Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

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There are always simple things that seem to stump one as they start a project. Use this very simple guide to help you answer some of the common questions or problems one encounters in their sewing adventures.

1. Uneven stitching – Could be a tension problem. Do a tension test by running a row of stitching on the bias of the fabric. Now, pull on the fabric until the thread breaks. If the needle thread breaks, loosen the top tension. If the bobbin thread breaks, tighten the top tension.

2. Skipped Stitches – Check the needle. Is it inserted correctly? Try a different size needle – one that may work better for your fabric.

3. Slanted Stitching – If your stiches seem to lean in one direction, try stitching in different directions on a fabric scrap. Does the fabric’s grain affect the look of the stitch?

4. When begining a seam, the fabric is being sucked down into the machine’s needle plate – Loosely woven, lightweight, and silky fabrics tend to do this. Try increasing the presser foot pressure and use a smaller needle size. If your machine has a straight stitch needle plate (one with a single hole for the needle), use it. If necessary, hold the thread tails slightly taut and to the side of the foot when beginning to stitch so the feed dogs can do their job. Or, use a scrap of tear-away stabilizer to give your seam a place to start. Begin stitching through the stabilizer and then onto your fabric.

5. Wavy seams – This will happen when the stitches are too small for the fabric. Correct this by lengthening the stitch.

6. Puckered seams – Check the tension again. A seam will pucker if the tensions are too tight. If this doesn’t help, try decreasing the presser foot pressure, using a finer needle, a different presser foot, and/or a shorter stitch length.

7. Thread loops form on the underside – Tighten the needle tension. Check the needle. Make sure the thread in the needle and bobbin are the same weight.

8. Thread jams – Is the presser foot lowered? Make sure the presser foot screw that holds it in place is securely tightened. Before lowering the foot, bring the thread tails under the foot and to the back or side of the machine.

9. Top thread breaks – Try rethreading the machine, adjust the tension and check the needle. Are the top and bottom threads compatible? Another possible cause is a burr on the needle plate. This can happen after a needle has been deflected off the plate and broken while stitching. To remove the burr, use an emery cloth (not sand paper) to gently file the rough spot.

10. Bottom thread breaks – Clean the bobbin case and rethread the bobbin.

11. Needle breaks – Check to be sure the needle is inserted correctly and the needle clamp is screwed on tight. Check the top tension and needle size. A too fine needle for your fabric will cause the needle to break. Are you pulling or pushing the fabric through the machine as it is stitching with your hands, causing strain on the needle? Let the machine’s feed dogs do the work.

5 comments to Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

  • Helen Clanan

    I have a Kenmore sewing machine I don’t know how to thread. I do not have an instruction booklet.
    model numbeer is 150 12511 Yes, I have tried Sears and no luck there.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  • You may try contacting as they seem to have a lot of instruction manuals. Here is the link to their Kenmore page Kemore Instruction Manuals.

  • janet

    Can anyone tell me how to fill the bobbin on my Singer Touch and Sew #626???? Sincerely, Janet

  • Donna

    Dear Janet,

    In response to your question on June 12th –
    Opening the bobbin door, place an empty bobbin in the casing. Push down on the small “target” button (red and white) to left of the bobbin. You must leave the door open and the needle must be threaded. As you start the machine, continue slowly and the machine should thread the bobbin for you. Do not fill completely to the edge of the bobbin (this catches on the needle as you sew. There are little white rings on the plastic bobbins allowing you to fill the bobbin to certain levels. Do not fill beyond the last ring.

    If you need further directions, please let me know.

    Happy Sewing!

  • Donna

    Dear Helen,

    In response to your concern posted on August 26th –

    You may wish to contact The Sewing Educational Warehouse at I got this info from the website

    I do hope this helps you with your Kenmore.

    Happy Sewing!


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