Many people experience problems with the bobbin on the sewing machine.
It can seem difficult to figure out what’s going on simply because everything is enclosed inside the machine. But it’s not really that hard and most modern machines will make it easy for you.
Let’s look at 11 common problems many people experience with the bobbin case and bobbin thread.
Whether you’re using a top load bobbin or a front-load bobbin these are the type of problems people have.
If the bobbin keeps causing problems just follow along as we uncover why this might happen and find good solutions.
Start by rethreading your sewing machine
Before we start troubleshooting and figuring out what’s wrong let’s just rethread the machine and see if the problem goes away.
This is always the first thing we want to do when we have problems with the thread on the machine.
Take out the bobbin and make sure there are no knots on the thread. Pull out a little bit of thread to make sure everything runs smoothly before you close it off.
After you have inserted the bobbin into the case you want to turn the wheel towards yourself for a full rotation. Now the needle will go down and up and grab the bobbin thread for you.
Now pull out some thread and leave it hanging from the back of the machine and you are ready to go.
However, if this doesn’t solve your problem here’s a list of things you can try.
Change the needle
Make sure you’re using the correct needle for the type of fabric you are working with. It’s always important to check the number on the needle and make sure it matches the thickness and structure of the fabric.
If you are not sure which kind of needle you should use, please check out this sewing machine needle guide.
You also need to make sure the needle is inserted correctly and isn’t bent. If the needle was a little bent or has an uneven tip it will easily cause problems, especially with the bobbin.
If you are continuously experiencing bent needles you are probably pulling the fabric too fast or too hard through the machine.
Please note that the needle can be bent even though you cannot easily see it when you look at it. If it’s only bent a little bit you might only see it if you take it out of the machine and place it flat on the table. Either way, it’s always a pretty cheap solution to just change it. If you haven’t changed the needle in a while you should do so whenever you experience weird sounds or the bobbin area is causing you trouble.
You should also make sure you use the correct size needle. If the needle is too thin for the fabric you’re using it might end up getting bent too easily.
Always make sure to fasten the needle enough. If it gets loose over time it might end up shattered inside the machine and this can cause some real (expensive) problems.
Now that we have made sure the needle isn’t the problem, let’s move on to what else could cause trouble with the bobbin thread.
Make sure you’re using the right size bobbin
There are many different sizes of bobbins.
There’s a difference between front-loaded and top-loaded bobbins and there’s also a difference between a home sewing machine and the industrial models.
Typically an industrial sewing machine will have a broader bobbin so you can actually insert a bobbin from home sewing machine. This is not a good idea as it can move forth and back while sewing. So always make sure you’re using the correct size.
The size can also vary from brand to brand.
Let’s say you have a Singer machine and want to use a Brother bobbin. You might be able to do so but we always advised to use one from the same brand as the machine. The same goes for all the other brands like Pfaff, Kenmore, Janome, Babylock, Husqvarna etc.
You will need to check with the manual to make sure you are using the correct size bobbin.
Bobbin thread won’t come up
After inserting the bobbin thread you should be able to grab the bobbin thread when turning the handwheel towards you (newer away from you). If this doesn’t work here’s a couple of solutions you can look into.
First, you need to make sure the bobbin-winding spindle has been pushed back to the left. Otherwise, the needle will not go down and pick up the bobbin thread. Also, make sure the presser foot is up when you do this.
If this doesn’t solve your problem you probably have to take it to the shop.
The timing could be off.
The needle needs to meet the bobbin thread at the correct time in order to form a stitch. Otherwise, it will not be able to pick up the bobbin thread and get your machine ready for sewing.
Bobbin thread keeps looping
Whenever the bobbin thread keeps looping on the back of the fabric you might have a problem with the tension of the needle thread.
If the tension of the upper thread is too low it might not be able to pull the bobbin thread properly to form a perfect stitch. So start by testing with a higher tension on the upper thread.
This can also cause what we call “birdnesting”, or “thread bunching”. It’s the same thing really. The thread doesn’t form a nice stitch on the back of the fabric and we have a messy bunch of thread instead.
If you don’t know how to set the tension you can start by a number between 3-5 and work your way from there.
You also need to make sure that there are no knots and irregularities on the thread.
A low-quality thread can also cause the thread to get stuck and result in loops, holes, and other frustrating problems.
Check the bobbin case for burs
Many new sewing machine models are using at a drop-in system for the bobbin and older models (as well as new models) are using a bobbin case with a front loading system. When you insert the bobbin into the bobbin case you want to make sure you are threading the machine according to the manual.
If you are used to working on another machine this type of machine might be threaded differently than you are used to.
Before you read on you need to check your machine. Find out whether the bobbin is placed on the front on the machine (visible from the front) or if the bobbin case is placed flat under the footer.
Front-loading machines (vertical)
Almost every frontloading machine will have a metal bobbin case. This is a good thing because when we have a needle bumping into the case we can actually fix it again (in most cases).
Take out the hook and examine it to make sure there are no burrs on the hook. When the needle is punching up-and-down it can actually hit this area and leave a mark. Especially if the machine is not in perfect sync.
If that’s the case you can use a little nail file and give it a polish.
Make sure you doing this very gently so you don’t leave another mark.
Now that you have fixed the hook you will apply a little bit of oil.
This is just to make sure it runs as smoothly as possible when you insert it back into the machine.
Top-loading machines (horizontal)
Most top-loading machines will have plastic bobbin cases. This makes it a little harder to fix the problem whenever a needle bumps into the case.
The problem here is that the needle will not only leave a little mark but sometimes have damaged the bobbin case.
You need to take out the bobbin case and examine it. In many cases, you will need a new bobbin case if it is damaged.
So again, if the bobbin case is damaged you need to replace it. It will typically cost around $15-$30 so that’s not too bad, but it’s always frustrating to have to wait for a new one to arrive.
Bobbin thread tension problems
On most machines, you will be able to adjust the tension of the bobbin thread. First, you want to check whether it needs to be adjusted.
You can check the bobbin tension by holding it hanging by the thread like this:
When the bobbin case is hanging like this, we want to be able to shake the thread a little bit without the bobbin case falling down and unwind more than an inch or two.
If you cannot unwind the thread by snapping your wrists once or twice the bobbin tension is probably set too high and needs to be adjusted.
Likewise, If you find that it is too lose you have to change the tension. You can do that yourself. You need to locate the little screw on the side of the bobbin case.
This is where you will find the little screw:
You want to make sure only to turn it in a little bit at a time. You can start by turning it “five minutes” left or right thinking about it as a little clock. Now you will test it before you touch it again.
Turn the little screw clockwise to loosen the tension and counterclockwise if the tension is too loose. Again, you really need to be careful not to turn it more than a few millimeters each time you adjust it.
Whether you are using a front-loaded or top-loaded bobbin you need to insert the bobbin carefully. The thread of the bobbin should always point in the same direction as the bobbin case turns.
If you are using a Singer machine you should have the bobbin thread out clockwise.
Please note: We almost never adjust the tension of the bobbin case. So you do need to test tension and make sure it is not correct before you try to adjust it.
If you don’t get this right it’s not a big problem though. It will probably sew just fine anyway.
If the bobbin tension is not consistent…
If the Boppin tension is changing are not being consistent over time, you should try to exchange the bobbin.
If you are using a plastic bobbin, you should try switching to a metal bobbin instead. Always make sure to get one from the same brand as your machine. If you I’m doubt be sure to check with your local sewing machine shop.
As we mentioned before the plastic bobbins often cost problems and you should just try exchanging it.
The bobbin case is stuck
If the bobbin case is stuck you need to gently remove the bobbin to see what could be the problem.
Maybe it took a hit from a heavy-duty canvas or leather needle (which can be quite tough). Make sure to open the little latch to be able to take it out and try to wiggle it a little bit if you cannot get it out.
Remove the bottom plate of the machine and take a good look. Maybe something is stuck like a needle, thread, or piece of fabric.
If you manage to get the bobbin case out of the machine, take a good look at it and make sure there are no burrs on the bobbin case. Here’s how you fix a burr on the bobbin case.
If it’s totally stuck and you cannot get it out in any way you probably need to get it to sewing machine repair shop.
The bobbin case is loose
First, make sure that this is actually the case.
It might sound like the bobbin case is loose and it might just be the bottom plate of the machine that needs to be fastened more tightly.
If you are sure it is the bobbin case here’s what you need to do.
You need to make sure that the bobbin case is inserted properly.
Start by turning the handwheel towards you until the needle is in it’s highest position. Now check if the hinged latch on the bobbin case actually locks in place as it should when you press in the bobbin. Pull the hinged tap and remove the bobbin case.
When you insert the bobbin case it should always click in place.
As soon as you hear the clicking sound it should sit properly and not be loose are falling out. Now you can use the handwheel to move the needle up-and-down and examine the area around the bobbin case.
Make sure the needle is not hitting the bobbin. Everything should run smoothly and easily.
If the needle does touch the bobbin case you should try to reinstall it one more time.
If the problem persists make sure you’re using the correct bobbin case and bobbin. Take the machine to a repair shop if it doesn’t fix the problem.
Weird noise from the bobbin case
If you have a weird noise coming from the bobbin case (or around that area) the first thing you should do is to clean the machine. The noise can come from the needle touching something inside the machine or maybe there’s a piece of thread or fabric stuck somewhere.
If that doesn’t work you have to change the needle. It might have gotten a little bent and maybe it is touching some inner parts of the machine while moving up and down.
You should never continue sewing or quilting whenever the machine is making a weird noise. It should sound perfectly normal and not make any scratching or ticking sounds.
In most cases, the noise stops when you have cleaned the machine and changed the needle.
Read on to find out how to clean the machine properly.
Clean the machine from lint
If your machine is still causing a problem make sure to clean it thoroughly. You want to remove all lint, hair, and dirt from around the bobbin area to make sure nothing gets stuck.
Lint is that fluffy stuff that keeps building up inside the machine as we use it.
It will always build up and you need to clean your machine regularly to make sure it doesn’t damage anything or interfere with the needle and everything going on mechanically.
Make sure the threat can run easily and freely.
Unthread the machine and take apart the bobbin and bottom plate completely so you can reach all corners.
Once you’re done getting all the lint and dirt out of the bobbin area you should give it a little oil. We always finish off cleaning with a little bit of oil – not too much. If you find it difficult to get the right amount of oil you can put a drop of oil on the brush and use it to apply it unto the moving parts.
By using the brush to oil the machine you are also catching more lint and getting all the dirt out from the area.
You should never use canned air to blow air into the bobbin area.
Because if you do so, you will only blow the lint further into the machine and you will probably mix it up with the oil to create little layers of dirt inside the machine.
So make sure to only use a brush to clean the machine. Again, this is to avoid pushing the dirt further into the machine. We want to take our time to remove it gently.
What you can do instead is to vacuum the area gently.
You might have a little head-mount for your vacuumer in order to reach further into the machine. Just make sure you are not sucking up any vital parts of the machine.
You always want to look carefully before using the vacuumer.
Here’s a nice video showing you how to clean and oil your sewing machine with a specific focus on the bobbin area:
Please note that the machine used in the video above is a Bernina model. We also use a Bernina model and as the woman in the video above points out, it’s a really nice machine when it comes to cleaning the area around the bobbin.
It’s very easy to remove the bottom plate between the needle and the bobbin case and this might not be the case if you are on a Singer machine, Brother machine or Pfaff and Janome. On some of these brands, you need a screwdriver to detach the bottom plate.
Don’t be afraid to do so.
It’s very important that you clean the area around the bobbin and bobbin case. That should always be one of the first things you do whenever you experience bobbin problems.
We recommend you clean it every second time you change the bobbin thread.
If the machine has not been in use for a long time are you working in the dirty or dusty environment you probably need to do it more frequently.