Our Guide To Fixing The Feed Dog On Your Sewing Machine
If you’ve recently started a sewing project, only to notice that your silky fabric is not pulling through the metal teeth, or your type of fabric is stuck, the feed dog on your sewing machine could be to blame.
To fix a sewing machine which is having a frequent issue with its feed dog, you first need to identify the issue, then there are a variety of solutions to try according to what is causing the problem, for example, if the fabric is not pulling through due to the type, adjust the pressure on the presser foot.
Down below, we’ve put together an extensive informational guide, which will take you through everything you need to know about feed dogs, common issues, solutions and some care tips.
What Is The Feed Dog & How Does It Work?
Before we get into troubleshooting and fixing our sewing machine feed dog, for the newbies, let’s start with what the feed dog is and how it works on the sewing machine as an essential part.
The sewing machine feed dog is the two metal teeth which sit under the presser feet of your machine, most of the time, the sewing machine feed dog is up and visible when sewing, it acts as a grip to help the bottom fabric pass through the machine.
When sewing, the feed dog position switches back and forth in timed increments to pull the fabric through as you stitch, they essentially do all the work for you, rather than having to pull the fabric through the machine yourself.
What Is Lowering The Feed Dogs?
As you practice sewing different fabrics, you might come across the term ‘lowering the feed dogs’ and wonder what it means.
Lowering the sewing machine feed dog is done when you lower the feed dog below the needle plate and stop them from working as you sew, this technique is done when free-hand motion quilt sewing since you need to be able to pull the fabric in all directions when freehand sewing.
How Do I Know If My Feed Dog Is Broken?
Modern sewing machines and regular sewing models can come into problems with the feed dog after some time.
If you have little sewing experience but suspect your feed dog sewing machine might be broken, you might be experiencing the following symptoms –
- Your fabric is getting stuck.
- You cannot raise or lower the feed dog.
- The feed dog is loose/broken upon inspection.
- It’s not timing properly.
- The machine has loose screws.
Common Feed Dog Problems & Solutions
Now we know exactly where the feed dog is on your sewing machine, and some common symptoms which indicate this part might be broken, let’s move on to troubleshooting your sewing machine and fixing it so you can finish your sewing project!
The Feed Dog Is Stuck Down
If you are finished with a freehand sewing project, only to realise that your feed dog is stuck in the down position, this can be a problem, since it’s impossible to do a regular stitch with the feed dog stuck down.
We recommend trying the following solutions to see if this helps get your feed dog moving again.
- Make sure the feed dog lever is not in the downward position.
- The needle should be in the highest position possible.
- Turn the needle towards you in one complete rotation to raise the feed dog.
- Check the manual to see how your feed dog should look when set properly.
Feed Dog Not Pulling Forward
If you have noticed that your sewing machine feed dog is not moving fabric forwards when sewing then your stitch length is likely to blame.
Make sure your stitch length is matched to the kind of fabric that you are sewing, if set incorrectly, this can cause the feed dogs to move properly, the same goes for the bobbin if not set properly.
For example, when sewing buttons the stitch length is always set to zero, your stitch length is likely, not high enough when sewing other fabrics if you are getting stuck.
We suggest setting your stitch length to one or more lengths higher and see if this fixes the problem.
The Feed Dog Is Dirty
When the sewing machine feed dog area is dirty with dust and lint, this blockage can cause the feed dog to get stuck and not work properly.
The area under the needle plate of a sewing machine is small and an easy place for dirt to get trapped, it can also cause problems with threading, which is why sewing machine owners should do a routine clean on their machine often.
Clean the sewing machine properly after every use according to the manual of your model, using a small brush and blower around the needle plate can help to remove small lint easily.
The Fabric Is Fine
Very silky and fine fabric can cause your sewing machine feed dog not to work properly, this is because delicate fabrics slip under the presser foot unlike rough fabric, which gives the feed dog a harder time gripping the strip of fabric and pulling it through.
When working with a thinner fabric thickness make sure you are adjusting the pressure of the presser foot accordingly (we have a guide to using your presser foot here). You could also layer the material with wax paper to increase the thickness then remove it after sewing.
Feed Dog Not Raising
As well as your feed dog getting stuck down, it can also get stuck going up, before we get into our solutions below first make sure the lever is up, otherwise, the feed dogs will not raise.
Raise the presser foot then manually turn the hand wheel of the sewing machine until it clicks into position then see if the feed dogs are raised, and turn again until the issue is fixed.
The Timing Is Wrong
If your new sewing machine seems to be having a problem with the timing of its stitch then this is a professional mechanical issue which will need to be fixed.
To check if the timing of your feed dogs is off, we suggest following the step-by-step mini guide below.
- Check your machine for any loose or broken parts and make sure everything is clean and working.
- Make sure your sewing machine is set on the longest stitch length possible then turn the handwheel until the needle is as high as possible and turn the feed gears by hand.
- Check the movement of the feed dogs, this way you can see if the timing is off.
Feed Dog Is Broken
Lastly, the sewing machine feed dog might simply be broken. If your feed dog screws managed to get loose then this could have caused the feed dogs to twist and bang into the needle plate, damaging them.
Replace the feed dogs on your sewing machine entirely, you can either go to a professional for this or order the appropriate feed dogs yourself online and replace them if you have some sewing machine experience.
How To Raise/Lower A Feed Dog On A Sewing Machine (The Right Way)
After troubleshooting your sewing machine feed dogs and fixing your machine, you should be able to pull the fabric through properly, however, to prevent issues like this from occurring in the future, we suggest making sure that your feed dogs are always set properly on your machine.
Follow the steps below to raise your feed dog properly.
- Make sure your sewing machine is turned off, open the hook cover in the bobbin area and find the drop feed lever near the bobbin case, see how to set the bobbin properly here.
- Press down on the lever and move it to the next position, some machines need you to turn the handwheel one full rotation till you hear a clicking sound.
- Close the hook cover, power on the machine then grab a test piece of fabric and make sure the feed dogs are guiding the fabric through properly.
How To Clean Sewing Machine Feed Dogs
Knowing how to set and raise your feed dogs on your sewing machine is important, but to increase the lifespan of your sewing machine and avoid running into any problems, you should also make sure this part of your machine is clean too.
We’ve listed some steps to clean your feed dogs properly below, for a full cleaning guide, check here.
- Start by adding oil to your feed dogs, this will help to loosen any dirt or debris, you can use your tweezers to pull out any big bits of dirt, and wait for around 5 minutes.
- Now take your wire brush and start gently scrubbing around the feed dogs, do not scrub the paint otherwise, it can scratch the machine. You can also use cotton swabs at this stage.
- Wipe the oil off and voila, good as new feed dogs!
Frequently Asked Questions About Broken Feed Dogs & Sewing Machines
Why is my Janome sewing machine feed dog not working?
Most of the time, if your Janome sewing machine is not working properly then you need to make sure the machine is not set in a free motion or quilting setting, also ensure the machine is threaded properly.
Why do we lower the feed dogs on a sewing machine when freehand stitching?
If you do not lower the feed dogs when freehand stitching it can pull on the backside of your quilt fabric, making it difficult to stitch in any direction.
Why is fabric getting stuck in my feed dogs?
If fabric keeps getting caught up in your feed dogs then this means the dogs have not been raised high enough.
Overall, if the feed dog on your sewing machine is not working, then your fabric might not be feeding through the machine properly.
We always suggest making sure the feed dog lever is set in the right position when sewing and making sure your sewing machine stays clean, if you try the above troubleshooting steps and your machine is still not working, take it to a professional.