It can be very frustrating when your machine pulls to side. Here’s an explanation and what you can do to fix it!
Why does my sewing machine pull to the left?
A sewing machine pulls to the side because of the footer or because you need an extension table. You can change footer size and make sure the footer isn’t bent or dirty. Or you can install an extension table.
This is the most probable answer, but there are actually a lot of possible reasons for this.
Let’s look at some of the reasons, and what you can do to make sure the machine sews straight.
Check our tips specifically for sewing cotton-jersey.
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When you sew you need to guide the fabric as it feeds into the machine. But you might feel like you have to force it to the side, in order for it not to pull left or right. This should not be the case.
You should be able to sew straight even for very thin fabrics as well as stretchy and heavy fabric types such as silk, wool, jersey etc.
If you feel like you cannot make it run straight you can try these tips.
You can typically fix this with a table
Fabric pulling to the side is a very common problem when we sew. Nonetheless, it’s a frustrating one. Something we have all tried.
Your sewing machine will typically sew to the left (or right) because you are sewing large pieces of fabric without the support from a table in front and behind.
You can prevent it by placing a table to catch the fabric. Preferably a rather large table, so the fabric does not fall to the side, as that will just cause the same problem.
You can also help fix this by adding an extension table to your machine. Make sure you feed the fabric at the same height as the machine bed, and it will feed straighter. If you are working on a very thin fabric everything just gets harder.
So make sure you keep the fabric onto the table, so it does not pull in any direction. You can place your sewing machine beside a table and make sure the back of the machine will not let the fabric drop too much.
Other reasons your machine will pull to one side
In fact, there can be multiple reasons why your machine will pull to the side. We have hundreds of different machines, and each is different in design and handling.
Let’s look at a couple of other solutions we can try.
Change the foot size
Try a bigger foot if possible. That will sometimes fix the problem.
On some models, a small foot will not work properly, and you will need to use the all purpose foot. The all-purpose feet is the one we will be using most of the time for all forward-feed sewing.
So if you are not already using the all-purpose foot (or regular presser foot) you should definitely try to change that first.
When you change the footer you need to make sure you mount it right. This might just be the problem you are having. You need to make sure you fasten it properly. When you have changed the footer you should be noticing a change immediately otherwise the problem lays elsewhere.
Check if the foot is bent
If the presser foot is bent you might experience a pull to the side from the fabric, as you feed it to through the machine. Try and take off the foot and inspect it carefully. Maybe it has taken a hit or something else made it bent a little bit. Small deviations can cause real trouble here.
You can try and lower the foot slowly to the needle-plate and see whether it is completely even. Each side of the foot should touch the plate at the same time.
If it is leaning towards one side, you should make sure it is mounted correctly, and try to see if you can fix it.
If you cannot make it sit strait you should probably change it for a new one. It’s not easy to fix a bent foot, you need a new foot in that case. You can get a new foot at the nearest shop if you need it quickly, or you can find one online.
Hopefully, that will fix the problem, and your machine should start to feed straight.
Check the needle-plate for lint
The reason your machine is pulling to the side could also be due to lint inside the sewing machine.
Over time, your machine will get dirty and a little piece of lint can easily get stuck inside the rows. Some machines are worse than others, and some older machines even have a “coating” on the needle-plate, and this can also get worn over time. When that happens it can get stuck inside the needle-plate, and cause the fabric to pull to the side.
Check the rows carefully to make sure it’s completely clean and free of dust, hair, lint, and dirt.
This is something you should do regularly to make sure your machine is performing at it’s best at all times.
You can also try to give the area a little blow or you can use a hand vacuumer. But be careful not to blow too hard and make sure the vacuumer does not such too hard because you can easily lose a needle or two.
Here’s a nice little video that will teach you how to clean your machine. It also teaches you how to use the sewing machine oil:
As you will learn in this fine video, you need to be careful when cleaning the machine. You need to take the power off, so you are absolutely sure it won’t start running. make sure there’s no ball of thread or fuzz. Have the presser footer in the upright position when you clean, so you can get to the vital parts of the machine.
Make sure the needle-plate sits tight
If you have a loose screw or the needle-plate is just broken, this might also cause the fabric to pull to the side.
Ensure everything is fastened properly and that all screws are mounted correctly. If you find a loose screw or one is missing you can try and grab the needle-plate firmly, to make sure it still sits really tight. If that is not the case you should try and fasten it with new screws.
Or maybe you need a new needle-plate if you cannot fasten it correctly. If it’s a very old machine the needle-plate may be too worn.
Check the feed dog
When your machine is not feeding the fabric correctly it can also be because the feed dog is not adjusted right. You can lower the feed dog with a little button (on the back for Brother machines but can also be mounted on the front).
When you have it lowered, you can make sure it is clean and works properly.
You should also take off the presser foot, so you can access the area better. When you open it up you can check that all knots are tight.
Otherwise, it may not feed right.
You can use a small Allen wrench to check the knots. Be careful if the knot is made of plastic (typical for Singer machines). Give the area a gentle blow, to remove dust and lint.
If nothing works…
Do you feel like you have tried everything there is to try?
It can be hard to tell if these solutions are the right ones in your case, but if you have the opportunity you can try finishing your project on another machine. This way you can see whether the problem persists.
Maybe it’s just because the fabric is really large and you are not experienced enough to handle it straight. It can take years to learn to feed a large piece of fabric straight, and if you are working with stretchy fabric, it can be even harder.
Stretchy fabric is tricky, and you should always start out with standard fabric, and then move on to the more difficult fabrics such as stretchy fabric, silks etc. It’s easy to pull too hard and learn to feed different types of fabrics at the right speed.
If you are new to sewing you can check out this video. It shows you how to sew straight, and teaches you where to put your focus while feeding the machine. You should focus your eyes on a straight line.
Avoid looking at the needle. When you focus too much on the needle it’s hard to feed the fabric right. When you learn to let the needle do its job, and just focus on feeding the fabric, everything will be easier.
It takes practice, but as you get more comfortable with your machine, you can let it run faster and smoother, without having to do small adjustments all the time.
Practice makes perfect as they say.
How do I adjust the presser foot? You can adjust the foot by turning the little dial. You do this to adjust the pressure level. Choose a low pressure level for thick fabric and a higher pressure level for thin fabric.