7 Reasons Why Your Sewing Machine is Not Moving Fabric (And How To Fix It!).

sewing machine not moving fabric

You are ready to start a new sewing project. You have your fabric and thread, your pattern is cut and pinned, and you’re eager to get started. You sit at your work station ready to go.

You turn on the machine to get started. The machine hums to life. But the fabric doesn’t feed…

When you’re working on a project and you have problems with your sewing machine, it’s disappointing. It can be frustrating and time-consuming to stop and troubleshoot. But there are some common sewing machine problems that can cause fabric feed issues. Checking things out can save you time and money on repairs.

Feed problems can be as much from sewing technique as from mechanical machine issues. Regular cleaning, maintenance, and troubleshooting will not only familiarize you with your machine’s inner workings. They will also help you avoid repair costs and downtime.

When your sewing machine isn’t moving fabric, check your sewing techniques first, unless you know it is a specific mechanical issue. Then check common mechanical issues.

Why Your Sewing Machine is Not Moving Fabric

1. Not Threaded Right

The first thing to check if you’re having fabric feeding issues is the thread. Make sure you threaded the sewing machine properly. Check for knots in the thread, especially in the bobbin. Knots caught in the eye of the needle will stop the operation.

Start over completely, rethreading the machine carefully. Make sure your thread take-up lever is in the highest position and attach the spool of thread. Pull the thread through the tension discs and thread guides using the user manual instructions, then through the needle, leaving a long enough tail of thread.

It’s worth noting that you should also check that you’re using the proper thread for your project. Check the weight of the thread and the fabric used for compatibility.

2. Thread Tension Too Tight

You should adjust thread tension for different weights of fabric and thread, and use the same weight thread for the bobbin and upper thread. You want even tension so the thread doesn’t’ snag and stop the machine operating. Although you don’t need to adjust the bobbin thread tension a lot, you may want to adjust the upper thread tension slightly, turning the dial counterclockwise a little. If the thread tension is way off, you may need to have it professionally reset.

3. Stitch Length Is Set to Zero

Check your stich length. If it’s set to zero, the fabric won’t move. You may have left it at zero if you recently worked on buttonholes and forgotten to reset it. Change the stitch length and the machine will start operating again.

4. Fabric is the Problem

The fabric you are using may be too thick, or you may be using too many layers for the machine to properly feed. Too much fabric can cause jams or machine stoppage. Projects with special fabrics require adjustments to the presser foot pressure or a walking foot attachment.

A note about machine adjustments: It helps if you keep a notebook at your machine with the date and type of project you worked on, with the machine adjustments made. That way you can glance at your notes when using the machine and know how it’s been left and cut down on some troubleshooting time.

5. Feed Dogs Are Down, Worn, or Broken

Check the feed dogs. If you worked on a project that required the feed dogs to be down, such as quilting or freehand stitching, you may have left them that way. Adjust the feed dogs and try feeding your fabric again.

Feed dogs may become worn or broken if old or if your machine is used extensively. Feed dogs can break if they are left loose and the machine is operated. Tighten any loose parts on the machine before operating it.

Make sure the feed dogs are centered properly and screwed in evenly. Repair or replace feed dogs that are bent or broken from hitting the needle plate. Clean the bobbin case and feed dogs regularly to remove dust and debris buildup that can cause operating problems.

6. Presser Foot Is Up

Check the presser foot; it should be down to hold the fabric in place. Beginner sewers may forget this step in operating their sewing machines. The fabric won’t feed without this guide.

Alternatively, you may need to adjust the presser foot for the fabric. The presser foot has two different positions, and you may need to raise the presser foot to the highest position for thicker fabric or layers of fabric to fit and feed properly.

7. Power Issues

It may sound basic, but it’s possible that your machine isn’t feeding fabric because of a power issue. If there’s a power failure or damaged electrical outlet that the machine is plugged into, the fabric won’t feed. Of course, other operating parts won’t work either if there’s no power.

Another power issue that may be happening is the motor doesn’t run. If the motor is damaged, it won’t power the operating parts of the machine, including the fabric feed feature. Other power failure issues besides a bad motor could be a wiring failure or a faulty foot pedal.

Check your power sources. If there is power to the work station, including lighting and other electrical devices, check the electrical outlet the machine is plugged into. Try a different outlet.

A Few Notes About Troubleshooting

It’s frustrating when your sewing machine doesn’t run as expected. Your first thought may be to take it to the repair shop. But it’s well worth the effort to do some troubleshooting first to try to figure out what’s wrong before taking it in for repairs.

There are some common reasons why your sewing machine won’t move the fabric that may be apparent and easily addressed. But when you’ve checked those and they don’t fix the problem, it’s time to start looking further.

Use you sewing machine manual to review settings and maintenance. The machine manufacturer may have a helpful FAQ online with quick useful troubleshooting suggestions. You may see minor issues that help you understand why the sewing machine is not moving fabric.

Checking each feature on your machine that deals with moving fabric can help you pinpoint what is going on and make adjustments if necessary.

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