sewing machine not moving fabric

Sewing Machine Not Moving Fabric? How to Troubleshoot and Fix

Is your sewing machine failing to move fabric properly and just skipping stitches? It can be incredibly frustrating when your sewing project gets interrupted by issues with your machine not feeding the fabric smoothly.

Common problems like the sewing machine not moving the fabric correctly or stitching over the same spot repeatedly are often caused by simple things you can troubleshoot yourself. Read on to learn about the leading causes of fabric not advancing and solutions to have your sewing machine working smoothly again in no time.

What Causes Fabric Feeding Problems on a Sewing Machine?

Some of the most common reasons behind your sewing machine not moving the fabric as it should include:

  • The Wrong Needle/Thread Combination – Using the improper needle size for your fabric thickness or thread that’s too lightweight or heavy for the needle can lead to skipped stitches from poor fabric penetration.
  •  Incorrect Thread Tension – If the upper thread tension is too tight or loose, it prevents proper interlocking with the bobbin thread. This leads to uneven, looping stitches.
  •  Presser Foot Problems – A presser foot not attached correctly or with pressure too light for thicker fabrics causes the material to slip and cause poor feeding.
  •  Issues with the Feed Dogs – The feed dogs that move the fabric can wear down over time. Damaged or improperly raised feed dogs won’t grip and advance the fabric properly.

Step-by-Step Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

Step by Step Sewing Machine Troubleshooting
Photo credit: freepik

If your sewing machine isn’t moving the fabric smoothly and you’re noticing skipped stitches, puckering seams, or material bunching up, follow these troubleshooting steps:

Check the Needle and Thread

The needle and thread need to work together for optimal stitch formation. Start by replacing the needle with one appropriate for your fabric type and weight. Ensure you’re also using the thread size recommended for that needle.

Adjust the Thread Tension

Proper thread tension helps balance the stitch formation. Test on fabric scraps and adjust the upper thread tension up or down if needed until even straight stitches are formed. Check that the bobbin is threaded correctly and the tension is set right.

Inspect and Adjust the Presser Foot

The presser foot applies pressure to feed the fabric evenly. Increase the foot pressure for thick or slippery fabrics. Ensure the presser foot is attached correctly and moving smoothly when turning the hand wheel.

Examine the Feed Dogs

The small teeth-like feed dogs should be free of lint buildup. They won’t grip the fabric well if damaged or excessively worn down. The feed dogs need to raise and lower precisely to advance the material for each stitch.

Test with Different Fabrics

Try sewing lighter-weight, non-slippery fabrics like quilting cotton. If those fabrics feed correctly, it indicates the issues lie with needle/fabric compatibility or tension settings rather than internal machine problems.

Prevent Future Problems with Your Sewing Machine

To help avoid ongoing headaches with skipped stitches and poor fabric feeding, be sure to:

  • Always use the appropriate size and type of needle for your fabric.
  •  Change the needle regularly, especially after completing large projects.
  •  Rethread entirely before starting any new sewing project.
  •  Keep lint cleaned from the bobbin and surrounding areas.
  •  Refer to your sewing machine’s manual for the proper settings.


What causes a sewing machine not to move fabric properly?

Common causes include:
Incorrect needle/thread combination.
Improper tension settings.
Presser foot issues.
Problems with the feed dogs.

Why does my sewing machine keep skipping stitches?

Skipped stitches are often caused by a needle/thread mismatch, poor thread tension, a damaged or improperly installed needle, or worn feed dogs.

How can I fix puckered seams from my sewing machine?

Puckered seams result from the thread tension being too tight. Loosen the upper thread tension and ensure the bobbin is threaded and tensioned correctly.

What should I do if the fabric bunches up under the presser foot?

Fabric bunching indicates the foot isn’t applying enough pressure. Increase the foot pressure for thicker fabrics. Check for obstructions under the foot as well.

How do I know if my sewing machine feed dogs are damaged?

Examine the feed dogs for excessive wear or damage. Replace them if the teeth appear very worn down or if there are missing/broken points.

These best practices will help keep your sewing machine happily stitching for future projects! Let us know in the comments if you’ve experienced sewing machine difficulties and how you resolved them. Happy sewing!


Main image: freepik

Priti Nandy
Priti Nandy
Articles: 168

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