Bobbins, although vital to a sewing machine, can be the cause of you stopping making progress on that lovely project you’re doing and that’s not ideal! So let’s look at what we can do about that.
Though it can initially seem quite challenging to work out what is going on due to everything being enclosed within the sewing machine, I promise you that by the time you’ve finished this post, things will be a lot clearer!
Modern sewing machines, in particular, make it easier to gain access to the bobbin and the inner workings of the machine. However, there are still some common problems that arise with a sewing machine bobbing so let’s solve the 11 most likely problems.
The below solutions apply to both top loading bobbins and front-loading ones so whichever machine you’ll have, we should be able to come up with the solution.
Before we dive into troubleshooting, it’s usually worth rethreading your sewing machine to see if that solves the problem. Sometimes it does and it’s a nice quick fix so that’s why I’d always recommend trying this as a first step.
Remove the bobbin and have a look to make sure that no knots are on the thread. It’s a good idea to pull out a bit of thread so that you can ensure everything is running smoothly before closing it off.
When you insert the bobbin back into the case, don’t forget to turn the wheel towards you one full rotation. This will make the needle go up and down, grabbing the bobbin thread for you.
The final stage is to pull some thread and then leave it hanging at the back of your sewing machine. All being well, you should be all sorted.
However, if that hasn’t resolved your bobbin issue, below are some options to try that should get you back up and running!
One important to always do is use the correct needle for your fabric.
You can check the number on your needle to make sure it lines up with the thickness and structure of the material you’re working with.
There are guides out there to help with this if you’re unsure.
Another thing to look out for is whether the needle is bent or not. A slightly bent needle can cause problems, especially where the bobbin is concerned.
The needle should be inserted correctly and the tip should be even.
A little tip is that if you find your needles are often becoming bent, then you could be pulling the fabric too quickly or too hard through your sewing machine.
One thing to bear in mind is that it isn’t always easy to see if the needle is bent just by looking at it, particularly if it’s in the sewing machine. Don’t be afraid to inspect it in more detail!
Laying it flat on the table can show you if your needle is bent quite quickly. Also, if you haven’t changed your needle in a while, please do so!
A needle can become dull quite quickly and this will affect the quality of your stitch, it can also cause more problems as far as the bobbin is concerned. Needles are relatively cheap to replace and can save you a lot of time and money by keeping them fresh.
Speaking of changing the needle, you may need to change it if you’re not using the correct size. A needle that is too thin for the fabric can bend quite quickly.
A quick check before you start using your sewing machine is to make sure the needle is fastened in enough. A needle can become loose over time so a few seconds check it’s well worth it!
Especially when I tell you that a loose needle can shatter inside of the machine and land you with an expensive repair job.
So now we’ve checked the needle, if your problem is still happening, let’s keep looking. Onto the next solution!
Bobbins are available in so many different sizes.
To top it off, there’s also a difference between those that are front loading and those that are top loaded. Then you have home sewing machines and industrial sewing machines, also using different sized bobbins. So you can see how easily it can be to get the wrong size!
Industrial sewing machines will often have a broader bobbin and it is possible to use a bobbin that is meant for a home sewing machine in it.
That doesn’t mean I recommend it though!
The bobbin can move around and this can cause problems. Different sewing machine brands also vary the size of the bobbin.
If you have a Brother sewing machine but you want to use a Singer bobbin, it can be possible but your best bet is to use one from the same brand. This lowers your chances of bobbin problems!
If you’re unsure what bobbin size you should go for, the manual is the best place to start.
You can see why it’s worth checking you’re using the right-sized bobbin when there are so many different sizes and brands! It can be quite tricky!
When you have popped the bobbin in you ought to be able to grab the thread when you turn the wheel towards you.
If that isn’t working, no worries! The solution should be here!
Your best bet is to ensure that the bobbin-winding spindle is to the left, you can push it back if it isn’t.
If it isn’t this will be stopping the needle from going down and picking up the thread from the bobbin. When you’re doing this, you will want to have the presser foot up.
Should that not fix it, then getting a professional to look at it may be your best option.
It could be that the timing is off. This means that the needle isn’t meeting the bobbin thread at the correct time and it can’t form a stitch.
If you find that your bobbin thread is always (or often) looping at the back of your fabric, it could be that the tension of your needle thread isn’t quite right. Easily fixed though!
Basically, if you think the tension is too low on the upper thread then the sewing machine may not be able to pull the bobbin thread in the way that should, and it won’t be able to make a proper stitch so this could be the cause of the problem.
How to find out? You can start by adjusting the tension to a higher tension on the upper thread. This is a good starting point and helps narrow things down.
When things like this happen, it can be known as “thread bunching”, or “birdnesting” - I prefer “birdnesting” but you can choose which one you prefer!
You can see why they call it these, when the thread fails to create that perfect stitch, you end up with a bunch of messy thread at the back.
For those who aren’t sure about adjusting the tension, starting with a number between 3 and 5 is a good starting point. You can take it from there until you find the right tension.
It’s also worth ensuring that there aren’t any knots or strange things going on with the thread, this can disrupt the flow of things, especially the bobbin.
The quality of the thread can also play a part in “birdnesting”. Lower quality thread produces more lint and this can get stuck in different places and cause problems.
Depending on the age of your sewing machine, it may have a drop-in system for the bobbin. Both newer and older sewing machines usually have a bobbin case if the system is a front-loading system.
If you haven’t already, spending some time casting your eyes over the manual could be a fruitful exercise. The bobbin has to go into the bobbin case correctly and threaded as per the instructions.
So if the sewing machine you are using is different from what you’re used to, it could be as simple as it needing to be threaded differently.
Before reading anymore, you need to know whether your bobbin should be inserted at the front of your sewing machine or if the case is flat under the footer.
Got it? Great!
For front-loading sewing machines, they will most likely have a bobbin case that is metal. The reason for this is the needle bumps into the case so it needs to be sturdy enough to handle that.
Now you will want to remove the hook and be sure that there aren’t are burs on the hook.
This can come about because of the needle going up and down and hitting this area. Sometimes, it can leave a mark and this is particularly common when the sewing machine isn’t in sync.
What happens if it is? Not too much to worry about! This can be fixed by using a nail file and a polish. Be mindful to do this gently or you could find yourself making it worse and creating more marks.
With the hook all fixed, you can add a little oil to it. You will find that it can run more smoothly when your machine is back up and running again.
Now for those with top-loading sewing machines! The bobbin case is likely to be plastic as it doesn’t need to be quite as sturdy (in theory anyway).
What this does mean is that the problems can be a little trickier to fix should a needle make contact with the bobbin case. But all is not lost!
While the needle doesn’t always leave a big mark, it can actually damage the case more than you may first realise.
Remove the bobbin case and take a look at it. The bad news is, if it is damaged, you are probably going to need to purchase a new case.
Bobbin cases aren’t hugely expensive but it can be rather tiresome having to wait for one to turn up.
The vast majority of sewing machines allow you to change the tension of the bobbin thread, so let’s assume yours does!
You should start by finding out if the thread needs to be altered.
Hang the bobbin case and you should find that you can cause the thread to shake but the bobbin case shouldn’t fall down or unwind much.
Not quite happening? If you find that the thread is not unwinding when you shake it a little then it could be that the tension of the bobbin thread is too high. Time to adjust!
If it’s going the other way and the thread is too loose, then the tension should be adjusted also.
No need to go to the shop for this, you are able to do it yourself. Just have a look for a screw, you should find this on the side of your bobbin case.
Once you have located it, you won’t want to turn it very much. Just approach it slowly and turn it a little bit.
Imagine you’re holding a clock, turn it five minutes in either direction at a time. After each turn, take some time to test it and see how it’s going.
Not sure which way you should be turning it?
Want to loosen the tension then turn the screw clockwise. If you need to tighten up the tension then turn it anti-clockwise.
Remember, just a few millimetres at a time!
Regardless of whether your bobbin is to be front-loaded or top-loaded, it will need to be inserted with care. Always make sure that the thread of the bobbin is pointing the same way as the bobbin case turns.
If you are finding that the bobbin tension keeps changing, then you should look at exchanging the bobbin.
Let’s say you have fitted your sewing machine with a plastic bobbin, then you could try using a bobbin made from metal and see how you get on.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important that you use a bobbin brand that matches your sewing machine brand to minimise problems.
Generally, metal bobbins cause fewer problems so if you can source one, then a metal bobbin is properly your best bet!
This happens! If it happens to you then being gentle is the key.
You ideally want to be able to take out the bobbin so that you can see what is causing the problem.
If you were working with a heavy fabric or strong needle then perhaps your bobbin case took quite a hit and it could cause it to get stuck.
On your sewing machine, there should be a little latch, you might find that you can remove that gain access to your bobbin. This might make it possible to remove the bobbin.
If not, take off the plate at the bottom and have a look. It could be that something has ended up stuck. Be that a needle, fabric, or thread, this could be cause it to get stuck.
Should you be successful (and I hope you are!), and you managed to free the bobbin case then check it over. You need to make sure that there aren’t any burrs on the case as this can cause more problems!
If you’re unsuccessful, firstly, I’m sorry, secondly, it’s probably time to take it to the shop. There is no point in trying to force it when you could end up damaging it more.
Okay, start by making sure that it definitely is the bobbin case.
What could on the face of it be the case, might not be. It could be the plate at the bottom of your sewing machine should be a bit tighter.
Once you have verified that it is indeed the bobbin case then you can try a few things.
Check that the case is fitted into the machine properly.
Get the needle into its highest position, you can do this if you turn the wheel in your direction.
When you’ve got it in this position, you can check if the hinged latch that you find on the bobbin case is in place.
Try to pull the hinged latch and take out the bobbin case. You should find that the case clicks into place when it’s inserted.
Once you hear the clicking sound, you should see the case sitting properly and firmly. It shouldn’t be loose and able to fall out.
If that’s the case, then you can move the handwheel to inspect the area around the bobbin case.
What you will need to do is ensure that the needle is not coming into contact with the bobbin. In a perfect sewing machine world, everything should be running nice and smoothly.
However, if you find that your needle does in fact touch the bobbin case then you can try reinserting the case again.
If this doesn’t fix the problem then it’s a bit more serious and a trip to the shop is in order!
Should you hear an unusual noise that sounds like it’s from around the area of the bobbin case then your first step should be to give your sewing machine a clean.
The fix could be as simple as that. Sometimes thread or lint get trapped in the machine and this can cause noise (and potentially more problems).
If you have cleaned the machine and that hasn’t worked then a needle change may be in order. The needle can sometimes become bent and it’s possible that it’s touching parts of your sewing machine when it’s moving.
A sewing machine shouldn’t be making strange noises. If yours is, do not continue to use it. There will be something that is causing the noise and you should find out what that is.
The upside is, that more often than not, the noise goes away when you either clean or change the needle so hopefully, that will happen for you!
It’s amazing what a thorough clean can do and that’s the same for your sewing machine!
If you find that you’re continuing to have problems then a good clean might be in order. Getting rid of all the built-up lint, dirt, and hair in and around where the bobbin lives is the best place to start.
You can’t prevent lint, it’s the fluff that will naturally build up in the sewing machine when we’re using it.
A clean of your machine will mean that this lint doesn’t damage it. There is also a risk that it will impact how the needle and other mechanical things work.
There’s no need to take that risk when the job doesn’t take long at all!
For a complete guide on how to clean and oil your sewing machine, you can read about it here.
There we have it! Hopefully one of these solutions has got your sewing machine working again.
While there are many things that can cause a bobbin problem, the solutions are often relatively simple.
The more problems you have, the more confident you will be at fixing them. You will also develop a greater understanding of your machine along the way, this will inevitably lead to fewer problems.
We all know that...“Problems are opportunities that make us stronger”.
What will be your next project?