When working properly, a sewing machine enables a tailor to rapidly stitch fabric together. If the thread is coming out of the machine every few seconds, that extra speed dwindles as the process becomes more frustrating. Luckily, most causes of unthreading can be identified and fixed with a little bit of knowledge and minimal cost.
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Causes of Sewing Machine Unthreading
Improperly Threaded Sewing Machine
Your threading method is the first thing you should check when facing frequent unthreading. Given how often the thread may be replaced, there are plenty of chances to mess this up. It may increase the amount of work, but starting over from the top spool is the best way to rule out any threading issues.
Each machine will be slightly different, but you’ll want to make sure the thread runs through the tension plate and any thread guides before looping through the front of the needle. If the machine has extra guides, it helps to have your manual on-hand to see exactly how to run the thread through them.
Not Starting with the Needle Raised
Before you start sewing, the needle needs to be fully elevated. Smart sewing machines may automatically set the needle’s position, but basic sewing machines will need to be hand-cranked to reach the right spot.
Forgetful tailors can stick a note on their machine that reminds them to reset it. A bit of mindfulness will save you from doing unnecessary work.
Thread Tail Length Too Small
Leaving a long trail of excess thread from the needle isn’t just to avoid precisely measuring out the length for a perfect fit. When you first thread and start the machine, that tail keeps the thread from jumping out of the eye.
You can try to keep a light hold onto the tail for the first few stitches, but any extra tension from pulling can cause irregularities in the stitches or more troublesome problems with the thread, like bunching.
Just make sure to leave a few extra inches of thread, and you’ll avoid this issue altogether. Snip any remaining thread away at the end of the stitching.
Improper Thread Tension Levels
Keeping tension on the thread is part of how the machine continues to feed it into the fabric. For the musically inclined, it’s a bit like tuning a guitar string. Too much or too little tension are both bad, so you’ll want to adjust the tension level to get just the right tug on the string.
Advanced sewing machine models have computer-assisted tension control that measures the thread to pick the right tension level, but most need to be manually adjusted.
Start by making sure your machine’s tension adjuster is near the middle of its settings. You may not have noticed it being changed, and the midline values are a good starting point for most sewing projects. From there, try moving the tension up and down to see if a different level solves the unthreading problem.
Wrong Needle and Thread for the Job
Both needles and thread come in a range of sizes and variations, and those differences have a profound impact on performance.
In general, you’ll want to match thicker thread, needles, and fabrics together. A thin thread running through a large needle into tough fabric will be more likely to unthread than a thicker string.
Needle Damage and Defects
If you’re certain that the thread is running through the sewing machine equipment as intended, then the needle may have damage that is contributing to the unthreading.
Significant needle damage tends to result in a shredded thread, but it may sometimes manifest as unthreading. A solid 8-hour work day of use is enough wear and tear on the typical needle to warrant a replacement, and damage can occur the second you start up the machine if the needle hits a solid component of the garment.
The time and cost to replace the needle is minimal, and it’s something you will end up doing at some point, even with infrequent sewing. Go ahead and replace it to rule it out as the source of your unthreading issues.
Not all threads are created equal. Older thread that hasn’t been properly stored can develop minor damage that snags onto the machine or fabric, tugging it away from its proper place. New threads of poor quality can suffer the same setbacks.
It can be hard to identify the defects by sight, so try running your fingers along a considerable length of the thread to feel for bumps and divots. If you’re not sure after the inspection, try sewing with some thread from a different source to see if the problem persists.
More Help for Sewing Machine Unthreading
The user manual for your sewing machine will be a valuable resource for thread problems and beyond. It should detail how to properly thread your machine, including any particularities that venture away from the basic design.
If yours is lost or damaged, the Internet is here to save the day. Do a search via your engine of choice for your brand and model plus “user manual”, and you should be able to find it.
When you search for your model’s manual online, start with the manufacturer’s website. Online manual repositories may come first in the results, but the manufacturers will usually offer the manual for free as a PDF download. The repositories may charge for access to an otherwise free PDF, and free lists by other sewing enthusiasts can become outdated as companies update their websites. In the rare case the manufacturer doesn’t offer the PDF, then you should venture into secondary resources.
If the manual isn’t clear enough, check for online forums dedicated to particular brands. Chances are that others have experienced the same problems that you have and have already asked for clarifying advice. User feedback is not as reliable as the manufacturer’s expertise, but it can still help to have advice based on real-world experience.
Lastly, get your machine inspected and repaired. Unless your machine is still under warranty, the cost may quickly become more expensive than outright replacing a cheaper sewing machine. For pricier machines, it can be worth it if you’ve exhausted all the other options.