Help! My Bobbin just Blew up!

How to Fix Bobbin Tension || Great resource of tips and problem solving! Saving this one.

How to Fix Bobbin Tension

If you sew, you know what I’m talking about when I say ‘my bobbin just blew up!’ We’ve all been there.

Threads everywhere, fabric eaten, and/or a jammed needle.

Oh the joy that results from this sight! #sarcasm

Well, today we are talking about the source of a #BobbinExplosion {ha!} and what you can do to fix it. We’ve {I say ‘we’ as in my assistant and our awesome Facebook community of over 250,000} compiled all the possible causes and solutions that we can think of for this predicament. The tricky thing is, there’s not just one solution or one reason a bobbin does this. So we created a list of possible culprits. This is a great post to save for later!

This post was inspired from this question posted on the Craftaholics Anonymous® Facebook page:

“Can anyone help me? I can’t work out why my bobbin keeps doing this?” -Em

Answers were compiled from this thread and this thread on the Craftaholics Anonymous Facebook page.

What to do When Your Bobbin Explodes

  1. The tension might be off on your sewing machine. Slightly adjust the tension.
  2. Clean the inside of your sewing machine to get out all the dust bunnies and little threads in there.
  3.  The bobbin may not be inserted into the housing correctly. Take out the bobbin and carefully reinsert it.
  4. The threads may not be in the right place. Rethread your sewing machine.
  5. The bobbin may not have been wound properly with correct tension. Remove thread from the bobbin and rewind.
  6. Make sure you inserted your bobbin to spin in the correct direction. Most sewing machines will have the bobbin spin clockwise, but refer to your owners manual because some machines require a counter-clockwise spin.
  7. The tension on the bobbin may not be correct. When the bobbin tension is correct, you should be able to hold the bobbin thread up in one hand and the bobbin will descend a few inches and stop. If the bobbin instantly drops all the way to the floor or table, the bobbin tension is too loose. If this is the case, use the small screw on the side of the case to tighten it. If it doesn’t descend at all, it’s too tight. Adjust the little screw on the casing to loosen the tension. Remember Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty.
  8. Change your needle. Sometimes needles get a bend or a slight bur and need to be replace. Sewing needles should be replaced after 4-6 hours of sewing.
  9. Try using a different type of thread. Threads are made from natural and synthetic materials and some machines just don’t play well with some types of threads.
  10.  Make sure your bobbin and needle are the correct size for your sewing machine. Off brand or generic needles and bobbins can easily cause tension problems.
  11. Make sure to hold both threads when you start to sew.
  12.  Always use the same thread on top and bottom.
  13.  Oil your machine. Sometimes a little oil is all it needs.
  14.  All else fails, take it to a repair shop. Sewing machines are like cars and they need an occasional tune up.

I hope this post helps you find a solution and helps you figure out how to fix bobbin tension in your sewing machine!

What to do when for a Bobbin Explosion || Great resource for tips and problem solving. Saving this!

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Hi! I'm Linda, the craft addict behind Craftaholics Anonymous®, a craft blog. Crafting is cheaper than therapy, right? When I'm not DIYing something, I can be found taxiing around our 4 crazy kids or working out. Or shoe shopping... because you can never have too many shoes! Happy crafting! ♥

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  1. 1
    Diane Simpkins

    I had this happen recently and my problem was no. 1 on your list. The tension was not set right on my machine. What a good idea to have this list. I wouldn’t have thought of some of these things. Thanks.

  2. 2
    Patti Guerra

    In my experience, the vast majority of the time the reason is this-I threaded the upper thread with the presser foot down, IT HAS TO BE RAISED when you thread the top. Which seems counter intuitive, but when I get a lot of bird-nesting on the bottom side of the fabric, its because the upper thread isn’t engaged in the tension so the thread is getting sucked into the feed dogs. I sewed FOR YEARS before I finally learned about this. In fact I quit sewing for years because I thought my machine was broken because as much as I fiddled with the upper and bobbin tension I could never fix it. Then when I was using my moms BRAND NEW machine and IT did the same thing I started asking around. A lady at a sew and vac shop told me about the presser foot having to be up when you thread the top thread.

    1. 2.1

      My machine specifically tells me to have the presser foot down when threading the upper thread, so this is not always the case.

    2. 2.2

      I’m just learning how to sew. I thought something was wrong with my machine. I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog. Thank you for all the tips.

  3. 3
    Susie Z

    I’m not sure what “forced hair” is, but if you meant forced air, Gadzooks! Don’t do that! One should not blow lint and dust into a sewing machine! When I got my first fancy sewing machine with a drop,in bobbin, I was cautioned about this very seriously by the repair technician who did my first service. Instead use a brush to gently pull out the lint build up. My machine came with one, but I also use a little paintbrush with natural bristles that do a good job of grabbing the lint.

    When I get this thread problem, it’s a sure sign that I need to get in under the feed dogs and pull out the lint.

    1. 3.1
      M B Pazdernik

      Totally agree with every word of this.

  4. 4

    Hello Linda. Sometimes, if you are starting a seam this will happen. We all know that. A way to avoid it, & to stop that pulled in edge, I place my needle in from the beginning of the seam by about a quarter of an inch, then I go backwards to the edge of the seam & then forward to start my sewing. Another thing that helps starting a seam is to place your needle again a quarter of an inch in from the beginning of the seam. Put your needle down through the fabric & then back up again. Pull on the top thread & it will pull the bottom thread to the top. Holding both threads begin sewing. You can also use this technique every time you start to so. Becomes a habit after a while.

  5. 5

    I have 30 years of sewing experience and I found that when this happens to me, it’s always at the beginning of sewing something. The reason is that I start to sew with the fabric JUST under the needle. The needle pushes the fabric in the feed and bobbin space and makes a mess. This happened a lot when sewing jersey or fine fabrics… So my tip is to start sewing a few stitches about 1 cm/0,5 inch from the edge of the fabric, then go back and then forth to finish.
    When it happens, I slightly move the needle up and down with the wheel to create some space, cut the threads, remove the remaining threads and insert the bobbin again.

    1. 5.1

      I have been sewing for about 50 years and I still do this. I did it twice yesterday!! You would think I would learn to start in a little and not have to clean up the mess!!

  6. 6

    Nine times out of ten the upper tension is not threaded correctly, causing the looping underneath. Before adjusting tension, raise the pressure foot to release tension disks, thread upper again. Now before you begin to sew, pull on your needle thread slowly. Lower the pressure foot while pulling. You should feel a distinct change in tension, confirming you are correctly threaded!

  7. 7

    This is just happened to me!!!! So glad that I subscribed to your blog post and saw this post :) Thank You so much!

    1. 7.1

      Glad it helped you out, Helen!! :)

  8. 8

    It may not be the tension. This happened to me the other day when I was sewing ribbon. I asked my sewing Guru what to do. She said my ribbon was probably getting pulled down into the machine. She advised me to use something to prevent that from happening like waxed paper or parchment paper. It worked like a charm! I put the paper under my ribbon and did my sewing then tore the paper off.

  9. 9

    I’ve found that I have trouble with the bobbin thread tangling when I wind the bobbin too fast. It’s tempting to load it really fast, but moderate speed works much better.

  10. 10
    Heidi Koenig

    I use two ‘dogies’ (two pieces of leftover fabric folded 2 x 2 cm) at the beginning of my sewing and the end. I know then after a few stitches everything is okay, the thread is secure and my piece between is not harmed. At the end the 2nd dogy stays under the food and I clip away dogy 1 and my piece. I continue this till my piecing is finished or my dogies are stiff and I have to replace them. By the way you safe a lot of thread.
    ( I hope you understand my Swiss description)

    1. 10.1

      Thanks for the tip, Heidi! I’ll have to try that!

    2. 10.2
      Kerryn connor

      Why don’t you try bonnie hunters leaders and Enders.

      1. Sherry

        What is Bonnie’s leaders and lenders.

    3. 10.3
      Barb Drenth

      Great idea, thanks!

  11. 11

    I’ve honestly had a situation where I tried everything to remedy the problem and decided to walk away and come back to it the next day. When I did it was fine. Perhaps it just needed to rest.

  12. 12

    Maybe my problem is that I have been having to wind my bobbin by hand. I never thought that maybe that’s my problem. But it was doing fine all this time and I was rewinding it by hand. I have tried everything. Thanks for your post!

  13. 13

    Great bobbin hints. Thanks,

  14. 14

    One more possible cause: a bobbin that’s bent or nicked – even a tiny bit. If all else fails try a new bobbin – it has worked for me more than once.

  15. 15
    vivi vita

    This is so happening to me right now. I’m so happy i found this. Anyway thank u so much, will try all. Cheerio

  16. 16

    I am going thru the same problem right now. Going to try to fix it . I am going to go thru all the steps. My machine has already been taken for a tune-up. Wish me luck.

  17. 17

    Thank you so much for the info on managing sewing machines. Mine is old and has been reliable, but at times my stitches are off. Will try all you have suggested, hopefully a little cleaning out the bobbin case and a drop of oil will get her up and stitching again. I do this from time to time and once had to have her tuned up. Thanks!

  18. 18

    Make sure you didn’t forget to put your presser foot down!!!!!

  19. 19

    Thread ‘nests’ are almost always upper threading issues: Using different colored threads on top and in bobbin will quickly help determine if it’s the top thread or bobbin. Also, hold the two thread tails for the first few stitches will help to prevent the top thread from being pulled down into the machine and cause nests.

  20. 20

    I had this happen to me and after spending around 3 hrs. on it and trying to fix it and just about ready to throw it off the deck my daughter said hey Mom why don’t you try another type of thread so i did and it worked…the thread that i was using was that cheap walmart thread. So I have gotten ride of all that thread and now I am a happy camper…..

    1. 20.1

      I think you have just solved my problem!!!!! I just ran out of my good thread and threw in some Walmart thread now my ancient machine is spewing a nest every two inches. Out to the store I go!!!!

  21. 21

    A lot of problems with threads jamming up is caused by the top thread not being in the top tension disks correctly therefore causing big loops of top thread. Always have presser foot up when you thread top thread. To check you have tension put presser foot down and pull thread, if it still pulls freely you need to clean fluff and lint out of tension disks.

  22. 22
    Janice Beitz

    Be sure when you are adjusting the bobbin case tension that you work over a bowl or in a plastic bag. That little screw is REALLY short and can come completely out if turned to far left. It’s hard to find if it falls on the floor!

  23. 23

    Thanks for taking the time to do this for all of us in Craft-land. Printing to go in my daughters sewing course.

  24. 24

    When trying to pull my bobbin thread up I’m manually turning the wheel to bring the needle down and up again it sounds and feels like the needle is hitting something, but it looks like the bobbin is installed correctly. any ideas-help!

  25. 25

    I had a brand new machine do this to me know matter what I did. I was so close to returning it when I took a closer look at the bobbin area and realized the case that holds the bobbin wasn’t put in the machine properly. A circle and triangle were supposed to be lined up and they were angled. Put it in properly and the machine has been sewing wonderfully since.

    So much for the factory testing, like the paper placed under the presser foot stated!

  26. 26

    most newer machines require no oil…please be careful…Also my friend keeps a square of fabric and always starts sewing on that and then chains her actual piece thru afterwards. works like a charm.

  27. 27

    Thank you so much for your posts on problems with bobbin tension. I mistakenly bought hand quilting thread, and after reading your post of being sure to use the same kind of thread for upper and bobbin thread, I checked the spool only to realize that I had purchased this by mistake. I was ready to send the machine for repairs. I will follow your post faithfully from now on. Thanks again.

  28. 28

    My issue is winding the bobbin. I end up with the cotton spinning onto the stalk that holds the bobbin. It drives me potty!!!!! As a enthusiastic novice I find it off putting and wonder what the hell IM doing wrong.

    1. 28.1
      Barb Drenth

      Tanya, most machines have a little clip near the arm the arm that goes up and down look for it somewhere on the left. This clip is not used when threading the machine but it must be used when winding a bobbin. If you are using that, try changing the speed at which you wind the bobbin. Sometimes, i have this happen early on, so I simply place my finger above or below the thread for a couple of moments to guide it into the bobbin. Goog luck!

  29. 29
    Ellen Bennett

    I have problem with my sewing machine golden touch and sew model 620 bobbin car not turning and want wind or pick up threads please help me have done suggestion on Internet but hasn’t worked other wise will sew I guess top thread machine sounds good and haven’t for several yrs HELP PLEASE

    1. 29.1
      Barb Drenth

      I had a sweing machine that had a round rubber disk that powered the bobbin spindle. It wore down and the spacing had to be adjusted to keep it firmly touching the spindle. Eventually, it had to be replaced. Look for a belt or wheel that powers the spindle and see if it can be adjusted. If not, off to the repair shop!

  30. 30
    Bettye Jo Martin

    I just got a Singer 600e. It has a drop in plastic bobbin which keeps jumping out when I start to stitch. Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? Thanks.

    1. 30.1

      Be sure the covering over the bobbin is in place – usually a flat plastic plate that slides over the bobbin entry.

  31. 31
    M B Pazdernik

    I never considered #5 – will do so in the future. Bernina bobbins spin counter clock wise. Great input from fellow sewists! Will look into leaders and enders – I have a friend who does this.

  32. 32
    Shirley K.

    There can be other situations causing threads, top or bobbin to misbehave.
    I am a volunteer at a local mission thrift store and clean, adjust, oil, and supply a fabric sample from the machines before they go to the sales floor.
    Items I find that can cause problems are: thread tensions as mentioned but also ‘dirt in the feed dog cleats’, small ‘pieces of thread caught in or around the bobbin or shuttle’ which may be tiny but still a problem, possibly a ‘bent spring on the bobbin case’ (when changing bobbins, cut the thread near its exit point on the bobbin case to prevent unnecessary bending of the spring over time and perhaps the cost of another casing), and if your machine has a “tension presser bar” (top of machine on left) for your sewing foot, this may also need to be adjusted, according to the weight/thickness of your fabric.
    As a note aside, I have to confess that I have encountered some of these problems with my own machines since I began sewing over 60 years ago at the young age of 10, but I’ve learned “Mom was right”, and we learn by doing or not!
    On some of the older machines, I have had what appears to have happened is the sewer may have had a problem and just oiled their machine, more than once, and not cleaned the lint out of crevices causing up to 1/32-1/16″ of compacted ‘ick’.
    Small, soft to thick brushes, delicate use of a needle (in these areas) if needed, and fine pointed, long tweezers along with the vacuum attachment containing a ½” tube & it tiny crevice tool are all great to assist in the cleaning of your machine.
    Besides my personal experience with my numerous vintage machines, Nova Montgomery has vast experience and knowledge of Singer Featherweight sewing machines on her website and I’ve learned a lot from her.
    Love and enjoy all I’m finding, and learning, from others who sew. What a treasure you all are.
    One is never too old or young to learn.
    Michigan Nana

    1. 32.1

      Thank you for your input!!

    2. 32.2

      New at this. What oil should I use…Is wd40 ok? Where do I exactly put the oil?

      1. Michigan Nana

        Do Not use WD40 to oil your machine and/or to loosen tight areas. If oil has gotten ‘gummy’, I use just a tad of kerosene (the type found at Walmart’s camping area, usually in a blue &silver can and/or bottle. Do not use gas station kerosene!) on a shaft, I place it some in small dish, use about 12-16″ of a multi twist thread coiled cotton, place it around the shaft, cross the string one side over the other in an “X” shape and pull back & forth then up & down to remove the gunk. Then, if your machine is a vintage that needs oil, place a couple of drops max on said shaft and turn your hand wheel a couple of time to spread the lubricating oil. For vintage machines, if you have a manual it will show areas for oiling. If you don’t have the manual, most info and/or manuals can be found online.

  33. 33

    After teaching for 19 years I can tell you the number one Bobbin problem happens because the take up lever was NOT up. When the machine was threaded.

  34. 34

    I have a new machine that I have had for 2 yrs and have not been able to use because I can’t get the lower thread to pick up
    It’s a drop in bobbin. I tried re threading top and bobbin
    Countless times, its like there should be something there that catches the thread but there isn’t . I have just used my old one because I’m so frustrated. Any suggestions

    1. 34.1

      Needles have a front and back. Check your manual to make sure the needle is inserted the right way.

    2. 34.2

      Also, check manual to be certain which way the bobbin drops into the machine. Which way the thread winds off of it does make a difference. When you are trying to pick up the bobbin thread, gently hold the top thread tail as you rotate the hand wheel, (the needle should go all the way down and back up, one complete stitch) and the top thread tail should catch a ‘loop’ of the bobbin thread. Then pull the bobbin loop up til you have two thread tails. When you start to stitch into the fabric, hold those tails! After you align the fabric, put the foot down, and just put a finger on them to hold them back out of the way, to prevent the top thread from being pulled down into the machine, which will cause a thread nest. Hope this helps!

  35. 35

    Lots of great comments here. I am so glad I am not the only person this happens to! I had terrible problems with nesting and just could not get to the bottom of it so I took it to my repair man, He took one look at the machine and said “You are using the wrong foot for the type of material you are using!” He was absolutely right, I felt a bit of an idiot! That was a valuable lesson learned, next lesson is in what type of foot to use and when!!

  36. 36

    I love this list. Would it be ok with you if I printed it out for my students to use to check their machines? I teach a clothing and fashion class at a high school. This would help my students greatly. Thanks so much for the list.

    1. 36.1

      Yes, that’s just fine! :)

  37. 37
    Jacquie Trundy

    When this happens to me I remove the bobbin and re-insert it then re-thread the machine. If that doesn’t work then I know I have a lint problem. I agree with the other ladies about holding the threads when you begin to sew and moving in a bit from the edge of your fabric to begin sewing then back up. I also walk my stitches in to begin with. This works beautifully.

  38. 38
    Jo Todd

    I can be sewing fine for quite a bit and then mine starts to play up. I started adjusting the upper tension and made no difference. I recently found some how that my bobbin is unthreading its self. So I take it out and re thread it all goes fine again till it happens next time.

  39. 39

    Great post! I think everyone runs into this issue as a new sewer, and even seasoned vets will run into this problem.
    I just wanted to add a comment, I think it’s wonderful that you made this list, however, I took sewing classes for several years in college, just for personal enrichment, and EVERY single time this happened to me or anyone in the class, the issue was almost ALWAYS not using the right type of needle or thread for the for the fabric you’re trying to sew. I know you did mention this in your list, but you did not elaborate on the importance of using the correct needle and/or thread for the fabric material.
    My advice, is to check your tension first, as you mentioned, but if that doesn’t do the trick, I can almost guarantee that changing your needle or thread will correct the problem immediately! (Just my 2 cents ;) )

  40. 40

    Number 11 should be number 1!

    1. 40.1
      Traci Vilez

      I agree Sandy. I forget to do that often. I need to get into the practice of doing this.

  41. 41
    Traci Vilez

    Thank You for posting this information about the tension. I have definitely had this problem. Very frustrating when you are going a good pace and then the thread sounds like it had a head on collision. LOL. I am putting this post with my sewing notes.

  42. 42
    Traci Vilez

    I have a question. What parts of your machine should be oiled? How often and with what type of oil?

  43. 43

    I experienced this when I changed fabric from no interfacing to one with interfacing. When I adjusted the presser foot pressure, I think to a tighter pressure, the bobbin no longer tangled itself up.