Top 10 Troubleshooting Tips for Skipped Stitches

  1. Incorrect Threading of Machine
  2. Worn or Bent Needle
  3. Incorrect Needle Type
  4. Incorrect Needle Size for thread and/or materials being sewn
  5. Incorrect Top Thread Tension
  6. Incorrect Bobbin Thread Tension
  7. Incorrect Thread Type for the Project
  8. Too much tension or tugging on the project under needle (sewing or quilting)
  9. Sewing machine needs cleaning and/or lubricating
  10. Sewing machine needs servicing (deeper mechanical issues)

Number 1. The first–and easiest–thing you want to check is your thread path. Maybe you don’t think that could possibly be “it”. I get it. You may know how to thread your machine blindfolded in the dark and it might have worked just fine yesterday using the same thread you’re using now. BUT…but…but sometimes things get bumped or knocked out of place. Hey. It happens. So, simply double check your thread path. Better yet. Completely start over. Unthread it and carefully re-thread your machine according your your sewing machine manual. Check it. Has the problem been solved? If not, proceed down the list.

Numbers 2 – 4. The next 3 items on the list involve your needle. So, let’s just cut to the chase. Remove the old needle and replace it with a fresh, new, high quality needle that is the correct type and size for the threads and materials you are using and the type of sewing you are doing. I recommend Superior Needles for domestic machines.

Longarm quilter? Groz Beckert Needles are a good choice if you’re using a longarm, but be sure to choose the right needle for your machine (see machine manual or manufacturer recommendations).

Whether you are on a domestic machine, industrial machine or longarm quilting machine, your machine manual and manufacturer are your go-to sources for the type of needles your machine requires.

OKAY! Once you’ve got your new needle in place, go ahead and stitch another sample. Problem solved? If not, let’s continue down the list.

Number 5 and Number 6. These both involve the tension settings on your machine thread path (top) and bobbin case. PLEASE refer to your sewing machine manual for instructions on how to make these adjustments. If you do not have a manual, you may wish to contact your sewing machine dealer or an authorized repair person for assistance. Additionally–related to thread tension–it’s possible your thread is unwinding too loosely on it’s own before being fed through the machine. To check this, place a test piece of fabric under your needle and observe the thread coming off the spool as you stitch. A Handy Net placed over your thread spool or cone can quickly eliminate this problem.

Number 7. Use a good quality thread that is meant for the materials you are sewing and type of sewing you are doing. For example, a very heavy thread that is made for sewing upholstery is not going to work well on delicate lingerie or quilting fabrics; nor is a very fine thread going to work well on heavy or thick fabrics like denim (though in this case the problem is more likely to be breakage).

Number 8. Are you attempting to pull your project around under the needle? This is often the cause of skipped threads when attempting free-motion quilting at a fast speed. I strongly recommend SLOWING DOWN. Free-motion quilting is kinda like dancing, and your machine is your partner. If you are moving faster than your partner OR you have the pedal to the metal and it is moving faster than you, somebody may get their toes stepped on (or fingers sewn–OUCH!) or stitches may get skipped. Skipped stitches may also occur as a result of sewing a very heavy or large project that places a lot of weight pulling under the needle. Try adding support for your project (perhaps placing support tables or chairs around your machine to hold the weighty bulk of your project).

Number 9. Clean and lubricate your machine from top to bobbin according to your sewing machine manual.

Number 10. If none of the above have worked, the cause may be related to a deeper mechanical or technical issue. Parts wear out from time to time as they age or if they are heavily used. It happens. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or you don’t love your sewing machine. It may just be time to make an appointment for professional servicing.

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Troubleshooting Tips for Skipped Stitches”

  1. Be sure the presser foot is raised when threading the machine. If not start over. The presser foot must be raised to allow the thread to fall correctly into the tension disks.

  2. Thanks! I always clean my machines and change my needles frequently. Great tips and ideas in this list.

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