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What causes Bird Nests?

Posted: 17 August 2015 at 6 a.m.

Bird Nests aren't fun in sewing!

Unlike the beautiful bird homes outdoors, bird nests while sewing are anything but cute!

Bird nests occur when thread bunches up underneath. This means the top tension is too loose or the bobbin tension it too tight. Here are a few situations which can cause pesky bird nests.

  • If your bobbin tension is too loose, extra thread may unwind off the bobbin, which causes a buildup of thread underneath the needle plate.  Try tightening the bobbin tension by turning the small screw on the bobbin case a quarter turn clockwise.
  • The top thread isn’t threaded correctly.  Many times when I experience bird nests while sewing, it’s because I’ve miss-threaded my top thread.  The likely culprit: bypassing the thread take up lever.  Simply try rethreading your machine (and make sure it’s in the take up lever!).
  • Top tension is too loose.  If your top tension is too loose the bobbin thread is winning the tug-of-war and you will see excess thread build up under the needle plate.  To remedy, increase your top tension in small increments.

We recommend trying one of these solutions at a time.  This way you can hopefully find the exact cause of your frustration.

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  • 12. Sb (22 May 2017 at 10:41 p.m.)

    After trying all the tips listed and fighting for several hours it dawned on me the only thing that changed between projects was brand of thread. Turns out my brother machine is very particular. Changed thread completely and birds nesting problem disappeared
  • 11. Maintenance Monster (01 February 2017 at 1:01 p.m.)

    The operators and night shift supervisor where I work need to stop playing mechanic and LEAVE the bobbin tension alone!!!
  • 10. jackie (29 December 2016 at 9:43 a.m.)

    which screw theres four i see
  • 9. SarahB (06 December 2016 at 1:31 p.m.)

    On my Bernina Aurora QE440 I have to hold the thread for the first few stitches while SEWING so that it doesn't pull the upper thread to the back and cause a birdnest.
  • 8. Rebecca (04 October 2016 at 12:34 p.m.)

    Still not working. Still get birds nest underneath. New needke, new thread, new tension, different thread and fabric. Nothing works. Machine less than 1 year old.
  • 7. Maggie (01 February 2016 at 7:14 p.m.)

    I have this very problem. The birds nest occurs within the first 3 stitches. I am getting friendly with my new machine but it's been a year and i just can't figure it out. The above information in the tension comments will hopefully help. Can't say i am not nervous about moving my bottom tendion though.
  • 6. Celeste @ Superior Threads (24 August 2015 at 1:35 p.m.)

    Peggy - Is your thread shredding? There is a guide that the top thread goes in between the take-up lever and eye of the needle. Something could be snagging it there. You can check this by running a strand of thread across the bar and feeling for small nicks. Another cause could be the thread is actually shredding in the eye of the needle and untwisting itself back up towards the take-up lever. The solution to this is using a larger needle. Hope this helps. If you have further questions, please contact us at
  • 5. Peggy Boo (22 August 2015 at 8:08 a.m.)

    What causes the thread to "sheer" above the needle (below the take up lever)
  • 4. Peggy (22 August 2015 at 8:02 a.m.)

    What causes the thread to "sheer" above the needle (below the take up lever)
  • 3. Shirley (21 August 2015 at 9:14 p.m.)

    Usually happens to me when the thread jumps out of the arm that goes up/down. this causes a top tension problem...
  • 2. Clairequilty (21 August 2015 at 3:36 p.m.)

    Mari: Make sure the take-up lever (the arm that sticks out in the front of the machine) is up at its highest peak before starting to stitch. When the thread bunches up under the fabric, to me the first step is to rethread the machine before ever changing any tensions. If that doesn't work, then slightly change the top tension. As last resort, change the bobbin tension screw ever so slightly at a time. Over the 50 years I have sewn, and rarely had to change the bobbin tension.
  • 1. Mari (21 August 2015 at 1:54 p.m.)

    Why does this sometimes happen w/ the first stitches after I turn on my machine? I use starter pieces to avoid the problem on my actual piecework but would love to know why it occurs.

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