Common Sewing Machine Problems & How To Fix Them

I can first hand relate to the rage that comes from a broken sewing machine. Birds nests, skipped stitches and stuck needles. I have experienced them all. In this post, I will share some common sewing machine problems and how to fix them. 

There is nothing worse than a sewing machine that’s unwilling to cooperate, especially when you urgently need it. 

Imagine you sit down to sew, and all you face is tangled threads, snapped needles, and skipped stitches. 

Try to remain calm and read on to find out the tips and tricks to fix common sewing machine problems. 

Tips for shopping for second hand sewing machines

Reach For Your Machine Manual And Re-thread Your Machine 

I have a confession. I was incorrectly threading my sewing machine for a good year before I realised. When I read through my manual, I realised I was skipping a step when threading the machine. 

Sewing machines are very temperamental. The slightest thing will cause tension issues that commonly cause stitch problems. 

Most people think their sewing machine has broken, when in fact, the thread was at fault. Take time to go through your sewing machine manual, and follow each threading step carefully. 

If you have lost your sewing machine manual, you can google your brand and machine model number to find a digital copy. 

common sewing machine problems and how to fix them.

Why Is My Sewing Machine Not Stitching? 

One of the most common sewing machine problems is that the machine starts to skip stitches. That means that it either skips one stitch at a time or multiple stitches together after the cloth has some perfectly done stitches. 

Stitch skipping is a problem you cannot ignore, as it weakens the cloth when the stitches are not made correctly in a row. If your sewing machine is not stitching, then you will have to re-do the entire process again, and that will take up a lot of time and energy. 

A common reason for a machine, not stitching could be that your needle might be slightly bent or become dull from constant use. Ensure you check your machine needles and install them correctly so that they are not bent or damaged. 

Are you using the correct size needle for your fabric? The size of your machine needle depends on the thickness of the fabric you are sewing. Lighter fabrics require smaller sewing needles, and heavier thicker require larger sewing needles. 

Also, use a good quality thread if your thread keeps on breaking during the stitching, as the high-quality sewing thread does make a visible difference. 

I always use Gutermann thread when sewing. The cheaper sewing sets you see in supermarkets and pound shops are only good for hand sewing. 

Gutermann thread. Common sewing machine problems and how to fix them.

Why is the thread bunching up when I sew? 

A thread bunching up is also referred to as a birds nest as the tangled sewing thread looks like a bird’s nest. It occurs when the sewing thread bunches up either on the upper or the lower side of your fabric. Birds nests happen when the stitches made are not in a perfect balance with each other. 

Check whether you have threaded the upper thread correctly in the required position or if the take-up lever is in the uppermost position when you start sewing. 

Ensure that your bobbin is correctly threaded and the bobbin case is not too loose, and adjust it for a regular thread while closing the space for thicker sewing threads. 

Double-check if the presser foot is down, as most of us forget about the presser foot after putting it down. 

Also, try not to stitch too many layers of cloth or a heavy fabric as your sewing machine may not suitable for multiple layers or thicker fabrics like leather. 

How Do You Fix A Sewing Machine That Keeps Jamming?

How Do You Fix A Sewing Machine That Keeps Jamming? 

The reason why your sewing machine keeps on jamming is likely because there is a huge mess of tangled threads in the bobbin that is beneath the fabric.

Another reason why your sewing machine keeps on jamming could be because your tension is too tight or loose. You need to adjust the machine tension according to the requirement or manually according to the type of fabric you’re stitching, the needle and thread type and size. 

If your sewing machine has become clogged due to dust or debris, the best solution for that could be to clear out any particles from your sewing machine. To ensure that your sewing machine doesn’t get clogged in the future, clean and oil your machine monthly so it can keep functioning without a pause. 

Often the needle is deformed or broken, which is why the sewing machine jams suddenly. Inspect your machine needles for any breakage and if you find any, immediately replace it with a new one. 

Check the sewing machine for insufficient tension in the upper thread and if you come across any, then lift the presser foot and thread your needle again. 

How To Fix Bobbin Thread Bunching.

How To Fix Bobbin Thread Bunching & Other Threading Sewing Machine Problems

It can be frustrating when you’re in the middle of stitching something, but your thread gets stuck or bunches up and refuses to cooperate at all. 

What to do when your sewing machine will not sew? 

Examine the bobbin 

In some cases, the bobbin might be at fault as it could be out of alignment, which means you would have to replace it. Check whether it has been threaded correctly and inserted in the bobbin case like it should have been. Check for any tiny threads jammed in the bobbin casing.  

Maintain your sewing machine

Carry out machine maintenance every month, depending on your use, to check if any thread is stuck underneath or any needle needs replacement. Check for dust and remove any particles or dirt inside the machine to keep it running smoothly. 

Use good quality sewing thread 

The thread you’re using for your fabrics and sewing should be of the same weight, whether placed on the top or bottom. Use fine quality sewing thread, so it doesn’t break in between stitches, and remember to keep your presser foot up when you thread. 

What Tension Should My Sewing Machine Be On? 

A tension, or more precisely known as thread tension, is the amount of space available for the thread to pass in a sewing machine to make a perfect stitch. If a stitch has less thread, it is tighter, and if it has more thread, it becomes looser. 

The tension dial has total numbers between 0 to 9, and 4.5 is considered a standard or default setting. 4.5 is a setting that is suitable for all clothes and materials until specified. Sewing machine tension settings can vary between different clothes. For example, if you’re setting a machine tension for cotton, it will be between 4 to 5. Similarly, if you’re adjusting the machine tension for a lightweight fabric like silk and chiffon, the ideal machine tension would be 5. 

I rarely have to adjust my thread tension on my machine. However, when changing the thread tension, be aware of is the basics. The thread placed on the top and the bottom, should both be in perfect symmetry without creating any bumps or loops on the fabric. 

When All Else Fails With Your Sewing Machine Problems

If you have re-threaded, cleaned and adjusted tension dials to no avail, it may be time for a repair. As I said earlier, sewing machines are temperamental. There may be something tiny caught inside or a bent part causing your sewing machine to malfunction. 

When all else fails, reach out to your local sewing machine repair shop and arrange a repair and a service. An experienced professional will be able to get your perfect stitches back, so you can get back creating!

Learn to sew online Ireland

Are you new to sewing? Want to learn how to sew from the comfort of your home?

Click here, and learn about my online beginner sewing course. Join the SewBegin community and learn how to master the basics of machine sewing. Grow your confidence, and get creating! 

I hope you found this post helpful. Please share with your community on social media, and have fun sewing! Thanks for reading, Catherine. 



  1. Elaine
    May 14, 2024 / 4:06 pm

    Hi Catherine, I’ve been all through your helpful tips, I’ve cleaned my machine, adjusted my tention, and countless other things. I have a new brother innov-is f420, it’s about 2 months new, but for some reason my bobbin thread has started to bunch up at the start and end on the baccktacks. Do you have any advice for me.
    Yours hopefully.

  2. January 15, 2024 / 12:21 pm

    These are so helpful tips on common sewing machine issues.

  3. December 5, 2022 / 9:44 am

    Hi Catherine! Thank you … this blog was so helpful – and very timely for me.

  4. daintydressdiaries
    April 10, 2022 / 8:49 am

    Hi Jem, thanks for commenting. I agree, I had to do beginner sewing classes when I started as the terminology is overwhelming. I do have an online beginner’s sewing course. Also, I have a free sewing playlist on my YouTube channel.

  5. Jem
    April 9, 2022 / 3:35 pm

    Hi Catherine!

    I’ve owned a sewing machine for about a year now and I’ve researched so much to try fix my sewing – everything gets caught up in the bobbin. Turns out it was just the tension! I think its really hard for a beginner to jump in and try to sew when theres so much information out there and its rarely off the bat beginner friendly. Often times it feels like i need to take a class to learn the basics everyone seems to skip over! You’ve just put me one step forward! I can’t wait to stalk your YouTube and blog to find my next step!

    Kind regards xx

  6. daintydressdiaries
    April 6, 2021 / 9:37 pm

    Hiya, Chloe, yes, I can pop a video like this in the course! Thanks for signing up, each out to me on email if you get stuck x

  7. daintydressdiaries
    April 6, 2021 / 9:37 pm

    Yes, practise on scrap fabric until you are feeling more confident. You could use some old pillow cases to try and make a cushion, that is an easy project to try x

  8. Chloe
    April 6, 2021 / 7:21 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m new to sewing and have signed up to your course 🪡- so excited to see what I can create! Would you consider making this post into a video format for your YouTube channel? Completely understand if not! Thanks again, Chloe x

  9. Jo
    April 6, 2021 / 5:59 pm

    Hi Catherine! Thank you … this blog was so helpful – and very timely for me. I’m sure I’m going to be referring back to it in the future. I’m very familiar with those awful birds nests, which then of course lead to my machine jamming. When this happens I get in a lot of practice using words that I can’t type here! In an attempt to avoid the cost of a repair, I got out my manual last week and slowly re-read it front to back. After making sure all the little nooks and crannies are dust free and clean, I’ve decided that I’m going to practice threading my machine and then sewing on some scrap fabric over and over until I feel confident I’m doing it all correctly. All it takes is one tiny threading misstep and your machine won’t hesitate to let you know it’s unhappy. I do feel better knowing I’m not the only person this happens to!

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