what causes bird nesting on embroidery machine

When the bobbin and top thread get tangled together and create a giant knot of thread, you’ve just experienced what machine embroiderers like to call…

You can spot bird nesting if you’re seeing messy loops on the top or bottom of your embroidery.

Bird nesting can cause your garment to be pulled down into the opening where the bobbin is released from the needle plate. This can cost you money, because it may create a hole in your garment if unattended.

Therefore, it’s crucial to pay attention to possible indications of bird nesting as the machine is running.

Inspect the area underneath the garment near the needle plate, and cut the clump of thread loose from the garment.

That’s why, in this article, we’ll be discussing the five main reasons why bird nesting occurs:

Read on to see why each of these mistakes causes bird nesting and how you can prevent bird nesting from happening in the future. You can also check out our Embroidery Hub episode above where we talk all about bird nesting!

What is Birds Nest Embroidery & Why Does it Happen?

Bunches of thread on the underside of the stitching resemble a bird’s nest. It looks fine from above, but eventually it jams in the bobbin hook and stops the machine.

A bird’s nest is caused by improper bobbin or top thread insertion or threading. Either way, an imbalance of tension causes it.

Keep in mind that the lock stitch used by sewing and embroidery machines functions best when both threads pull equally on each other. Think of it like shaking hands.

When one pulls too hard, the other is compelled to extend their hand. Someone would fall backward without anything to support them if you quickly released your grip on their hand after pulling it hard. It is just like thread tension.

The extra thread is released from the other half of the stitch equation when the thread is pulled taut or abruptly changes. The extra thread then wraps around the hook or bobbin case. The thread will soon be nestled beneath the fabric due to all of the spinning of the hook.

Bird nesting happens on embroidery machines because of the following circumstances:

  • Since all of the tension discs are locked and the top thread was threaded with the presser foot down, your thread cannot pass through the discs.
  • Because you didn’t use the take-up lever on the household machine, there is no way to draw the thread through the tension discs.
  • The bobbin thread can spin freely if it is not fastened. This spinning can create a tangled mess. This tangled mess is called a bobbin bird nest.
  • Your bobbin is backward, be sure to check your manual. Putting your bobbin backward can allow it too little tension.
  • Dirty or poorly maintained machines. Keep all debris and grime away from your machine and bobbin case.
  • Burrs on needle plate which can catch a thread.
  • The needle is not oriented correctly; keep in mind that needles have a front and a back.
  • It is necessary to adjust the bobbin tension (always refer to your manual before making any changes).
  • When a commercial frame bounces or a garment tugs on the hoop on any kind of machine, flagging happens.

If the tension is correctly set, you might never need to adjust the top tension knobs. As a last resort, you can adjust the bobbin case tension one-quarter turn at a time. The majority of malfunctions such as these are caused by improper maintenance or a design that prevents the thread from fixing itself.

Tangled thread that stuck to the embroidery machine and wouldn’t come off caused me to have some serious issues. I’ve occasionally witnessed the clothing “pop” out of the hoop. The clothing will probably be ruined if you notice this because the fabric has been torn.

If you hoop your items loosely, the material may suffer severe “flagging.” Since securely hooped items are always of higher quality than floating ones on a hoop, I prefer them.

Mechanical issues may be more prevalent with commercial/tubular machines. More bird nesting issues may arise if your rotary hook timing or needle bar height are off.

An operator used to come to me when I was doing general repairs in our multi-head factory, complaining that the machine was making nests for birds. I would ask them directly, “You hit a frame, didn’t you?” Yes was usually the response—unless, of course, they had lied.

So, two questions need to be answered:

#1: Improper top threading

what causes bird nesting on embroidery machine

The secret to making sure your machine operates smoothly is proper threading.

When you start the embroidery process, the top thread may actually get caught in the hook if you miss a point in the thread path that increases tension for the thread.

This can cause your hook to freeze up and slow down your entire embroidery process. If you’re new to embroidery or need a refresher on threading, click here to learn how to properly thread your embroidery machine.

How Do You Prevent Embroidery Thread From Bunching Under Fabric?

Though it seems so simple, it’s easy to forget to do this.

  • Keep your machine clean, and remove stray threads.
  • It’s important to take your time loading bobbins to avoid incorrect threading because it’s simple to become distracted. To disengage the tension discs, make sure the presser foot is up.
  • Make sure to visually verify your thread path every time; use your fingers to trace.
  • Use good quality thread and needles

Preventing bird nests does come from prevention, pure and simple. When threading or inserting bobbins, proceed slowly and, if you are unfamiliar with the machine, read the manual.


How do you stop a bird nesting embroidery machine?

Keep your machine and bobbin case free and clean of dirt and grime. Burrs on needle plate which can catch a thread. The orientation of the needle is wrong; remember that needles have a front and a back. Bobbin tension needs adjustment (always consult your manual before changing bobbin tension)

What is the root cause of birds nesting?

Improper thread tension is one of the main reasons we experience bird nesting. If your bobbin tension is too loose, extra thread may unwind from the bobbin, which ultimately causes a buildup of thread underneath the needle plate.

How do you get rid of bird nesting?

Install bird spikes. Bird spikes are devices with small, needle-like rods that protrude from the base. These rods are dull and won’t harm birds, but will deter birds from perching and building a nest. You can place bird spikes on railings, ledges, under eaves, and anywhere that’s a likely nesting spot.