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Sewing Machines

This guide offers information about the sewing machines in PPLD's Makerspaces.

Common Issues with Sewing Machines

The tabs above represent many of the common issues that occur when using sewing machines, and provide some examples of what causes them and how to resolve them. If you are experiencing an issue not listed above, or using these troubleshooting steps does not help resolve your problems, check the troubleshooting section of the machine's manual (see bottom of this page). 

Makerspace staff are available for assistance. Please notify staff if machines are damaged or if troubleshooting will require any repair.

If your needle breaks during use, remove the broken needle and discard in a designated sharps container - makerspace staff can show you where this is in each space.

 A needle can break due to a variety of causes, including:

  • Incorrect needle type or installation issue - Follow the machine's guide to replace the needle, making sure that the needle type is correct for the fabric and thread you are using.
  • Needle is bent or blunt - Check your needle before installing to make sure it is not bent or blunt. Replace as needed.
  • Upper thread tension is too tight - Check and adjust the thread tension if necessary.
  • Using incorrect presser foot - Make sure the presser foot installed on the machine is the correct one for the stitch you are using.
  • Bobbin is incorrect type for machine - Check that the type of bobbin installed on the machine is correct.
  • Damaged bobbin case, presser foot, or needle plate - Report any damage to the machine to makerspace staff.
  • Pulling fabric too much - While sewing, allow the feed dogs to pull the fabric and do not apply force.

​Common causes of the upper thread breaking are:

  • Upper thread incorrectly threaded - Check the machine’s guide and redo the upper threading.
  • Thread has knots or tangles - Remove any knots and tangles from the upper thread and check the bobbin case for tangles as well.
  • Incorrect needle type or installation - Follow the machine's guide to replace the needle, making sure that the needle type is correct for the fabric and thread you are using.
  • Needle is bent or blunt - Check your needle before installing to make sure it is not bent or blunt. Replace as needed.
  • Upper thread tension is too tight - Check and adjust the thread tension if necessary.
  • Damaged bobbin case, presser foot, or needle plate - Report any damage to the machine to makerspace staff.
  • Bobbin is incorrect type for machine - Check that the type of bobbin installed on the machine is correct.

Lower thread tangling on the underside of fabric, or breaking is commonly caused by:

  • Bobbin thread not wound properly - If bobbin thread looks tangled or messy, remove the thread from the bobbin and follow the machine’s guide to wind the bobbin again.
  • Thread is tangled in bobbin case or was not inserted correctly - Remove bobbin from case, clean the case of any tangled thread, and reinsert the bobbin following the machine’s guide.
  • Bobbin is incorrect type for machine - Check that the type of bobbin installed on the machine is correct.
  • Bobbin is scratched or does not rotate smoothly - Replace the bobbin and give any damaged bobbins to staff.

If you encounter issues winding the bobbin thread neatly, start by checking these two common issues:

  • Threading for bobbin winding is incorrect - Undo the threading and follow the machine’s guide to rethread the bobbin.
  • Bobbin is incorrect type for machine - Check that the type of bobbin installed on the machine is correct.

These are common causes of the machine skipping stitches while sewing:

  • Upper and / or lower thread incorrectly threaded - Check the machine’s guide and redo the upper and lower threading.
  • Incorrect needle type or installation - Follow the machine's guide to replace the needle, making sure that the needle type is correct for the fabric and thread you are using.
  • Needle is bent or blunt - Check your needle before installing to make sure it is not bent or blunt. Replace as needed.
  • The bobbin case is dusty - Follow the machine’s guide to clean out the bobbin case. If further cleaning is required, notify staff.

Common reasons a stitch is not turning out as expected:

  • Presser foot is incorrect for selected stitch - Change the presser foot to the one required for the thread.
  • Upper thread tension is not correct - Check and adjust the thread tension if necessary.
  • Thread has knots or tangles - Remove any knots and tangles from the upper thread and check the bobbin case for tangles as well.
  • Needs stabilizer - For certain stitches / fabrics, a stabilizer may be recommended.

Causes for fabric puckering/wrinkling while sewing include:

  • Upper and/or lower thread incorrectly threaded - Check the machine’s guide and redo the upper and lower threading.
  • Spool not secured properly - Make sure the spool is properly fitted and necessary spool caps are used.
  • Needs stabilizer - For certain stitches/fabrics, a stabilizer may be recommended.
  • Incorrect needle type or installation - Follow the machine's guide to replace the needle, making sure that the needle type is correct for the fabric and thread you are using.
  • Needle is bent or blunt - Check your needle before installing to make sure it is not bent or blunt. Replace as needed.
  • Upper thread tension is not correct - Check and adjust the thread tension if necessary.

If the fabric will not feed while sewing, it may be one of the following issues:

  • Feed dogs are lowered - Move the feed dog position lever to raise the feed dogs. It will take a couple rotations of the machine for the feed dogs to come back up.
  • Stitch is too fine - Increase the length of the stitch.
  • Incorrect needle type - Follow the machine's guide to replace the needle, making sure that the needle type is correct for the fabric and thread you are using.
  • Thread has knots or tangles - Remove any knots and tangles from the upper thread and check the bobbin case for tangles as well.

If you are using a machine with a needle auto-threader and it is not working, it could be one of two issues:

  • Incorrect needle installation - Follow the machine's guide to reinstall the needle properly.
  • Needle position is too low - Raise the needle to its highest position using the hand wheel, or, if applicable, needle position button.

Troubleshooting Sections of Manuals

Information about the common issues listed above is available in the troubleshooting sections of the individual manuals, as well as information about other issues that are specific to each machine.

The machine guides are linked below with the page numbers for the troubleshooting sections. Please note there are two sets of page numbers listed. Online PDF is for anyone accessing the guide on the internet. Physical guide is for anyone using the physical copy of the manuals in the makerspaces. These numbers don't perfectly match.