Skip to Content

Sewing Machine Not Sewing, Only Holes? Fix Tension, Needles, and More (2024)

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

sewing machine holes not sewingCan you hear that? It’s the familiar hum of your sewing machine as you excitedly start a new project. The fabric glides smoothly at first as you sew your first seam. But suddenly, the machine starts punching holes in the fabric without stitching a thing! Uh oh.

Not to worry, friend. With a bit of troubleshooting, we’ll have your sewing machine happily stitching straight seams again in no time. Let’s inspect some likely culprits: the thread tension, the needle, and the feed dogs.

A little fine-tuning and tweaking in the right spots will get this sewing machine back to being your helpful partner.

Together, we’ll puzzle through why it’s piercing fabric instead of sewing it. I’ll share my tested tricks for tension, needles, cleaning, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • Use quality thread and needles suited to the fabric you are sewing. The right needle and thread combo makes a difference.
  • Keep the sewing machine clean and well-oiled. Built up lint and grime can interfere with operation.
  • Check and adjust tensions, timing, presser foot pressure, etc. Improperly set tensions or timing issues will affect stitch formation.
  • Be methodical when troubleshooting. Isolate the issue by testing different fabrics, threads, needles, settings, etc.

Thread Issues

Thread Issues
The frustration when your sewing machine suddenly starts skipping stitches and punching holes in the fabric is often caused by tension problems or using poor quality thread that is prone to breaking. Let’s walk through adjusting tension and choosing the right thread to avoid skipped stitches and pesky holes in your projects.

Adjusting the thread tension can help prevent skipped stitches and holes. Make sure the tension is balanced – not too tight or too loose. Consult your sewing machine manual for the proper tension settings. You may need to test with fabric scraps to find the optimal tension.

Use quality thread in the appropriate weight for your fabric. Cheap thread that is loosely spun can snap easily, leading to skipped stitches. Choose thread specifically meant for sewing rather than all-purpose thread. Using the right thread for the fabric type will help the stitches lock properly in the weave.

Inspect the needle, replacing it if bent, dull or burred. The wrong needle or a damaged one can cause skipped stitches too. Make sure you are using the right type and size needle. Change your needle regularly – every 4-6 hours of sewing time.

Proper threading and changing the needle position can also prevent skipped stitches. Thread with the presser foot up, and be sure the thread is seated correctly in the tension discs. Adjusting the needle position up or down may help it meet the bobbin hook smoothly.

With some tension tweaking, quality thread, and inspecting your needles, you can stop those pesky skipped stitches and holes in your projects for smooth, frustration-free sewing.


You’re feelin’ frustrated ’cause no matter how you tweak the tension, your machine keeps skippin’ stitches and leavin’ gaps in your project.

  1. Check needle sizes match thread weights
  2. Adjust upper tension dial in small increments
  3. Try a lighter touch on delicate fabrics
  4. Reset stitch length and width settings
  5. Clean lint and rethread top and bobbin

We’ve all been there, tuggin’ our hair out tryin’ to get the tension just right. But don’t worry, with some methodical testin’ and adjustin’, you’ll get it dialed in perfectly. The key is takin’ it slow and changin’ one variable at a time. Be patient and keep at it – masterin’ tension is a rite of passage for every sewist! Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

Thread Quality

Ancient thread snaps like overcooked spaghetti because it is weakened from age and wear. Choosing the right thickness prevents frustrations later. Adjust the presser foot, stabilize layers, and alter fabric finishes based on the thread’s needs.

Frequently clean lint to avoid tangles along the way. Pairing the correct needle and upper tensions prevents loops or skipped stitches. Selecting the right combination keeps your work smooth and sturdy. With thoughtful thread choices, your machine will sing an ode to sewing mastery.

Needle Problems

Needle Problems
When your projects start revealing holes that weren’t planned, it may be time to examine your sewing machine’s needle. Using the wrong needle size or type for your fabric can result in skipped stitches and perforated material.

Inspect needles regularly for damage like burrs or dull tips that lead to poor stitch formation, and replace them frequently to prevent holes. About every 4-6 hours of sewing necessitates a fresh needle for smooth progress through your projects.

Size and Type

Using the wrong needle size and type for your fabric can punch unwanted holes.

  • Use sharp, thin needles on delicate fabrics.
  • Thicker, stronger needles work better for dense materials.
  • Ballpoint needles glide between knits without piercing them.
  • Change your needle every 4-6 hours of sewing.

Matching the right needle size and type to your project’s fabric prevents skipped stitches and frustrating punctures.

Damage or Wear

Damaged needles can punch holes, so inspect and replace them often for smooth sewing.

Bent needles can be caused by hitting pins or the needle plate. Replace the needle.

Blunt tips are from wear after repeated use. Replace needles regularly.

Burrs or barbs happen when fabric runs against the needle. Carefully file the needle to remove them.

Holes or pits are from corrosion. Replace any damaged needles.

Inspect needles closely and frequently to catch wear before it damages fabric or thread.

Replacing Regularly

Swap out your needles often so your fabric stays snag-free. Every 8-10 hours of sewing, install a fresh needle to prevent skipped stitches. Test a scrap first to check tension balancing before starting your project. Adjust fabric feeding and stitch length settings if needed.

Following needle instructions prevents holes in delicate material. Inspect for wear and oil worn parts to keep your machine running smoothly.

Fabric Not Feeding

Fabric Not Feeding
When the fabric does not move forward, it’s time to check the sewing machine’s feeding system. Start by ensuring the presser foot is lowered and applying enough pressure. Then, inspect the feed dogs and belts for anything blocking their movement, damage, or slippage.

Finally, give the machine tender loving care by oiling the moving parts and removing lint and debris – proper cleaning and lubrication support smooth fabric feeding.

Check Presser Foot

Don’t let a presser foot problem poke holes in your projects.

  1. Check that the presser foot is correctly attached and the screw is tightened securely.
  2. Examine underneath for lint buildup; clean out any debris.
  3. Completely rethread the machine and needle following the manual.
  4. Remove the presser foot and inspect the feed dogs for damage or clogs.
  5. Try a new presser foot designed for your fabric thickness and texture.

The right presser foot prevents skipped stitches that puncture projects. Inspecting its condition ensures smooth fabric feeding for hole-free sewing.

Feed Dogs and Belts

Take a peek under the hood to see if your feed dogs need scrubbing or your belts need replacing. Check the feed dogs and timing belt for debris clogging proper fabric feeding. Adjust the feed adjuster, presser tension, and upper thread tension for smooth needle bar motion.

Skipping stitches means it’s time to clean the hook race and inspect the needle bar thread guide.

Oil and Clean Machine

Dust off the bobbin case regularly so the feed dogs grab onto the fabric smoothly. The gears need frequent oiling and cleaning to turn smoothly. Check the bobbin winder shaft, feed balance, and presser pressure too.

Thorough cleaning keeps computerized machines running optimally. Inspect the gearbox, needle, thread quality, and bobbin orientation.

Skipping Stitches

Skipping Stitches
A skipped stitch interrupts your perfect seam – so frustrating! First, check your thread spool positioning. If the thread is catching, improperly feeding, that causes missed stitches. Also inspect the bobbin area, removing any lint obstructing smooth thread flow.

Did you insert the bobbin case properly, with the right tension? Consult your manual if unsure.

Proper foot pressure ensures the feed dogs grip and advance the fabric. Try a stabilizer on slippery or finely woven materials to prevent fabric shifting during stitching. For skipped stitches only on top or bottom, adjust upper thread tension with the bobbin-winding spindle.

If tension looks balanced, the needle could be bent or dull – replace it. Piece a scrap of fabric to check for better stitch formation. With patience and methodically checking each component, you’ll have this sewing machine sewing beautifully again.

Holes in Fabric

Holes in Fabric
Here are some tips for troubleshooting those frustrating holes left in your sewing project. First, verify that your needle and thread combination works well with the fabric you’re sewing – a universal needle may be too large for delicate material.

Also inspect the needle plate for damage and ensure you have fully inserted the bobbin case properly to avoid potential snags.

Needle/Thread Combo

You’ve got to stop setting that machine up for heartbreak, honey. Mismatched needles and threads’ll leave more holes in your fabric than your mama’s favorite colander.

Insert the bobbin correctly, test tension on scrap fabrics. Broken needles make a mess – replace them promptly. Match the needle size to the thread and fabric thickness for the best stitching. Consult your sewing machine’s manual for specifics. Of course, savvy sewers know their machines inside out already.

Inserting Bobbin

You’re going to scratch your head if that bobbin’s not popped in properly, sweet pea. Inserting the bobbin case correctly keeps those gears running smoothly, honey. Wind it evenly, plop it in, and check your work – tension’s got to be just right.

Clean bits of thread so there are no snags. The bobbin spring holds tension steady as she goes.

Plate Damage

Don’t let a damaged plate ruin your sewing fun, hon. Scratched plates catch thread and fabric, jamming up the works. Inspect regularly, replace if worn. Hand-wash debris, but some deep scratches need professional repairs.

Prevention’s best – use the right needle for your fabrics. And those sharp needles can poke holes if you’re not careful removing presser feet.

Tension Troubleshooting

Tension Troubleshooting
Here are some tips for tackling tension issues on your sewing machine. First, you’ll want to begin by balancing your upper thread and bobbin thread tensions. Make certain they are forming locks between the layers. Next, test your tension settings by stitching a couple strips of scrap fabric.

Adjust the tension screws while checking how the threads are interacting on both sides. With a little trial and error, you’ll dial in the optimal tension for smooth sewing and minimal looping or gathering on your project.

Balance Threads

Test both bobbin and upper thread tension on a scrap to balance the threads.

  • Use appropriate thread and needle sizes for your fabric. Mismatches cause issues.
  • Thread both the upper thread and bobbin properly according to your manual.
  • Ensure the presser foot pressure suits the fabric thickness. Too much pressure distorts stitches.
  • Adjust the thread tension dials if needed until the stitches look balanced.

Proper tension prevents threads from coming loose, shredding fabric, excessive knotting and twisting.

Test Tension

Adjusting the ASM screws tests tension without threading up.

Hand Wheel Method Straight Stitch Test
Turn hand wheel towards you Sew straight line on fabric scrap
Feel resistance unwinding upper thread Balanced tension gives straight seam
Too loose – loops on underside Knotted underside means tighten upper
Too tight – knots on top side Loops on top means loosen upper thread

Tension is a fickle thing, but diagnosing issues keeps seams straight as an arrow. Replace bent needles, follow manual tension settings, and balance threads. Troubleshooting tension takes know-how, but mastery grants ideal stitches.

Common Repairs

Common Repairs
Properly threading the machine and inserting the bobbin are critical first steps. Refer to your manual for the correct threading paths both above and below. Make sure thread is securely in place and bobbin is inserted correctly.

Adjusting the tension can also help reduce holes. The tension dials should be set at the proper settings indicated in your manual for the fabric weight and thread you’re using. Tension that’s too loose or too tight will lead to inconsistent stitch formation and holes.

Using the appropriate presser foot, stitch length and width settings for your project can prevent skipped stitches when doing buttonholes or sewing over thick seams. For buttonholes use the buttonhole foot and follow your manual’s instructions carefully.

When sewing over bulky layers and seams, a little lengthening and widening of the stitch can help prevent the holes.

Check for any debris build up or damaged parts. Lint and small bits of thread can get caught in the feed dogs, bobbin area, tension discs or bobbin case interfering with the smooth feeding of fabric. Inspect these areas and clean out any lint or debris. If any part appears damaged, it likely needs professional repair or replacement.

Following proper machine maintenance like regular oiling and replacing needles at the first sign of problems can minimize skipped stitches. Always start projects with a fresh needle matched to the thread and fabric type.


Check your bobbin isn’t caught anywhere when stitching through thicker layers, or it could cause unwanted holes. Examine the bobbin area for loose threads or debris restricting smooth operation. Inspect threads for damage, and ensure the bobbin winds correctly before sewing.

Visually inspect the needle, plate, and tension discs too. Adjusting thread tension helps balance stitches when changing fabrics.

Loose Tension

You’re sure to fix those skipped stitches by tightening up the top thread tension a smidge. Playing with the tension dial helps get those stitches back in line when dealing with fabric holes. Check the thread path, inspecting for snags, test on scraps adjusting tension up, watch the tension indicator, try a lower setting for delicate fabrics, mind the layers and colors when stitching, and give the machine interior a good cleaning too.


You’ve got a 25% chance of perfect buttonholes if the foot’s not moving right, so replace that puppy pronto.

  • Check that feed dogs move fabric smoothly
  • Use scraps to practice, adjusting length
  • Follow manual for tension, layers, threads

Test the machine first on scraps. Adjust tension and stitch length until satisfied.

When to Call for Help

When to Call for Help
You’ve followed all the troubleshooting steps to identify why your machine is skipping stitches, but the holes persist. Complex mechanical issues or timing problems could be the culprit when routine adjustments fail to fix skipped stitches.

Persistent problems like holes along an entire seam indicate your sewing machine likely needs professional servicing for proper repairs and adjustments from an experienced technician.

Complex Issues

If household cleaners are ineffective, seeking expert assistance may be wise. Complex problems can require trained technicians to properly diagnose and repair issues. Electronic controls may display error codes indicating internal failures. Mechanical jams can be evaluated by inspecting key components.

Adjusting thread tension or testing fabric suitability provides limited fixes. When simple solutions fail and sewing quality declines, trusted service centers should examine internal mechanisms, electronics, thread paths, and fabric handling parts.

With expertise and specialized tools, technicians can accurately diagnose problems and restore optimal performance.

Persistent Problems

You’ll want to call in the pros when your sewing machine keeps punching holes and skipping stitches no matter what you try. Persistently realigning the needle, cleaning tangled threads, or oiling sluggish mechanisms rarely resolves these frustrating issues.

Seeking expert help becomes necessary when homemade remedies fail to fix breaking threads, messy loops, and improper tension adjustments. Technicians have the skills and tools to inspect internal timing, clear dust buildups, and make precision adjustments for peak performance.

Maintaining Your Machine

Maintaining Your Machine
Skipping stitches and fabric holes signal it’s time to care for your sewing machine. Regular cleaning, oiling, and replacing worn parts preserves your machine’s performance and prevents frustrating sewing issues.

Giving your equipment some tender loving care ensures smooth sewing and quality results project after project.


You can manually clean areas around the feed dogs and bobbin case to remove lint and dust that could be obstructing proper stitch formation and causing holes. Use a damp cloth or brush to gently wipe away dusty gunk around moving parts like the thread spindle.

Inspect for damaged parts or bad belts while cleaning. A vacuum cleaner’s soft brush on a gentle cycle helps remove untrained threads and lint buildup without harming delicate mechanisms.


Regularly oiling your machine’s moving parts helps prevent 90% of skipped stitches and tension problems that can leave holes in your fabric. Use sewing machine oil and a dropper to lubricate parts like the presser foot, bobbin case, and treadle every 3-6 months.

Loosen screws on the tension discs, apply a drop of oil, then adjust the pressure on the thread again. Check for worn belts or screws causing slack. Proper oiling gives you the smooth action needed for perfect buttonholes and prevents frustrating thread breaks.

Replacing Parts

Replace the presser foot often for smooth fabric feeding and clean stitching.

  • Check the presser foot for nicks, grooves, or being flattened.
  • Replace the needle plate if scratched or dented.
  • A damaged bobbin case can lead to thread breaks.
  • Worn feed dogs make fabric slip and shift.

Testing parts systematically helps find the culprit. Replacing worn-down parts keeps your machine sewing smoothly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are some tips for troubleshooting uneven stitching?

Carefully rethread everything, change the needle, and check your tension. Trying different fabrics and stabilizers can help too. We all make mistakes – being kind to yourself helps steady shaky hands. With persistence and patience, you’ll get your stitches looking smooth.

Uneven stitching often stems from small errors rather than the machine itself. Taking the time to slowly and methodically ensure each component is properly threaded, tensioned and aligned goes a long way.

Experimenting with different materials and backings provides insight into how the fabric interacts with the machine. Sewing is a learnable skill, so have compassion for yourself as you encounter bumps in the road.

How can I prevent my sewing machine from getting stuck or jammed when sewing thicker fabrics?

Choose the right needle size for the weight of your fabric. Use a larger needle, like a 90/14 or 100/16, for thicker fabrics.

Lift the presser foot lever higher to give the fabric more space under the presser foot.

Shorten your stitch length slightly, like to 5 mm instead of 3 mm. The shorter stitch length is less likely to get caught in thick fabrics.

Keep your machine well-oiled and cleaned for smooth gliding over fabric. Built up lint and grime can cause dragging.

Slow down your sewing speed. Fast sewing can cause thick fabrics to bunch up. Sew at a steady, even pace.

The key things to remember are using the appropriate needle size, giving the fabric enough clearance under the presser foot, shortening the stitch length a bit, keeping your machine oiled and clean, and sewing at an even, moderate speed.

What Sewing machine accessories are must-haves for a beginner?

Start with quality fabric scissors, a seam ripper, hand needles, and thread snips to handle all your cutting and ripping needs smoothly. Don’t forget needle threaders, wonder clips, and an assortment of machine needles so you can easily thread, secure, and switch between fabrics.

Lastly, have on hand a few packs of different machine feet to expand your capabilities right away—zigzag, zipper, and buttonhole feet will prove handy time and again.

How do I know if my sewing machine needs a tune-up or professional servicing?

Check the tension discs, timing, and stitch settings yourself first. If issues persist after cleaning, oiling, and rethreading, it’s time to take your machine in for servicing by an expert, particularly if skipping stitches or unusual noises arise.

What are some common user errors that lead to sewing machine problems?

Double-check your threading, tension, needle size, and fabric/needle combination. Make sure the presser foot is lowering properly and the feed dogs are moving as expected. Avoid pulling or pushing the fabric – let the machine feed it. Always consult your manual if something seems amiss.


Your sewing machine not sewing or leaving holes in the fabric can be frustrating. Like pulling a loose thread, start by taking steps to diagnose the issue. Be meticulous as you check tensions, threads, needles, and feed mechanisms.

Tighten what’s loose, replace worn parts, and find the right balance. If stumbling on skipped stitches, gently guide the fabric and adjust settings as needed.

Though complex issues may require an expert’s hand, basic troubleshooting and maintenance will solve most holes-not-sewing dilemmas. Like threading a needle, carefully work through potential causes. Stay focused on the facts – size, type, position – and methodically adjust each component.

With knowledge, care and a few handy tools, you can mend your sewing and get your machine forming beautiful stitches instead of holes in fabric again.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.