Sewing Machine Birdnesting – Causes and Solutions

Birdnesting, as much as it sounds like the nests where birds live, is not what it means in sewing. It is a standard sewing machine problem. The term refers to a giant knot of thread that forms on top or underneath fabric when sewing.

The giant knot is a result of the bobbin thread and the top thread getting tangled together. Besides, birdnesting causes the fabric to be pulling. The fabric goes down into the opening, where the bobbin gets released from the needle plate.

As a result, it can sometimes jam the machine. Not only does this create a hole in your fabric, but it also slows down productivity. This article will highlight the causes of birdnesting and the possible solutions.

What Causes Sewing Machine Birdnesting and How to Fix It?

We know that birdnesting slows down machine performance. It is also annoying and ruins projects. You may be wondering what exactly causes the thread to bunch up while using your sewing machine.

There can be several potential causes of this problem, and the following are some of them. What’s more, you will also learn the ways to fix the Birdnesting problem.

1. Bobbin and Needle Thread Tension

If the bobbin thread tension is loose, the excess thread ends up unwinding from the bobbin. Thus, it causes the thread to build up under the needle plate forming knots on the underside of the fabric.

Sometimes birdnesting can happen when the bobbin thread tension is tight. At the same time, the top thread tension is loose. It results in the excess top thread build-up, forming knots on top of the fabric.

Solution – Try Using the Correct Bobbin and Top Thread Tension

You can correct the thread tension by turning the tension screw on the side of the bobbin. The tension screw adjustment should be a quarter turn clockwise.

Remember not to temper the bobbin thread tension too much. You can make the tension adjustment for the top thread by using the knob (tension dial) on the sewing machine. Increase the tension slowly until you get to the correct tension.

Always make sure the bobbin thread tension matches the top thread tension. To check the tension, try to pull the thread when the presser foot is still up. The thread should be somewhat easy to pull.

2. Threading the Needle Thread in a Wrong Way

No matter how many times one has threaded a sewing machine before, it is possible to miss-thread it, especially to bypass the thread take-up lever.

For your machine to run with no problems, you have to thread it perfectly. If not done the way it is supposed to, threading can cause excess top thread tension.

So, it causes the top thread to get caught up in the needle as the sewing occurs. Moreover, it can cause the needle to freeze and slow down the sewing process.

Solution – Proper Threading Is the Key

The reason behind the thread bunch up and forming a birdnest is incorrect threading. Thus, rethread the whole machine. Pay attention to the threading sequence.

Make sure the thread gets in the take-up lever. Besides, it will help the top thread to catch the bobbin thread with no difficulties. It will then stop the thread from forming knots.

3. Wrong Threading or Placing of the Bobbin

Birdnesting can also happen if you don’t put the bobbin back in the bobbin case correctly. That can cause it to move out of the case as you are sewing, and the machine will not run smoothly.

It can also happen if one forgets to place the bobbin case into the machine. It may sound silly! But it is possible to forget every once in a while.

Other times, the bobbin thread may wound in the wrong way. That stops it from running perfectly. The results are giant knots forming in the thread, much like a bird nest.

Solution – Try Inserting the Bobbin in the Correct Way

If you suspect the bobbin to be the cause, it is advisable to check your sewing machine manual. Use the manual to know how to place the bobbin correctly.

Also, always remember to check if you have replaced the bobbin after threading. It will help you avoid Birdnesting, which occurs due to forgetting to replace the bobbin. Moreover, it will also help you save the garments from forming holes.

4. Not Servicing the Sewing Machine

Forgetting to service or carrying out maintenance on your machine has its consequences. One consequence being birdnesting. Some parts begin to cause problems if cleaning does not happen often.

For example, parts like the rotary hook may work improperly. The rotary hook is responsible for driving the bobbin. It rotates around a stationary bobbin.

If not clean, it can stop the bobbin from moving. So, it means the thread may unwind from the bobbin and end up forming knots.

Solution – Clean Your Sewing Machine More Often

Cleaning or maintaining your sewing machine will save you from a lot of trouble. To clean your machine, use a small brush. It will help get rid of dirt, which can cause problems with the rotary, and remove lint from the bobbin.

Also, remove dust from the throat plate and along the thread path. But remember to check your manual for guidelines on maintaining and cleaning your sewing machine.

5. Damaged or the Wrong Needle

A faulty needle causes many problems. The problems include thread build-up or knots underneath the fabric.

What’s more, the wrong needle can also cause the same problem. An example of a wrong needle is a needle that is too thin for the fabric.

If the needle is faulty due to damage, it will fail to catch or miss the bobbin thread. It will also happen if the needle is wrong for the fabric. If this happens, the chances are high that the thread will form knots underneath the fabric.

Solution – Try Replacing Needles

Frequently replace needles that are not suitable to get better results. Replace damaged and incorrect needles as well. Always make sure the needle matches the fabric type and always use the correct needle size.

6. Presser Foot Not Down

Anyone can forget to push the pressure foot down. If the sewing machine’s presser foot is up, it may fail to hold the fabric steady. If this happens, birdnesting could occur.

The reason is the fabric fails to feed through the sewing machine. Thus, it can cause the thread to bunch up underneath the fabric. In the end, it forms knots.

Solution – Check the Presser Foot

If you have forgotten to place your presser foot down, correct this by pulling it down. Many versions of sewing machines do not sew unless the presser foot is down. That means you do not have to worry about this problem.

If your machine doesn’t have this technology, always check the presser foot before starting to sew.

7. You Might Be Using a Low-Quality Thread

Low-quality thread not only breaks, but it is loose fibers too. It lets the lint build up faster in your bobbin, which leads to problems like birdnesting.

Solution – Ensure You Use Good Quality Thread

Good thread quality is a must. Do not use a cheap thread and end up compromising the functionality of your machine. A good quality thread will not break anyhow. Moreover, it will ensure that lint does not build up in your sewing machine too fast.

Essential Tips On Sewing Machine Birdnesting

For every sewing machine problem, there is a possible solution or alternative. The following are some of the tips on birdnesting.

  • Remember, Flagging can also be a possible reason for this issue. We sometimes call it improper hooping. The hoop may bounce up and down during sewing. And if you hoop the fabric too loosely, it slips or expands in the hoop.
  • An open hoop can cause the top thread to miss the bobbin thread and run smoothly together. The result is a bird nesting forming in the thread. Flagging can also occur if the needle fails to release the fabric. The needle ends up pulling the fabric as it moves up. So, it creates thread build up too.
  • Always look for the signs of lint build-up. Well, it is the accumulation of cotton fibers. It can happen in the bobbin. When lint builds up, it prevents the bobbin hook from forming proper stitches. It causes thread bunching up underneath the fabric.

Is Birdnesting Responsible for Sewing Machine Jamming?

The most common cause of sewing machine jamming is low tension in the top thread. This tension is necessary for pulling up the thread from the fabric during sewing. So, birdnesting has no direct relation to this issue.

If the tension is not enough, it will fail to pull the thread as such causes jamming. To solve this problem, you should re-thread the sewing machine. When in doubt, consult the manual for proper threading steps.

What Tension Should I Sew at to Avoid Birdnesting?

Thread tension is nothing but the amount of thread that passes through the machine to produce a stitch. A dial or knob on the sewing machine controls the top thread tension. Likewise, you can control the bobbin thread tension with the small screw on the side of the bobbin.

Depending on the type of machine, the tension runs from 0 to 9. 4.5. That makes it suitable for most fabrics and stitches. It is safe to leave your thread tension on default.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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