Common Sewing Machine Problems and Remedies

Last Updated on 28/12/2020

Common Sewing Machine Problems and Remedies

R.S. Balakumar
Associate Professor
Dept of Fashion Design & Arts
Hindustan University, Chennai, India


The student needs to understand the common problems of sewing machine that may be there while sewing and should be able to rectify these as they are common and irritating and slow down the sewing process. A person operating the machine should be able to rectify these sewing machine problems and solve the problems.

Sewing machine and its parts
Fig: Sewing machine and its parts

Sewing machine problems occurred in the following elements and remedies:


1. Does not wind: Make sure the thread is wrapped around the bobbin in proper direction. Check to see if bobbin has been placed properly in the winder. The rubber ring might be worn out and needs to be replaced.

2. Winds unevenly: The thread may not be inserted in the thread guide. You may be running the machine too fast. The tension spring may need adjustment.

3. The Needle moves up and down during winding: Needle has not been disengaged


1. Layers feed unevenly: Presser foot pressure incorrect. May need to stitch slowly. The fabric may be very light weight use tissue paper while stitching.

2. Does not feed in straight line: Presser foot may be loose or bent. Pressure of the presser foot may be incorrect. Sewing needle may be bent. There may be a defect in the machine feed. You may be pushing or pulling the fabric.

3. Puckers when stitched: Many fabrics pucker when stitch in a single layer. The stitch length may be not in correct relation to the fabric type. If the fabric is sheer or light weight, the presser foot tension may need to be regulated. Thread may be too thick. Needle may be coarse Bobbin thread may be uneven Stitch tension may be unbalanced. Feed dog may be worn out.

4. Shows feed mark on the underside: Presser foot pressure may be too heavy. You may need to put tissue paper between the fabric and the feed. The feed may be damaged or set too high.

5. Fabric is damaged or holes around the stitches: Needle may be blunt or too coarse or wrong type for the fabric. Check for the nick in the throat plate, foot or feed.

Sewing Machine Problems


1. Motor does not run:

  • Cord is not plugged.
  • Power stitch off.
  • Knee or foot accelerator may be jammed or improperly attached to power source.

2. Motor runs but hand wheel does not turn: 

  • Thread or lint may be caught or tangled in the bobbin case area.

3. Motor runs, hand wheel turns, but needle does not move:

  • The needle may have been disengaged for bobbin winding and not tightened back to sewing position
  • If needle has been tightened but still does not move, the motor belt is slipping because it is loose or worn.

4. Motor, hand wheel and needle moves but fabric does not feed:

  • Make sure the presser foot is down
  • Check the stitch length regulator
  • The pressure regulator may at the least / light pressure. If fabric is heavy, more pressure may be necessary for fabric to feed.
  • The feed dog may be in the lowered or “down” position

5. Motor, hand wheel, needle and fabric moves but no stitch is formed:

  • Thread may have come out of the needle.
  • Needle may be threaded in the wrong direction.
  • Needle may be inserted backward or may not be pushed all the way up into the clamp.
  • Needle may be the wrong length for the machine.
  • Machine may be threaded incorrectly
  • Bobbin may be empty
  • Bobbin and / or case may be inserted incorrectly
  • The timing of the machine might be off

6. Runs sluggishly:

  • Bobbin winder may still be engaged
  • Knee or foot control might be improperly positioned
  • Machine may be in need of oiling and / or cleaning

7. Runs noisily:

  • Machine probably needs oiling and / or cleaning
  • The needle could be bent and hitting against foot or throat plate
  • Bobbin and / or case may not be tight enough
  • Bobbin may be almost out of thread.

8. Will not stitch in reverse:

  • If machine is very old, it may not have this capability
  • If it is a recent model, check the stitch control. If may be set for “stretch stitch” or “buttonhole”, sometimes these stitches cannot be reversed manually.


1. Unthreads:

  • Insufficient thread may have been pulled through the needle before the seam was started
  • Machine may be out of top thread

2. Breaks:

  • You may be using the incorrect presser foot
  • Presser foot and / or throat plate may be loose or improperly fastened.
  • Needle might have become bent and hit the presser foot and /or throat plate
  • Needle may be incorrectly inserted
  • Needle might be too fine for the fabric being sewed and for the job being done
  • You may have pulled too hard on fabric while stitching
  • Check machine settings.
  • Needle may be defective


1. Are uneven lengths:

  • You might be pushing or pulling the fabric too much
  • Pressure on the presser foot could be either too light or too heavy for the fabric
  • There could be lint or other clog between the teeth of the feed dog

2. Have loops between them:

  • If the loops are large, the machine is improperly threaded
  • If loops are small tensions are unbalanced
  • Bobbin may be wound unevenly
  • There may not be enough pressure to hold the fabric taut during stitch formation

3. Skip here and there:

  • Needle may be blunt or bent
  • Needle may be inserted backward or it might not be all the way up into the clamp
  • There may be insufficient pressure on the presser foot
  • Throat plate may be wrong for the purpose
  • You may be stitching at an uneven speed
  • While stitching, you may be pulling too hard on the fabric


1. Needle thread breaks:

  • Usually this is caused by the needle being inserted backward or threaded backward
  • Thread may be caught in the spool notch or it could be wrapped around the spindle
  • There may be a rough or burred place on a thread guide
  • The needle may be blunt
  • Needle may not be all the way up into the clamp
  • Needle may be too fine for the thread, causing it to fray-often the case with silk buttonhole twist

2. Bobbin thread breaks:

  • Bobbin case may not be threaded properly and / or the case not inserted properly
  • Bobbin may be too full
  • Check for dirt or clog in the bobbin case
  • Bobbin tension may be too tight

3. Bobbin thread cannot be raised through hole in throat plate:

  • Bobbin case may be improperly threaded.
  • It may not have been properly inserted

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