Bobbin Thread Bunching, Looping, and Tangling: What now?

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There is nothing frustrating than working with a dysfunctional sewing machine. They will occasionally have problems ranging from jammed threads, bunching and tangling. The good news is that you can easily troubleshoot them and enjoy your sewing experience.

Sewing machines often have the same problems which you probably anticipate. Others could be unique to your machine and you will need to use the manufacturer’s manual to resolve it.

This article will guide you on the common problems and how to solve them yourself even while mid-project.

Thread Jamming in Bobbin Area

As a seamstress, you dread that moment when no sound or movement comes from your sewing machine when you press the pedal. It can happen to anyone whether a beginner or a professional. It is therefore important to understand the cause of the jam.

The thread could jam due to various reasons which include; the machine is clogged with lint or other debris. If the machine is not threaded properly, it could easily jam. Similarly, a tight tension in the bobbin area or the machine not being oiled regularly could be the culprit.

How to resolve it

  • If the tension is too tight on the bobbin, loosen it in bits, put it back in and try sewing until you get the desired results.
  • The bobbin case could be out of alignment and you will have to replace it.
  • Try to unthread and thread the bobbin and the upper threads.
  • Get the right bobbin for your sewing machine. If the bobbin is taller, it will likely cause jamming.
  • When you begin sewing, remember to leave a decent amount of thread (tails) both on the bobbin and upper thread. If you sew with short threads, it will get pulled back into the machine. Leave out at least 15 cm of thread.
  • Hold onto the threads as you start to sew. You can gently tug on the thread with a little pressure this will prevent them from jamming.
  • Do not start sewing at the very edge of your fabric, the thread will easily form knots and jam
  • Check to see if the needle you are using is the right one for the particular fabric. A weaker needle is more likely to cause jamming unlike a thicker one.
  • Clean out the bobbin case and remove any lint or debris that has collected over time. Use canned air to loosen lint or dust
  • You can also try oiling your sewing machine.

Thread Bunching in Bobbin Case

This is common when sewing and the easiest to fix at the same time. It is also known as bird nesting since the thread bunch into a ball resembling a bird’s nest. If you encounter such, the cause could be the bobbin.

Bunching will often happen while sewing. Gently tug on the fabric and cut through the extra thread rather than pulling it loose. This may further damage the machine and your fabric.


How to resolve it

  • The first thing you should do is check whether the bobbin is threaded carefully. You will have to remove it completely from the case and thread it again. Use the manual on how to do it correctly.
  • Consult your user manual to understand the correct, needle and thread for each individual fabric.
  • You should also ensure that you are using the same thread in both the top thread and bobbin. If there is a difference in thread weights, the machine tends to pull on them at different rates causing bunching.
  • Another cause could be the bobbin case is loose due to a loosened screw. Re-adjust it and tug the bobbin thread gently. It should have some resistance but the thread moves freely.
  • Check to see whether the bobbin is placed correctly in the bobbin case.
  • You should try tugging on the threads when you start sewing, both the upper and bobbin threads.
  • Clean out the bobbin parts gently and try again on a piece of cloth until the problem resolves.
  • The thread in the bobbin case might have come out of its compartment. Re-thread it and it should work.

Bobbin Thread Looping

The more you use your sewing machine the more likely the tension will change. It can be loose or tight which is dependent on the thread used, age of your machine and regular oiling. If the bobbin thread is not threaded correctly, it will form loops.

You have probably heard that you should not temper with the bobbin tension no matter what. The truth of the matter is, yes you can. It is not as difficult as you may think and the manual will come in handy.

How to resolve it

  • You should adjust the bobbin tension in small bits, test it on a fabric and adjust if there is need. Continue doing this until you get the correct tension that will allow for a good stitch without looping.
  • The bobbin case can easily get damaged especially if it is made of plastic. You can check for indentations by running your finger along the case and if any then you need to replace it with a metallic one.
  • Ensure that your bobbin is threaded as instructed on the instruction manual. You can alternatively get pre-wound bobbins as they are more consistent.
  • The bobbin case could be having fluff or debris. Clean out using a paint brush. You can also use a dental floss
  • It could be as simple as re-threading your bobbin.
  • Adjust both the upper and bobbin thread at the same time until they are even.
  • Alternatively, try changing the spool.

Bobbin Thread Tangling

Sewing machines are meant to make your project easier and nothing is as frustrating as a ball of tangled thread underneath the fabric. Tangling is usually as a result of improperly threading the sewing machine. You will notice this when sewing. The bobbin keeps pulling and jamming collecting a lot of thread beneath your fabric.

There are several culprits for this ranging from a dull needle, improper threading or tension. The tension in both your upper and bobbin threads need to be even. The bobbin could also be placed incorrectly.

More than likely, you forgot to put the bobbin back correctly while cleaning your machine. The bobbin could also be upside down and the thread will not turn in a counter-clockwise motion. When this happens, the bobbin thread will not be in harmony with the upper thread. This will cause tangling underneath the fabric.

How to resolve it

  • Check your bobbin to ensure it is not upside down. The thread should move in a counter-clockwise motion. That is from the left side to the right.
  • Be sure to check for any lint or dirt on the bobbin case and use a paint brush to clean it
  • Ensure that you are inserting the bobbin case correctly, you can use the manual and follow the instructions step by step
  • Make sure that you are aligning the fabric at the edge under the presser foot before you begin to sew
  • Change the thread; you could be amazed how helpful it is.
  • The bobbin must also be specifically designed for your machine. If you use a different brand, you will have tangling.

The problems discussed above could really drag your project or even halt it all together. You can easily resolve them on your own at home. If they keep occurring then it is more likely that your sewing machine needs to be checked by a professional.

To avoid these mishaps, have your sewing machine serviced regularly even if they are working well. Do not wait until they fail completely since you could have avoided it. A simple habit as cleaning and regularly oiling your sewing machine could go a long way in saving you time and money.

You may not think of this when buying your machine but the manual is a life saver. Keep the user manual well because you will certainly need it at some point. If you don’t have one then you can get one off the internet for your specific model and brand.

Another great tip is to buy a sewing machine that is not too complicated. Do not buy it because you like how it looks or your friend has it. Get one based on its performance and how easy you can troubleshoot common problems as they occur.

Sometimes your sewing machine is just too old and you keep holding on to it. It could be it was handed down to you by your grandmother and it has sentimental values. It could be a high time to give it a rest and get a new one. The model could be out dated and this will even make it hard to troubleshoot it.

Depending on the year of manufacturer, you may not be able to find a professional who has knowledge of your particular sewing machine. Keep up to date and save yourself some heart ache.

These problems should however not stop you from being a great seamstress. It happens once in a while and if you are lucky, you may not experience any for a long time. So get that fabric and thread and make yourself a garment that spells out your taste in fashion.

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