Is Your Sewing Machine Making Bird’s Nests?

Are you getting those annoying tangles or “birds nests” of thread on the bottom-side of your fabric?

These thread tangles usually occur at the start of your stitching but can occur at other times too! The most common cause of bird’s nests is that your bobbin thread has not been pulled up before starting sewing. It’s not enough to have the bobbin thread loose behind your fabric, when starting sewing. Your bobbin thread needs to be under tension too. You accomplish this by holding on to the top and bottom thread while taking a couple of stitches. Newer machines often have the bobbin thread under tension automatically.  If you’re providing tension, but are still getting nests, or getting nests in the middle of a sewn section, you most likely have a presser foot problem.

It may seem like a no brainer, but the first thing to check is if the presser foot is engaged. It’s easy to forget, especially when starting on a thick seam. It feels like the foot is down because of fabric thickness. If the presser foot lever isn’t down, the foot is not engaged, your upper tension disks are open and can’t regulate tension as designed. You can also disengage your presser foot if your machine has a knee lift, and you bump it while sewing. This is a common cause of a nest in the middle of the seam or stitching.

bernina height compensation

Another cause of nests in the middle of a seam is a thicker section of fabric. When sewing a hem, for example, there is usually a spot that is thicker than the rest of the seam. When you reach this spot, there is a moment when your presser foot is basically high-centered, and the result is the same as not having the presser foot engaged.

There is a cool tool designed just for this purpose, the BERNINA Height Compensation Tool. You can also put a folded piece of fabric underneath the back of the foot to achieve the same result.