Why Sewing Machine Thread Bunches Up and How to Fix It

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


Thread bunching up when using a sewing machine. http://www.itchinforsomestitchin.com


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 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.

Whenever the sewing machine thread bunches up, or “bird nests”, on the top of your fabric, the problem typically lies with your bobbin. Here are some things to check before calling your sewing  machine repair service:

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.


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. 😃

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.  Additionally, it is best to use good quality thread, a new, sharp sewing machine needle, and the correct bobbins for your make and model of sewing machine.  Proper maintenance takes only minutes and can save you a multitude of headaches.

There you have it folks.  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!

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. http://www.itchinforsomestitchin.com

Be sure to share this post &

help others solve this frustrating issue!


Until next time…  Happy Sewing!


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16 thoughts on “Why Sewing Machine Thread Bunches Up and How to Fix It

    • 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,


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