Sewing Machine Eats Fabric

Dear Elizabeth,

My sewing machine eats fabric whenever I'm working with lightweight materials! What can I do?


Pulling My Hair Out

Dear Pulling (I hope you haven't become bald!),

If your sewing machine eats fabric, don't worry. This is a common problem and is very easily resolved. The opening on a multi-stitch machine is wide so as to accomodate the swing of the needle for zigzag and other stitches. Because of this, lightweight fabrics can be pushed into it by the action of the needle.

One fix is to see if the manufacturer makes a straight stitch throat plate for your machine. (Some do, some don't) Look at the difference between the two throat plates below.

sewing machine throat plates

Since the opening on the straight stitch plate is small (only to be used with the straight stitch setting), fabric is not pushed down into it. If you have a straight stitch throat plate, be sure not to use the zigzag setting. You'll break your needle!

If you don't have a straight stitch throat plate, you can also remedy this situation by placing a strip of tear-away stabilizer underneath the piece that you are sewing. Because it is stiffer than your fabric, the needle can't force the fabric down the hole. It also provides more traction. When you are finished sewing, simply tear it away.

Sample of tear away stabilizer

Don't substitute paper towels or regular paper for this! Paper towels are more flexible than tear-away stabilizer and can be pushed through that hole just like your fabric. When you go to tear it away, you will also find that paper towels and paper are difficult to tear and will distort your stitches. (Not to mention they will also blunt your needle pretty quickly). Tear-away stabilizers are made specifically for this purpose.

There is another method that is sometimes touted but I don't really recommend it. Some people place a strip of masking tape over the needle hole of their throat plate and then lower the needle to create a straight stitch hole.

This will work, but it quickly gums up the needle and then fibers start sticking to it, then the hole in the tape starts getting bigger, and then ultimately this too will eat your fabric. (Been there, done that). But if you don't mind having to replace the needle and tape frequently, then it can be a viable option too.

Hope this keeps you from pulling anymore hair out!


P.S. Placing a small piece of tear-away stabilizer under the edge where you start a seam will also prevent those "edge nests" and give your feed dogs more traction for a smooth start!

preventing edge nests when sewing

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