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Why is my sewing machine skipping stitches?

Is your sewing machine skipping stitches? This is rather frustrating when you are wishing to crack on with your project.

Personally, I am a little impatient, I tend to change my thread but never think about my stitch length, sewing machine needle or a suitable tension for my project, just trusting my sewing machine will happily sew away…. This is not always the case!! Stitch problems are rather frustrating.

So why is my sewing machine skipping stitches? This happens when the sewing machine needle fails to loop the top thread with the bobbin thread. There are a number of reasons which can be causing the uneven stitches. Work your way through the troubleshooting list and find the solution for you.

Common Causes

Check the threading of your sewing machine

This is always a good place to start when sewing. Ensure your sewing thread is threaded as per your sewing machine manual, paying particular attention to the tension disk. If you no longer have your manual a quick internet search should bring the manual up for you.

Always rethread the top thread first with the presser foot up, then rethread your bobbin. The thread should be wound evenly and tightly on your bobbin and the bobbin case inserted correctly.

Replace a blunt needle

Did you know it is good practice to change your sewing machine needle after eight hours of sewing? I have to admit I am not someone who is going to keep track of this! Nor am I a person who is going to change my needle for every project. A bent, nicked (those pins!) or dull needle will not sew well. Old needles are a common problem for poor sewing. Try a new needle and see if it helps, ensuring the needle is inserted correctly with the flat side of the needle facing the back of the machine and securely tightened.

Use the correct size of needle

There is a huge range of sewing machine needles on the market for a reason – different sizes and tips make such a difference to the sewing so make sure you have the right needle for your fabric. Ensure you select the correct needle size for the type of fabric you are using in your new sewing project. Here’s a quick guide for you.

Use a good quality thread

It really is true that you get what you pay for when it comes to thread. A friend of mine bought a cheap hand held sewing machine during the pandemic, could she get it to work? Changing the thread quality from the economy one provided to a quality thread literally made all the difference. Cheaper thread can have burrs on it which interferes with the sewing. Personally, I use the Guterman thread, another good quality thread is Aquifil.

There are a variety of different types of thread on the market, ensure you select a thread suitable for the sewing project, such as top stitch thread, quilting threads etc..


Adjust the tension settings

Tension issues can throw the quality of sewing. The thread tension is perfectly balanced if you cannot see the top thread below or the bottom thread on top. It is sensible to start with the tension set as standard for your machine (for mine this is between 3-5) and then adjust the tension dial as required.

If you can see the top thread pn the bottom of the fabric reduce the top thread tension, practicing on spare fabric (the same fabric as your project).

If you can see the bottom thread on top of your fabric loosen the top tension.

The sewing machine comes with the lower thread tension set, it is possible to adjust the bobbin tension but always start with any adjustments with the top-loading thread.

Layers of thick fabric

This is often the most frequent culprit for myself. Lots of bag making equals layers of fabrics and a fair few skipped stitches

I can tell when this is the cause as the sewing machine skips stitches when I am sewing over a seam allowance. There are three ways I deal with this, firstly lengthen the stitch length, secondly reduce the bulk in your seam allowance and lastly hammer the thicker layers of fabric to reduce the overall thickness. It may seem odd but it really does help!!

I hope these easy tips have resolved the issue for you. If despite all your best efforts to troubleshoot sewing machine skipping stitches you continue to have problems it maybe your machine’s fault. A regular sewing machine benefits from regular maintenance, it is a good idea to oil and clean out the build-up of lint, particularly in the feed dogs to ensure the needle plate lies flat . The machine timing may be off therefore causing poor loop formation. If this is the case then I suggest having your sewing machine serviced and this checked.

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Tuesday 8th of March 2022

When adjusting top tension make sure to raise the foot as this opens the disks. Pull the thread snug to seat the new tension.


Tuesday 8th of March 2022

Thanks - that's really helpful additional info. Vicky

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