Sewing Machine Keeps Getting Stuck? Here’s What To Do…

Does your sewing machine keep getting stuck? Is your machine slowing down important sewing projects?    If your answers to these questions are a yes, then we know how you feel and we are here to help. 

The main reason that your sewing machine keeps getting stuck is due to poor maintenance and upkeep or a sewing project gone wrong.

As fellow sewists, we understand how frustrating it can be dealing with sewing machine problems. With looming project deadlines or trying to finish up sewing projects, trying to work with a machine that keeps getting stuck is the last thing any sewist would want.

But here's the thing:

Sewing can be a bit of a learning curve for beginners. So, experiencing these sewing mishaps is almost inevitable.

So, what do you do when your sewing machine starts acting up?

In this article, we will single out some of the most common reasons why your machine is malfunctioning. We will also provide the corresponding troubleshooting options.

Finally, we will give you some tips on how to prevent some common sewing machine problems.

So friends, let’s jump right in!

What Causes a Sewing Machine to Get Stuck?

What would make a sewing machine not to function normally?

Well, every sewist asks this question at some point in their sewing journey.   Your machine can get stuck either from a maintenance issue, or from a sewing project gone wrong.

If you are lucky, you will find that it’s a sewing machine maintenance related problem.

For example, if you don’t clean and oil your sewing machine regularly, it will gather lint in its movable parts. This debris will clog the movable machine parts, hence causing your machine to get stuck as you sew.

In case it’s not a maintenance issue, your machine will malfunction because of other issues.

This includes: you may have threaded it in the wrong direction, the needle may not be sitting in correctly, or there could be a hitch with the tension discs.

These issues can cause your sewing machine to run slow, or to stop working altogether.

What Are Some Common Sewing Machine Problems?

Whether you are a beginner or an expert in sewing, you may experience problems with your sewing machine. When this happens, you don’t have to panic. You can always troubleshoot your sewing machine if it keeps getting stuck.

To help you out, we rounded up some common sewing machine problems and some quick fixes that will come in handy.

So, which sewing problems do most sewists complain about?  Here is our list:

Source: The Sewing Lab - Anatomy of a Sewing Machine

#1:  Needle Refuses To Move

Is your sewing machine needle set in place correctly? If your needle suddenly refuses to move, there are two possible causes. The clutch may have disconnected, or you may have broken the drive belt.

In the first case, you may find that your sewing machine is not in sewing mode. The first thing to do is to check that the hand wheel is free. If it is, then you will need to push the bobbin winder towards the left.

This will automatically switch your machine back to the bobbin winder mode, and your needle should be able to move afterward.

If the drive belt is broken, then you may need to replace it.

#2:  The Motor Refuses to Function

What do you do if your motor suddenly stops running? Or maybe, if it won’t even start?  Sometimes, this may be due to a faulty motor.

Typically, a failed motor usually points to faulty electrical parts or issues with the motor belt. If you are savvy enough, you will notice either lose or broken wires between the foot pedal and the motor.

Luckily, troubleshooting a motor isn’t so hard. If you experience problems with your sewing machine motor, here are some steps you can take:

  • Unplug your sewing machine from its power source.

  • Check if the motor belt is loose or broken. If  there are any broken parts, carry out any necessary replacements.

  • Examine the wiring connections between the foot pedal and the motor.

  • Use a multimeter to assess the wire connections reaching up to the foot pedal switch

  • If the connectivity result is negative, you will need to get a replacement for the foot pedal.

  • Does your motor make a humming sound?  If it does but refuses to run, this could mean that the motor belt is too tight.

  • Spin the hand wheel then clean and oil the motor belt to strip off the drive gears of any lint or debris. This will help loosen the motor a bit, and it should be able to run afterward

  • Remember, no two sewing machines are the same. h; hence, we would advise that you always have your machine’s manual as you troubleshoot it. This is because the motor is located in different positions of different machines.

#4:  Your Thread Keeps Breaking

Have you ever finished threading your machine, and just as you press the foot pedal to begin a project, your thread breaks… again! 

We know how frustrating entangled sewing thread can be.

If you are sure your machine threading is good to go, then what else can cause constant thread breakage?

Here’s a list of some of the reasons why your machine keeps getting stuck due to thread breakage. We will also show you how to fix each of those instances.

  • Poor threading: Just to be safe, rethread the top thread of your machine. This is because an obstruction may be causing your machine not to run. For example, the spool or laser cord may be holding the thread inappropriately and causing it not to move.   

  • Use a Needle with a Larger Eye: Sometimes, your thread can break because you are using a small needle. A tiny needle eye will not be able to withstand the alternating thread tension as your machine moves. 

  • Check the Thread Quality of Thread: Are you using bad orlow quality thread? If so, this could be one of the causes of thread breakage. If the thread is too old, it qualifies as ‘bad thread’.  You should also check if your thread is for hand sewing. Thread used for hand sewing tend to have "wax" on and do not work well with sewing machines.  Generally, if your thread can’t pull through in a smooth fashion, you will experience constant breakage and a jamming machine.  

  • Check Your Machine’s Tension: When you notice entangled thread behind your machine, there could be a problem with the upper tension. In this case, check your manual on how to adjust the upper tension of your sewing machine.

#5:  Skipped Stitches

Is your machine skipping stitches? One of the most probable causes of this type of problem is a faulty needle.

Whether it’s one or multiple skipped stitches, the first thing you should check is if your needle is sitting incorrectly. If it’s a bad needle, then you will need to bring in a replacement.

On other times, you may notice an inconsistency in your stitches. If the top and bottom stitches on your fabric look worlds apart, you may need to enhance your machine’s tension.

If you are not sure about how to adjust tension on a sewing machine, here's a guide that we created that will help.

#6:  Machine Won’t Take in Fabric

For most beginners, this is usually a common problem. If your sewing machine suddenly stops sewing and refuses to feed fabric, don’t fret. There are ways of troubleshooting it before you opt for professional repair.

Here Are Some Causes Of a Malfunctioning Drop Feed And How To Solve Them:    

  • Did you lower the dog feeds? If yes, then you will have to calibrate them to a suitable height. This means you raise the drop feed a bit.
  • Do you sew buttonholes often? If so, then you may have retained the stitch length at 0 instead of adjusting it to 2 or 3.
  • Check if your feed dogs are down. In case your previous project involved quilting, you may need to elevate your feed dogs a few inches above the plate.
  • Prior to kick starting a project, ensure you’ve raised the foot pedal. This way, the feed dogs will be able to hold the fabric when you feed.
  • Is your thread tension too tight? This could be a problem. Make sure it's free enough then re-feed the fabric.
  • Check for any entangled thread. You may need to rethread your machine.

Also, there are certain general measures that you can take to troubleshoot your sewing machine.  

Additional Checks to Make When Your Sewing Machine Keeps Jamming

If you’ve checked for all of the above problems, then you may need to go a step further. Here are a few measures you could try out if your machine is still jamming:

1. Clean and Oil Your Sewing Machine

How often do you disengage your sewing machine parts for cleaning? If you rarely do so, then this could be where the problem is.

We advise that you remove lint and other debris on a daily basis. Lint usually builds up underneath the bobbin and the throat plate. You will need to remove these parts in order to have the inner areas of the machine exposed.

Oiling your sewing machine is easy peasy. For detailed instructions on how to do this, check out our guide that shows you step by step how to oil your sewing machine.

If you can get a soft brush, use it to remove dirt from the exposed parts. You can then add a few drops of sewing machine oil in order to lubricate it. 

For more cleaning tips, our 8 step guide to sewing machine maintenance is chocked full of helpful tips that show you how to keep your sewing machine in great shape.  

2.  You May Need to Change Needles

You need to replace your needles often for your sewing machine to run smoothly. Sewing needles can get blunt and bent over time. This will end up destroying your fabric, and in other cases damaging your machine’s motor.

Did you know that a dull sewing needle wears out your machine twice as fast? For that reason, replace your needles after every three bobbins used.


3. Check if You Thread the Machine the Right Way

Before you start threading your machine, make sure you have read the manual. Bad threading will lead to a misplaced top thread.

When threading your machine, make sure you guide the thread correctly through every thread guide.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, we have an article on how to thread your sewing machine correctly!


4.  Are You Using the Correct Bobbin Size?

Bobbins can get confusing for even the MOST experienced sewists. With so many brands and sizes flooding the market, it may be daunting to pick the right one for your machine. As a result, your machine may get stuck.  

The best way to determine what bobbins to use with your sewing machine is by checking your sewing machine manual.  There should be detailed information in there based on your sewing machines model as to what bobbin you need to use.

5.  Check the Needle Size and Positioning

For most sewists, this is the most elusive problem to detect in a sewing machine. For your machine to work correctly, you need to make sure that your needle is elevated correctly.  This may sound easy, but it is also easy to miss.

So, how do you tell whether you have raised the needle to the highest position?

Simply align the internal needle threader with the eye of your needle. Alternatively, you can loosen the needle screws then raise the needle.

You should also make sure that you are using a needle size that is compatible with your thread’s thickness. Using a needle that's too small can interfere with the thread’s flexibility, hence causing problems within your machine.  

Sewing Machine Still Not Working Correctly?


After you have tried all of these tips and your sewing machine is still getting stuck or jamming, it may be time to consult a professional.  

An experienced technician will be able to troubleshoot your sewing machine and diagnose underlying issues that are causing your machine to jam up.  

As far as fees are concerned for sewing machine maintenance, in our research here's what we've found:

sewing machine tune-up costs can vary according to each shop, but general cost ranges are in the $75 to $100 Range. These charges will not include the cost of any broken or replacement parts. Computerized embroidery machines may cost as much as $100 for basic repairs.

Guys, we truly hope that this post has been helpful with showing you how to identify and troubleshoot underlying issues that may be jamming or causing your sewing machine to get stuck.

As always, please be sure to head over to check out our latest sewing machine reviews to find the perfect machine for your sewing projects.  

We also created a nifty 10 step guide to buying your first sewing machine.  Thanks for reading guys!

Happy Sewing! 


Shelly is the main editor and author of this website. She is passionate about helping fellow sewing enthusiasts find the right sewing machine for your sewing projects plus design beautiful sewing spaces that inspire your creativity. If you're ready to DIY a stunning sewing room (on a budget), be sure to check out the Sewing Room that Sizzles Workbook bundle (complete with a 50+ page workbook) and two Bonus Guides that will put you on the fast track to setting up, designing and organizing a sewing room that is TOTALLY you (on a shoestring budget).