Singer Sewing Machine Won’t Work

If it seems like your singer sewing machine won’t work more often than it does work, you’re probably thinking you’re just not cut out for this sewing lark. But don’t despair, because once you know why things can go wrong, you can take steps to avoid the issues.

There are many reasons a Singer sewing machine won’t work. Examples include incorrect threading or needle installation. It can also be hard to see a bend in a needle or that there’s lint build-up in the machine. But these can cause a host of issues.

If it sounds like a lot can go wrong with your Singer sewing machine, you’d be right. But often, one solution resolves several issues. So, if you’re looking to make your sewing more productive and tension-free, you can find out how below.

Singer Sewing Machine Breaking Needles

If your needles break frequently, there are several things you should look at.

Check the Needle and Presser Foot Installation 

First, check if there’s damage on the presser foot. If so, the needle may be hitting it. So, one or the other isn’t positioned correctly, or you may have a bent needle.

If the needle isn’t bent, check it’s installed correctly in its holder and that you’ve tightened the clamp screw. Check also that the presser foot is secure.

Use the Right Presser Foot

There’s a whole range of presser feet for different stitches and different sewing tasks. If you choose the wrong one, your needle may be hitting the presser foot, causing the needle breakage.

Use the Correct Throat Plate

If the presser foot is okay, check the throat plate. There are also different types available. The standard throat plate has a large slot for the needle. This allows the needle to move sideways when you’re doing, for example, zig-zag stitches. 

But straight stitch plates only have small holes for the needle to pass through. If you use one of those when doing a zig-zag stitch, the needle will hit the plate and probably break.

You can see the difference between the standard and straight stitch plates in this video:

If you’re using the right throat plate, but there’s damage on it, that suggests there’s a bend in the needle. It can be hard to spot a bent needle, but even the slightest bend can cause it to hit the throat plate or the presser foot.

Use the Right Needle for the Job

If all the above are okay, check that you’re using the right needle for the fabric. If you use a fine needle on heavy material, the needle’s likely to break.

Don’t Force the Material Through

Finally, make sure you’re not pushing or pulling the fabric through as you sew. It’s the job of the feed dogs to draw the fabric through. If you start pushing or pulling the fabric, you can bend and break the needle.

Singer Sewing Machine Breaking Thread

Some of the reasons highlighted above can also result in your thread breaking. For example, using a bent needle or forcing the fabric through instead of letting the feed dogs do their job.

But here are some other common causes.

Using a Low-Quality Thread or the Wrong Thread 

A principal reason for the thread breaking is the quality of the thread. You should use good-quality threads designed for sewing machines. Try to avoid low-quality or hand sewing threads.

There are also different types of thread for use with various types of fabric. So, match the thread to the material.

Check the Threading 

Incorrect threading is another frequent cause of thread breaking. For example, you must lift the presser foot when threading. This opens the tension discs. When these discs are open, the thread can slide between them.

If the presser foot is down, the discs stay closed so your thread won’t sit between them, and your tension will be wrong.

Also, if the thread is snagging on something, that can increase the tension and snap the thread.

So, undo the threading and start again. As you pull your thread through, before you reach the tension discs, there should be no tension. If there is, check for snags.

Once you’ve rounded the tension discs, then you should start to feel some tension. But the thread should still pull through without difficulty.

Check the Thread Tension

Your Singer machine should have a tension adjustment for the top thread. So, if none of the above solves the issue, check the tension setting.

Adjust it gradually and do some test stitches to see if it solves the problem.

Also, check the tension of the bobbin thread. There should be a screw in the bobbin case to adjust that. Again, adjustments will be trial and error, but it’ll be time well-spent.

Clean Under the Throat Plate

The area under the throat plate can quickly clog up with lint and fluff. This build-up can cause many problems, and thread breakages are just one.

While removing the throat plate, it’s worth checking it for nicks where the thread might catch. That could be another reason for thread breaking even if you’ve threaded correctly.

Make sure you clean all areas under the throat plate, including the bobbin case.

Singer Sewing Machine Keeps Jamming

This is a nasty problem. Again, incorrect threading, accumulations of lint, and incorrect tension settings are possible causes.

But here are some other things to look at.

Change the Throat Plate

If you’re using the standard throat plate that came with your machine, it’s likely a zig-zag plate. It’ll have a wide slot for the needle to go through.

That’s great if you’re doing a zig-zag or another stitch where the needle moves from side to side. 

But if you’re only doing straight stitches, try switching to a straight stitch throat plate. The smaller holes for the needle to pass through lessen the risk of material getting pushed down with it.

Are the Feed Dogs Up?

Another common reason for material jamming your machine is that the feed dogs aren’t in the right position. They need to be up above the surface of the throat plate. Otherwise, they can’t draw the material through as you sew.

You’ll need to check your manual for how to set the feed dog’s position.

You should also check that the feed dogs aren’t clogged with fluff and lint. If they are, that will prevent them from getting traction on the material to draw it through.

Lint accumulations in the feed dogs area can also restrict the mechanisms that move them.

Use the Right Needle and Replace Damaged Ones

If you’re using a ballpoint needle on a fabric that needs a fine-tipped needle, you can imagine the problem. Instead of piercing the fabric, the needle will push it down through the throat plate.

A similar thing can happen if your needle is blunt or bent.

Singer Sewing Machine Keeps Knotting

Knotting is another problem caused by lint clogging your machine, incorrect threading, or blunt needles. But below are some other possible causes.

Check the Bobbin and Top Thread Tension

If you’re seeing knots and loops on the underside of your fabric, it’s a sign that you have a problem with your bobbin.

It’s likely a tension issue. The tension of both top thread and bobbin thread needs to be the same for the two to work together. 

If the bobbin tension is too high, it’ll pull the top thread through the material, causing knots on the underside.

Adjust the top thread tension first, as the control for doing this is easily accessible. To change the bobbin tension, you’ll need to use the screw on the bobbin case.

Check the Bobbin Installation 

It’s easy to accidentally put the bobbin in its case the wrong way round. If that happens, the bobbin thread can unwind and cause problems.

Remember, your bobbin needs to rotate anti-clockwise. So, the thread should come off it from the left.  

If you have the bobbin the right way round, check that the case is seated correctly in the shuttle. If not, reinstall it.

Don’t Start Stitching at the Edge of the Fabric

If you start stitching on the edge of the fabric, your needle can miss the fabric altogether. So, instead of forming a stitch on the fabric, it just knots the thread.

So, try to start stitching slightly in from the edge. Once you’ve done a few stitches, reverse back to the edge.

Don’t Cut the Thread Tails Too Short

If the thread tails are too short, when you start to sew, they can get pulled into the machine and knot up.

If you’ve experienced this, try keeping tails on both threads of about 6in (15cm). Then, keep a gentle hold of them as you start sewing. This should prevent the movement of the machine from pulling the tails into it.

You can see this and the technique for not starting your stitching at the fabric’s edge in this video:

Singer Sewing Machine Needle Not Going Up and Down

If your needle isn’t moving up and down, check that your machine isn’t on the bobbin setting. This setting stops the needle moving while you wind your bobbin.

On most machines, pushing the bobbin winder to the right disengages the mechanisms that drive the needle. It’s for safety, but also for convenience as it means you don’t have to unthread the top thread to wind a bobbin.

On other machines, there’s an inner wheel on the handwheel. If you rotate it, the drive mechanisms disengage. You can see an example of such a machine in this video:

If your machine is in the sew setting, check that your presser foot is down. If you’ve just threaded the machine, you’ll have put the presser foot up. But some sewing machines won’t allow the needle to move until the foot is down.

Singer Sewing Machine Needles Won’t Move

If your needle doesn’t move, check the machine is on the sew setting and not the bobbin setting, as discussed above.

Otherwise, the problem might be due to a build-up of lint. That can block the movement of the mechanical parts.  

If the needle is stuck in its down position, it may be jammed into lint accumulations under the throat plate. Or, if it’s become bent, that may have caused it to jam.

So, clean the machine following the instruction manual. Or, replace the needle and any damaged parts.

Alternatively, try oiling your machine, if you haven’t done so for a while. Parts can seize through lack of oil, and that can prevent needle movement.

If you can hear your motor running when you press the foot pedal, but there’s no movement, the pedal. Connections may have come loose. Or, dust and dirt may have accumulated on them, blocking the electrical current. Getting those connections cleaned may help.

Another thing you can check is the drive belt. If it’s broken, there’ll be no rotation to drive the mechanisms that move the needle.

Singer Sewing Machine Not Moving Fabric

If your fabric isn’t moving through the machine as you sew, check that you’ve lowered the presser foot. It’s easy to leave it up after you’ve threaded your machine and forget to put it down.

Otherwise, check the feed dogs are up, so they can grip the fabric and draw it through as you sew.

Also, lint build-up on the feed dogs can prevent them from getting the necessary grip on the fabric. Lint build-ups can also interfere with the mechanisms that move the feed dogs. So, a thorough clean of the feed dogs and around them should resolve this.

You can also encounter this problem if you have lowered your presser foot, but it’s pressing down on the feed dogs too hard. That will prevent the feed dogs from moving, so adjust the presser foot pressure.

Many machines also won’t move the fabric if the stitch size is too small. If it’s set to zero, increasing it should solve the problem.

Finally, check the machine isn’t in buttonhole mode. 

Singer Sewing Machine Not Stitching

This can be annoying because everything seems to be set up correctly, but you just can’t get a stitch.

Check the Needle Installation

If your machine isn’t stitching, check that the needle is firmly in its holder and is the right way round. The flat surface of the needle should be facing towards the back of the machine.

Check the Threading 

Also, check that you’ve threaded the machine correctly. Any misstep in the threading procedure can upset the whole process.

One step that’s easy to overlook is getting the thread behind the thread guide at the top of the needle holder. That guide can be hard to see.

Is There Thread on the Bobbin?

It’s also worth ensuring that the bobbin hasn’t run out of thread. With the bobbin hidden by a cover, this can be easy to miss.

Check the Tension Settings 

Make sure the tension of the top and bobbin threads is equal. Also, check that the bobbin thread is inside the tension spring on the bobbin case.

Is the Thread Snagging?

Don’t forget that nicks and scratches may cause the threads to get caught. That can affect the tension and result in stitches, not forming. This can happen with both threads. 

So, check for damage to the spool and the guides through which the top thread passes. Also, look for any damage around the presser foot or throat plate hole. 

Also, check the bobbin and the bobbin case. If they’re hit by the needle, the resulting damage can affect the flow of thread off the bobbin.

Singer Sewing Machine Skipping Stitches

If there’s one thing more annoying than no stitches, it’s skipped stitches appearing between your perfect ones.

Skipped stitches can result from the same issues that prevent stitches forming. So, be sure to run through those.

Also, check that you’re using the right combination of needle, thread, and fabric, and your needle isn’t bent or blunt.

Changing the thread can also help. You should use a good quality sewing machine thread that’s compatible with your fabric.

Singer Sewing Machine Wheel Won’t Turn

If your handwheel is stuck, don’t try to force it, as this can cause serious damage. Instead, try the following.

Clean the Bobbin Area

One of the main reasons for the handwheel seizing up is because the bobbin case is full of debris. Those accumulations can block the path of the needle or the shuttle. If they can’t move, neither can the handwheel.

Often, cleaning out the bobbin area, including the case and the shuttle, solves this issue. 

Check Tension and Threading

If the problem persists, check the tension and threading of the top thread.

If the top thread tension is too high, it’ll stop the wheel from turning. Sometimes, you can release the wheel by gently rotating it. If that doesn’t work or the wheel won’t move at all, adjust the thread tension. Do this in gradual steps until you feel the handwheel release. 

Incorrect threading is at the root of many problems. So, it’s always worth checking and re-threading your machine.

Check for Knotted Thread

A knot in your thread can also prevent the handwheel from turning. You often get knots in low-quality threads. That’s why sticking to good-quality machine threads is usually the best policy.

Your Machine Needs a Rest

Some machines cut out if they’re overused, to protect the motor from overheating.

So, if you’re deep into a sewing marathon, you might find everything grinds to a sudden halt. Take that as a cue that your machine needs a breather.

Singer Sewing Machine Won’t Pick Up Thread

This problem can arise due to any of the reasons already discussed.

But if none of those steps solves this issue, you’ll need to check the timing between the needle and the shuttle hook.

The shuttle hook comes around behind the needle to pick up the top thread loop as part of the stitch forming process. So, the needle and the shuttle hook need to be in perfect synchronization. 

If the shuttle hook doesn’t pass behind the needle at precisely the right time, you’ll need to make adjustments. You can see how in the following video:

Singer Sewing Machine Won’t Spin

Assuming you’ve switched on your machine and checked that there’s power, double-check that the foot pedal cord hasn’t come out.

If it’s connected properly but doesn’t work, dust and lint may have accumulated on the pedal’s electrical connections. That will block the passage of electricity, so your foot pedal won’t work. A thorough clean should resolve this.

If the pedal is okay, but there’s no motor sound, you may have a broken motor that needs replacing.

Final Thoughts

So, if your Singer sewing machine won’t work, remember the common causes, namely:

  • incorrect threading of the top and bobbin threads
  •  too much or not enough top or bobbin thread tension
  •  incorrect needle installation
  •  accumulations of lint and other debris under the throat plate and in the bobbin area

Resolving these issues will usually get you up and running again. If not, with your newly-found knowledge of the other problem-specific causes, you won’t stay unstitched for long.

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