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Skipped Stitches Driving You Nuts?
You're not alone. Browse our FAQs and learn how our readers crack their skipped stitches problems.
Or try these simple fixes to the skipped stitch problem.
Now let's see what our readers dealt with...
Causes of skipped stitches
A reader asks...
If you don't keep the fabric taunt, can that be the cause of skipped stitches? Also can not ironing the top before machine quilting cause skipped stitches?
To form a stitch, a small loop of thread forms behind the needle and is then grabbed by the rotary hook.
You can see exactly how it happens in a short video or read more about on our page How Sewing Machines Works
(the page will open in a new window.)
Armed with that information, it's easy to see that anything that prevents either the needle getting to the proper place at the exact time or the loop from forming will cause a skipped stitch. There's no loop to grab.
I don't believe that an un-ironed quilt top would be the culprit, though I absolutely do iron my quilt tops before sandwiching. I want my finished quilt to look its best upon completion. I also don't want to accidentally stitch a tuck or fold into my quilt at the seam lines. Pressing goes a long way to avoiding that problem.
As far as 'tautness' of the quilt as you stitch...on my domestic sewing machine, a Viking D1, the only time that I quilt holding the quilt sandwich particularly taut is when I'm trying to ease in some fullness in the quilt top when I'm using my walking foot. I use that technique when a little bubble of fabric starts to appear in front of the foot.
One of our readers shared with us yesterday, that on her Husqvarna Mega Quilter, if she had her quilt sandwich clamped too tight, that it was causing needle deflection.
If that is your situation, that your quilt is loaded into a frame and pulled too tight/taut, if the needle is deflected, it won't be at the proper place for the loop to form a stitch. This will result in skipped stitches.
You can read about her experiences in the her comment entitled Mega Quilter by Carol, Midlothian, Va
(this link will open in a new window).
So while I personally haven't experienced the problem on my domestic machine, others have definitely reported it as a problem when the quilt is loaded on a frame.
We have more information on preventing skipped stitches at Solving Your Sewing Machine Problems
Readers, what has your experience been? Please share using the 'comments' link found just below.
Thank you for your question.
Skipped stitches and tension problems
by Janet L
Can anyone help me with skipped stitches and thread loops on the back of the quilt as I free motion quilt with the Bernina 820 on the Bernina frame?
I have cleaned the bobbin area each time I change bobbins and oiled about every other bobbin. I love it when it is running smoothly but am getting very frustrated trying to do a baby quilt and have about three quarters finished and having problems.
I have loosened the tension to 2 or 2 1/2 and it usually works for me.
We'll break down your question into its two parts.
Before anything else, change to a new needle. Because of their fine points, needles are easily damaged. And a damaged needle leads to poor stitch quality and skipped stitches.
Sewing Machine Tension
Loops on the back of the quilt indicate that the tension is too loose.
This problem can originate in a couple of different areas.
First, make sure that your machine is threaded correctly. That no thread guides or the uptake arm have been missed. Each guide adds a tiny bit of tension to the quilting thread as it winds its way through your sewing machine. Miss a guide and your tension is off.
Next, make sure that the presser foot is in the 'down' position. This one is so easy to miss since most presser feet ride above the surface of the quilt.
Now it's time to actually check the tension.
If you are uncertain if it is the needle or bobbin tension causing the problem, then thread your sewing machine with the same kind/weight of thread in both the needle and bobbin, but a different color for each. (Sometimes when they're both the same color, it's hard to tell where the problem is coming from.)
Most likely, if you need a tension adjustment, it is to your needle tension.
To tighten your tension, increase it a single number at a time and then test until it's balanced—no needle thread showing on the bottom, no bobbin thread showing on the top of your quilt.
If your bobbin tension is too loose, first check the tension spring found on the bobbin case. Floss it out with a piece of thread to make sure there is no lint or remnant of thread holding the spring open. That would decrease the tension applied.
For those with a front loading bobbin like the one pictured, thread your thread through the hole on the little arm—that will increase the tension.
If you have a drop in bobbin, or no arm, first mark your bobbin case with a Sharpie so that you can return the screw to its original position when you're done. Then tighten your bobbin's tension screw, about an 1/8th of a turn and then test. Continue in this manner until the tension is correct.
But again, the majority of your tension problems can be corrected by adjusting the needle tension. Start there first.
I added a great little video to the site about how sewing machines work
. It's worth taking a couple of minutes to watch as it shows just how crucial it is that all the movements of your sewing machine are properly timed to make a stitch.
If your needle is damaged—the point is chipped or the needle bent—it won't deliver the thread to the shuttle at the proper time to create a stitch. The result is skipped stitches.
A needle with an eye too small for the size quilting thread you're using could cause the problem by pulling up the quilt sandwich as the needle rises (called flagging) and preventing a loop of thread from forming on the backside of the needle so a stitch can't form.
Did you know?
While researching an answer for another Bernina 820 question, I came across the news that Bernina has issued a new 'Thread Lubricator Guide' for their Series 8 machines. You can find the information here at "Monofilament Thread Problem on a Bernina 820
. You may want to check with your Bernina dealer for this is you haven't already.
If you are free motion quilting with monofilament thread, there may be additional information of interest to you on that page.
Skipped stitches, especially, can be such a frustrating problem, because they can be intermittent and hard to diagnose. I hope that at least some of the information here will be of help.
Readers...suggestions? Please add them via the 'Comment' link found just below. Your help is appreciated!
Free-motion Quilting Problem: Skipped stitches on curves
When I free-motion quilt the stitches are skipping, especially when I am going around a curve.
It's almost like the bobbin thread is not catching. I have changed everything, adjusted the tensions, tried everything. I am using Sulky 100% cotton 30wt with 75/11 HQ quilting needle. I have free-motioned before with the same machine and have never had this problem before.
The problem of skipped stitches is so annoying because it seems to come out of nowhere and always at the worst time. You're stitching along just fine, and then BAM!!, skipped stitches.
I found that once I understood how a stitch is formed, I was better able to troubleshoot this problem.
Check out the first video on this page "How Sewing Machines Work"
It's only about 3 minutes long and does a good job illustrating the formation of a stitch. It'll open in a new window, so you can watch it again if needed. (I've watched it several times!) It'll be helpful for understanding the suggestions below.
In your question, you are exactly right, the bobbin thread isn't being caught to create the stitch.
If the loop of needle thread isn't created in time for the rotary hook to catch it, there is no loop of needle thread for the bobbin thread to catch and no stitch is formed.
So to troubleshoot the problem of skipped stitches you need to determine why that needle thread loop isn't being formed or formed in time.
Your needle is crucial...
If you are experiencing skipped stitches, the very first thing you should change is your needle. If it is damaged from hitting a pin or isn't seated properly in the needle bar, it absolutely effects the quality of your stitches. It's a cheap solution to many quilting problems.
I also recommend increasing the size of your needle. A 30wt thread is much heavier than the usual threads we piece with (50 wt 100% cotton). Move up to an 80/12 or even a 90/14 Microtex Sharp or Quilting needle.
The eye of the 75/11 is most likely causing friction on the thread as it passes through the needle eye. The hole it creates may not be big enough either. That would add even more tension to the thread. Too much tension can prevent the loop from forming...there's not enough 'give' in the thread.
If the needle is flagging—that is, pulling up the quilt sandwich as it comes up and out of the quilt— the loop will not form either large enough or in time to be caught by the rotary hook. This is due to the needle being too small.
Control the movement of the quilt sandwich...
If you are experiencing skipped stitches ONLY
when you are free motion quilting around a curve, my guess is that the problem is linked to how you fast you move the quilt sandwich.
If you speed up the movement of your hands around a curve, but not your sewing machine's speed, you're pulling more on the thread which, in effect, increases the tension on it.
If your tension was initally balanced, it's now out of balance in those areas of curved stitching
. That can change when and/or how the loop is formed that the bobbin thread needs to catch. Try to move your quilt sandwich at an even pace as you quilt through the curved areas.
Finally, you might reduce the needle tension just a tiny bit. You'll want the tension to look good for all your other quilting, but you can usually reduce the tension by a 'teeny-tiny' bit and not effect the overall look of your quilting stitch.
Readers, comments or suggestions? Please use the 'Comment' link below to add to the conversation.
Free motion quilting - skipped stitches
How do I avoid skipped stitches during free motion quilting?
This does not happen on my simple straight stitch machine. However, I prefer using my Brother Quattro 6000 because of the features like needle down.
I have tried both 80/12 and 90/14 needles from Organ. I have also tried the Microtex needles. I am currently using wool batting, but it also happens on Bamboo.
My fabric is batik. Thread is Aurifil.
Skipped stitches are a frustrating problem because, as I gather from your question, they are happening during free motion quilting and not when you are stitching with a traditional presser foot or walking foot.
First understand how the stitch is formed...
Take a minute to visit our page called "Understanding How Sewing Machines Work"
. View the first video about halfway down the page to see how all your sewing machine's parts work together to form a stitch. It will help illustrate how to troubleshoot your skipped stitches problem. After you've watched the video, hit your browser's 'Back' button to return here.
As you saw in the video, a loop of needle thread forms behind the needle (behind the scarf to be exact). The rotary hook catches this loop, pulling it around the bobbin case to finally twist with the bobbin thread. Balanced needle and bobbin thread tension help keep the stitch in the middle of the fabric layers.
Skipped stitches occur when this loop either forms improperly—too late, too high, too low—or not at all.
If it is a timing issue, i.e. the parts of your machine are out of sync, then the skipped stitches would certainly be occurring no matter what foot or type of stitching you are doing.
Troubleshooting your machine...
Double check that you are inserting your needle correctly with the groove in front. If your needle isn't fully inserted into the needle clamp, then it drops lower into your machine and the loop forms too low for the rotary hook to catch it.
Double check that your machine is threaded correctly...especially the uptake lever or arm.
For a higher thread count fabric, like your batik, try a Microtex Sharp
. The 'sharp' version has a very sharp, acute point, better for sliding between the fabrics.
Needles that have a harder time pushing through the fabric, create friction and drag as the needle comes back up out of the fabric. This drag pulls the fabric or quilt sandwich up with the needle and is called 'flagging'. Flagging interferes with the needle thread forming its loop, it either forms too late or not at all. Again, skipped stitches are the result.
Too small a needle would also cause flagging, but an 80/12 is a good size for Aurifil's 50 wt cotton thread (the orange cone).
You may want to increase the presser foot pressure just a tad. Even though your darning foot may only touch the fabric briefly during the stitch cycle, too light a pressure can encourage the flagging described above.
Damaged or defective needles can effect the loop formation because the needle is in the wrong place, so if this problem suddenly occurs, change to a new one immediately.
Try reducing the upper tension a tad. Too tight, and again, the loop forms at the wrong time.
Troubleshooting your technique...
Try reducing the speed of your hands as you quilt the quilt sandwich. Or if you feel your hand speed is just right and you have control then increase the stitching speed a bit.
If you are inadvertently 'pulling' at the needle that would move the it out of position. As we've seen, this interferes with loop formation.
Celia, I hope this information is of help to you.
I heartily recommend you do take the time to watch the video. Understanding how a stitch is formed really helps you to troubleshoot this annoying skipped stitches problem.
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Skipped stitches on a Janome 1600P DMX
I am longarm quilting with a Janome 1600P DMX on a Grace frame. I have quilted only one quilt and it actually turned out very good.
Now I have loaded the second quilt and can't do but a few beginning stitches then it starts skipping stitches, especially when quilting away from me.
I am picking out and cannot get to the end of the first row. I have put in a new needle.
Can anyone help with this problem?
Skipped stitches are the result of the thread not forming a loop at the proper time for the shuttle hook to catch it to form a stitch. There's a great short video on our page Learn How Sewing Machine Work
that illustrates the machine action.
So anything that prevents the loop from forming either at all or at the right time will cause skipped stitches— the thread was never looped into a stitch.
I have a number of suggestions for you to try on our page Solve Your Sewing Machine Problems: Skipped Stitches
If none of those suggestions work, I would schedule a visit with your repairman and tell him you suspect that your machine's timing it off.
Thank you for your question.
Readers, do share your suggestions using the link just below. Thank you!