How to Fix Sewing Machine Thread Bunching Up

 What you should check before making a 911 call to your sewing machine mechanic


Thread bunching up when using a sewing machine.

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Does this look familiar?  “Bird nesting” or thread bunching up on the top of or on the underside of your fabric is one of the most common problems during sewing.

Not only is this an extremely frustrating issue, it can also put a major stopper in the creative process!  I know because it happened to me. 😕

First of all, don’t panic!  This situation is normally an easy fix and usually doesn’t need a call to your sewing machine repair man.

“Bird-nesting” Checklist

In order to go through this checklist, you should be familiar with your sewing machine and the basic sewing process.  If you are new to sewing and/or recently purchased a new sewing machine, make sure you understand all the parts of a sewing machine.

If you need help, please see Beginner Sewing:  Sewing Machine Parts and What They Do.


The thread is bunching up on TOP of your fabric:

Whenever the sewing machine thread bunches up, or “bird nests”, on the top of your fabric, the problem typically lies with your bobbin.

Here’s what to check:

1.  Is your bobbin correctly threaded?

  • If the thread has knots, is not smooth, is uneven, or is loose on the bobbin, then it has not been threaded correctly.
  •  If your machine uses a bobbin case, follow your sewing machine’s instructions to remove the bobbin from the case and re-thread it. Make sure you place it back in the case according to your machine’s instructions.
  • Be sure that you have the bobbin thread engaged in the bobbin tension. To test this, hold the bobbin thread with one hand and if the bobbin drops to the floor then you missed the tension spring in the bobbin case.


2.  Is your bobbin case tension too loose?

  •  If you have loosened the screw on your bobbin case to allow for thicker threads you may need to re-adjust it for regular thread.
  • After the bobbin case has been correctly threaded, give the bobbin thread a slight tug.  The thread should still move freely with some slight resistance.


The thread is bunching up on UNDERNEATH your fabric:

If the thread is bunching up underneath your fabric, don’t assume that the problem is with the bobbin.  This is what most people tend to think, however, your needle tension is more likely the true culprit.

Here’s what to check:

1.  Is the needle threaded correctly?

  •  Cut the thread a few inches from the spool and pull it out of the machine through the needle.   Re-thread according to the instructions for your machine.
  • Always thread the sewing machine with the presser foot up.  The tension is engaged when the presser foot is down and the thread will not engage properly in the tension discs.
  • Complete engagement is necessary so that the discs can snugly “grasp” the thread.


2.  Is the presser foot up?

  •  Don’t worry.  We all do this occasionally.  Just put it down and never speak of it to another soul. 😃


Note:  It has come to my attention that this one might be a bit tricky for some sewing beginners.  So, just to be clear, the presser foot should be down during sewing.


3.  Does the tension need to be adjusted?

  •  Even sewing machines that can “sense” your thread and automatically determine proper tension are sometimes wrong.
  • Tighten or loosen the tension as necessary.


4.  Does your needle need to be changed?

  • Make sure you are using the proper needle for the fabric you are using.
  •  Also, double-check that the needle is not bent.  If you pull the fabric instead of guiding it through the feed dogs as you sew then the needle can bend leading to all sorts of sewing machine problems.


5.  Does the sewing machine need to be cleaned?

  •  Frequent cleaning, dusting, and oiling will prevent many stitching problems.
  •  Make sure to dust underneath the throat plate, in the bobbin case, and along the thread path.
  • Proper maintenance takes only minutes and can save you a multitude of headaches.


Still having problems after going through the checklist?  

  • Then let’s add one more thing to do.  It’s time to change your thread.  Make sure you are using a high-quality thread.  No folks, not all threads are created equal.  Stop buying thread from the bargain bins!


  • Low-quality threads not only tend to break more often, they also generally have looser fibers. Pieces of broken thread and loose fibers mean more lint in your sewing machine.  This can lead to all sorts of problems, including your thread bunching up.  It can even cause irreparable damage to your machine.   A sewing machine is a substantial investment.  You don’t want that investment destroyed because you then decided to use cheap thread.


So, what’s the best sewing machine thread?

Good question.  The answer is really one of personal opinion.

  • I personally love Gutermann, but I’ve heard that Mettler, Aurifill, and Robison Anton are also good.  When I was a beginning sewer I was not so picky.  I grabbed the cheapest thread I could.  I even used old thread my grandma had since the 70’s!


  •  Years of experience, sewing machine problems, and projects that literally fell apart at the seams because I used poor quality thread taught me a valuable lesson.  There is no substitute for quality.


  •  I use Gutermann because it creates less lint, thus, it gunks up your sewing machine less than other threads.  It also tangles less than other threads and lasts longer than other threads.  Yes, it’s a bit more expensive.  I usually try to stock up while it’s on sale. You can find it at it Michaels or on Amazon.  The price varies by spool size.  (You can also click on the images)



What do you do when all else fails?

  •  Change your thread and put in a new, sharp sewing machine needle.  It’s a winning combination!


I have seriously been at the end of my rope, pulling my hair out in frustration from episodes of bird nesting… tried everything on the list… and failed… only to have it magically fixed by doing these two things at the same time.  This is not an exaggeration.

Take my advice folks and learn from my mistakes.  The next time your thread starts bunching up refer to this checklist.  Hopefully, these tips will help you troubleshoot and fix the issue quickly so you can keep the creative juices flowing and keep on sewing!


Thread Bunching Up Checklist.

Click to download


If you are a sewing beginner, perhaps you tackled your sewing project too soon.  Don’t despair!

This FREE ebook will help guide you on your way to sewing success!
Sewing Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Start.

Be sure to share this post &

help others solve this frustrating issue!


Until next time…  Happy Sewing!

30 thoughts on “How to Fix Sewing Machine Thread Bunching Up

    • Hi Anne,

      Thanks for stopping by! I hope these tips come in handy. I did check out your like but got an error message. I appreciate you sharing the post though & would love to see it!


  1. Thank you for this information. Some of it I already knew, but needed a refresher. And then I learned something that should have been obvious.

    • Hi Roxann,

      I am so glad you found this post useful! It really is a great guide to keep around, especially if you do a lot of sewing as tension seem to be a common issue. Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂

    • Hi there, thanks for this great question! This has only happened to me once. Changing the needle & using a higher quality thread fixed the issue. If you’ve tried everything on the list and anything else you know of, you may want to bring your sewing machine in for service or cleaning.

  2. I love your tips. I havent done any sewing for 50 years and needless to say the machines have changed so much. My machine keeps bunching up below where the bobbin is . I keep clearing it and rethreading but after two stitches it just bunches up again.Please help I am quarter way sewing the squares for a bed spread.

    • Hi Rita! First of all, let me apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I had written you a response first thing this morning, but apparently forgot to hit the reply button! So, let me try again, is your thread bunching on top of the fabric or under the fabric? Are you using a high quality thread & did you try the tips? Are you using an older sewing machine? If so, it may need some maintenance. Feel free to send me an email if you like and I will do my best to help!

  3. Number 2 is confusing, isn’t the foot supposed to be up?
    Thanks for the tips, I’m still trying to solve tension problems.

    • Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for the question. During sewing the presser foot should be down. However, on occasion, we can all make the mistake of putting the needle down, but leaving the presser foot up. This could cause tension problems that lead to the thread bunching up. You are very welcome for the tips! If you try all of them and have no luck, make sure you are using a high quality thread and are using a fresh needle. I found that this sometimes helps when all else fails. I will be updating this post soon with this little tid-bit.

      Best wishes,


  4. Thanks, I am an experienced seamstress but it has been awhile. I was doing just about everything wrong. Will go back and fix. I have been making bags and the frustration level is high.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I completely understand! This kept happening to me while I was trying to quilt, which is why I decided to find the solution and write this post. I hope it helped and your bags are turning out beautifully. 🙂

      Best wishes,


  5. Hi i have just started sewing. This has happened to me on the bottom stitching. Im a beginner and didnt realise that when you thread the sewing machine around the round dial biit, and you get to the little wiry loop, you need to pull the two sides of the thread up and the wiry loop pushes up and makes a clicking sound. The thread should go into the wiry loop itself when it happens.

    • Hi Rachael,

      I’m curious, what type of sewing machine are you using? I don’t have a round dial or wiry loop on my sewing machine, but I’d like to get a better understanding of the issue you are mentioning. I am sure that lots of others may have the same issue and I’d like to be able to clarify how to help them. Thanks so much for stopping by!



      • Most of the vintage machines has the “wiry loop” Rachel mentions. It’s part of the tensioner. With all of my machines, I have the habit of holding the thread tail for the first stitch or two and rarely get a birdsnest. If I do, I go looking for all of the above. Very helpful information RaeLynn. Thank you,

        • Hi Nelda,

          Thanks so much for clearing that up about the sewing machines with the “wiry loop”. Although vintage machines are lovely, I personally have never sewn with one. I love the tip about holding the thread tail for the first few stitches. I hope you don’t mind if I add that to this post the next time I do an update. If it is a problem, please let me know, but this is a great tip and I’d love to share it!

          Sincere thanks for stopping by and I am glad you found the information useful.

          Best wishes,


          • By all means, share away. I have a Bernina 730E that I use for fancy stitching and embroidery, but when it comes to piecing and quilting I go to my old (1950s) Singers. They have such a beautiful stitch. Holding the tails works for any machine I think.

          • Hi Nelda!

            First off, let me apologize for the late reply. My notification system never notified me of your response. I found it by accident just now!

            Thank you so much for allowing me to add your tip to this post. I know others will greatly appreciate it.

            I will first try it with my Husqvarna, which is the one I use for all sewing and embroidery. Then I’ll break out my mom’s old Singer and try it again. I am sure it will be helpful! 😁



          • I agree with Nelda, for some reason holding the thread tail for the first couple of stitches helps…but all your tips are a necessary starting base as well as a good reminder, thanks!

          • Hi Micka,

            Glad you stopped by! It sounds like holding the thread for the first 1-2 stitches is definitely a valuable tip. I will definitely be adding it to this post. Thanks so much!



  6. I use a Bernini 240. Holding the tails is a must. I grew up using a Singer Featherweight and as I recall, holding the tails was required with it.

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