needle not picking up bobbin thread

Why Is My Needle Not Picking Up Bobbin Thread?

Have you ever started a sewing project only to find the needle isn’t picking up the bobbin thread? It can be pretty frustrating to sew seams on your sewing machine, particularly when you realize that the needle isn’t pulling up the top thread due to the absence of the bobbin thread. Stitches can quickly unravel without the locking action of the upper and bobbin threads – a standard sewing machine problem.

When the needle fails to grab the bobbin thread, there are a few key culprits to investigate. Read on as we troubleshoot the main reasons behind a needle not picking up the bobbin thread on your Singer sewing machine, brother sewing machine, or any make and model.

Imbalanced Thread Tension Prevents Thread Pickup

Proper thread tension is crucial for perfect stitch formation. A sewing machine’s tension disks or plates act like a pulley system to apply the ideal tension to the top and bobbin threads. If the stress is imbalanced between the top thread and the bobbin area, the locking action doesn’t occur.

Too much tension on the upper thread prevents it from forming a loop for the bobbin thread to catch onto the hook tip in the bobbin area. On the other hand, too loose an upper thread or tight tension in the bobbin case stops the bobbin thread from being pulled up.

It would be advisable to refer to your sewing machine’s manual to get instructions on adjusting the tension. Please adhere to the instructions mentioned in the manual to adjust the tension appropriately. Make small incremental turns to the thread tension dials until you achieve balanced tension between the top and bobbin threads. Test on fabric scraps after each adjustment. Getting the tension just right on your machine takes some trial and error.

Bobbin Case Damage or Lint Buildup

Bobbin Case Damage or Lint Buildup
Photo credit: pexels

Inside the bobbin case is a tiny or rotary hook that catches the needle thread and forms a stitch with the bobbin thread. Lint and debris accumulation in the bobbin area can obstruct the hook, while damage to the bobbin case can impact thread tension and handling.

Remove the bobbin case and use a small brush to dislodge any lint or stray threads wound around the tension spring or other areas. Use a soft cloth to clean the bobbin holder and overall bobbin area. Check for any damage like nicks, dents, or rust on the bobbin casing, and replace it if needed. Proper maintenance of the bobbin case keeps this delicate area in top working order.

Bobbin Wound or Inserted Incorrectly

A loose bobbin wound or improperly inserted into the case will cause pickup problems. Follow your sewing machine’s guide for winding the bobbin evenly and snugly on the bobbin winder. When inserting the wound bobbin into the case, ensure it rotates freely as the thread is pulled off during stitching.

Passing the thread tail through the tension spring correctly helps the hook grab the top loop. Hearing an audible “click” when replacing the bobbin case confirms it’s fully engaged in the bobbin area. Taking extra care here prevents headaches with skipped stitches down the road.

Bent, Blunt, or Wrong Needles Lead to Poor Pickup

Just like kitchen knives, the sewing machine needles become dull with use. A blunt needle tip doesn’t form a defined loop for the bobbin hook to catch. Needles can also get bent or damaged over time, especially when sewing multiple layers of dense fabrics.

Always immediately change bent or dull needles and replace them with new needles. Ensure you’re using the proper size and type of sewing machine needle for your fabric type. A slight bump in needle size may improve thread pickup in stubborn fabrics. Refer to your machine’s guide for the correct needle system, plate, bar height, and depth.

Adjust Hook Timing for Perfect Thread Loops

The precise synchronization between the needle and the bobbin hook is called timing. The hook must meet the needle at just the right moment to pick up the top loop cleanly. Off-timing prevents the threads from interlocking correctly and can cause skipped stitches.

Timing adjustments are detailed fully in your sewing machine manual. Some machines have a fixed timing that can’t be adjusted. For those with adjustable hook timing, a small screwdriver is used to turn the hook shaft or set screw minutely.

Test timing on a single layer of fabric. Properly timed hooks will create perfect interlocking thread loops with no puckering. Only attempt adjustments after consulting your manual first, as the hook, needle bar, and presser foot must work together.

Other Less Common Causes

While tension, bobbin, needle, and timing issues make up the majority of thread pickup problems, there are a few other things that could be at play:

  • Poor quality or old, decaying thread resists, forming perfect loops for the hook to catch. Inspect thread for weaknesses and replace old thread.
  •  Damage or burrs around the needle plate hole or throat plate can alter thread handling and tension.
  •  In sporadic cases, lubrication issues, loose needle bar screws, worn hook points, or bent presser feet might come into play.

Consult your machine’s service manual if basic troubleshooting of tension, bobbin, needle, and timing doesn’t resolve the issue.

Win the Battle Against Unruly Thread

A needle unable to grab the bobbin thread is undoubtedly aggravating. However, a systematic approach to diagnosing the issue will make your sewing machine stitch smoothly again. Start with rebalancing thread tension, then inspect the bobbin area. Replace bent needles, insert a thoroughly wound bobbin, and adjust hook timing.


Why is my needle not picking up the bobbin thread when I start sewing?

This is usually caused by improper threading. Following your machine’s threading diagrams, ensure the top and bobbin threads are threaded correctly.

What should I check if my needle is not catching the bobbin thread?

Check that your thread tension, bobbin case, and needle are all in good working order. Please use the instructions provided in the article mentioned above to resolve any issues.

Why does my needle keep skipping stitches?

Skipped stitches are also caused by the needle not picking up the bobbin thread. Follow the same troubleshooting steps for tension, bobbin, needle, and timing issues.

How can I adjust the hook timing on my sewing machine?

Be sure to consult your instruction manual for the appropriate procedure since the timing can differ depending on the machine. Improper adjustments can damage the timing gears.

How do I know if my sewing machine needle is bent or dull?

Inspect the needle closely under a good light. Replace it if the tip looks distorted or the needle produces poor stitches.

You can quickly get your projects back on track with simple troubleshooting steps. Have you encountered a needle not picking up the bobbin thread before? What resolved it for you? Share your tips and tricks for this common sewing machine problem in the comments!


Main image: pexels

Priti Nandy
Priti Nandy
Articles: 169

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