Problems With Sewing Machines


The invention of the sewing machine by Elias Howe about 1845 was expected to reduce tailors to beggars, according to "The History of the Sewing Machine" by James Parton. The sewing machine was a useful invention for tailors and women alike, eliminating much of the hand stitching. As with all mechanical equipment, the sewing machine requires maintenance and can have problems. The novice can repair most sewing machine problems with minimal knowledge.

Bent Needle

  • If the sewing machine makes a click when the needle goes down to the bobbin area, the needle is likely bent. Replace the needle as one of the first sewing machine repair techniques. When you replace the needle, be certain to place the flat side in the correct location according to your instruction book.

Incorrect Threading

  • Sewing machines do not all thread alike. If the thread breaks, or does not run through the guides smoothly, the threading may be incorrect. The instruction book is the best guide to threading the machine. In general, place the spool on the spindle and run the thread through a guide or two, then down around the tension and back up to the guide in the arm and down to the needle.

Lint and Thread Under the Faceplate

  • Remove the faceplate, bobbin and all removable parts in the area of the needle. Use a brush to clean the lint and thread from the bobbin area and under the faceplate. New Mexico State University suggests using a needle and tweezers to clean lint and thread. Be certain to unplug the sewing machine before attempting to work in this area.

Top and Bottom Tension Tight or Loose

  • The top tension is usually a round dial on the front of the sewing machine with numbers on the dial. The bottom tension is a screw on the bobbin case. Sew a row of stitching on the diagonal of a piece of fabric. Pull the fabric on the diagonal and see which thread breaks first. Adjust the tension until both threads break at the same time or neither thread breaks when the fabric is pulled on the diagonal. Small adjustments to the tension make a difference, so work in slight adjustments to top or bottom tension.

Sewing Machine Needs Oil

  • If the sewing machine clatters when you sew, it may need oil. Use only sewing machine oil or 3-in-1 oil for a sewing machine and oil only in the oil ports. Refer to the instruction manual to find all the oil ports on your machine.

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  • Photo Credit Sewing Machine Needle image by C Agoncillo from
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