Sewing Machine Thread Breaks | 17 Common Issues

Sewing machines are a great tool to help you sew your projects quickly and with a significant amount of consistency.

Just because sewing machines can be incredibly helpful, it doesn’t mean that they are immune to potential issues—one very frustrating potential issue when sewing with a machine is when you have your thread break.

A broken thread can break the flow of your seam and can look messy. In addition to looking messy and being irritating, a fractured thread can also mean that you have an issue with your machine that you need to take care of.

So why does it happen?

Top Thread Breaking:

Your thread breaking is a common issue that can happen to anyone and doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with your machine.

Fixing a thread that keeps breaking can be very simple as soon as you diagnose the problem. The first step in finding out what your issue is is to determine which of your threads is breaking.

If it is your top thread that is breaking, you could have any of the following potential issues:

1. Improperly Threaded:

One of the most fundamental mistakes to make that can affect your top thread is incorrectly threading it.

Most sewing machines have a similar way to thread the top thread, but they can all differ slightly. If you are not familiar with your machine or you simply miss a step, you could cause your thread to break.

If you think your machine might be threaded improperly, or if you aren’t one hundred percent sure that it is done correctly, the easiest way to check is to rethread your machine.

If you rethread your machine and it does not fix your issue, then you could have other problems affecting your machine.

2. Tension Issue:

Tension issues are very common when you are using a sewing machine. Most people are nervous when it comes to changing the tension on their sewing machine because they are afraid to set it incorrectly.

You do not have to be afraid when working on the tension of your machine. Different thread types will require different tension settings, so you should have to adjust the tension in your sewing machine at times.

It is also possible that your tension got changed on accident by bumping the dials.

Changing your tension usually is as easy as changing the dials on the machine. The higher the number, the more tension on your thread.

If your thread is breaking, you could have too high of a tension set for your particular thread.

The best way to check tension is to use a test piece of your fabric that you intend to use, and the thread you are using to sew some test seams on fabric that doesn’t belong to your actual project.

3. Check Your Setup:

Another potential issue is that you have an improper setup. Make sure you are using the correct spool and spool cap. Make sure that your spool is placed correctly, and your thread is unraveling in the proper direction.

You also want to make sure that you are using the right needle for your thread and fabric. Make sure your needle has no damage and is not bent.

If you do not commonly check your needle for dents, chips, breaks, or bending, you could experience constant thread breaking.

Make sure you are using the correct bobbin. If you are not using the bobbin that is made for your machine, your thread could break while moving through the machine.

4. Old Thread:

Another common issue is that your thread could be old.

If your thread is old, you could risk it being worn down and potentially be lower quality.

This would cause more natural breakage than using a new thread would.

5. Needle Touching the Needle Plate:

If your needle is touching your needle plate, you have a problem. If your needle touches the needle plate, your needle will go through a jarring motion.

This will not only break your thread, but it can also break your needle. It can also cause damage to your machine or the other internal parts.

Make sure your needle and needle plate are in the proper position. To check to make sure that they will not collide, you should use the handwheel.

Using the handwheel will allow you more control, and you can stop if they get close, instead of the fast and less controllable option of using the foot pedal.

Bobbin Thread Breaking:

Not only can your top thread break, but you can also have issues with your bobbin thread as well. The reasons for a bobbin thread breaking can be similar to for the top thread.

Some related problems that could affect both the top thread and the bobbin thread include:

  • Improperly threaded machine
  • Poor quality thread
  • Thread tension too tight
  • Thread tension uneven

There are also a few different reasons that your bobbin thread could be breaking. These reasons include:

6. Dirty Machine:

One reason that you could be having issues with your bobbin thread is a dirty machine. Underneath the needle plate can be one of the dirtiest places on your machine.

Underneath your needle plate in your bobbin area can collect dust, debris, broken thread, fabric, and other mess. If you do not clean it out regularly, it can cause issues with your machine.

Some bobbin cases have a spring that causes your bobbin to get snagged if there is too much lint underneath it. These issues can also cause your thread to break.

7. Thread Caught on a Burr:

Metal parts in your sewing machine are susceptible to getting burrs.

Burrs are sharp areas on the metal that can be created after being in use.

If you notice sharp parts on your metal pieces, you should sand them off. If you can replace that particular part, you should do so.

Places that are most susceptible to burrs include:

  • Bobbin case
  • Spring in your bobbin case
  • The underside of your throat plate

Burrs can cause your thread to break because the thread gets caught and breaks on the metal burr.

8. Incorrectly Placed Bobbin:

Like the top thread being threaded improperly, you can also have issues with how your bobbin was placed in your machine.

If you do not correctly insert your bobbin in your machine, that will cause problems with your thread.

Each machine is different when it comes to how your bobbin should be placed inside. Some machines want your bobbin to unwind clockwise, and others want the bobbin to unwind counter-clockwise.

Make sure you know what direction to place your bobbin in.

If you place your bobbin in backward, it might work for a few stitches, but then your thread will snag and break.

9. Bobbin Wound Incorrectly:

Most bobbins should be wound on your machine. When you wind your bobbin, you will want to make sure that your bobbin’s thread is wound evenly.

If your bobbin doesn’t wind correctly, you could have an issue with your washer that is used on your bobbin winder. You will need to replace it occasionally.

If this doesn’t work, you might need to get your machine looked at by a trained professional.

10. Knots in the Thread:

When you wind your bobbin, if there are knots in the thread, this can also negatively affect your bobbin thread.

If you wind your bobbin without your bobbin winder, you could have knots in your bobbin, or your bobbin thread might not be wound consistently.

You also want to make sure that you do not wind your bobbin too much. If your bobbin is too full, it can prevent it from adequately spinning in your bobbin case.

Either of these issues can cause your thread to break.

11. Other Bobbin Issues:

Among the previous problems, there are a few more issues that you could have with your bobbin that will prevent your machine from sewing properly.

If you are using the wrong bobbin, you could be looking at thread issues as well as other potential problems.

Even though all bobbins can look the same, they can have different dimensions that can cause them to not fit properly in your machine.

Make sure when you get bobbins for your sewing machine, that you are getting ones that are the proper size for your machine. If your bobbin is too small, it can bounce around in the bobbin case, which can cause your thread to break.

If your bobbin is too big, it will not spin appropriately in your bobbin case.

12. Hook Timing Off:

Hook timing is crucial for your sewing machine. When your needle goes down, your sewing machine should create a loop that helps to form a stitch.

If this is not happening, you might have an issue with your hook timing.

To check your hook timing, you can lower your needle slowly using your handwheel. If you do this, you will want to see a loop when the needle starts to move back up.

If your machine does not create a look, you can try to look into the problem yourself, or you can take your machine to a repair technician to attempt to fix your machine’s timing.

When you do this, remember to turn your handwheel towards yourself, so you do not further throw off the timing of your machine.

The Thread Breaks When I Sew Reverse:

Sewing in reverse can be handy for your project as long as it is working correctly.

If your reverse function is causing issues or your thread to break, then you might have a problem.

13. Issues with Reverse:

Some potential issues with your machine being in reverse could be a synchronization issue or a problem with your needle and hook.

If your feed timing is out of sync, this can cause your thread to break while in reverse. If your machine is out of sync, you might not notice when your machine is sewing regularly, but changing it to reverse might bring the issue to light.

Another possibility is that your needle hits the needle hook or needle plate, which can also cause your thread to break.

The Thread Keeps Breaking at the Needle:

If your thread is breaking at the needle, it could be any one of the reasons that the top thread could break. But this is not the only possibility.

You could also be having an issue with the needle itself.

14. Bent or Damaged Needle:

If you do not check your needle regularly, you will want to make sure that you start to. If you are having issues with your machine checking your needle is a good place to start.

Your needle could be bent or otherwise broken, which can cause snagging or other issues. If your needle runs into your bobbin, if your needle is bent, or if there are other issues with your needle, you could be looking at a broken thread.

Most people do not replace needles unless they need to. This means that they do not check their needle as often as they should be. It is a good practice to keep an eye on your needle and its condition.

Changing the needle is the best way to fix this issue.

When you do change your needle, you will want to make sure that you use a needle that is specifically for your machine.

The Thread Breaks When I Sew Thick Fabric:

Changing to a thicker fabric can affect how your machine sews.

A thicker fabric or a thicker thread can affect how your machine sews.

Besides having a tension issue, you could also have a problem with your needle working correctly in a thicker fabric.

15. Fabric Too Heavy for Needle:

If your fabric is too heavy for the needle, you could have an issue with your needle or your thread. A fabric that is too thick, your needle could bend or break.

You could also have an issue with your thread knotting up, puckering, snagging the fabric, or other problems. This could cause your thread to break.

To fix this issue, you will want to change your needle to match your fabric and your thread. Testing your materials before sewing is a great way to make sure this doesn’t happen in the middle of a project.

What is the Correct Tension for My Sewing Machine?

Tension is a tricky beast when it comes to your sewing machine.

This is one of those questions that there is no correct answer to.

The correct tension will depend on a variety of factors.

16. Uneven Tension:

The first thing that you need to look out for, in terms of tension, is that your top tension and bottom tension should match.

If your bobbin or top tension is out of sync with each other, then they will cause thread issues with your machine.

Depending on which one is tighter, you will have different threading issues. Too tight tension can cause your thread to break, but other tension issues can cause thread bunching, birdnesting, or other problems.

17. Thread and Fabric Choice:

Your tension will also be determined by what thread you are using. A thinner thread will need less tension than a thicker or more dense thread.

If you do not set your tension, both on top and in the bobbin for the specific thread that you are working with, you can have issues when sewing.

These issues include thread breakage, gathering, and other problems.

It could also be a fabric issue. Different fabrics will determine how the needle goes through, and you want to make sure you are using the correct needle and thread for your chosen fabric.

So How Do I Know?

Some sewing machine manuals will give you an idea about what type of tension is needed for your particular thread choice.

You can also look up what sort of tension is best, but be careful because this will vary from machine to machine.

The best way to make sure you are using the proper tension, and that your tensions are even is to test it out.

Making sure you test your first seam on a test fabric can save messy stitches and other issues on your actual project.

Conclusion:

Sewing with a machine is a great and efficient way to sew your project.

When your machine is working at its best, this can be the best way to finish your sewing project.

However, just because a sewing machine is a great tool, it doesn’t mean that it is fool-proof. You could have an issue while using your sewing machine.

The best way to deal with any potential issues that come up is to deal with them the second you notice them.  If you do not deal with a problem right away, it could escalate or hurt your machine.

Diagnosing the issue can be tricky, but it is essential that you do so. If you are unable to diagnose the issue yourself, you can always take your machine to a professional to look at.

It is also helpful to keep your machine clean, to make sure all the parts are working correctly, and to get your machine serviced regularly. This will help extend the life of your machine and will keep it functioning at its maximum capacity.