://www.janome.com/support/manuals/
Official forum: https://www.janome.com/support/janome-forum/


Manuals, FAQ & Troubleshooting: https://support.brother.com/g/b/productseries.aspx?c=us&lang=en&pcatid=36
Support page: https://sewingcraft.brother.eu/en/support

Husqvarna / Viking

Manuals: https://manuals.husqvarnaviking.com/
Support page: https://www.husqvarnaviking.com/support


Manuals & Support: https://www.bernina.com/en-US/Support-US/Out-of-Print-Manuals/BERNINA-manuals
FAQ: https://www.bernina.com/en-US/Support-US/FAQ


Manuals, Support & FAQ: https://www.pfaff.com/en-US/Support-and-Updates/Support


Manuals: https://www.jukihome.com/products/sewing/computerized-sewing.html and https://www.jukihome.com/products/sewing/mechanical-semi-professional-sewing.html

Wrapping Up

A high-quality or a heavy-duty sewing machine can help you do a lot, from mending holes in fabric, to creating your own clothes, to quilting. You want to protect your investment, and continue with your projects, and that starts by knowing your machine.

Read the manual and understand how your machine works. Having that information at your disposal, and knowing how to fix common problems will save you time and money. Time and money that can be better invested in all the projects that you want to do.

Next time your sewing machine has a problem, fix it yourself, and finish that project.

Andrea Soke

Andrea has a background in economics and finance, but she's also passionate about gardening, sustainable living, and finding new ways to maintain a clean and orderly home. She believes in quality over quantity.

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