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  • Troubleshooting
  • Take-up Lever

The broken thread troubleshooting process

Everyone experiences unexpected thread breaks, bird nesting (thread gathering beneath the needle plate), or terribly uneven thread tension. Some experience this more than others. While the quality of the thread being used will affect the overall stitchability, for the sake of this educational article, we'll assume that you are using quality thread.

Out of habit, whenever there's a problem with the stitch we tend to immediately blame the thread. While the thread can be the culprit for the stitch problems you're encountering, there's something that we should be addressing first. Your machine's take-up lever. The take-up lever is the metal lever (looks like a hook) that is on top of your machine and moves up and down while you sew. This lever is what pulls the thread off the spool and helps supply an even feed of thread to your needle. If the top thread falls out of the take-up lever or if it isn't securely set inside the take-up lever, you will not experience even stitches and may endure thread breaks and bird nesting.


thread correctly seated in take-up lever
Example of a properly-threaded take-up lever
improperly threaded take-up lever
Example of a thread not seated correctly in take-up lever

The first action we recommend taking when you experience thread breakage, bird nesting, or uneven tension is to rethread your machine. You wouldn't believe how many times this solves the problem and it's such a time saver to start the troubleshooting process by rethreading instead of changing needles, adjusting tension, changing threads, switching to a different stitch, etc. right off the bat. All home sewing machines, embroidery machines, and longarm machines have a take-up lever and it will have a shape reminiscent of a hook. Some machines have an extra metal plate of spring, which helps to keep threads from sliding totally out of the lever. If your machine's take-up lever has a spring or plate, make sure that the thread is in the divot of the hook for a better stitching experience.

Once you have rethreaded your machine, start sewing again. If you are still experiencing problems, you have ruled out incorrect thread delivery with the take-up lever and can start addressing potential causes by reading through our detailed Troubleshooting Reference Guide.

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