sewing machine trouble shooting tips

It’s been some time since my last back to basics post, and I feel terribly guilty! I feel a little like going to church and asking for forgiveness in the confessional booth….

I was rather poorly in January with a series of viruses,  frankly I was plain wiped out! I  had 3 weeks away from my theatre work, which i planed to fill with lots of lovely blog postings, course development, and having a life, but sadly being sick took all that away.

My theatre work re-started at the end of jan, and i’ve been up to my neck in 1950’s glam ever since. We open “Million dollar quartet” on monday 28th feb- today! From now on my work should level out to an even pace, and I can resume my resolution to blog more.

Last week a roman blind student got in touch after having some problems with the brand new machine she’d just bought. I’ve also had a few sewing surgery students drop by with similar problems. It’s unlikely that a new machine is faulty, problems usually occur for a few simple reasons. So here is my trouble shooting advice for problematic sewing.

1- Make sure you are using the same quality/brand of thread in the top and bottom of your machine-if not then this may be the problem. Different colours of the same brand are alright, but if the top is cotton, and the bottom polyester then they will fight and make your stitching bad.

2- Have you adjusted the top thread tension? The manual tells you to do this but in my experience it isn’t necesary, and is usually the problem if the stitching is puckering either underneath, or on-top. Reset the top tension dial to the factory default of 5( This is usually outlined/coloured and is the middle point on the tension dial.)

3- When stitching goes bad, I suggest you change the needle particularly when you’re unsure what weight of fabric was last stitched, and the needle may have blunted. I really recommend using a good quality needle. I prefer schmetz needles which although are a touch more expensive, have proved to be of a superior quality, and last longer than other brands.

4- Check that your bobbin thread is tightly wound on. If it’s baggy then re wind it, ensuring that the thread is in the bobbin tension guide( this will be in your manual if you’re not sure)

5-Completly re-thread the upper thread and re-insert your bobbin, ensuring that the thread is to the left as it drops in, and turning anti-clockwise( for top loading bobbins) or that the thread is to the right and turning clockwise ( for front loading bobbins)

Generally most problems are with incorrect threading, bobbin insertion, or getting too excited with a new machine and playing with all the dials. If you try all the above, and still have problems, then give your sewing machine dealer a call.

Happy stitching…


  • Sonrisitas

    22.05.2012 at 08:25

    You are using a straight stcith what length?Do you think that this could be done with a zigzag stcith..or any type of decorative stcith.I have a stcith that is like a mock smocking stcith of little boxes.. and was wondering if that could be used with the elastic thread.Thanks for the tutorial

    • Vicente

      02.08.2012 at 14:31

      I find a well organized sewnig room is an absolute must for me. I simply cannot function when my sewnig room is disorganized! Thank you Nancy for sharing the folding technique of fabrics, it looks so neat and tidy! I can also relate to a box of pins being like a box of new crayons, giggle giggle. The smallest sewnig notion makes me happy beyond all measure! I have my donation’ stash ready to go to our local quilting charity. Thanks for the organizational tips!Sew Sincerely,Sheriann

  • Shalma

    28.02.2011 at 11:57

    Thanks for your tips. I had so many problems with my machine every time I used it after it was purchased (snapping threads, puckering e.t.c.) and I couldn't fathom why……then I realised that it was always when I was using some cheap thread I'd bought in a bulk-buy offer. I got myself some good quality threads and my problems disappeared practically overnight. Sewing has become a pleasure and I'm enjoying every project so much more.