Troubleshooting A Sewing Machine That Won’T Move Fabric

Sewing can be a frustrating experience when your machine suddenly stops feeding fabric properly. If you press down on the foot pedal and find that your fabric stays stuck in place no matter how hard you try to get it moving, don’t panic.

In most cases, this issue can be easily fixed at home without taking your machine to a repair shop.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Check the feed dogs to make sure they are raised high enough to grip the fabric, clean out any lint buildup on the feed dogs or in the bobbin area, and rethread the top thread and bobbin completely.

Check That the Feed Dogs Are in the Up Position

If your sewing machine is not moving the fabric as it should, one of the first things to check is the position of the feed dogs. The feed dogs are the small metal teeth located under the presser foot that help to move the fabric through the machine.

If they are not in the up position, they will not be able to grip the fabric properly, causing it to stay in one place.

Lowered feed dogs won’t grip fabric

If the feed dogs are in the lowered position, they will not be able to grip the fabric properly. This can happen if you accidentally hit the feed dog lever or switch on your machine. To fix this issue, you need to raise the feed dogs.

Look for a lever or switch usually located on the back of the sewing machine or on the bed of the machine. Move it to the up position, and you should feel the feed dogs rise.

Disengage the drop feed setting

Some sewing machines have a feature called the drop feed setting, which allows you to do free-motion quilting or embroidery. If this setting is engaged, the feed dogs will not move the fabric. To troubleshoot this issue, you need to disengage the drop feed setting.

Check your sewing machine’s manual for instructions on how to do this. It usually involves flipping a switch or pressing a button. Once the drop feed setting is disengaged, the feed dogs should start moving the fabric again.

If you’re still having trouble with your sewing machine after checking the feed dogs, it may be a good idea to consult your sewing machine’s manual for further troubleshooting steps or reach out to a professional for assistance.

Clean Lint and Fluff Out of the Feed Dogs

If your sewing machine is not moving fabric properly, one common issue could be the accumulation of lint and fluff in the feed dogs. The feed dogs are the small, tooth-like metal pieces located beneath the needle plate that help to grip and move the fabric forward as you sew.

When lint and fluff build up in the feed dogs, they can become clogged and prevent the fabric from being fed through smoothly.

Lint prevents proper fabric feeding

Lint and fluff can easily accumulate in the feed dogs, especially if you frequently sew with certain types of fabrics like fleece or flannel. When the feed dogs are clogged with lint, they cannot grip the fabric properly, resulting in uneven or skipped stitches, or even the fabric not moving at all.

Use tweezers or a brush to remove lint

To clean the feed dogs, you can use tweezers or a small brush specifically designed for sewing machines. Gently lift the presser foot and remove the needle plate to access the feed dogs. Use the tweezers or brush to carefully remove any visible lint or fluff that may be caught in the teeth of the feed dogs.

It’s important to be gentle during this process to avoid damaging the feed dogs or other parts of the sewing machine.

Blow away dust with compressed air

In addition to using tweezers or a brush, you can also use compressed air to blow away any remaining dust or lint in the feed dogs. Compressed air can help to dislodge particles that may be stuck in hard-to-reach areas.

However, be cautious when using compressed air and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid damaging the sewing machine.

Regularly cleaning the feed dogs and removing lint and fluff buildup is essential for ensuring the smooth operation of your sewing machine. By keeping the feed dogs clean, you can prevent issues with fabric feeding and improve the overall performance of your sewing projects.

Clean Lint and Fluff Out of the Bobbin Area

One common issue that can cause a sewing machine to not move fabric smoothly is the presence of lint and fluff in the bobbin area. Lint can accumulate over time and clog up the mechanisms, leading to thread tension problems and difficulty in feeding the fabric through the machine.

Lint in bobbin area impedes thread tension

Lint and fluff in the bobbin area can disrupt the proper tension of the thread, causing it to become loose or tight. This can result in uneven stitches, fabric puckering, or even thread breakage. Therefore, it is important to regularly clean out the bobbin area to maintain smooth operation.

Remove the bobbin case and use tweezers

To clean the bobbin area, start by removing the bobbin case from the machine. Use a pair of tweezers to carefully remove any visible lint or thread scraps. Be gentle to avoid damaging the delicate parts of the machine.

Take your time to ensure that you remove all the debris that may be causing the issue.

Brush out dust from crevices with a small brush

In addition to removing lint and fluff, it is also important to brush out any dust or dirt that may have accumulated in the crevices of the bobbin area. A small brush, such as a soft-bristled paintbrush or a toothbrush, can be used to gently sweep away the dust.

Be thorough in your cleaning to ensure that no residue is left behind.

Regularly cleaning the bobbin area of your sewing machine will help to prevent fabric-feeding problems and ensure the smooth operation of your machine. It is recommended to clean the bobbin area after every project or at least once a month, depending on how frequently you use your machine.

Check and Retread the Top Thread Completely

If your sewing machine is not moving the fabric, one of the first things you should do is check and retread the top thread completely. Improper threading is one of the common causes of feeding issues in sewing machines.

Even if you think you have threaded it correctly, it’s always a good idea to double-check.

Improper threading causes feeding issues

When the top thread is not threaded properly, it can cause the sewing machine to malfunction and not move the fabric. The thread may get tangled or caught up in the machine, leading to feeding issues. By checking and retreading the top thread, you can ensure that it is properly aligned with the tension discs, thread guides, and needle, allowing for smooth fabric feeding.

Refer to manual for threading diagram

If you are unsure about the correct threading process for your particular sewing machine, always refer to the manual. The manual will provide you with a detailed threading diagram that shows the correct path for the top thread.

Following this diagram will help you avoid any threading mistakes and ensure that the thread is properly positioned for optimal fabric feeding.

Double check guide holes from spool to needle

When checking the top thread, pay close attention to the guide holes that the thread passes through from the spool to the needle. Make sure that the thread is properly threaded through each hole and that it is not tangled or caught on any part of the machine.

A small misalignment or obstruction can prevent the fabric from moving smoothly, so double-checking these guide holes is crucial.

For more detailed instructions on threading your specific sewing machine, you can visit the manufacturer’s website or check out sewing forums and blogs for helpful tips and tutorials. Remember, taking the time to properly thread the top thread can save you a lot of frustration and ensure that your sewing machine is functioning smoothly.

Check and Retread the Bobbin Thread

Incorrect bobbin threading prevents locking with top thread

One common issue that can cause a sewing machine to not move fabric is incorrect bobbin threading. If the bobbin thread is not properly threaded, it may not lock with the top thread, preventing the machine from moving the fabric.

To troubleshoot this issue, start by removing the bobbin case and checking the bobbin thread. Make sure it is threaded correctly, following the instructions provided by the sewing machine manufacturer.

If the thread is tangled or not properly wound on the bobbin, unwind it and rethread it, ensuring that it is properly tensioned.

Make sure bobbin is in the case in the right direction

Another common mistake is inserting the bobbin into the case in the wrong direction. Each sewing machine has a specific way to insert the bobbin into the case, so it is essential to consult the machine’s manual for guidance.

If the bobbin is inserted incorrectly, it may not feed the thread properly, causing the machine to not move the fabric. Take the time to double-check the bobbin’s orientation in the case, making sure it is inserted in the correct direction.

Pull thread through slot and under tension spring

When troubleshooting a sewing machine that won’t move fabric, it is important to ensure that the thread is properly pulled through the designated slot and under the tension spring. The tension spring helps regulate the thread’s tension, allowing for smooth stitching.

If the thread is not properly threaded through the slot and under the tension spring, it can cause the fabric not to move. Take a closer look at the sewing machine’s threading path, making sure the thread is correctly guided through each designated point.

If you need a visual guide or more detailed instructions on checking and retreading the bobbin thread, is a great resource. They provide step-by-step tutorials and troubleshooting tips for various sewing machine issues.


With some basic cleaning and rethreading, you should be able to get your sewing machine feeding fabric properly again. Always refer to your machine’s manual for specifics on lowering/raising the feed dogs and recommended cleaning methods.

If trying these troubleshooting steps doesn’t seem to work, it may be time to take your sewing machine in for professional service. But in most cases, a thorough cleaning and rethreading should have you stitching away in no time!

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