There is never a ‘good’ time for a machine mishap, but sewing experience will teach you that you can outwit any little challenge with simple troubleshooting checkpoints!
Common problems are listed below. They’re called ‘common problems’ because we all experience them now and then. The most common problem is mis-threading. That is usually the first step to correcting any problems. Others include:
- Using compatible threads in the top and bobbin.
- Being sure that the presser foot is down when sewing.
- Holding thread tails to start sewing a seam.
Why won’t the machine run?
- Is it plugged in? You usually have both a foot pedal and power cord connected to the machine. Give those a quick check.
- Is the clutch disengaged (post bobbin winding)? Reset your machine for normal sewing by sliding the bobbin winder spindle to the left and pushing the hand wheel back in (if you have the push/pull type machine).
Why does my machine sometimes skip stitches when I'm quilting or sewing?
- The needle is the most likely culprit when it comes to skipped stitches. The design of the needle is crafted to meet the bobbin thread in a correctly timed machine and form a stitch. Skipped stitches may be caused if the needle is dull, damaged, inserted incorrectly or if it is the incorrect type or shape of needle for your machine is used.
- Are you using the correct needle for the fabric you’re sewing with?
- The machine might need cleaning around the feed dog.
- Re-thread the top and the bobbin.
- In some cases, you may want to consider an optional straight stitch needle plate for even more control when sewing straight stitches.
Why am I getting lots of loops under my fabric?
- Tangled threads down below the fabric (sometimes called ‘bird’s nests’) are usually caused by incorrect threading through the tension discs up above. Even if you think that you have threaded correctly, try re-threading.
- If you thread your machine with the presser foot down, the discs are closed and the thread is not seated properly between the discs. Be sure that the presser foot is up (and the tension discs are open) when re-threading.
- Sometimes, if thread is not pulled snuggly into the take up lever, it will jump out. We all thread our machines correctly thousands of times. Occasional mis-threading is an easy fix. You should feel the thread ’pop’ into the take up lever. Use two hands to hold the thread taut while threading the take up lever.
What is happening when bobbin thread loops up onto the top of fabric?
- When you see the bobbin thread come through to the top, this means that there is no tension on the bobbin thread to hold it back. Try removing and reinserting/rethreading the bobbin in the bobbin case.
- Are you using Janome bobbins? Improper bobbins can be too tight or loose in the bobbin case.
Why does the upper thread keep breaking?
- The easiest first step to correct thread breakage is to snip your thread at the spool and rethread.
- If you have different sizes of spool caps, are you using the correct size? Threads can tangle around the spool pin and snap. The spool cap helps to prevent this.
- Upper thread tension could also be too tight. Try lowering the tension (lower the number).
- Are there any burrs or rough spots in the needle plate from a previous needle breaking mishap? Such burrs can cause fabric snares and thread breaks. Burrs can be smoothed with an emery board or fine sand paper.
- The same results can happen from a burr or other damage in the bobbin hook.
- Double check that the needle size is up to the job at hand. A fine needle cannot effectively stitch denim, for example.
- How is the quality of the thread being used? All threads are not created equal. Threads with excessive slubs or knots will grab and break. Inconsistent threads will have weak spots that break, as will loosely twisted threads. Use good quality thread. Your machine will not get fuzzed up and your project won’t fall apart!
Why is the needle unthreading?
- Is the presser foot down when starting to sew? If not, the thread will slip out of the needle with no tension to hold it in place.
- Try holding the thread tails as you start to sew.
The machine stops and only hums or seems jammed, what’s up?
- Has the bobbin winder been left engaged? If so, pop it back into position.
- Are threads jammed? If so, you may need to snip a tangle and clear out the bobbin case before re-threading both top and bobbin.
- This could involve taking your needle plate cover off to access the bobbin case. You might be amazed at how much of a tangle can happen in a short time in the bobbin case. Best practice is to fully check and clean the entire area.
What is causing bent needles and irregular stitches?
- Are you pulling or dragging fabric through the sewing path? Let the feed dogs do the work. A gentle, guiding hand is all the help that your fabric should need to feed through the machine.
- If you are free-motion sewing, similar advice holds true. Use your hands to keep fabric as a flat surface and slide that surface below the needle. Moving the fabric with an inconsistent, jerking motion can break a needle or cause a bobbin thread snarl.
What is causing broken needles?
- The wrong needle size. The needle is not up to the task – too thin of a needle will not efficiently penetrate heavy fabric. Go for a heavier gauge needle.
- The wrong type of needle is being used. If you are topstitching with a heavier thread, a topstitch needle, which has a longer eye than a universal, will be needed to accommodate the heavier thread. Pushing heavy thread through a small needle eye can cause thread shredding or broken needles.
- The needle clamp screw is not tight and the needle slips too low into the bobbin.
- Needle is not properly set all the way into position and is dropping too low into the bobbin case. Re-insert the needle and secure by tightening the needle clamp screw.
- The presser foot is not on properly or the wrong foot is used.
- The wrong stitch is selected for a foot or the needle position has not been properly adjusted.
- Too much tugging on the fabric (as above).
- In the unlikely event that the timing of the machine has been thrown off, a technician will have to reset your machine. Repeated, unexplained needle breaks are a clue to the timing being off.
- REMEMBER: If a needle does break – be sure to collect all of the pieces. Small, sharp bits of metal inside a machine of moving parts cannot be a good thing.
My fabric will not feed through the machine - why?
- Are the feed dogs still lowered after button sewing or free motion? Be sure the lever or slide bar is in the ‘teeth up” position.
- Are the feed dogs packed with lint? Try brushing them out.
- Has the stitch length between set to zero? Check length and set to a longer stitch if needed.
- Is there a thread jam? Try rethreading
Why is the needle threader not working?
- Is the needle fully raised to meet the threader?
- Has the threader been bent? This can be hard to see, but if the threader is misused, the ultra-fine metal hook that passes through the eye can be misaligned. Double check to see that the hook is in the needle eye for threading. If it cannot be properly aligned, you may need professional servicing.
What is it with all of this seam puckering?
- The first culprits here are too tight tension (try loosening a bit) or a tired needle (try a fresh needle).
- Is there a better presser foot for the job? Decorative stitches work best with a clear F foot that has a channel groove for a heavy row of stitching to travel in rather than bunching under the needle.
- Are you using too heavy of a thread for the job? Heavy thread can over-power light fabric and cause it to bunch under the stitching.
- When in doubt try stabilising with either an interfacing or appropriate weight stabiliser.
What is that awful noise?
- A noisy machine is most often the result of fuzz or thread tangles.
- Try cleaning out the bobbin case and rethreading top and bobbin threads.
If there is a noise, does that mean oil is needed?
- All Janome machines are factory lubricated and sealed. They should not need oil.
- If you do use a drop of oil, please be sure that it is only sewing machine oil. Save the good olive oil for cooking!
What is the ‘pip’ or ‘peep’ sound?
- Computerised machines will sound an alert if there is a safety or operational concern.
- If you have left the buttonhole lever down or the bobbin winder is still engaged, these signals will sound to alert you to the oversight.
- A full list of warning signals and corrective actions can be found in your manual.
Are you collecting a fuzz bunny museum in your machine?
- Thread fuzzies can clog the tension discs or interfere with the feed dogs or bobbin case.
- The results can throw off upper or lower tension, cause thread loops or result in poor feeding. Fuzz-filled feed dogs can’t grip the fabric as well to feed it along.
- Make a habit of clearing the bunnies out and cleaning your machine regularly.
- Full instructions are in your manual.
Machine specific questions: where is your manual hiding?
There is a lot of good information in your machine’s manual, including up close diagrams on how to clean your bobbin case or replace a light bulb. If you've lost your manual, email Janome at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will replace it free of charge.
Want a video demonstration?
Search YouTube! There are so many wonderful resources to walk you through your issues and teach you new techniques. The Janome USA YouTube page is a great place to start.