Thread bunching up under the fabric when you sew? (10 things to do)

thread bunching up under the fabric

This is a very common frustration point for many sewists when sewing with a sewing machine and even more frequent when doing machine embroidery. It is referred as Bird nesting as the tangled thread under the fabric looks like a bird’s nest – The thread bunches up under the fabric between the needle plate. 

There are many reasons for this tangled mess, which can suck away all joy from sewing if it happens all too often and you do not know what to do about it. 

Stop immediately as soon as you know something wrong is happening at the back of your fabric. Other than the frustration, it can also leave holes in the fabric. This thread entangling, looping and generally obstructing sewing is no party.

Please go through the list and check them off one by one.

What to do when you get a bird nest of thread under the fabric?

1. Have you ensured that the sewing machine is threaded properly?

Incorrect threading is usually the number one reason for the thread bunching up – Just re-thread the machine correctly and most probably your problem will go away.

It is usually when the thread is not going through the tension assembly unit that this problem arises – so ensure that everything is done correctly this time. You will have to remove the thread completely and do the threading from start. Ensure that you are following the thread guide in the machine.

Remember to bring up the pressure feet before you start the threading. 

2.Is the take up lever up?

Take up lever of the sewing machine up

Before you start sewing ensure that the take-up lever is in the uppermost position, every single time.

3.Is the Thread tension optimal ?

If the upper thread tension is loose, thread can get tangled under the fabric. Turn the tension knob clockwise to tighten it up. First tighten slightly and then test sew; the tighten again if you need to till you get it right.

Bird nesting can happen if bobbin tension is tight – but i most modern machines you do not touch the bobbin tension – it is remained a constant. Do not touch it.

You can learn more about adjusting the sewing machine tension here. 

4.Did you inspect the bobbin case for damage? 

Double check that the bobbin area is right and good. Clean it up. Ensure there are no jagged ends.

5.Are you sewing the wrong fabric ?

By wrong fabric I mean, fabric which is not suitable to be sewn with your sewing machine – too many layers, sewing thick fabrics like pleather, leather; These are not meant to be sewn with a simple home sewing machine with limited capacity.

The wrong kind of stabilizer under the embroidery design can clog up needle and cause bird nesting in machine embroidery.

Check out whether you need an industrial sewing machine or not.

6.Have you done the machine maintenance ?

If you have not used the machine for sometime, and you have not cleaned it recently, the thread will bunch up similarly. A proper maintenance will solve the problem. Clean the area under the needle plate, bobbin case, and hook assembly thoroughly. Clean the thread path along the tension assembly with dental floss. You can learn more about sewing machine maintenance here.

Modern sewing machines will have to be serviced at the repair shop once in a while as you cannot put oil in them. In some machines the bobbin tension can be loosened to solve the problem.

7.Are you using the wrong thread or wrong needle?

If the above solutions have not worked, change the needle. Some people change the needle for every single project; you can change less frequently if you want to but if there is bird nesting you can try to change the needle- it may be the case sometimes.

8.Is everything positioned as it should be?

By this I mean the placement of fabric on the machine when doing embroidery. When machine embroidering you will be using hoops and stabilizers. If the hooping is loose the fabric can shift and thread can bunch up.

9. Is the tension assembly faulty?

If you are really unfortunate, the discs of the tension assembly may be damaged. They will need to be replaced – at the repair shop.

10.Is the timing of the machine correct and on point?

Your sewing machine maybe out of time – ie the needle is not going into the hook at the correct time. The machine may have to be re-timed. This and the above problem can only be solved by a sewing machine mechanic. You will have to take the machine to the repair shop.

In the mean time, plan what you will sew when the machine is back and enjoy the time away from the sewing machine.

Related posts: Sewing machine problems and easy solutions ; How does a sewing machine work; Beginners guide to using a sewing machine properly the first time 

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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