Quick sewing machine troubleshooting! Some people just love lists: shopping lists, to-do lists, event lists and checklists. All good ideas and helpful ways to keep your life organized! Getting a list of sewing machine troubleshooting ideas and tips is a great way to save time when something goes wrong.
Sewing Machine Troubleshooting - Solutions
Regardless of the sewing machine troubleshooting problem, most sewing issues can be traced back to one of the following causes listed in this article. It is always best to start at the beginning and eliminate each issue one by one.
If you have a specific problem, these individual articles may help you otherwise this article will give you lots of tips for things to check.
More Troubleshooting Articles:
- Sewing Needle Keeps Breaking
- How to Clean a Sewing Machine
- Sewing Machine Thread Keeps Breaking
- Sewing Machine Skipping Stitches
- Seam Puckering when Sewing
- Sewing Machine Manuals
- Sewing Safety Tips for Beginners
- Sewing Machine Troubleshooting
- Sewing Machine Tension
- How to Thread a Sewing Machine
Before you Start Sewing Machine Troubleshooting
Before you start, grab your sewing machine manual and if you haven't got one, then try and download one. Most will have a troubleshooting section in the back. They are generally quite brief but at least it will give you somewhere to start.
Now before you start the sewing machine troubleshooting, just make sure that the problem is on all fabrics. If the problem is just on the fabric you are sewing then you probably just need some fabric tips instead.
Here are some common fabric solutions for sewing machine troubleshooting listed alphabetically:
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET Sewing Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool
If the sewing machine troubleshooting problem is on all fabrics then continue reading below.
Sewing Machine Troubleshooting & Solutions
Problem 1 - When There is No Power
If your machine doesn't even turn on, then check everything is plugged in correctly and switched on at the wall. Also, check if perhaps the power is actually on, but the bulb has blown, meaning the machine looks like it is off when it is not.
Power issues mean a trip straight to a sewing machine technician as you should never attempt electrical work yourself.
Problem 2 - The Tension is Out
If your machine is not sewing nicely or is sounding strange, your tension may be too tight or too loose. Test a scrap of fabric and see if the upper and lower threads are both even and uniformly formed. If either the top or bottom thread is loopy, you will need to adjust the tension.
This diagram should help you visualize the tension a little better for sewing machine troubleshooting.
- Upper thread and bobbin thread are balanced - no adjustment needed
- Upper thread too loose or bobbin too tight - increase tension (higher number)
- Upper thread too tight or bobbin too loose - decrease tension (lower number)
When sewing machine troubleshooting, make any tension adjustments slowly until you get it right. Big turns of your tension dial can cause more problems or new problems. Read my full article on sewing machine tension
Problem 3 - Troubleshooting Needles
Check for bent, blunt or broken needles. If your needle is not in perfect condition, it can cause skipped stitches and needles to break. Also, ensure you are using the correct type of needles for the fabric and in the correct size. For example, knit fabrics need to be sewn with stretch needles, otherwise, you will have skipped stitches. Read my full article on needle sizes and uses.
Make sure the needle is inserted correctly. The flat part of the needle should be facing towards the back of the machine and the screw should be tight.
Here are just a few needle weights and types.
|FABRIC WEIGHT||SEWING NEEDLE SIZE|
|Very Fine||8/60, 9/65, 10/70|
|FABRIC TYPE||MACHINE NEEDLE TYPE|
|Knits/Stretch||Stretch or Jersey Needle|
|Denim||Denim or Jeans Needle|
Problem 4 - Troubleshooting Threads
Next on our list of sewing machine troubleshooting, is to check the thread used in the top spool and bobbin.
Don't use cheap threads that may break or run through the tension disks unevenly. Also check if your thread is knotted, twisted or caught. The thread may be twisted and caught around the bottom of the top spool.
Did you know that there are different types of threads for different fabrics and purposes? Make sure your thread matches your fabric. Most items will be sewn successfully with a poly/cotton blend thread. Read my full article on sewing thread types to match your fabric and thread type.
Problem 5 - Troubleshooting Dust and Dirt
A dirty machine cannot function at its best so start cleaning first when sewing machine troubleshooting. Ensure the power is turned off and the cord removed before you start. Don't forget the bobbin case and tension disks as this is a common spot for thread tangles and clumps of fluff.
Read my full article on how to clean a sewing machine. In a nutshell:
- Unplug the machine. Safety first!
- Refer to the manual as it will have cleaning and oiling points marked.
- Brush lint from the machine. This includes the upper machine and inside the bobbin case. Use a stiff brush either from a sewing machine shop or an art shop. Never use canned air or blow as it can put moisture into the mechanics of the machine and cause rust.
- Most modern machines don't require oil but if yours does, follow the manual carefully. Use a sewing machine oil only and always clean any excess. Always test a scrap of fabric first before sewing your good fabric in case some oil has been left behind.
- Clean the exterior metal or plastic with a soft cloth that won't scratch.
Problem 6 -Threading Issues
Even if your machine looks correctly threaded, rethread it now. Don't forget to rethread the bobbin at the same time and make sure the thread goes through the tension groove! Often if I just rethread the top without doing the bobbin as well, the problem persists. When threading your machine make sure the needle is in its highest position. The thread needs to go securely through the tension disks. Read my full article on how to thread a sewing machine.
Problem 7 - Troubleshooting Bobbins
When sewing machine troubleshooting, take a look at the bobbin. Is it wound correctly? The thread should be wound evenly and tightly around the bobbin. If you have a couple of bobbins, try using a new one and see if the problem persists. I mentioned it in the point above, but make sure the bobbin is threaded correctly through its tension groove and joined to the top thread correctly. Read my full article on how to wind a bobbin.
Problem 8 - Machine Not Moving
If the machine is switched on but needle is not moving at all, check the bobbin winder is not engaged. The bobbin winder on the top of the machine should be pushed to the left. Many machines also have a clutch disengage which is used for winding bobbins. Check that also.
If little fingers have been playing with the buttons on your machine, you may have to reset this. Or maybe you just forgot to switch it back across after bobbin winding.
Problem 9 - Troubleshoot Stitch Type
When doing sewing machine troubleshooting, check all the stitch dials. Is the stitch type correct, and is the setting locked in and not halfway between two settings? Is the stitch length and width correct? When troubleshooting, it is best to have your settings on a straight stitch and test a scrap of fabric.
Problem 10 - Troubleshooting Throat Plate
If your throat plate has been nicked by you sewing over a pin it will snag the bobbin thread and cause tension problems. Your sewing may look all uneven and certain sections may look caught and looped. New throat plates are inexpensive and readily available from most dealers. This is a commonly overlooked sewing machine troubleshooting item. I sew a lot and probably need a new throat plate every year or so. Sewing thicker fabrics like leather tend to cause this problem a lot as you are likely to break more needles and cause damage to the throat plate.
Problem 11 - Seams Puckering
Puckered seams can be caused by incorrect tension, needles and threads all of which we have covered above. But they can also be caused by using the wrong sewing machine foot. Some fabrics drag underneath a regular foot and this may be helped by using either a walking foot or a Teflon foot. Fabrics that particularly benefit from using these specialty feet include stretch and leather.
If your seams are still puckering, try a narrow zig-zag stitch. It is common to need to use this stitch for stretch and tulle.
Problem 12 - Loud Noises
If strange or loud noises are coming from your machine, then stop sewing immediately. You don't want to force anything and make the problem worse. Do some basic sewing machine troubleshooting including changing needles, thread, rethreading top, and bobbin, and try sewing again on a scrap of fabric. If it is still making strange noises then you are best to take the machine to a repair shop to be safest.
Problem 13 - Fabric Getting Caught in the Dog Feed
Fabric at the ends of a seam can get all bunched up and puckered. This is often due to backstitching or sewing too close to the end. Instead of backstitching, try using a small stitch length such as 1.0 at the ends. You can increase to a normal length after a few stitches. A walking foot can also help.
Sewing Machine Troubleshooting - In Conclusion
A trusty list is a good resource to fall back on and save time for more creative ideas. Keeping your list close by enables you to add to it as you go along and build up your own personal guide to sewing machine troubleshooting.
Sew...Keep your list by your side and your sewing machine in top condition, you will be a force to be reckoned with!
Call a technician! Sometimes it is not you - your machine just needs help and a tune-up.