Everyone has problems with a jammed machine at some time during their sewing experience. Sometimes the needle is stuck down in the fabric, sometimes it’s suspended above, but it will not move further along. Threads may be knotted up, or stitches are uneven before the jam.
What’s happening? Why is your machine jamming, and what can you do to fix the problem? For beginners, it can be difficult to determine what the real issue is. Here are 10 suggestions that will hopefully relieve the issue permanently. If not, you should at least have an idea of what you’re dealing with by the time you get to the end.
10 Reasons Why Your Sewing Machine Is Jamming
1. Low Feed Dogs
Some machines have adjustable feed dogs. If not set correctly, the fabric will not be properly pulled through, causing stitches to pile on top of one another and jamming the machine. Check that your feed dogs are up. Turn the handwheel and watch it rise above the faceplate.
It is also possible for lint to build up along parts of the feed dogs located below the faceplate. Remove the faceplate and ensure the whole feed dog mechanism is free of debris.
2. Wrong Needle
Using the wrong needle for the fabric you’re sewing may cause the upper and lower threads to miss each other. This results in skipped stitches and uneven amounts of threads above and below the fabric. When the threads pull short, the machine stops moving.
Remember the rule of thumb always to begin a new project with a fresh needle. Use the correct needle size for the project, and also make sure the stitch length is not too fine for lighter-weight material.
3. Damaged Needle
Needles can be damaged by hitting pins or by being stressed beyond their capabilities. The tension that is too high or fabric that is too heavy can cause a needle to bend. A bent needle may become jammed against bobbin parts and break or damage other machine parts.
Remove your needle and examine it closely. Look for any nicks in the tip. Lay it on a flat surface to check for bends. If you’re still unsure, it never hurts to try a new needle. Keep the discarded needle, just in case it turns out that’s not the problem, especially if it’s a fairly new one.
4. Improper Upper Threading
Improper threading causes tension to be either completely lacking or overbearing for the machine. The machine may become jammed with thread or be abruptly stopped in its tracks like a dog on the end of a leash.
Completely unthread the machine. Rethread carefully, ensuring you don’t miss any guides and the thread has run solidly through the tension grooves. If your thread spool mounts sideways, make sure the spool cap is snuggly in place. Check along the spool edges for places where the thread might catch, preventing it from moving smoothly through the machine.
5. Improper Bobbin Threading
Bobbins may seem simple, but improper threading can account for a host of sewing machine issues. Take the bobbin out of the machine. If your machine has a front-loading bobbin, remove the bobbin spool from the case.
Reinsert the bobbin, ensuring the thread feeds properly through tension slots on the bobbin case or in the machine. Use the handwheel to catch the bobbin thread and pull it up above the faceplate. Leaving the thread beneath the plate can cause it to become jammed in the mechanism.
6. Wrong Presser Foot
Although a basic presser foot can handle most sewing projects, some may require special treatment. If you are sewing through many layers, a walking or even-feed foot may help control heavy layers.
There is also a tool, sometimes called a hump jumper, that comes with some machines and is used to sew over heavy seams, such as those in jeans, while hemming. Use this tool to prevent the machine from becoming stuck at the seam and jamming in place.
There are also presser feet with a special bottom coating to reduce friction when sewing heavy fabrics such as vinyl or leather. Check your machine’s specifications before sewing any heavy materials.
7. Poor Thread Quality
All thread is not created equal. Be leery about buying ultra-cheap economy thread. This thread may begin to break or fray under normal tension, becoming caught on machine parts and jamming.
Coats and Clark is the most common thread in most retail outlets that carry sewing supplies. It is a dependable brand for most projects. Gutermann is a personal favorite but a bit more pricey.
You may need to choose according to the project. For instance, you’ll need a heavier thread to match a jean hem properly. You may sometimes need to use cotton rather than a polyester thread for the best result. Beginners should become familiar with the various thread brands and thicknesses so they can choose wisely.
8. A Dirty Machine
Over time, stray threads, lint, dust, and even hair can build up in machine parts if not regularly cleaned. This is especially true of the bobbin compartment, where gravity pulls debris from fabric down as you sew.
A sewing machine can freeze up as a result of debris combining with machine oil. In extreme cases, these clogs may actually crystalize, causing the machine to work improperly or not at all.
Inspect all accessible areas of your machine. Use a small paintbrush, cotton swab, or tweezers to remove dust, lint, and small threads. Remove as many components as possible from the bobbin area for deep cleaning. Please pay close attention so that you can replace them exactly as you remove them.
If there is crystallization on any parts, you may have to coat them with oil and allow them to soften before removal. Once all foreign matter is removed, consult your machine’s manual to find the areas requiring oil. Be careful not to overlubricate. This may cause staining on your fabric the next time you sew.
Schedule regular monthly maintenance for your machine if you sew often. This will prevent clogging and possible damage to machine parts.
9. Short Trailing Thread
It’s important to pull the bobbin thread above the faceplate and trail several inches behind. Leave enough thread to prevent it from being pulled down into the bobbin area and causing a jammed machine.
10. Machine issues
Several machine issues can prevent the fabric from moving through the machine as it should. A more electronically enhanced machine can sometimes develop program issues that can only be addressed through customer service or a repair shop.
Some machine issues to look for are:
- Reverse function stuck–try turning the machine off, then on again to reset the button
- Foot pedal stuck–check that the switch inside the pedal is engaging properly
- Stuck in bobbin mode–if the bobbin holder continues to spin when there’s no bobbin on it, there may be a problem with the switch itself or with the programming. Turn the machine off, then on. If it doesn’t fix the issue, call customer assistance
- Handwheel stuck–this could indicate a jam elsewhere or that some internal part has been broken or disconnected. You may need a maintenance specialist
- Software issues–for programmable machines, settings such as special stitches or speed settings may be stuck. Again, try turning the machine off and on. If that doesn’t work, call your machine’s customer assistant line or consult a repair shop.