Why Is My Sewing Machine Not Moving the Fabric

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as a sewing machine that refuses to cooperate, especially when it stubbornly refuses to feed your fabric. But don’t let this hiccup turn your passion into a source of stress. This common issue usually has a straightforward fix.

In this post, you’ll learn how to troubleshoot and pinpoint why your sewing machine might be acting up. We’ll walk through the basics, then delve deeper into potential issues, from thread snags to tension imbalances. I’ll also share some handy maintenance tips to keep your machine in top shape, and guide you on when it might be time to call in the pros.

Don’t worry—we’ll help stitch this problem up together. Let’s get you back to your sewing projects without further ado. Read on to understand and rectify your sewing machine conundrum.

Why Is My Sewing Machine Not Moving the Fabric?

It may be tricky to figure out why your machine won’t move the fabric. What’s more, it is even trickier if you are encountering the problem for the first time.

There can be several reasons why this unique problem occurs, like thread tension, threading incorrectly, layers of fabric, etc. These problems have solutions. Keep reading to learn more.

#1. Stitch Length Is Too Low

stitch length is too low

Stitch length means how long your stitch will sew. Each sewing machine will have many stitch lengths. They range from zero to five or zero to seven, depending on the type of machine.

Zero is the lowest stitch. The length on your machine indicates a single stitch. So if the length is three, it means it is 3mm long.

Stitch length determines how much the machine will pull the fabric. The lower the stitch length, the less fabric the machine will pull and vice versa.

The solution to this problem is adjusting the length. You may have left it on zero when you were working on your previous project.

For example, while sewing a buttonhole. So, adjust the length to two or three, and your machine will start sewing again.

#2. Thread Tension

thread tension

Thread tension is the amount of thread that forms a stitch. If the thread tension is too hard, it is harder for it to move through the machine. It will then stop your fabric from moving.

You should adjust your thread tension regularly. Make sure that both the bobbin and upper thread use the same weight.

The reason you should adjust regularly is, fabrics and threads have different weights and textures. Adjusting to a weight similar to your fabric will ensure that your machine doesn’t stop your fabric from moving.

You shouldn’t change your bobbin thread tension too much. But you can adjust your upper thread as much as needed.

#3. Number of Layers

Some of the designs you sew may have several layers. As a result, it could stop the fabric from moving.

The more layers you sew, the harder it becomes for them to pass through the sewing machine. The reason is most machines cannot handle thick layers.

The best approach to solve this specific issue is to sew fewer layers. If that’s not an option, try to reduce your sewing speed so your fabric won’t get stuck.

#4. A Knot in the Thread

a knot in the thread

A knot acts as a stopper. A knot can form while winding your bobbin or threading your machine.

If the knot gets caught in your tension discs or the eye of your needle, the machine will not sew or form stitches. So, it means your fabric won’t move too.

If you’ve noticed a knot in your thread, you should rethread the upper part of the machine or your bobbin.

#5. Presser Foot in the Wrong Position

A footer is helpful to hold your fabric when sewing. It is possible to forget to press the presser foot down. It usually happens for old machines.

Newer computerized sewing machines give an indicator when your footer is up. This way, you never forget to press it down.

If your footer is up, your fabric may fail to move. That’s because your feed dogs may not have anything to clutch.

Make it a habit to always cross-check if everything is in place before starting to sew. This way, you will not forget to press your footer down.

#6. Worn or Jammed Feed Dogs

worn or jammed feed dogs

Feed dogs are the crucial part of a sewing machine that feeds the fabric under the needle and a presser foot.

If they wear out, they will not hold the fabric because they lose their sharpness. They get worn out if you do a lot of sewing projects or if your machine is older.

The feed dogs could also jam due to dust. It causes the machine not to sew or feed the fabric.

Worn-out feed dogs can be sharpened or replaced. But, it is easier to replace them than get them sharpened.

For jammed feed dogs, all you need to do is clean your machine. Clean it using a small brush and oil it regularly. Moreover, pay extra attention to the bobbin case and the feed dogs.

#7. Threading Incorrectly

If you don’t thread the machine correctly, it will not move the fabric. It is possible even for someone who has been sewing for years to thread their machine incorrectly.

So, the solution for this is simple, remove the thread and rethread.

Common Sewing Machine Problems

Your sewing machine will encounter several problems as you work on your project. The following are some of the common problems.

1. Fabric Not Moving

fabric not moving

As you sew or about to sew, your fabric may fail to move. If this happens at any point, you will not be able to sew any stitches because the machine won’t move the fabric.

2. Thread Breaking

It can happen as you sew. Your thread keeps breaking after every few stitches. One of the crucial reasons for this is improper thread routing.

It’s possible to make a mistake while threading and place the thread in the wrong place and direction. It could also be due to tension and debris build-up on the bobbin.

3. Failure to Come On

Your machine may fail to come on. It could be due to power failure or a damaged outlet code.

4. Failure for the Motor to Run

The motor controls the speed of a sewing machine. It may fail to run because it is damaged. Besides, it could also fail due to a faulty foot pedal, wiring failure, or a bad motor.

Troubleshooting Sewing Machine Problems

Troubleshooting is an act of tracing faults. Thus, to find out what is wrong with your sewing machine, you have to troubleshoot.

You may be familiar with common reasons why your sewing machine won’t move the fabric. If that is the case with you, you can solve it without troubleshooting. But when in doubt, troubleshoot!

To troubleshoot, you should refer to your machine’s manual. Your sewing machine manual will be of much help when trying to figure out the problem. Manuals give you information on all settings and maintenance.

If you lost your manual, don’t worry, you can visit the manufacturer’s online page. Or you can contact them directly.

Going through the manual, you will realize it may be minor issues that cause the sewing machine not to move the fabric. In the process of troubleshooting, you will have to narrow down the causes to find the solution.

You can do this by checking what your manual says about each feature on your machine. You can then take on the ones that deal with moving the fabric.

After which, you can check if each of those features is okay on your machine. If not, you can adjust them and try using your machine to see if it works.

You can also find these suggestions on your manufacturer’s online website or a page under FAQ. If you suspect the weight of your fabric to be the cause, you can try sewing various fabrics to check.

Why Is My Sewing Machine Pulling Fabric Inside?

It is a common problem and can damage your fabric. It happens when your needle and fabric don’t match. Thus, it is ideal that you change your needle before every project.

Another cause is a damaged needle which can happen over time. If your needle becomes too bent, it ends up hitting the feed dogs, bobbin case, or throat plate.

All these can break and push the fabric inside during the sewing process. So, make sure you replace or at least repair these parts on time.

What Should I Do if My Fabric Moves Inside the Machine?

If your fabric gets pulled inside the machine, you should first turn off the machine if it is electronic. Then remove the presser foot and its holder.

After that, you should cut the thread below the fabric. If this doesn’t work, continue to remove the needle plate cover and cut out tangled thread.

Avoid pulling the fabric out of your sewing machine if it stays inside. That’s because pulling can damage both the fabric and your sewing machine.



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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