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Having some trouble with your latest project? Whether it's skipped stitches or funny sewing machine noises, take a look at our list of common sewing mistakes and how to get them fixed so you can get on with stitching your latest textile project! 

10 Common Sewing Problems and How to Fix Them

My machine won't turn on or sew

First of all, check that your power cable and foot pedal cable are plugged in all the way - you'd be amazed how many times I've done this (and forgotten to switch it on at the wall)!

If this doesn't work, check that your needle is inserted correctly and tightened enough, and your presser foot is correctly attached and down. This should sort out any non-technical issues with your machine that stop it from switching on or sewing.

The bobbin won't wind

The first couple of times I started using my machine, I did it wrong so many times. Make sure you follow your manual instructions for how to switch it to bobbin winding mode - I kept forgetting to switch my metal bobbin winder to the right to get the thread to start winding!

My thread keeps breaking when I sew or thread up my machine

This is usually a problem with your thread rather than with your machine. It's most likely that the quality of your thread is not high enough for the tension or type of sewing that you're doing. Most branded threads are of a higher quality than unbranded ones, but do cost more - we would recommend Gutermann for a high quality thread, and they're a pretty trusted brand worldwide so don't just take our word for it!

The thread keeps unthreading itself when I start sewing

Not an unusual problem, this could be that you have not threaded it properly - the issue is usually that you've not hooked it around the metal hook at the top of the machine properly or enough. Sometimes it might be that you've not got enough thread hanging out the back of the needle, so it's being pulled back through every time the needle starts moving. 

If that's not working, check that you've got the metal hook at the top up as high as it will go. You need to have the needle up when you begin sewing, so twist the wheel at the side towards you until you can see the metal hook at its highest point.

The thread is getting caught up and tangled underneath my fabric

This is usually to do with thread tension of the top (needle) thread, not the bobbin thread. Try adjusting the tension either way and go again. 

Another reason may be because you're getting the threads tangled up in the machine - quite commonly this happens when you start or end your stitching. Make sure you start a couple of millimetres in rather than right on the edge of the fabric, and then reverse stitch if necessary. If you start right at the edge of the fabric, you risk missing out the fabric and the needle and thread going right down into the bobbin thread chamber, tangling there and either getting caught up completely (sometimes dragging your fabric down with it) or stitching this knotty mess onto the back of your project.

I've got puckers in my fabric, around my stitching 

This usually means that you're feeding in the fabric too forcefully or misshaping the fabric in some way as it goes under the footer. This can tend to happen when you're new to sewing, as you learn how the feeder does its job. You only need to guide the fabric to keep it steady with your hand, not physically push it under the needle/footer. 

Puckers can also occur when you are stitching too fast without feeding your fabric through at a fast enough rate. Just remember not to get too hasty with your foot! If it feels like your machine is going too fast even with gentle pressure on the foot pedal, check that your stitching speed on your machine is set to low or medium.

I've got uneven or skipped stitches in my sewing

Uneven and skipped stitches are usually due once again to that bane of sewing, thread tension. Thread tension can be a tricky thing to work out, especially as a beginner, as it depends on the fabric you're using and sometimes can be affected by your thread as well. 

Tension is not the only factor that creates this stitching problem, however. The way you've threaded the bobbin affects how the threads are sewn in and brought together, so check that you've inserted your bobbin in the right way and that the end of the bobbin thread is not getting caught on anything. Make sure the bobbin is unwinding the correct way according to your instruction manual, and that it is properly hooked round the metal plate.

My fabric is moving about all over the place when I start stitching

Easy to forget, but simply make sure your presser foot is down! Use the lever that is to the side of the needle arm, at the back to lift and lower your presser foot. Without it, the fabric feeder doesn't do it's job properly so everything just goes everywhere and sewing in a straight line gets very tricky!

I'm trying to sew with oilcloth and it keeps sticking

Oilcloth is a horrible fabric to work with when you first start having a go, as it needs specialist equipment or techniques to be able to sew it effectively. If you've just slid it under your machine with nothing else changed, take it out! 

Because of the waxy nature of oilcloth, it's prone to getting stuck a lot, on every surface of your machine. There are generally two ways around this: first, the easier and quicker option, is to cover your fabric surface in greaseproof paper and sew over the greaseproof. This stops it sticking to your machine, and you simply have to tear off the greaseproof when you're done. 

The second option is to buy a special footer for sewing with oilcloth/pvc fabric, which helps stop the presser foot from sticking to the waxy surface of the fabric, therefore letting it go through the fabric feeder smoothly.

The sewing machine keeps jamming or not stopping properly when I lift my foot up

We've been having this problem recently, and sad to say, it probably means your machine needs a service. It might be that you're getting your threads tangled as you're sewing, in which case make sure that you start a couple of millimetres into your fabric and have the tension right.

Most of the time, though, it's a part of your machine that needs either repairing or just needs a bit of fine-tuning and TLC. Quite often, the spring in the foot pedal can begin to get stuck, especially if your machine is a bit old. Other times, it may be that a part of the motor is not working properly and needs replacing. Take it to a reputable sewing machine repairer - ask your local fabric/sewing shop if you need some help in finding one, as they can usually recommend someone in the area.

January 15, 2015 by Amy Gilbert

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