I know that when I get frustrated, it’s usually because I don’t understand what’s going on. When my sewing machine locks up and doesn’t want to sew, even though the thread is threaded correctly and the needle isn’t jammed or bent or anything like that – sometimes I think about how frustrating it can be when we’re trying to do something but things just won’t work out.
The more we try and push them in a certain direction, the more they seem to resist us! It’s really hard not to take this personally. We start thinking “It must be me!” or “I’m doing something wrong.”
But then there might be an easier explanation for what’s happening: maybe you need some new bobbins (the things that hold the thread) or a bent needle is causing your machine to jam up.
Or maybe you need to fix a problem with the timing on it – but how do we know what’s going on?
Common Cause of Sewing Machine Lock Up
The most common cause of a sewing machine locking up is when the thread is tangled. One way to check if this is the issue is to cut off the needle and pull on the thread, but be careful not to touch the needle because it is sharp.
Other common causes include the following;
1. The thread is threaded correctly and the needle isn’t jammed or bent
2. You might need some new bobbins or a bent needle
3. The timing on your machine might be off
4. Your machine may have been running too long without being turned off
5. There may be something in the way of your sewing surface, such as lint, dust, or stray threads from previous projects that are causing it to jam up
6. If you’re using an old sewing machine with a foot pedal, make sure there’s nothing in the way of where you step when you’re pressing down on it to start and stop your project – if so, remove whatever’s blocking it before continuing to sew!
7. Make sure there’s nothing in the way of your machine, such as lint, dust, or stray threads from previous projects
8. Your feed dogs may be dirty – take them out and clean them to see if this fixes the problem
9. Check your bobbin case as well as your needle plate for lint or other debris that may be preventing the thread from advancing
10. Check to make sure there’s nothing in the way of your presser foot, keeping it raised enough so that it allows the fabric to pass under it freely
11. Is your bobbin case correctly inserted?
12. Are there any small bits of thread or other debris on your feed dogs?
13. There may be something stuck in your machine or a piece of lint that’s preventing it from advancing
14. Is there anything small and fluffy in the bobbin case?
15. Maybe you need to oil it up and give it a good cleaning.
What do you do when your sewing machine locks up?
The moment your machine locks up, turn it off.
The next steps depend on the type of sewing machine you own; if you’re not sure, call customer service for help.
For most machines with a needle up/down button, press the button to raise the needle. This allows you to remove your work from underneath the machine without causing damage.
On certain machines (Bernina and Bernette, for example), use the knee lift (if it has one) to raise and lower your footer. Simply place one hand on the knee lift to raise the presser foot.
For most machines with a vertical oscillating hook, remove your work by turning the handwheel toward you until you can pull out your work from underneath it. Some machines have an adjustable speed control for this type of hook; set it to zero if possible. Grasp the bobbin case and pull it out from the body of the machine.
When you’re finished, return the bobbin case to its position in your machine. Be careful not to scratch or dint it as you put it back into place.
If you have a serger that uses needles, undo any needles from their shafts before attempting to move the machine.
If you have a lock stitch machine that sews forward only, turn the handwheel towards you until it stops. Pry out your work from underneath with a small pair of pliers or tweezers. Be careful not to stretch the fabric as you remove it.
Some machines have a grounding wire attached to the frame that must be connected to a metal part of another larger piece of equipment (such as a sewing cabinet) before being plugged in again. These machines often have a metal grounding screw on the back of the machine that should be tightened with a Phillips head screwdriver.
For machines without this feature, touch two metal pieces of your machine together before plugging it back in to work again. This helps equalize the electrical charge between your machine and other surrounding objects.
If you still feel a “tingle” when plugging in your machine after following these steps, call customer service for help. If you don’t have any metal pieces to touch together, try turning the handwheel toward you until it stops before plugging it back in.
When your machine is working again, sew with something very simple (like a straight stitch on normal tension) for a while. If everything works fine, move on to more complicated things.