Common Sewing Machine Problems, Its Causes and Remedies

Sewing machine as primitive as it may seem is one of the most difficult machines to master. Running at a speed of 3500 rpm, simple negligence can affect the stitch in the fabric which ultimately will lead to a compromise in the quality. When there is a defect in a garment, there must be a cause of it. Until we come to know the cause of defect generation, we call it a sewing machine problem. 

To take preventive action against these common causes, a machinist must know the possible remedies of the common causes.

It is rarely seen that there is a fault with the stitch due to malfunction in the machine. Most often it is caused due to rash actions of the operators only. But modern sewing machines are so made that only some fine adjustments can set everything right. Often it only takes is a simple check of the threading, machine components, thread tension to get the perfect stitch needed.

Following are some of the sewing faults and machine problems with its cause and the remedies as well.

1. Thread break

  • Sudden jerk while sewing
  • A manufacturing defect in the needle with ‘eye’ being rough
  • Use of poor quality thread
  • Thread getting wrap around the spool holder
  • Improper selection of thread
  • Uniform smooth start of the machine
  • Use of good quality needle and replace in proper interval
  • Use of good quality thread
  • Do proper threading in the machine
  • Use of recommended thread

2. Missed or irregular stitch

  • Needle put in the wrong way round
  • Insufficient pressure on the pressure foot
  • Blunt or bent needle
  • Check the manual for proper needle insertion
  • Increase the pressure
  • Change needle upon damage

3. Fabric not moving forward

  • Stitching has bunched forming a lump
  • Feed teeth not raised
  • Negligible pressure on the pressure foot
  • Stitch length set at Improper selection of thread
  • Increase stitch length
  • Raised feed teeth
  • Increase pressure in pressure foot
  • Increase stitch length

4. Needle break

  • A needle inserted in the wrong way
  • Fabric pushed or pull through machine
  • Incorrect foot attachment
  • Incorrect needle plate attached
  • Insert needle as directed in manual
  • Allow fabric to feed at its normal pace
  • Attach foot as required
  • Check needle plate

5. Machines fail to turn on

  • Switch of the machine not turned on or insufficient power available
  • Check for the switch and power supply

6. Puckering

  • Zig-zag too wide for the thickness of the fabric
  • Stitch length too long for thickness in fabric
  • High thread tension
  • High SPI (stitch density)
  • Change to a narrower stitch width
  • Change to a shorter stitch length
  • Check the thread tension
  • Set SPI based as per the material 

7. Birds nesting 

Birds nesting means looping on the back of the fabric and down the bobbin area

  • Incorrect threading of the machine
  • Insufficient pressure on the pressure foot
  • Balance wheel turned clockwise
  • Needle thread not passed through the take-up lever
  • Thread not passing properly due to dirt in the tension disk
  • Rethread machine properly again
  • Check and control pressure
  • Balance wheel should always be turned anti-clockwise
  • Rethread the machine properly
  • Check for thread insertion between tension disk and clean it in process

8. Fabric gets pushed down through the needle plate into the bobbin area

  • Fabric is fine
  • Needle is blunt
  • Do adjustment with the pressure foot, like for straight stitch use straight stitch foot and needle plate
  • Change the needle

9. Thread not locking in the centre of the fabric

  • Weight(thickness) of the two thread(needle &bobbin thread) not balanced
  • Top and bottom tensions are not correctly balanced
  • Use same thread or threads of same properties
  • Change tension of both needle as well as bobbin thread

10. Stitches bunch at the start of sewing

  • Starting to sew too quickly without letting down the pressure foot
  • Not allowing the fabric to feed freely under the foot
  • Start smoothly by properly placing the pressure foot. Do hold back the threads pulled tight at the back of the foot while starting to sew
  • Do not hold on to the fabric

11. Machine jamming and knotting

  • Thread or a broken needle caught in the raceway
  • Clean the bobbin area
A-Z of sewing machine by Maxine Henry

Soumyadeep Saha

Soumyadeep Saha holds a Master's Degree in Fashion Technology from NIFT, New Delhi. He is also a graduate in apparel production. His area of interest includes Quality Assurance and technology implementations in Apparel Production.

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