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.

Make an easy and accurate template!

I am frequently asked how I make templates for projects.  I’ve tried many methods over the years, but the one that works best for me and is absolutely the fastest, easiest and most accurate (in my opinion) is this:

1.  Always protect the original pattern/template piece.  Make a photocopy of your original template piece (make sure it is 100% the original size).

2. Use your favorite adhesive (i.e., I use regular school gluestick or fabric fix spray adhesive) and lightly but thoroughly coat the RIGHT side of the paper template.  Be sure not to over saturate or distort the paper.

3. Place a piece of Quilters Vinyl  or Collins Template Vinyl on top of the paper template (adhesive side to the vinyl).  The Quilters Vinyl should be slightly larger than the template piece(s). Make sure to smooth out any wrinkles.

Quilters Vinyl

Collins Template Vinyl Sheets

  • Collins Template Vinyl is available at SewThankful in a package of six  8.5″ x 11″ Sheets.  I ****LOVE**** to use these sheets when I’m making templates that take up the majority of an 8.5″ x 11″ page.

4. Allow adhesive to dry a few moments.  Check to make sure you’ve got a good adhesion of paper to vinyl.  If needed, add a little more glue or spray around any loose edges and allow to dry.

5. Carefully cut out template piece on the lines using nice, clean, sharp scissors so you have smooth edges.  Oh…did I mention?  Quilters Vinyl and Collins Vinyl are SO EASY to cut.  It’s like buttah baby…uh huh!

VOILA!  You have a FABULOUS template ready for tracing.  It’s perfectly cut and labeled with all the markings because you are using the actual paper template :-).  Template making joy…YES!

Paintstik Tip…from Cedar Canyon Textiles Blog

I was just surfing the web and I’ve gotta share a fantastic tip for Shiva Paintstik users that I found on the Cedar Canyon Textiles blog.

  • Use a Potato Peeler to peel back the skin on the Paintstik – just peel back the skin from about 1/3 – 1/2 of one end the stik.  Use the exposed portion for rubbing and the “skinned” portion to hold on to without getting your fingers so messy.

Click here to read more (picture included) on the Cedar Canyon Textiles Blog.

SAVE on Shiva Paintstiks, accessories, threads & more at Sew Thankful.

SewThankful Coil Zipper Tip #2 – Selecting Zipper Length

Go BIG — bigger really is better in this case.  When sewing a zipper into a closed application, such as a tote, it is extremely helpful to select a zipper size that is 3 – 5 inches longer than the fabric edges it is being sewn on to.

Why? Because, when you select a longer zipper length, you can move the zipper pull past the seam line so it does not interfere with your presser foot.

After attaching both edges of the zipper tape, when you sew the side seam lines of the bag, you will simply slide the zipper pull into the middle of the zipper, sew both side seams, then trim off the extra zipper length at the seam allowance.


SewThankful Coil Zipper Tip #1: Loading the Zipper Pull

Coil zipper tape is great stuff. Purchase it by the yard, then cut your zippers to size as needed.  Just load the corresponding zipper pull and you’re all set.

Except……..if you struggle with putting the pull without fraying the heck out of the bottom edges of the tape like I used to.  But I discovered a solution that requires just a couple household items you probably have laying around:  painters tape or masking tape and 2 safety pins (1″ size preferred if you have them).

Here’s what I do now:

Cut zipper tape to the length you need and match up with a corresponding zipper pull.


Pull zipper apart.  Cut or tear off two piece of painters tape or masking tape, approximately 3″ each.  Attach each piece of tape to the bottom of each end of the zipper tape by folding in half and creating a bottom tab edge, as shown below:


Insert one side of zipper tape into the pull.


Insert other side of zipper tape into zipper pull.  Pull firmly until you feel a slight click/contact/connection between the two sets of teeth.


Place on flat surface, press down firmly on tape tabs with two fingers.  With other hand, pull up the zipper pull.


Once the zipper pull has been successfully loaded, remove the tape and place a 1″ safety pin on each end of the tape to prevent zipping the pull off of either end.


SewThankful sells coil zipper by the yard in black and white in two sizes: