When your sewing machine gives you skipped stitches, your heart skips a beat with it.
Till the time you spotted those skipped you were having the time of your life and was happy planning many many sewing projects ahead. But once this one shows up, everything unravels, because sewing a strong seam is the basis of all your sewing. When you have skipped stitches this base is insecure. Irregular stitches along the seam strikes at the foundation of whatever you are doing with your sewing machine.
But you do not have to call the repairman immediately for this or raise your stress levels. There are some “home remedies” you can immediately try before that service call and the long wait.
What causes a sewing machine to skip stitches?
Stitching occurs when the needle passes through the fabric and the needle eye passes close enough to the bobbin thread and the bobbin thread catches the needle thread forming a loop that forms the stitch. This should be done continuously and consistently without skipping or breakage or looseness for a perfect stitched seam.
Skipped stitch results when the needle fails to loop the top thread with the bobbin thread, at some point/s in stitching. This occurs when the loop of the needle thread is not picked up by the point of the hook or the looper. Here the stitch length is usually double your regular stitch, which weakens your seam.
There are many reasons for these skipped stitches. If you find yourself frustrated by this, answer these straightforward questions.
- Is your sewing machine needle appropriate?
Check whether something has clogged the needle eye. Sizing and other chemicals in the fabric can clog the eye and cause problems like skipped stitches.
If you see skipped stitches, ensure that the needle is inserted properly, all the way up and in position. If that is alright, discard the needle you are using on the sewing machine and insert a new needle. The tip may have turned blunt. This is usually the main reason for skipped stitches.
Other than sharpness, it may have a small bend and this can also cause skipped stitches. The bend can be caused when you pull at fabrics as you sew, so do not do that.
Experts and professionals start every new project with a new needle. If you do not want to go to that extent, at least change the needle every 10 sewing hours. Or atleast ensure that it is sharp enough.
Many people recommend needles with Titanium Nitride coating as they are top quality – they are far superior and no skipped stitches or thread breakage and last a long long time in top shape.
Other than sharpness, appropriateness of the needle to the fabric you are using is very important in getting a good seam. So if changing the needle is not working, you can try changing the size or type of the needle
If you find your machine is not timed properly to get the perfect stitches, choose a specific needle with a longer scarf (Indentation at the back of a needle, near the eye). This will ensure that the bobbin hook loops the top thread easily and there are no skipped stitches.
Usually, we all sew with universal needles of size 75/11 or 80/12. It is good enough for sewing with most woven and knit fabrics. For heavy fabrics, you will be using a heavier needle – like 14, 16 or 18. For lighter fabrics, you will be using a thinner needle 8, 9, or 10.
When you try to stitch stretchy fabrics like knit fabrics, fabrics with lycra, spandex fibers, synthetic suede etc with regular needles usually you get frustrating skipped stitches and a very weak seam. Change to a stretch needle /Ballpoint needle. These needles have a specially designed eye and deeper scarf to prevent skipped stitches.
- Is the thread going through the thread path of the sewing machine perfectly?
This is a very simple thing but most of the stitch problems can be solved by simply rethreading the sewing machine. You have to completely take off the top thread and thread the machine again. Usually, there is a point which you missed and that was causing the skipped stitches
- Are the fabric layers too thick for your sewing machine to handle?
When you are sewing thick fabrics or too many layers of fabrics or sewing cross seams you will frequently see skipped stitches. This is due to the extra layers that the needle has to penetrate to reach the bobbin thread. The needle is deflected away from the thread looping process. This is not good news for a consistent stitch.
You can change the stitch length to slightly longer than usual. But even after this you cannot handle heavy fabrics with your machine without skipped stitches, go and read this article – How to sew thick layers of stitching with your sewing machine.
- Is the fabric too thin?
When the needle penetrates the fabric and then rises up, the thin fabric will rise up with the needle and the stitch formation is not done properly. These results in skipped stitches. You can use something underneath to stabilize the fabric so that the fabrics form a horizontal line along the needle plate and stitch formation is done properly.
- Is the thread you are using the appropriate one?
Polyester or nylon thread has adequate elasticity so if you find that your sewing is interrupted by skipped stitches change to this thread from a 100% cotton one. A polyester thread is especially good for sewing stretchy fabrics.
Choose core spun threads – they are the best.
- Is the pressure and tension optimal for the fabric ?
The tension of a sewing machine is adjusted between the discs through which the thread passes. All machines have a dial that regulates this tension. You can move this dial to the right to increase the tension and to the left to decrease the tension.
The best tension is a low one, as it is for us humans. Your sewing machine should sew with the minimum tension for the fabric you have. When you increase the tension there is a chance that the thread will break. But for skipping stitches you may have to increase the tension.
Test the tension
Ideally you should test the tension on a scrap of the same fabric that you will be using for the sewing project before you start. To see if the tension is too low, check if the stitch is loose on the bottom of the fabric (back of the seam). And if it is, increases the tension lightly. Do this till you get the optimal tension for the fabric.
Use a controlled acceleration of the machine at all times. No stepping on it and going like the jet. If you want to, do not complain about broken stitches.
See that you have the correct presser foot, feed, needle plate and other attachments.
Correct pressure adjustment may also solve the issue. Usually skipped stitches are a result of too light pressure. If the fabric you are sewing is soft, light decrease the pressure if you see skipped stitches. If the fabric is thick it needs a little more pressure.
How to regulate pressure – you have to fiddle with the thumb screw for adjusting pressure, if you have it in your sewing machine. It can be found either on top of the sewing machine, directly above the needle and presser foot or on the side.
- Is everything alright in the bobbin area ?
Sometimes insufficient hook lubrication can result in skipped stitches. You can put a drop of oil in the center of the bobbin case, (for a drop-in bobbin case) on the race (for a rotating bobbin case) to make this area operate optimally and to ensure that all the hooking takes place smoothly resulting in perfect stitches.
Did none of this work?
Try stitching on a variety of fabrics. If the problem exists only on a certain type of operation or fabric, maybe your machine is not proper to handle the kind of sewing you are doing
You can use a hand needle and thread and then hand stitch over the skipped stitches.
If the problem of skipped stitches persists, inspite of all your care, it may be your machine’s fault – the machine timing may be off and it is causing poor loop formation. If the timing of your machine is off, and the needle is hitting the hook skipped stitches will be seen. In a worse case scenario the hook/looper point maybe damaged. You may have to replace with a new hook/looper.
You will have to give the machine to a service person who knows his job to reset the machine timing and do other necessary repair.