Having sewing troubles?
Lanette asked us to help out with her sewing machine woes:
I own an old machine (Bicor XL 1005) which does well, until recently. Your posts have been very helpful in finding how to thread the machine, laying out pattern pieces, and things I should be sure to have on hand. The machine is snarling thread in a ball on the underside of my material. I don’t understand the tension lever mechanisms enough to know how to set them. Any ideas? Overall, the tension settings are completely beyond me – when do I use certain settings? Any info about these settings will be so helpful!
Sometimes your machine just doesn’t want to cooperate! For me, it’s usually when I’m working with a deadline. The thread breaks, my needle bends, or skipped stitches – UGH! Don’t get frustrated! Take a deep breath and check out our Basic Sewing Machine Troubleshooting Guide.
Very basic things you can try with most problems
- When’s the last time you cleaned your machine? It can get linty in there. You should clean your machine fairly often and you should be able to tell when it needs a cleaning. A small brush and compressed air are both very helpful tools.
- Un-thread and re-thread your machine entirely. Sometimes you forget a loop when you’re threading and everything goes haywire. Also make sure your bottom bobbin is threaded in the correct direction.
- Check your needle. Does it need to be replaced? Is it the correct size and type for the fabric you are using?
Here are some common problems you might experience and some things that might help.
Problem: My thread is bunching on the back of my fabric!
- We definitely recommend re-threading your machine. Go slowly and make sure you aren’t missing anything. Check your bottom bobbin too – is it threaded correctly? A lot of the time thread bunches at the back of your fabric because the machine is not threaded properly.
- Are you using good quality thread? Are you using the right thread for your project?
- At the beginning of each seam, hold the top and bottom threads up and away under the presser foot. This should help with any bunching that occurs at the beginning of your stitches.
- Make sure your presser foot is in the down position while sewing.
- Check your tension settings for your upper thread – see below on adjusting your tension.
- A properly threaded sewing machine with the correct tension settings should set you on your way to happy sewing. But it’s not always easy to determine which tension settings to use. Your sewing machine probably has a dial with numbers, but sometimes unmarked. The general rule is “lefty losey, righty tighty”. You’ll adjust your top tension most often, depending on your fabric and thread. Always use a scrap of fabric to test out your tension before you sew any seams.
The following diagrams show you what your stitches should and shouldn’t look like.
- Adjust your upper thread tension slowly and inspect your test fabric for signs of improvement or decline in how the stitches are coming together.
- The idea is to have nice, balanced stitches.
Problem: My needle is breaking!
- Are you trying to sew through too many layers? Don’t push your machine too far. If your needle keeps breaking and you are going through many layers, consider hand sewing that part.
- Are you using the correct needle size and type for your fabric?
- Check your stitch settings – Are you using the correct presser foot? If your needle is hitting something and bending even slightly it can throw things off.
Problem: My thread won’t stop breaking!
- Try the solutions at the top – check your needle, re-thread your machine.
- Use good quality thread – it makes a difference!
Problem: My stitches are uneven and sometimes skipping!
- This is probably a needle problem. Make sure you’re using the correct size and type for your fabric. Try a fresh needle – sometimes it’s all you need.
Hopefully we’ve answered some questions and given you some guidance on what to do when your machine won’t work**
**Please note that these are just some ideas on what might be going wrong when you sew. If you are unsure as to what you’re doing, take your machine into a repair shop for some professional advice!