Sewing Machine Thread Bunching Up? Here’s Why!

Most of us have experienced the dreaded “bird nesting” syndrome at one time or another while sewing, either on the top or underneath the fabric. There are lots of reasons for sewing machine thread bunching up, and luckily, many of the solutions are easy and do not require a trip to your favorite sewing machine mechanic.

Anytime the sewing machine thread is bunching up, or bird nesting, on the top of your fabric, the culprit has something to do with your bobbin. Here are some things to check before calling sewing repair 911:

1. Is your bobbin threaded correctly?

If your machine uses a bobbin case, take the bobbin completely out of the case and re-thread it. Be careful to follow the instructions for your machine, and make sure you have the bobbin thread engaged in the bobbin tension. A good test for this is to hold onto the bobbin thread with one hand. If the bobbin drops all the way to the floor, 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 accommodate thicker threads for surface design work, you might not have re-adjusted it correctly for regular thread. After correctly threading the bobbin case, tug gently on the bobbin thread. You should feel some resistance, but the thread should move freely. If you have not made any changes to this tension setting, it is likely not to be the cause of any thread bunches, as it is set correctly at the factory. If you do adjust it, be sure to do so in small increments to avoid dislodging the entire screw.

Conversely, the reasons that thread can bunch up underneath your fabric have all to do with your needle tension.

1. Is the needle thread threaded correctly?

Cut the thread a few inches from the spool, and pull it through the needle. Re-thread, taking care to engage the upper thread completely in the tension discs. I always suggest to my students that they hold the thread on either side of the tension disc, and slide it back and forth a bit between the plates with a flossing motion. The tension discs need to “grasp” the thread snugly.

2. Is the presser foot up?

Duh. We’ve all done it!

3.  Is your machine clean?

Frequent dusting underneath the throat plate and along the thread path will prevent all sorts of stitching and machine problems. Of course, good quality thread, a new, sharp sewing machine needle, and the correct bobbins for your make and model of sewing machine are basic requirements for producing good quality stitches. Frequent dusting, cleaning and oiling will also prevent these and many other stitching problems you might encounter.

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Carolyn Williamson

I have three Berninas and a Babylock. No nesting problems .

Carolyn Williamson

I have three Berninas and a Babylock. No nesting problems .

M Michelle Welch

how often should a sewing needle be changed, apart from the obvious broken one?

Graceful Sewing

The textbook answer is every time you start a new sewing project. I’ve been sewing since 1965 and just learned that answer this year. So, with all the garments I’ve sewn, I’ve never inserted a new needle just because I was starting a new project. It’s too expensive for me. I own a great machine, take really good care of it and don’t sew over pins. Now that I know more, I will do better, I will probably change needles at least every four garment and any time I begin to have stitch problems that could be traced back to my needle (such as skipped stitches). I hope this is helpful.

Polly Woolly

Bird nesting….what a lovely term for a really frustrating thing! 😉

Sarah Hines

Also, check to see if your needle is inserted into the machine in the right direction. There is only one right way!

Brenda LeBlanc Holland

Aww, sorry to hear your dissatisfaction. I have two Bernina’s, an Elna and two Viking Huskvarna’s. I LOVE them all!


I’ll try rethreading my Baby Lock Esante. I have had bird nesting problems ever since I got it 2 years ago. This machine does beautiful embroidery but as far as sewing the underneath thread bunches, it skips stitches, especially on fancier stitches, but on regular stitches also. I have been sewing for many years, never had this bird nesting till I spent more money than I should have on this Baby Lock. I know I don’t know everything, but I can’t believe a machine as expensive as this is so tempermental with threading. It does so many things, I surprised it doesn’t thread itself. Then bird nesting would just an annoying memory.

Graceful Sewing

That must be frustrating after spending so much on a machine. I find that if I sink my needle by hand into the fabric before starting a row of stitching and then grab both threads and hold them taut before I put my foot on the pedal, and continue holding taut until the machine has taken at least 3-4 stitches, I don’t get bird nesting. I have the advent of “embroidery machines”, a 28 yr old Pfaff that I recently discovered has held it’s value so well it is selling for the exact price I paid for it on eBay so I’m not familiar with a Baby Lock. I truly hope you can solve your issue with your Baby Lock and it becomes a machine like mine, one you paid dearly for and are delighted with the value you received.


Hello to Everyone!
First sorry for any language error. My primary language is Spanish.

I have a sewer and embroidery machine. Singer Futura CE150. I bough it back in 2009. Few years ago I was sewing and I was doing it fast.

The machine jump, the cloth get stock, the machine when out of time. Was crazy.

I just fix the time.

However the zit zag and any kind of sew that need to be done beside straight line, is not doing it correctly.

I means if I do a zit zag everything on the left side stay on the left as a straight line and the right side is not holding the thread.

Any idea of why is doing that and how to fix it my self.

The place I called want to charge me 90.00 for put it on time and I already did it myself :)

I can not afford 90 fixing now another thing.

Please help.


I too have had bird nest issues. We were given an old Brother VX2061 , we spent over $70 to get it serviced and fixed. It hasn’t fixes the problem and the service man wants to part of it says its fine. Grrr.
I have to find a manual online and will try find the issue for my machine. (sews for hours with no issues, then it decides to have issues :( )
See if someone you know can recommend a friend who is skilled with machines, or ask for an obligation free quote


When you are threading your machine make sure that the pressure foot is up. Birdnesting comes from the top thread. After threading but before threading the needle put the pressure foot down and tug lightly on the thread. You should feel resistance and the thread should not move. If it does it either is not in the upper tension unit or your tension is off. That is normally the problem.

Graceful Sewing

I’m sorry you are having problems with bird nesting. I have sewn with a number of different machines over the years, both domestic and commercial, and I find that if I sink my needle, usinig the handwheel (sometimes labeled flywheel), into the fabric before starting a row of stitching and then grab both threads holding them taut before I put my foot on the pedal, and continue holding taut until the machine has taken at least 3-4 stitches, I don’t get bird nesting. It may not work for you, but it’s certainly worth a try if you don’t do that now. This method controls how much thread feeds from each side of the cloth until the row of stitching has begin and is well-formed.


i have a juki computerised sewing machine that all of a sudden has a nesting problem. had a guy who works on sewing machines and wasn’t too clear what was wrong. all he did was clean it and said it sewed fine. well it doesn’t and when I tried ti sew in it I got a huge birds nest. any suggestions in fixing it myself? I do have it in the shop but the guy hasn’t had time to get to it. any suggestions I would appreciate it. thanks Roberta


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I never leave convent’s but felt i needed to in this case. I’m a very basic seamstress, and have very basic knowledge of my machine. When I started having “bird nesting” (never heard of that by the way) issues I was on the verge of throwing my machine against a wall. I looked to my owners manual but it was zero help. This post saved my life, and the life of my machine. Thanks for the very informative and down to earth instruction. You rock.


Worked like a charm. Ur a doll. It was the top tension that got bumped or something but it made the bird nest under the fab. Life saver gal u.. :)


My Mother-in-law just bought me a second hand Singer EsteemII, because my singer has quit. It looks like it’s hardly been used but the top thread keeps tangling below the material. The only time it does not do this is when the tension is set all the way to 9, the highest it can go. I have adjusted the tension on both the upper thread and the bobbin, cleaned and oiled the machine, and changed my needle. I have tried adjusting the stitching length. Any suggestions?

Helen Rhodes

I have a Bernina 950 which is a semi industrial machine, all the flexibility of a Domestic straight and zigzag machine with an industrial motor. This morning I was sewing piping and decided to change the needle position 1 stop over as the fabric was a little bulky, needle thread tension went to pot! looked fine on the top, wasn’t till I removed 3metres of piped trim that I realised the underneath was a complete mess!

Mary Jo Sminkey

I’m using my mother’s Viking Designer sewing machine and it’s unusable right now due to this bird’s nest issue, it does appear to be a bobbin issue, you can even see the thread going wrong inside the bobbin area when I try to sew but not sure what I am doing wrong. Never had a problem before, and am hoping I didn’t break her machine! I have made sure multiple times that I threaded the bobbin correctly, and checked the tension, cleaned it all out, etc. to no avail. You can hear a clicking noise when it starts to bunch up, does that tell me anything more?

D Roach

are you sure you have the bobbin in the right way? I too have a Husqvarna Viking and it doesn’t show which way the bobbin goes in.


Same here,

I think something is wrong with the bobbin holder. I can hear the noises too before its nesting… must be a mating ritual or something… I will try to use a different needle anyway, everything else is covered.

Diane Williams

Not getting your needle thread between the tension discs will make your stitches look loose & sloppy, but actual “nesting” or thread jamming into a mess under the plate is because the thread didn’t get into the Take-Up Lever, you know, that bar that goes up & down. When it’s down, there’s enough thread available to wrap around the bobbin to make the stitch. When it moves back up it “takes up” all the extra thread so the stitch is tight. Thread not in the take-lever means the needle keeps bringing more thread into the bobbin case & with to mechanism to bring it out you get this mess underneath.


I have brother bb370 sewing machine. I am a beginner to sewing. Straight stitch works fine. Bird nesting happens when zigzag stitching. I did everything said here. But it did not work. When I set the top thread tension to 0 Zig zag stitch works fine. I am using wonder invisible thread and cotton quilting fabric. Is something wrong with my tension discs. Should I take it to a repair shop??


Does it do the same with normal thread? Just curious, as I have issues with invisible thread, but normal thread works fine…..


Hang on to your threads when starting to sew, or sew into a scrap of fabric when you finish a line of stitching, leave it in the machine and finish sewing on the scrap and then feed in the next pieces to sew. Leaving your threads hanging. Without hanging on to them will cause the birds nest, as the thread is too loose when you are starting to sew.

Ada Galli

I have been sewing for years (decades actually) and only found out a couple of years ago that there are 2 sizes of bobbins! You can barely tell by looking at them, but read your manual and be SURE you have the correct size.

Kate Mackey

what about holding your threads? I have a Bernina B750 and find that if I don’t pull out a bit if thread after the cutting tool works, I get a bird nest.


Using old thread will also cause the birdnesting. That lovely box of old thread you inherited from your Grandmother can cause many headaches. Best not to use old thread.

Melody Lema

I have a 40 year old Singer Athena 2000. I don’t have any bobbin problems. The problem I am having is the electronic board is going out, and just to have it looked at is 350 dollars. I am seriously considering a Singer XL 550 Futura. Any advice? My darling wonderful husband will get me what I want, and I am a Singer devotee. I have sewn on one since I was 5, first Grandma’s, then Mom’s, now mine. Any and all help is gratefully accepted.

Lucy Lu

Hi All

I have recently inherited an old sewing machine – Singer 9018… I have never used a sewing machine before so I have followed the instructions by the book … with a little help from YouTube :) … however I am losing the will…

Every time a try and sew its bunching up underneath AND the bottom thread isn’t doing anything, you can see that its just pulling through and not being sewn (does that make sense?) its like the thread is just there underneath the ‘birds nest’ in a line no sewing involved, if I got a needle I could pick it and pull it out in one go? I can see its doing this as I used 2 colour threads eventually so I could get a better look as to what was happen with the threads.

I have managed to get it to sew properly once so I know it can do it but I’m stumped (and totally fed up) as to what to do next? Can any shed any light please?

Thanks all in advance…


Mine sews a bit then it tugs and starts birdnest on bottom thread. I just got it back from servicing. I was able to sew a few items but it won’t do uniform jersey or denim.. It’s a singer professional. Did great for several years then it went out of time. I had another finger with the fancy stitshes and that goes out of time alot. Seems singer isn’t living up to its name.


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