Sewing Blog

Hungry Machine? How to Stop Your Sewing Machine from Eating Fabric

We’ve all been there. We’re sewing along when suddenly, our fabric disappears into the abyss. The underbelly — or maybe the bobbin or throat plate — of our sewing machine is eating our fabric!

A hungry sewing machine is a common problem among sewers. But there are a few things you can do to starve that hungry sewing machine and never lose another inch of precious fabric.

Check out these tips to starve that hungry sewing machine.

Cleaning the bobbin

Cleaning the bobbin and underneath the needle plate

Tip #1: Test the stitch length.

Stitch length can contribute to that hungry sewing machine eating your yardage. Knits are notorious for having stitch length issues that cause the machine to eat the fabric because they are stretchy and can easily get sucked down into the machine. Depending on what weight of fabric you’re using, the stitch length may need to be shorter or longer. The wrong stitch length will surely suck that fabric right into the machine.

If your knits are constantly disappearing into your machine, check out Sewing With Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials class with Meg McElwee to find out how to get the perfect stitch length.

Tip #2: Stabilize your fabric.

Stabilizers provide traction for your fabric so that it makes it harder for the machine to swallow it. There are a lot of options for stabilizing your fabric. Use tissue paper that you might already have on hand, or check out your local craft store for a spray stabilizer. Don’t worry; none of these stabilizers are permanent. They can be easily ripped away or even washed away once you’re finished.

Tip #3: Use a stitch starter.

A stitch starter gives your sewing machine a little run-and-go warm up before you start sewing. There are dozens of benefits to using a stitch starter, and one of them is to avoid the machine eating the fabric.

Find out how to use a stitch starter here.

Tip #4: Use a scrap piece of fabric to get started.

In addition to using a stitch starter, you can also use a scrap piece of fabric as a starting place. Simply cut a little square of the fabric you’re sewing with and butt it right up against the fabric you’re getting ready to seam. Start the seam on the scrap fabric and let that seam sew right onto the working fabric. If the machine has any issues with the fabric, it will let you know on that scrap piece of fabric, meaning your precious pattern pieces are not affected.

Tip #5: Use the right needle.

You probably already know that your sewing needles should be in tip-top shape when you start a project, but a sharp needle isn’t the only key. The fabric and needle need to work together to make sure everything goes smoothly. If the needle and fabric don’t make a good pair, this can cause the machine to eat the fabric.

Get more info on choosing the right sewing needle.

Tip #6: Buy a straight stitch needle plate.

Many machines are equipped with a needle plate that’s designed for all kinds of stitches, from straight to zigzag. If you look, these plates have a wider opening in them. Straight stitch plates, however, have a very small opening that make it hard for the machine to eat the fabric. Just remember that if you switch out your plates, you can only use the straight stitch plates with straight stitches. Using a straight stitch plate with zigzag stitches will break your needle. Check your sewing machine manufacturer’s web site to find the exact plate that fits your machine.

Tip #7: Rethread your machine.

Sometimes a problem that seems big has a simple solution. Remove the bobbin and thread from your machine and rethread everything once more. Sometimes a thread can get caught somewhere and cause all kinds of problems!

Tip #8: Clean the bobbin and needle plate.

When I first started sewing, I had no idea what kind of maintenance went into owning a sewing machine. After one particularly frustrating day of the machine eating the fabric, my mom showed me how to remove the needle plate and clean the bobbin area. When I removed the plate, there were all kinds of fuzzies down there and even scraps of other fabric that had been caught in the machine. I cleaned it all out, rethreaded the machine, and found that it solved the problem.

13 Comments

Ck Wilson

Great insight and tips! Being a self-taught sewist, it was just such an article which saved my sanity. I know your article will help many others AND it’s a great reminder. Thank you!

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Ck Wilson

Great insight and tips! Being a self-taught sewist, it was just such an article which saved my sanity. I know your article will help many others AND it’s a great reminder. Thank you!

Reply
Dee Anna

THANK YOU for these tips. I have had this frustrating problem but now I feel armed with solutions.

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Peggy

Very good tips. Especially the straight stitch needle plate. I think it improves stitch quality. I always use it for free motion.

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Delores Lyon

Thanks for sharing this advice on stopping your sewing machine from eating fabric. I think I’ll definitely need this advice when I start looking for a sewing machine to get for myself. It sounds like the length of the stitches and the type of machine you get make a lot of fabric! I definitely don’t want to get a machine that needs to be re-threaded frequently. http://discoversewing.com

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Sharon

I think I would enjoy this site!

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Sharon Hanson

I think I would enjoy this site’!

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Lisa

I’ve never, ever had that problem. I sew only on vintage Singer straight stitchers (like a Singer 301 or 221). They don’t eat the fabric and they make the best stitches you ever saw.

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Jeannette

I would like to know if you can help me with a problem that I am having with my sewing machine. I am at wits end with it. Every time I start to sew with it I check the stich and tention so it won’t make loops on the bottom of the bobbin and make a huge mess. I check it as I said but it will be going along good and then the thread will break and I will look on the bottom of the fabric and see all kinds of loops. What can I do to fix the problem?

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Lili

Have you tried rethreading the machine? That is what took care of the problem for me.

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Lili

Thank you for the tips! I’ve also heard that using a walking foot can take care of the problem as well.

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Deverell Pedersen

I am having a devil of a time with an overlock hem on thin, fine stretch poly jersey. I have a bernina 1230, and it has no pressure adjustment for the presser foot. Every time I have to stitch over a seam in the skirt (while hemming), it refuses to advance over the bulk of the seam. I tried my walking foot and couldn’t get the fabric to advance at all and it got swallowed down the throat plate. Stitch width and length are set at bernina default for overlock stitch. Any suggestions?

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Yvette

Great tips. I have been using tissue paper. Does anyone know where to get a straight stitch plate for a janome 2212 new home? I am not sure if they have even made one yet? Thanks

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