One essential part of using your sewing machine is making sure it is working correctly and knowing the necessary parts.
One part that is essential to using your sewing machine is the feed dog. Even though this part is critical, it goes widely unnoticed for most sewing machine owners.
A malfunctioning feed dog could mean that your fabric doesn’t get pulled through the machine the way that it should be.
If you have issues with your feed dog, there are a variety of reasons this could be happening to you:
Table of Contents
What Are the Feed Dogs?
First things first, what are the feed dogs?
The feed dogs are the part of your sewing machine that helps to push your fabric forward or backward while you are sewing.
Your feed dogs are the metal teeth that are situated on the throat plate of your sewing machine. When you sew, the feed dogs move back and forth to help move your fabric.
When they move, they grip the bottom of the fabric and help propel your fabric forwards or backward while you sew. This helps to move your fabric at an even pace so that you get a high-quality and even stitch.
Using Your Feed Dogs:
Usually, your feed dogs are placed in an “up” position so that they can grip your fabric and feed it through your machine. This helps when you are sewing a straight line or doing something that requires precision.
There are some scenarios where you wouldn’t need your feed dogs in the “up” position. This would allow you to sew more freehand. This can be useful if you are doing something, such as quilting.
Not using the feed dogs is not ideal if you are trying to sew in a straight line.
To sew without using the feed dogs, you can either lower them or cover them with a special plate that you might have gotten with your machine.
Some people even use plastic or playing cards to cover any feed dogs that they cannot lower. If you are not sure on how to lower your feed dogs, you should check your manual for more information.
My Feed Dogs are Not Moving Back and Forth:
If your feed dogs are not moving back and forth, it can make sewing your projects difficult.
This could be an issue that you are having with your feed dogs:
1. Stitch Length:
One reason that your feed dogs might not be moving your fabric while you are sewing is your stitch length.
Most sewing machines allow you to choose your stitch length. It is possible that if your sewing machine is not moving your fabric forward or backward, you do not have your machine set to a high enough stitch length.
It is common to set your stitch length to zero when you are sewing buttons on. Setting your stitch length to zero will also stop your feed dogs from moving back and forth so that it does not propel your fabric. If you do this and forget that you did, your feed dogs will not move.
Depending on your machine, you will want to have your stitch length set to two or higher to make sure that your feed dogs move your fabric back and forth correctly.
2. My Feed Dogs Are Stuck in the Down Position:
Having your feed dogs in the down position could be helpful if you want to sew freehanded.
However, if you choose to go back to guided sewing afterward, you will want to put your feed dogs back up. If your feed dogs are stuck in the down position, this could be a problem.
To attempt to fix your feed dog there are a few things that you can try.
- Checking to make sure your needle is turned as high as it will go.
- If you turned your needle in one complete rotation towards yourself, this should raise your feed dogs above your needle plate.
- Check the feed dog lever. If the feed dog lever is in the downward position, you will want to change it.
- Check your manual to know how your lever should look when your feed dogs are supposed to be up.
Sometimes when you are switching from the down position back up, that you will have to sew a few stitches for the feed dogs to properly come back up.
This is best done on a test strip of fabric.
If you have tried to restart your feed dogs and they do not go up, you will want to take your machine to a professional to get the problem diagnosed.
Why Can I Not Raise the Feed Dogs?
Raising your feed dogs is not as simple as pushing the lever to the “up” position, even when they are working properly.
Even though each machine works differently, there are some steps that you have to take to raise your feed dogs.
These steps include:
- Make sure your presser foot is raised up
- Make sure that your feed dog lever is set to the “up” position
- Manually turn the handwheel toward you until you can audibly hear the feed dogs click back in place
- If you do not hear the clicking sound, turn your handwheel again and see if you can see your feed dogs raise back up into position
If you have taken these steps and your feed dogs still will not raise up, you might need to check with the manufacturer of your machine, or with a qualified sewing machine technician.
Other Problems With Your Feed Dogs:
If you are not experiencing any of the other feed dog issues, there are other potential issues you could be having:
3. Dirty Feed Dogs:
If your feed dog area is dirty, dust and lint can be inhibiting them from gripping the fabric and moving your fabric for you.
Keeping your sewing machine clean is a good way to extend the life of your machine and to keep all the parts working.
The area underneath the needle plate and near the feed dogs is highly susceptible to dirt, debris, shreds of fabric and thread, and other things that can make your machine stop working properly.
This is not only something that will stop your feed dogs from gripping the fabric, but it also can cause thread jamming and other issues.
4. Fine Fabric:
Another reason that your feed dogs might now be working properly is that you have a very slick or fine fabric.
It is a frequent issue with fine or silky fabric that it slips underneath the presser foot. Without the proper pressure form the presser foot, the feed dogs cannot do their job of moving the fabric along.
To fix this, you will want to see if you can change the presser foot’s pressure that would be better able to grip the fabric and move it along.
If you cannot change the pressure on your presser foot, there are other things that you can do to sew a fine fabric on your machine.
You could try to use a piece of wax paper or vellum laid with the fabric. This can be easily removed after you have created your seam.
5. The Timing of My Feed Dogs Might Be Off:
Timing issues in your sewing machine can cause problems when it comes to your machine working properly. Your timing issues could be seen in multiple areas of your machine.
The most common timing issues occur with your needle and your bobbin, but it can also affect your feed dogs.
To check on the timing of your feed dogs, you will want to:
- Replace any worn down parts
- Make sure your machine is on a straight stitch with a long stitch length.
- Turn handwheel and stop when the needle’s point is as high above the needle plate as it will go
- Turn the feed gears by hand and watch for any movement from your feed dogs.
- If your feed dogs are not moving properly, you will know your timing is off
Fixing the feed dogs’ timing is not something that you will be able to do on your own. This is something that you will want to take your machine in for.
It is not suggested that you fix any timing issue on your machine yourself. Attempting to do so could create further timing issues or other problems with your machine.
How Do I Know if the Feed Dogs Are Broken?
Besides the other problems that you might be experiencing, your feed dogs could also be broken.
It is possible that you have a more mechanical issue that is tougher to find.
You will know if the feed dogs are broken if they do not work, and you have tried everything else to fix them.
6. Loose Equipment:
One potential reason that you could be having issues with your feed dogs are that your parts have become loose over time.
If you notice any loose screws or other loose parts, you will want to tighten them before you choose to use your machine.
Periodically checking your machine is a great idea for many reasons. You should keep your machine properly cleaned, oiled, and make sure that there is no wear and tear on your metal parts.
The metal in your machine can wear down, or the screws and other parts can come loose after extended use. If you do not periodically check your machine for these issues, you can have more issues in the future.
7. Broken Feed Dogs:
Sometimes, your feed dogs breaking can be more obvious. Feed dogs are thin and delicate pieces of metal that are subject to breaking.
If you have loose screws, as mentioned above, your feed dog itself can come loose. When this happens, it can be subject to breaking.
If your feed dogs are loose, it can twist and hit the needle plate. Furthermore, if it hits the needle plate just right, it can break by snapping in half.
This is why you need to make sure that your feed dogs are not loose and are properly centered. If your feed dogs are screwed in even slightly crooked, they can also break when you use your machine.
If your feed dogs break, you do not have to replace your machine. You can often find feed dogs online to replace your feed dogs.
If you are trying to replace your feed dogs, it is best to speak with your manufacturer to ensure that you get the exact feed dogs for your machine.
Bonus! If Your Machine is Still Not Working:
If your machine is not working properly, and you think that it is related to the feed dogs, and you cannot figure out why you might have a deeper issue going on.
If you cannot diagnose your machine’s issue yourself, you could have an internal issue that is preventing your machine or your feed dogs from working properly.
In this case, the best thing that you can do is to take your machine to a professional to get it looked at. They will be able to take your machine apart and notice things that you can’t.
It is not wise to do this yourself, especially if you have a warranty on your machine. Trying to fix your machine yourself could violate the warranty, and they will not honor it if you have already pulled your machine apart.
If you are not familiar with the inside of your machine, and you take it apart, you also run the risk of not being able to properly put your machine back together. You could also jar other parts in your machine and create other problems that you didn’t have before.
Your sewing machine can live a long and extended life if you take it to get regularly serviced. A professional can notice potential issues before they arise and can save you money in the future.
Besides taking it to get serviced regularly, you can also take your machine in if you have a problem that you cannot diagnose yourself.
Can You Repair a Broken Feed Dog?
Whether or not you can fix your feed dogs yourself, depending on what is wrong with them. If it is as simple as cleaning your feed dogs, or trying to get them to raise up, you could probably fix it yourself.
When cleaning your feed dogs, you can use canned air for a low impact way to clean dirt and lint out of areas in your machine that are hard for you to reach.
If you clean your feed dogs with a rag or cloth, make sure that you do not push anything out of place or that you put everything back exactly the way it was before.
If you have a more complicated issue, it would not be wise to fix them yourself. Fixing your feed dogs yourself could leave to other problems, either with your feed dogs or the rest of your machine.
If your feed dogs are not properly tightened and straight, they can break or cause other issues in your machine.
If your feed dogs need to be replaced, make sure you get the correct ones for your machine. If you do not feel comfortable replacing your feed dogs yourself, make sure that you turn to a professional.
The feed dogs are an important part of your sewing machine and can be essential for your machine to work properly. For this reason, it can be devastating if they are not working properly.
If you do not have properly working feed dogs, then your seams can be uneven and crooked.
If you notice a problem with your feed dogs or any other part of your machine, you will want to take care of it as soon as possible.
Ignoring a problem with your machine can cause the problem to get worse and can even cause other problems with your machine.
The most important thing to remember with your machine is to keep it in good working order, keep it cleaned and oiled, and get it regularly serviced so that you can prevent future problems and extend the life of your machine.