How to Set a Feed Dog in a Sewing Machine

Things You'll Need

  • Sewing machine manual

  • Small screwdriver

  • Toothbrush or other small brush for cleaning

Identify and correct problems with sewing machine feed dogs.

Sewing can be an extremely rewarding hobby and offers the ability to create beautiful finished products. However, it can also be extremely frustrating when machine malfunctions prevent you from working efficiently. A sewing machine consists of a wide variety of moving parts, but a particularly crucial component, the feed dogs, can actually prevent you from feeding fabric through your machine. When this happens, it is best to asses the situation and take steps to address the problem.

Identify the Problem

Step 1

Before you attempt to remove your needle plate or change the setting on your feed dogs, make sure the problem is not your needle stitch length. Check your machine to ensure that it is not set to a satin stitch length or anything less than 3mm, which can mimic a feed dog problem.

Step 2

Check that your needle moves up and down when you attempt to sew. If it does not, you might have your machine set to thread your bobbin. Once you correct this issue, your needle should move, and your fabric should feed.

Step 3

Be sure to hold both the top thread and the bobbin thread when you attempt to sew. Often, failing to hold these threads results in jams and an inability to feed the fabric.

Step 4

Open your bobbin case cover and clean the underside of your needle plate area. Use a small toothbrush or other brush to remove debris or lint that has accumulated in the area. Also, check your bobbin thread and remove any knots or tangles that might prevent the fabric from feeding.

Step 5

If all the above steps do not reveal the problem, move on to examining the feed dogs.

Examine the Feed Dogs

Step 1

Some machines have a control switch next to the bobbin case that can be used to raise feed dogs. Activate this switch and raise your feed dogs. The teeth on the feed dog should be located slightly above the needle plate such that the bottom of the teeth are even with the needle plate.

Step 2

If necessary, remove the needle plate covering your feed dog. Clean the area beneath it and examine your feed dogs. If you find damage to your feed dogs, consult your sewing machine manual for replacement parts.

Step 3

Return your needle plate to its proper position, and attempt to feed your fabric after cleaning. In most instances, the above steps should correct your problem.


Consider taking your machine to your local sewing supply store for assistance with replacing the feed dogs.