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Sewing Machine Needle Not Moving? | 6 Fixes To Try

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I remember the first time my sewing machine needle locked up. I just didn’t know what to do. Since that time, however, I have learned some things to try that may unstick the needle and allow it to continue sewing.

The first thing to try if you are just beginning to sew and the needle won’t move is to make sure the sewing machine is getting power, that the upper thread is correctly threaded into the machine, and that your machine isn’t set for filling the bobbin.

If that is not the issue and the machine was sewing and has suddenly stopped during the sewing process:

  1. The first step is to work the hand wheel back and forth to see if you can free the needle. And if that doesn’t work
  2. Try to remove the needle from the needle clamp screw that holds it in place so that you can pull it free from the fabric. This will allow you to remove the fabric so that it doesn’t become damaged during your efforts to fix the machine.
  3. The next step would be to remove any thread from the shuttle race that is preventing the needle from working.

The following paragraphs will discuss in detail some of the different things that you can try to see whether you can get your sewing machine needle to start working again.

Please Note: My suggestions are necessarily very general because there are so many different brands and models of sewing machines, and they all operate a little differently.

6 Common Fixes For a Needle That Doesn’t Move

Jelly Grandma's Brother Sewing Machine Sewing Surface

1. Power Check

If you are just beginning to sew and the needle doesn’t move, make sure the sewing machine has power. If it is plugged in, but you cannot hear the sewing machine motor running, try a different outlet.

2. Is It Threaded Correctly?

If you are just beginning to sew and the needle doesn’t move, check to make sure the upper thread is not out and it is threaded properly. Some machines have a safety mechanism that will not allow the needle to move if the upper thread isn’t threaded correctly or has run out.

3. Check the Sewing Clutch

If the sewing machine motor is running, but the needle is not moving, make sure the machine is not set for filling the bobbin. This step involves making sure the sewing clutch hasn’t been disengaged.

4. Check the Drive Belt

Again, if the sewing machine motor is running, but the needle is not moving, next check to see if the drive belt is broken. Be sure to turn the machine off before opening up the machine to check the drive belt.

5. Free the Needle

If none of those things apply, and if you are sewing and the needle suddenly stops moving and appears to be embedded in the fabric, move the hand wheel back and forth to see if you can free the needle. If this frees the needle from the fabric, the first thing to do is to move the fabric out of the way so that it doesn’t become damaged during your efforts to fix the machine.

If moving the hand wheel back and forth doesn’t free the needle from the fabric, try to remove the needle itself from the machine by unscrewing the needle clamp screw that holds the needle in place, so that you can pull it free from the fabric. This will allow you to remove the fabric so that you can open the machine to try to repair it.

6. Check for Tangles

Check for thread that has become tangled and is keeping the needle from moving by following these steps:

  1. Turn off the machine to avoid any injuries.
  2. Remove the presser foot.
  3. Unscrew and remove the bobbin cover and the needle plate.
  4. Remove the bobbin.
  5. Pull out any loose threads that have become entangled in the sewing mechanism. A pair of tweezers works best when removing the thread from this area.
  6. Replace the bobbin, needle plate, and bobbin cover.
  7. Replace the presser foot.
  8. Replace the needle if you have removed it, thread the machine, and the machine should start sewing again.

What Causes The Needle To Stop Moving?

There are several different things that can cause the sewing machine needle to stop moving. Those reasons include:

A Broken Drive Belt

A broken drive belt can cause the sewing machine needle to stop moving, and this is a repair that is easily made. To check whether this is the problem, remove the drive belt cover. If the drive belt is broken, loosen the screws that hold the motor in place to release the tension, which will allow you to replace the broken drive belt. Be sure you replace the drive belt with the correct belt for your particular sewing machine.

A Disengaged Clutch

A disengaged clutch can cause the sewing machine needle to stop moving. Actually, its primary job is to keep the sewing machine needle from moving. This allows you to fill the bobbin with thread without the needle moving at the same time. So, just make sure you have re-engaged the clutch after filling the bobbin before you try to sew again.

Internal Drive Gear Failure

A failure of the internal drive gear is one of those issues that you might not be able to fix for yourself, but you will probably need the gear replaced by a professional sewing machine repair person. The internal drive gear can cause many different issues, including stopping the needle from moving.

Thread Caught in Shuttle Race

The primary reason for a sewing machine needle to stop moving while sewing is that some of the thread has gotten caught in the sewing mechanism called the shuttle race and is holding the needle at a certain point and will not allow it to move until the thread has been removed. Number 6 above explains the steps for removing any thread that may be keeping the needle from moving.

What Can I Do To Avoid Issues With My Sewing Machine?

Here are some things we can do to avoid problems with the operation of our sewing machines:

Keep it Covered

Use a sewing machine cover to avoid the build-up of dust and lint in our sewing machines. Some sewing machines come with a cover, but some do not. There are many sewing machine covers available for purchase on Amazon, or you can make your own.

Keep it Clean

Clean your machine regularly, including removing thread, dust, and lint from the shuttle race area, from the foot pedal, and from the threading area.

Jelly Grandma Cleaning the Shuttle Race
Cleaning the shuttle race area with a Q-Tip

Keep it Lubricated

Oil your machine on a regular basis, if required. Some of the newer machines do not require oiling, except during maintenance.

I bought a new Brother a few years back and was unable to find any place to put oil. When I called the company’s customer service line, I was told that some of the machines should only be oiled during their annual service check and cannot be done without taking the machine apart.

Change the Needle Often

It is a good idea to change your needle regularly because needles become dull over time and can cause a number of different issues such as skipped stitches, damage to fabric, and even damage to the machine itself.

Maintain the Power Cord

Protect your power cord from damage that can cause them to fray and wear out.

Consider Outsourcing the Maintenance

Have your machine serviced annually by a licensed sewing machine repair professional who will take your machine apart and clean and oil all the moving parts, and will make sure the timing and tension are set properly.

By doing all of the things mentioned here to maintain your sewing machine, it should continue to work for you for a long time. As with any kind of equipment, it must be maintained properly to work properly.

Final Thoughts

No one loves sewing more than I do. I make all of my quilt tops and linings with the aid of my sewing machine, and I even machine quilt some of them. As I have learned over the years, often the hard way, that if we are going to get the results we want from using a sewing machine, then we have to first learn how to operate it properly and to maintain it properly so that it will remain in top working order.

Quilt Made With Batiks
One of my batiks quilts
100% Cotton Quilting Fabric wBaby the Black Cat
Baby decided to photobomb

We do have the advantage today of being able to access articles and videos that help us do some of the maintenance and troubleshooting for problems we are having with our sewing machines and even help us to make many of the necessary repairs ourselves. But, even though we can keep our sewing machines running well most of the time, I highly recommend the annual maintenance by a qualified sewing machine repairman to make sure our machines stay in good working order for many years.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss The 3 Best Types of Quilting Fabric for Looks and Durability.

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