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Let's solve your Sewing Machine Troubles...

Are you experiencing sewing machine troubles?  Have you ever wanted to throw your machine out the window?  I have….on more occasions than I care to admit.

However, this happens much less frequently now that I know my machine well.  I also know how to keep her happy and purring like a kitten.  Here are some of my top tips for solving, and preventing, sewing machine troubles.

Thread flow is key...always check that first!

Canva- Stylized notions

1. Rethread your machine

Sometimes thread can get caught on or in the thread path of your machine.  For this reason, it’s important to try to keep the thread path clear of debris and dust.  A fun handmade sewing machine cover can help keep your machine clean and also beautify your sewing space.

I recommend you remove any stickers that may be on the top and/or bottom of your spools.  That sticky residue can prohibit the smooth flow of thread into your machine, which can cause problems.

2. Remove and reset your bobbin

The thread needs to flow smoothly up and out of the bobbin case to create a smooth even stitch, with appropriate tension.  When in doubt, remove your bobbin and check for tangles or knots.  Reinsert and hopefully you’re good to go!

Sometimes I have issues with the thread not flowing freely when the bobbin is almost empty.  In those cases, I remove the remaining thread and insert a new full bobbin.

Sewing machine bobbins
Bobbins, wound with thread

3. Reset (Turn off and on again)

You know...like the IT guy (and my hubby) always says!  Be mindful that if you have an electronic machine, the needle position will reset to the default when you restart the machine.  So take note of what stitch setting you are on, and make sure the needle can move freely without damaging your project before resetting.  Yes, I learned that the hard way...

4. Double check your stitch settings and tension

This is one of those times that you need to consult your new best friend….your machine’s instruction manual!  Check to see what tension is recommended for the fabric you are working with, and test your stitch with some scrap fabric.  It is always a wise choice to sew a few lines of stitching on a sample (or scrap) piece of your project fabric.  This ensures that the stitching is even and happy and does not require tension or stitch length/width adjustments.  Another lesson learned the hard way...

Keep your needles sharp and the undercarriage clean...

Attaching binding, nearing corner

5. Change your needle

Dull needles cause machines to work harder, and that can make them unhappy.  We want a happy machine!  Needles are cheap, cheap, cheap when compared to your machine and fabric.  Don’t get me started on how expensive fabric has gotten!!!  Anyways, when in doubt pop in a new needle.  See my post on Sewing Machine needles: What you need to know.

6. Clean out her “undercarriage”….AKA the bobbin compartment

The bobbin compartment can get pretty gunky, full of fabric fluff, pieces of dust, and rogue thread.  Certain types of fabrics “shed” more than others and create more of an issue.  I find that flannel and fleece tend are top offenders and require more frequent machine cleaning, compared to your basic cottons and linens.

Get in the habit of cleaning this area, after every project.  Your machine comes with a tiny brush that you should use to brush out dust and debris from the tight areas.

Feed Dogs

7. Check your feed dogs

The feed dogs are those little metal feet found in the strike plate of your machine, that “feed” fabric under the presser foot.  Sometimes those rogue sewing remnants (aka thread, fluff, dust), can get caught in and around those dogs.  There should be a feed dog lever on the back of your machine, that enables you to raise and lower these guys.  Every so often, check to make sure there is nothing stuck in there, and clean out as needed.

These steps should solve the vast majority of your troubles!

More often than not, steps 1 and 2 fix my sewing machine troubles.  Very rarely do I need to go further down on this list.  However, you must get to know your machine and what she likes/dislikes.

Machine maintenance...it is a machine remember!

It is important to maintain your sewing machine, just like the other machines in our lives (cars, lawn mowers, etc.) to keep them functioning optimally.  Follow the recommendations in her instruction manual for routine maintenance, cleaning and oiling by a sewing machine guru.

Another tip is to keep your machine covered or stored in a sealed case when not in use.  I admit I do not do this, and need to clean out my machine much more frequently as a result.  I think I should make one...stay tuned for that tutorial!  Luckily it has not affected her performance, I love her so much!

Machine problem you cannot fix? I think that justifies investing in a new machine!

Good Beginner Sewing Machine
Brother cs6000i Sewing Machine

Speaking of how much I love my machine, if you are really struggling with yours maybe its time for an upgrade.  My electronic Brother cs6000i is such a great machine, economically priced and able to handle everything I have thrown at her.  No, Brother is not a sponsor nor do I work for them....I just believe in promoting a good product when I find one!  See my post Sewing Machine Basics: Choosing a Machine for Beginners for more info and tips on choosing a machine for your needs.

Be safe & stay well!

Jen J