The 17 Most Common Sewing Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Sewing Machine

Whether you’re new to sewing or are a regular, it’s only natural to make mistakes here and there. If they are necessary for any learning, they can quickly discourage you. But do not immediately throw your sewing pattern in the trash!

Sewing by machine is a very useful activity, which speeds up the making or repairing of fabric garments a lot. An invention, that of the sewing machine, which revolutionized the world of tailoring. With the use of less time for the creation of clothes and drapes, the number of products inevitably grew.

Giving life, since the end of the 19th century, to a real sewing industry. Knowing how to sew by machine means quickly solving small and big daily problems in the field of sewing.

But also to create original fabric clothes or furnishing accessories and absolutely personalized. But it often happens to make some mistakes while using the sewing machine. Errors can compromise the success of a project, perhaps even irreversibly.

Here are the 17 Most Common Sewing Mistakes to Avoid

The 17 Most Common Sewing Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Sewing Machine

1. Forgetting to lower the presser foot

Before starting to machine sew, lower the presser foot onto the fabric. You must never forget to perform this fundamental action, to avoid annoying consequences. In fact, if the foot is not fixed well on the fabric to be sewn, the thread gets tangled and you have to run for cover.

You will have to untangle it or directly cut it with scissors, trying not to damage the fabric. Furthermore, there is a risk that the sewing machine may get stuck. And forcing us to resort to a technician to repair it.

2. Put on the wrong color thread

A very important check to perform, before sewing by machine, is to check if the color of the thread of the two bobbins coincides. Sometimes it happens that you don’t check the lower thread spool and start working right away.

Meanwhile, it is essential to use excellent quality threads suitable for a sewing machine. Just as it is essential that they are of the same type and color when they are mounted in the relative reels. This little trick will avoid having to unravel the work and start over.

3. Adjust the thread tension incorrectly

One of the 10 most common mistakes made with the sewing machine is not adjusting the thread tension dial properly. With the unsightly result of a seam that is too loose or, even worse, too tight. In the first case, just simply unstitch.

But, if the thread has pulled too tight on the fabric, damage to the fabric texture with holes or snags could occur.

4. Choosing the wrong needle

Matching the needle to the chosen fabric is important.  Choosing the right needle for the type of fabric you are machine sewing is very important. The needles are commercially available in various numbers, depending on the texture and thickness of the fabrics to be sewn. If a needle is too big, you risk puncturing the fabric.

Conversely, if it is too thin, it can break during processing. Change your sewing machine needle regularly. A worn needle can not only damage the fabric but also the machine. It is often advised that sewers change sewing needles for each new project. In reality, it depends on the sewing project carried out. But if your fabric is thick and requires long hours of work, change the needle!

5. Inattentively changing needle

Changing the needle is a simple operation, unscrew the screw, remove the needle and insert the new one… what could possibly go wrong? Nothing, if you do it right, but since I’m an expert at complicating my life by making trivial mistakes, I can’t tell you about it! Once you have threaded the needle (remember, the needle has a direction, and the flat part goes behind!) you will have to tighten the screw.

Here, the problem is here: tighten the screw. It always seems to me to tighten it well, but since I never use the special key (yes, supplied with the sewing machine you certainly have a key or a screwdriver which in theory should be used in these moments!) it has already happened that, after sewing for a while, the machine would start making strange noisesstitches would go wrong and, if I didn’t catch the first warning signs, I would end up breaking the needle.

Now, the first few times I got desperate thinking about who knows what technical failure, then I understood. With the stresses received during sewing, the screw, which I hadn’t tightened as well as I thought, tended to unscrew. Result: The needle starts moving, touches the presser foot, and breaks.

Therefore, at the first suspicious noises, check that the screw is not loose, and if you can, get into the good habit of using the screwdriver!

Another important thing is to be careful not to drop the needle into the hole in the grid, if it slips and gets stuck it could cause damage. If in doubt, cover the grill with a sheet of paper. Below you will find the video tutorial, subscribe to my YouTube channel to always be updated on new content, and write me in the comments what you think!

6. Do not remove the pins

It’s always best to remove the pins before sewing by machine, especially if you don’t have much sewing experience. A basting is preferable, to be easily unstitched once the work is finished. With the presence of pins on the garments, while sewing by machine, there is a risk that they will break and jump dangerously.

7. Getting crooked seams

To avoid getting nasty crooked seams, very little is needed. Also, in this case, the garments to be sewn by machine must first be tacked. With this preparatory action, the direction of the seam to be performed will be correctly respected. It is also important to guide the fabric with both hands while sewing so that it follows the right direction.

8. Do not perform periodic maintenance on the sewing machine

Like any tool and equipment, periodic maintenance must also be carried out for the sewing machine. Cleaning is necessary, but also the lubrication of the metal parts with the use of a specific oil. The needles also need to be replaced regularly. And, if they have hit a button or a pin during work, the replacement must be immediate.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide: How to Clean a Sewing Machine Properly

9. Do not check the direction of the fabric

Another of the most common mistakes that are made with the sewing machine is not checking the direction of the fabric well. Especially if you have to join two pieces of fabric, you need to match them on the wrong side. Only then can you start sewing, otherwise there is a risk that the right side of the work will appear incorrectly inside the garments.

10. Wrong position of buttons and buttonholes

To properly position the eyelets, some basic rules must be taken into account. The right front side is suitable for women’s garments and the left for men’s garments. They are fixed using an eyelet and the distances between one and the other must be well determined.

To avoid the most common mistakes, the size of the buttons must be considered. As well as their exact match with the buttonholes. Without forgetting a good assessment of the type and thickness of the fabric.

 11. Not preparing the type of fabric to be sewn correctly

Regarding the type of fabric to be sewn with the machine, one of the 10 most common mistakes that must be avoided of bad preparation of the fabric. Each of them has specific characteristics to take into account before sewing them. A fabric like dènim must be washed in advance in the washing machine. While wool must be dry cleaned, always before starting to sew.

The same is true for many fabrics that have a tendency to tighten during the wash. It is therefore advisable to wash them before starting to knit them, in order not to obtain a smaller size than the one designed.

Denise Wild from the “StudioFabricana” YouTube channel offers four key tips for fabric preparation before sewing:


  1. Pretreat the Fabric: Wash or dry clean the fabric based on its type to preshrink and remove excess dyes.
  2. Press the Fabric: Iron the fabric to eliminate wrinkles and ensure a smooth surface.
  3. On-Grain Placement: Align the fabric threads parallel to selvage edges to prevent distortion during sewing.
  4. Check Fabric Tension: Understand fabric behavior and adjust sewing machine tension accordingly.

Following these steps helps avoid common issues and ensures a successful sewing project.


12. Underestimating the importance of the bobbin

First of all, for the uninitiated, the bobbin (or spool or bobbin or whatever you want to call it!) is the plastic or metal wheel around which the lower thread is wound.

The first thing you need to pay attention to is its size. I know, at first glance, they all look the same but don’t be fooled, they don’t! There are the universal transparent plastic ones that can be found on Amazon for a few dollars (obviously I bought them!) and are perfect for anyone who has a car that fits their universal concept.

I sincerely believe that the problem is all in this word: “universal”. It creates expectations, it deludes to you that there is a general equality that unites all sewing machines, at least as regards our little wheel, but no! The size of the bobbin can vary by 1/2 mm. from one car to another. It seems little, I know, but that mm. more or less prevents the bobbin from adhering perfectly to its housing. Result? The thread is not tensioned correctly and your work will have problems.

So, it’s okay to save money and buy universal bobbins, but only if they are really compatible with your machine! When in doubt, when you encounter problems in the stitching, try to change it and mount the original bobbin, if the problem no longer occurs, I would say that you can get rid of the universal ones!

Another key thing to check is how you wound the thread on the bobbin. Look at the photos below:

If your bobbin looks like the one in the second photo, your stitching won’t come out right, the thread isn’t taut, it will end up tangling and causing you problems. The only solution is to unroll it and redo it correctly! Trust me, not even to say that I’ve already made this mistake several times before realizing that all the difficulties I encountered depended on this! Be patient and do all the preparation steps calmly and carefully, you will save yourself a lot of anger!

To wind the bobbin well, you must first pass the thread through the guides correctly. Every machine is different, so the steps differ from one to another, but if you follow the instructions in your manual you will have no problems! Once the thread has been prepared, you have to pass it through the small hole located in the upper part of the bobbin. Then place the bobbin in its holder and, holding the thread coming out of the hole, start winding.

13. Snub the instruction manual

All right, I confess, I am to be counted among all those who leaf through the instruction manual by looking only at the figures, believing that in the end you only learn things by trying them! You indeed learn them eventually, but how many headaches would I have saved by taking the time to read the instructions and follow them? Just think of the examples above on changing the needle or using the bobbin:, everything is written in the instructions, in black and white, it’s hard to go wrong!

All right, I warned you, however, even if this advice will go unheeded, listen to me and read at least the part that explains how to insert the machine. Why? Simple: you know when sewing, in the lower part of your work you find yourself with a tangled thread?

Here, in 80% of cases, the reason is that you have inserted the machine incorrectly! I honestly don’t know why, by making the wrong steps to thread the upper part, we encounter problems in the lower part it seems strange, I think it’s all a matter of thread tension, however, trust me, it’s true: skip a step and your machine will seem no longer be able to sew well!

So, even if I know that on YouTube there are videos on everything and probably also on how to thread your sewing machine, take a look at the instruction manual anyway because maybe the model is not exactly the same and the steps are different!

14. Do not cover the sewing machine

It sounds silly, I know, but covering your sewing machine isn’t just a beauty feature, it’s a necessity to keep it running smoothly. It prevents dust from accumulating in the mechanisms, which causes problems in the long run. So if your car doesn’t have one, get yourself a cover, you can buy it, or better yet, pack your own!


Having said that, remember that your sewing machine needs care and maintenance: every now and then you have to clean it (and I don’t mean dust it externally)! Also in this case the instruction manual helps you, in which it usually explains how to proceed to remove all the residues of threads and dust and how to oil it when necessary.

15. Use poor-quality needles and threads

Using the right material should really be your priority, it will save you time, hassle, and hassle!

Always buy good-quality thread even if it costs more. I’m the first to be stingy and thrifty, I look for the cheapest offers and products, so obviously, at the beginning, I bought threads recently, at the supermarket or on the stall, thinking I was getting a super deal.

How wrong I was! It’s true, I spent less, but how nervous and wasted time while sewing! Poor thread breaks easily, loses that hateful lint that clogs the mechanisms of the machine, blows the stitches, and gets tangled….. in short, a series of endless problems that ruin the pleasure of sewing. In my opinion, at least in this case, it’s better to spend a few euros more and work peacefully!

Also remember, when threading the machine, that the upper thread must be the same as that on the bobbin. By equal I mean of the same material and weight. If I use cotton thread on top, I must also use it underneath, if I use polyester thread on top, I must also put polyester underneath. So it’s okay to put two different colors, as long as they’re of the same type.

Related: Requirements of good quality sewing thread

For needles, the advice is the same: only take good quality needles and, above all, remember that they wear out over time and need to be changed. A blunt needle makes a bad seam, it can pucker the fabric, skip the stitches, pull the threads… short, many problems that can be solved simply by inserting a new needle.

Also, remember that different fabrics want different needles! Do not sew, for example, an elastic fabric with a universal needle, it will take a lot of effort and the seam will not be beautiful!

16. Sewing with an incorrectly adjusted machine

It’s really easy to mess up your project if your sewing machine is not properly adjusted and get a poor result with loose seams or puckered seams. It is therefore necessary to check the thread tension and that the needle is not dull every time you change fabric and thread, just as it is essential to choose the stitch length suitable for the type of project you want to make.

17. Use an unsuitable sewing machine

To make a garment satisfactorily you need the right equipment. You can’t expect to get a professional or at least decent result with a tiny sewing machine that has only one function or that isn’t adjustable at all. There are many sewing machines on the market that can be purchased at an affordable price and that allow you to make professional-looking DIY garments.

Related: The 10 most common problems when sewing clothes and fix this

In Final Words

These are 17 common mistakes that are made when sewing a DIY garment, but obviously, mistakes that can be made during sewing are many more, so you have to pay attention to every detail when you intend to carry out a project sewing of any kind.