5 Common Causes of Birdnests

In the previous post, What are Birdnests? we looked at what a birdnest is and the potential damage it can cause.

In this sequel we’ll look at five common causes of birdnests so we know the signs and can avoid them. Also, I’ll cover some tips on how to repair minor damage. As with many problems, prevention can save you time, money, and frustration.


Improperly inserted or threaded bobbin or no bobbin. While the absence of a bobbin is not technically a classic birdnest, it creates similar problems.

  • Incorrectly threaded upper thread. Check all thread guides; a common cause of birdnests on home embroidery machines is the thread jumping out of the take up lever, which severely reduces the tension on the thread causing it to be easily pulled to the bottom of the hoop. An unthreaded take-up lever will result in a birdnest every time.
  • A tight bobbin tension coupled with very loose needle thread tension can cause a birdnest.
  • Flagging, which is the hoop bouncing up and down during sewing. This can happen if the fabric is hooped too loosely, the fabric slips or stretches in the hoop, or if the fabric doesn’t release from the needle and is instead pulled up with the needle on it’s upstroke. The latter can happen when sewing through adhesives that build up on the needle.
  • On commercial machines, trimming malfunctions and hook timing or hook positioning are also frequently sited as causes of birdnests.


If you did incur some minor damage to your garment, such as a small hole, try repairing it with a lightweight fusible cut-away or a small piece of organza.

Before continuing with the embroidery, back up to a few stitches just before the last sewn stitches in the design and make sure that the pantograph is properly aligned to successively complete the design. If not, correct the problem by adjust the hoop position or the needle position through your machine control panel.

I have rehooped several items successfully. This is not an easy task; you will need to hoop at the exact place and fabric tension as before. If the fabric had distorted or stretched during sewing, a successful final result will depend a lot on the design being sewn.


Obviously it is better to avoid birdnests than to recover from them. The best way to that is

  • Pay attention to machine threading and tensions
  • Correct any flagging issues
  • Watch the sewing process and be alert to any changes in sewing quality or machine sound in order to stop the machine immediately to avoid damage
  • Pay attention to “thread break” messages. Instead of a thread break it may be an early warning of a birdnest.

While you may not be able to avoid all birdnests, with a little attention to detail and the sewing process, you can certainly reduce their incidence and severity.


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