Sewing Machine Bobbin Thread Bunching - Heres Why & What To Do!

Written By 

Jessica Da Costa

Last Updated on 4 March, 2021 by Shine

You’re in the zone, sewing away, cranking out some beautiful stitches when disaster strikes – your bobbin thread bunches up! This can be enormously frustrating and is the last thing you need when you’ve found your sewing groove. Why does it happen and what can you do about it?

Like all man-made machines, sewing machines can have an operational blip once in a while, and thread bunching is a pretty common one. When your bobbin thread bunches or tangles while you’re working, it’s easy to feel annoyed. After all, no one wants to be faced with a ball of thread spaghetti mid-way through a project!

Luckily, 9 times out of 10, it’s a pretty easy fix though, and you’ll be able to resolve the bunching issue on your own in a relatively short amount of time. The faster the fix, the sooner you can get back to work, which is the reason you’ve found yourself here. For solutions to other bobbin-related woes, click here.

Hopefully this article will help you to better understand bobbin thread bunching, what causes it, and how to fix it!

Without further ado, let’s plunge straight into why thread bunching happens:

Why Me, Bobbin, Why Me?

If you’re working to a tight deadline or you’re just enjoying the flow of your work, having to stop to sort out a bobbin bunch can derail your productivity as well as take time out of your schedule. This can leave you asking yourself (and your sewing machine) “why me?”.

To put you in the best position to sort this problem out when it happens, the first thing we need to do is understand WHY it happens in the first place.

The key culprit for causing bobbin thread bunching is a little force called tension. What is tension and why is it relevant in sewing, you might ask? The answer is pretty simple.

Tension is the force that essentially ensures that your top and bottom stiches in any piece of fabric you’re working with remain even and appropriately tight. Uneven tension between the two sides can lead to stitches being loose, puckered or otherwise unseemly, and this can lead to structural issues.

When this happens, you’ll likely notice that in addition to the loosening, puckering, or general unattractiveness, you’ll also have bunching happening. So basically, most of the time you can blame tension!

Thread Bunching on Top

Tension issues on the top of your fabric can be caused by loosening your bobbin case to accommodate a thicker thread without tightening it again once you’re done. Using a thinner thread with too loose a bobbin case will mean the tension in the thread is much too low.

If your bobbin thread is threaded incorrectly or unevenly, this can also cause bunching so look out for this when you next see a thread bird-nest starting to appear.

Thread Bunching Underneath

If the issue is underneath your fabric, there are a few more reasons why this could be happening.

One of the most common reasons for thread bunching on the underside of your fabric is that instead of the bobbin being the source of lax tension, it could be your needle. If you haven’t threaded the needle properly, the tension discs will not be able to keep a good enough hold on the thread which will of course lead to a lack of tension.

Another issue that could cause bunching under your fabric is if you’ve started operating your sewing machine with the presser foot up. Whilst this is more of a rookie error, we’re all liable to make mistakes every once in a while, so this can happen to anyone! For reference though, the presser foot should be placed down prior to beginning any sewing project.

Using an old needle that is no longer at its peak can also cause thread bunching under your fabric. Bent needles and needles that are an appropriate size or shape for the task you’re doing will have the same effect, so make sure your needle is the right kind for the job, straight, and in good condition.

Like all machines, sewing machines get dirty over time with a lot of use. Things like dust and fabric fibres can accumulate in the nooks and crannies, decreasing your sewing machine’s effectiveness which can lead to other problems that result in thread bunching.

Saying Goodbye to Thread Bunching

Depending on the exact cause of your bobbin thread bunching while you sew, there are various remedies you can employ to resolve the issue and continue on your merry way. Here are some easy and relatively quick solutions to the issues described in the previous section.

Bobbin Case Tension Fix

  • This one is quite simple; just adjust the bobbin case to be better suited to the thickness of the particular thread you’re using.
  • This will ensure the bobbin works more seamlessly and tension balance is restored.

Incorrectly Threaded Bobbin

  • Again, this is an easy one. Simply unthread your bobbin and redo it, making sure the thread is wound tightly, evenly, and that there are no knots, kinks, or puckers in the thread as you go.
  • Depending on the length of thread you’re using, this might take a few minutes but it’ll be worth it when you’re able to sew smoothly again.

Incorrectly Threaded Needle

  • Cut the thread off the spool and pull it through the needle to remove it, then start with a new piece and thread it through your needle again.
  • Make sure the tension discs are engaged and that the presser foot is up as you re-thread.

Presser Foot Up While Sewing

  • Once you’ve threaded your needle, make sure you replace the presser foot to the downward position.
  • If you’ve forgotten to do this and your thread has bunched as a result, then stop sewing, put the presser foot down again, and get going again.

Unsuitable Needle

  • This probably goes without saying but if your needle is bent or damaged, then change it before you begin. If your needle is too big or too small for the project you’re doing, then change it. And if your needle is the wrong type or shape for your project, then change it!
  • Making sure you’re starting out with the correct tools is the best way to avoid mistakes and issues further down the line.

Grubby Sewing Machine

  • If you’ve noticed a lot of lint or other build up in your sewing machine, or you can feel that it isn’t running quite as smoothly as it usually does, then it’s time for a clean.
  • Regularly cleaning and oiling your sewing machine will ensure its effectiveness as well as increase its longevity.
  • Be thorough when you dust and oil your machine, getting in all the gaps, under the throat place, and in and around the bobbin case and needle setting.

None of these solutions will take up too much of your time, and although it might be inconvenient to stop what you’re doing to implement these fixes, it’s a much better option than continuing to do subpar sewing.

If you find you’re still having issues even after trying one of these solutions, then the issue could even be something as simple as the type of thread you’re using. It can be tempting to opt for cheap and cheerful threads in the interest of being budget friendly, however cheap threads can cause issues if they’re of inferior quality.

Choose High Quality Thread

  • Cheap threads can unravel, fray, or lose fibres very easily so spending a bit more will ensure you’re getting higher quality thread with more structural integrity which will, in turn, minimise the risk of thread bunching.

With This Information in Tow…

…hopefully you’ll feel more confident to resolve thread bunching problems on your own! It can be very annoying and if it’s never happened to you before, it can even make you feel a bit panicked, so it’s nice to know you’ve got some solutions in your back pocket for when issues arise.

It can be tempting to race through sewing with a machine – after all, it’s so easy when the sewing machine does all the work! But remembering to go at a moderate pace whilst exercising some caution is always a good idea. Making sure your machine is set up properly will also go a long way in avoiding thread bunching.

If you think you’ve exhausted all the options outlined above, the problem might have a more serious cause in which case it might be time to call a sewing machine specialist as a repair might be needed.

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