Education Troubleshooting

Rethreading – First Step to Try

Rethreading a Sewing Machine May Correct a Stitch Problem

Rethreading a sewing machine may correct a stitch problem. It is how I always start. Unthread the top thread completely, including removing the spool.  Do not try checking it by tracing the path it is taking.  There are places where the thread is not accessible to the eye. I know it sounds too simple and you have probably threaded your machine a million times or more. Humor me. I’ve been sewing 65 years and rethreading is where I start when there is a problem and am surprised how often it solves my problem. I don’t question where I’d gone wrong. If my problem has gone away, happiness takes over and lets me get back to sewing!


Time to rethread.  Are you putting the spool on the machine correctly?  I am not asking if the bottom or the top of the spool is up.  Although I like the thread to come off the back of the spool as my machine likes it that way.  The spool I am talking about has the thread wound evenly and smoothly up and down.  That spool belongs on a horizontal peg on your machine and is unwound from the side as your spool turns.

Do you have spools wound at an angle?  Those require a vertical spindle to allow the thread to come off over the top of the spool. The spool does not move.  If you do not have a vertical spool peg or using a cone rather than a spool, the fix is simple.  A jar, or a glass/cup, any container that allows the spool/cone to remain standing as you sew works.  Place the thread in the container so the thread is winding off the top and sit it behind your machine. I recommend taping a closed safety pin to the back of the machine, so the closed circle end is exposed as a guide for the thread. 

There are spool holders available for purchase you may like to explore.  Something to look for when shopping is a base heavy enough to not topple over when in use.  I also like one that adapts for horizontal and vertical positioning.  My favorite came from Superior Thread and can be found at There are other spool holders out there and I am sure if they are sturdy, they would work well.

Tension – the machine’s; not yours

Before rethreading, be sure your foot and needle are in the highest position to release the tension.  The foot off the feed dogs opens the tension disks so you can get the thread securely between them.  If you cannot remember the last time you cleaned between the disks, now is the time to do it.  Dental floss works, but my favorite tool is a pipe cleaner.  It grabs the dust and bits of thread that may be stuck in there.  Good tension is required for a proper stitch.

Proceed with rethreading.  Pay attention to every little hook and eye along the way, including watching where the thread goes when you reach the tension control.  The thread must be between the disks. 

Take Up Lever Needs Thread

Another place sometimes missed is threading the take up lever.  If you thread your machine automatically and could do it in your sleep, it can happen you do not take the thread up the right of the lever and seat it in position before going down the left side.  Ask me how I know!


Sometimes rethreading a sewing machine may correct the stitch problem. Be sure to thread the needle correctly and sew a line or two of stitches.  Is your problem fixed? If so, you may get back to your project.

A Look at the Bobbin

If not, take your bobbin out and make sure there is thread on it. Is it correctly wound? By that I mean the thread is not soft and squishy, but tightly wrapped and smooth. If you think it needs rewound, put the bobbin on the spindle where you normally put the spool of thread. Wind a length of thread on to an empty bobbin, making sure it is correctly going through the tension point. Place the new bobbin where you normally do when winding a bobbin. The thread will wind correctly onto the empty bobbin if you have gone through the tension disk and started the thread wrap in the proper direction.

Replace the newly wound bobbin into the bobbin case pulling the thread to assure it is rolling clockwise if your machine is not a top loader. Top loader bobbins pull counterclockwise. Slip the thread through the slit on the case and insert it into your machine. Top loaders, place the bobbin flat in the attached case and follow arrows or directions in your manual to finish loading properly. In both cases, I suggest one last time tug on the bobbin thread while watching how the bobbin turns. It should be clockwise (off the right side) for all non-top loaders; counterclockwise (off the left side) for top loaders.

Do Not Despair

If this was not the fix you were hoping for, do not despair.  The next post is about tension (the machine’s, not yours), both upper and lower. We will never change both at the same time! Plus, you will learn which one you should start with based on how the stitches look.

Stay grounded with laughter!  A good chuckle helps keep the mind logical and the crazies at bay.   

Go to /skipped-stitches/ for more help.