Category: Technique:

Troubleshooting Tips for Free Motion Quilting

Someone in an online sewing group that I am in quoted their sewing machine mechanic:


“99 percent of all sewing machine problems happen between the front of the machine and the back of the chair.”

This is SO true! So often the problems people encounter sewing are through lack of understanding of their machines or lack of knowledge. These issues can be remedied! Our machines are fantastic and rarely have difficulties, but even the best of us mess up sometimes. Here’s what to do when something goes awry:

When you are trying to diagnose what went wrong, change only 1 thing at a time. If you change two things, then you won’t know which of the changes actually fixed the problem.

Take notes. If you can’t figure it out on your own, having information to share with your mechanic will help him/her in their diagnostics.

Sarah’s Five-step troubleshooting process:

1. Re-thread your machine both needle and bobbin.

a. Sometimes things just wiggle around and get out of place (and you can’t see what wiggled). Simply unthread your machine by cutting the thread at the spool and pulling the old thread out through the needle. Pull out some new thread and re-thread.
b. Repeat for the bobbin, but begin by removing the bobbin from the case entirely. Check that the bobbin case has not been dislodged and that the arrows line up correctly. Replace the bobbin making sure the thread is coming off in the correct direction (picture on the window to the bobbin area).

NOTE: if your thread jammed, do NOT use the thread cutter to cut through the jam! I damaged mine doing that (that error occurred in the 99 percent—between the chair and the machine--meaning it was my mistake). Instead slide a seam ripper under your fabric (or fine scissors) and cut the thread. Then carefully remove your project and make sure to remove ALL stray bits of thread! You’ll need to remove the throat plate the clean things well.

2. If re-threading does not solve the problem, try changing your needle. The needle may be dull, damaged, wasn’t great even out of the package. Try a new, sharp needle.

3. If neither of those options work, and you have cleared out all offending stray bits of thread, turn the machine off and then back on. Sometimes this re-sets the machine and all is well.

4. Take a walk. Turn the machine off and go do something else. By this point you are irked and need a break. How many times have we all done this, come back, and the problem is gone?

5. Administer chocolate!

More seriously, if none of these steps solve your issue, call your dealer/mechanic. The more information you can share about what you were doing, what happened, what sounds the machine made, where the sounds came from, and so on, will help the mechanic help you. Taking in photos or samples is really helpful, too.