Want to troubleshoot a sewing machine skipping stitches? There is nothing more frustrating than skipped stitches. It results in messy seams that are likely to break and result in holes. Here are some easy tips for getting back on track.
Sewing Machine Skipping Stitches
Take a bit of liberty with an old proverb and put the art of sewing into perspective. When you have a sewing machine skipping stitches, it is really frustrating and a waste of time as you fiddle and fuss over trying to get things right. There is nothing worse than the thread that breaks as you turn that vital corner or the foot that jams just as you are about to race along the seam of a new garment.
A stitch in time saves nine, But a stitch out of line is a waste of time.
Having a checklist to troubleshoot when your sewing machine skipping stitches is a wonderful resource to fall back on. It’s the next best thing to a machine mechanic in your own home.
What should you look for first?
Before you Start
Before you start major troubleshooting, just do a rethread of your sewing machine, both on the top and bottom. Doing this is a basic technique that fixes many problems. Have you ever restarted your computer when it was playing up? Well this is similar! If it the sewing machine is still skipping stitches then have a look at the 11 tips below.
Sewing Specialty Fabrics
Often specialty fabrics need particular needles, threads and sewing machine feet. Here are some articles that may help you.
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET Sewing Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool
- FLEECE – Sewing Fleece
- SEQUINS - Sewing Sequin Fabric
Sewing Machine Skipping Stitches - Troubleshooting
When troubleshooting your sewing machine skipping stitches, you should check your needles, thread, tension, foot and the actual machine.
TIP #1 - Check your needle. If they are bent, blunt or broken you may have found the cause of the problem. Even if it looks ok, try replacing the needle in case the damage is not easily visible.
TIP #2 - Check you inserted the needle correctly. The flat side should be set at the back. Sewing machine needles are designed to be placed in the holder in the one direction only.
TIP #3 - Check the size and type of needle is correct for the type of fabric you are sewing. I find it is particularly important to have a stretch needle when sewing knits and Spandex or Lycra. Sewing leather without the proper needle is another cause of a sewing machine skipping stitches. The size of the needle must also match the fabric weight. The thicker the fabric, the larger the needle size.
You can read my full article on sewing machine needle sizes and uses but here is a basic run down.
|FABRIC TYPE||MACHINE NEEDLE TYPE|
|Knits/Stretch||Stretch or Jersey Needle|
|Denim||Denim or Jeans Needle|
If the needles seem ok, next check the thread you are using.
TIP #4 - Have you threaded the machine correctly? If you are a new sewer then consult your manual to double-check everything is correct. If you are an experienced sewer and have threaded your machine a million times, just undo everything and do a quick re-thread. Always rethread the bobbin after you have done the top spool. (How to thread a sewing machine)
TIP #5 - Also, check that the bobbin is wound evenly and tightly. An incorrectly wound bobbin can snag and produce uneven tension that can cause a sewing machine to skip stitches. (How to wind a bobbin)
TIP #6 - Could a tiny piece of thread be jammed in the needle plate or bobbin housing? Give your machine a good clean for lint and dust. (How to clean a sewing machine)
TIP #7 - Are you using good quality thread or is your thread snapping easily? I find that particularly when sewing difficult fabrics like lycra, a good quality thread makes all the difference. Poor quality thread can have burrs along its length that can get caught in the tension disk leading to snapping. Good quality brands of threads include Gutterman, Coates and Rasant.
Here are some more in-depth articles that can help you troubleshoot these thread issues.
If you have checked the needles and thread, next on the list if your sewing machine is skipping stitches is sewing machine tension.
TIP #8 - Check the tension of the sewing machine and try some different options on a scrap of fabric to get the right tension for the fabric you are using. The upper and lower tension should be perfectly even with no loops or uneven stitches. Start by checking the tension dials and then consult your manual to see if the bobbin case has a tension screw. (not all machines have this)
TIP #9 - Check your own tension. Are you feeling tense about this garment? Sometimes in our anxiety to get the job done we pull the fabric instead of letting it feed through naturally and cause unnecessary tension. Let the feed dogs do the work of feeding the fabric through the machine. Don't push or pull.
Sewing Machine Foot
TIP #10 - In certain circumstances, sticky fabric such as leather or Lycra may be dragging underneath the sewing machine foot. The ideal solution is to switch to a Teflon foot but alternatively, try a bit of sellotape on the bottom to help it glide over your fabric more evenly.
Specialty feet can make all the difference to some tricky fabrics.
TIP #11 - Look at the throat plate on your machines and check for any nicks that might be snagging the thread. Nicks can be caused by a needle bending and hitting the side of the plate. I generally need to replace my plate every couple of years. Don't worry this is normally a very cheap part and is easily switched over with one or two screws.
Sewing Machine Skipping Stitches - In Conclusion
If none of these suggestions are working and you still have a sewing machine skipping stitches then it may be time to take your machine for service. First, just make sure it is skipping stitches on all types of fabrics and not just one. If it is just one type of fabric and not others then it will be an incompatibility with your machine and the fabric.
Why not make a copy of this handy little checklist and slip it into your machine handbook. It could be the best little timesaver you have readily available to stitch in time and save nine.