Troubleshooting Trouble! Understanding Why the Feed Dogs of Your Sewing Machine Are Misbehaving

Do you ever find yourself fretfully staring at your sewing machine, wondering why those pesky little feed dogs just aren’t doing their job? Sewing is a delightful pastime, but nothing puts a dampener on the fun quite like a stubborn sewing machine. Understanding why your feed dogs aren’t working – the component that pulls the fabric through the machine – is crucial to maintaining uninterrupted sewing sessions. This blog post will get you up to speed on how to identify and rectify common issues related to feed dogs.

What are Feed Dogs and How do they Work?

Feed dogs may not be a familiar term even for regular sewing enthusiasts. But these pivotal components in the sewing machine make fabric movement smooth and flawless.

Roles of Feed Dogs

  • In simplicity, feed dogs are a pair of perpendicular, small metal bars with diagonal teeth.
  • They play a crucial role in ‘feeding’ the fabric through the machine smoothly and uniformly.
  • They rise and move forward when you make a stitch, pulling the fabric along in perfect harmony with the needle movement.
  • If they are compromised, the fabric movement will be disturbed, potentially ruining your project.

Why Might the Feed Dogs Not Be Working Properly?

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, those stubborn feed dogs refuse to cooperate. Here are some reasons why your feed dogs might not be working correctly:

Faulty Feed Dog Position

Not all sewing tasks require forward fabric movement. For such tasks like darning or free motion quilting, machines offer a feed dogs drop option. If the drop mechanism is accidentally engaged or if they’re stuck in the down position, they won’t help move the fabric.

Clogged Feed Dogs

Dust, fluff, or lint can accumulate over time on and around the machine components, especially the feed dogs. This accumulation can obstruct their movement or prevent them from rising to the level they should, disrupting their functionality.

Wear and Tear

Like any other machinery, wear and tear is common with feed dogs. The teeth can erode or break over time, especially if you sew heavy materials frequently. Damaged feed dogs will lack the grip required to pull the fabric effectively.

Incorrect Presser Foot Pressure

Feed dogs work in tandem with the presser foot. An incorrect pressure setting can hinder their collaboration, causing inadequate fabric feeding.

Tackling the Troubles: How to Fix Feed Dogs

Identifying the problem is half the battle. Here’s what you can do to rectify the issues with your feed dogs:

Ensuring Correct Feed Dog Position

If your machine has a drop feed lever or switch, ensure it’s set right. Usually, this switch resides on the back or side of the free arm. Consult your machine’s instruction manual if you’re having trouble finding the solution.

Cleaning The Feed Dogs

A regular cleaning schedule is essential in maintaining your feed dogs’ functionality. Use a soft brush or compressed air can to gently clean the feed dogs and dislodge accumulated lint or dust.

Repairing Or Replacing The Feed Dogs

If the feed dogs seem worn out or damaged, it may be time to replace them. Consult your local sewing machine repair shop or check if the manufacturer offers replacement parts.

Adjusting The Presser Foot Pressure

You can adjust the presser foot pressure on most sewing machines. Follow the manual to tune the pressure so that it works harmoniously with the feed dogs.

“Remember, patience is a stitcher’s best tool. If you’re having persistent issues with your feed dogs, a professional sewing machine technician can always help troubleshoot more complex problems.”


Don’t let a problematic feed dog disrupt your creativity. Understand how they work, identify why they might not be doing their job, and arm yourself with the knowledge to fix these common issues. Keep an eye on your feed dogs, maintain cleanliness, and ensure they’re in the right position to make your sewing experience enjoyable and hassle-free. Happy sewing!

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