What to Do If Your Sewing Machine Is Skipping Stitches

Skipped stitches when you’e in the midst of sewing are really aggravating, especially when they occur on highly visible topstitching. But don’t despair — often the fix is easy, quick and cheap.

Removing a Sewing Machine Bobbin

Craftsy blog reader Christiane recently wrote in: “My machine has recently started skipping occasional stitches. It seems to be particularly bad when I sew stretch fabric. Do you have any advice on what I could do?”

Great question, Christiane! Here are some of the most common reasons your sewing machine is skipping stitches:

1. A bent or dull needle

Sewing machine needle tips can only maintain their sharpness for about 6-8 hours of sewing time, so be sure to change your needle frequently. Even if you are not able to see obvious damage or dullness, if you have sewn a garment or two, it is definitely time to change your needle.

2. The wrong needle for your fabric

With the variety of fibers and weaves we have available to us in today’s fabric stores, there is an accompanying variety of needles required to sew them correctly. In general, knit fabrics require a jersey or ballpoint tip. Most wovens do well with a universal tip, and specialty fibers, like leather or metallic, usually require specific needles. For more information on the right needle for the job, be sure to check out the Craftsy blog post, “How to Choose Sewing Machine Needles.”

3. Incorrect machine threading

It is a good rule of thumb that if your stitching looks wacky for any reason, re-thread both the needle and bobbin to make sure you are following the manufacturer’s directions correctly. Also be sure you are using good quality thread, not a spool that your great-grandmother bequeathed to you. Of all the components in your project, thread is the usually the cheapest, so buy the best you can find. Your sewing machine will thank you!

4. Unbalanced needle thread tension

I hesitate to suggest this remedy, because many people rush to use it first. It really is only a last resort, and often doesn’t help much. The tension dials on sewing machines are generally set at the factory at the mid-point. Start by making relatively small changes and run a test stitch to evaluate the impact. If you need to adjust the tension dial using woven cotton fabric with good quality all-purpose thread and a new needle, it is time for a tune-up.

If none of the above remedies help, take your machine to a qualified sewing machine mechanic for a thorough tune-up.

Don’t let common issues, like skipped stitches, keep you from using your sewing machine! In the FREE Craftsy class Sew Ready: Machine Basics, Amy Alan shares tips for troubleshooting common sewing machine problems, including skipped stitches, crooked seams, needle and thread breakage, and more.

Do you have any other tips for dealing with skipped stitches?

23 Comments

Laurie Grant-Gifford

Considering buying a sewing machine for repairing clothes and doing crafts….I don’t need to invest a lot of keneith that I do know but what is a good machine for this?

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sarah vine

Thank you so much for these trouble shooting tips – my problem was a dull needle and I was never going to think of it on my own! You SAVED my sanity this morning…..

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Trista

I was having the exact same issue. It was my needle and I was about to go insane. Of course once I changed it I forgot to put the pressure foot back down and since I’m using my free motion foot I didn’t notice. I’m so glad that I’ve got my machine working right again. A simple needle.

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Liz

Thank you!! not changing needles is my worst bad habit, hopefully this will finally teach me to do it more often!

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Patty bolinger

I am looking for a net to go over my thread on my sewing machine would you know anything about this.

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Dez

I’m still stuck. I’ve changed to a stretch needle. my machine is newly serviced. so tension and all is ok. Why else would my machine keep skipping stitches on stretch and knits?

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Diane

Test different stitch lengths. I was topstitching on two layers of vinyl and found that my stitch length was too long. I seem to have lessen the chance of missed stitches with just a minor adjustment. I still use a 1976 Sears Kenmore mechanical machine so I also tightened the bobbin threat adjustment just a bit to make it tighter.

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Odetta

SAVE MY COMPLETE life this morning! Seriously about to be in tears!!! Thought it was my sewing machine dying on me(it is 18 tears old) BUT it is the stretchy fabric! Changed to SS stitch (after testing on regular fabric) so working much much better.

THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Missy

I have also found that the plastic bobbins cause wonky stitches, the bobbin rotates at such a high speed and the plastic gets rough and causes it to not spin smoothly, I threw all my plastic bobbins out and got metal ones and haven’t had any problems since.

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Seraya

I’m so glad you’ve said you switched to metal bobbins! I took my machine to john Lewis because it wasn’t working properly (turned out to be a really ###### reason and my own fault for working whilst tired!) and the people working on the floor were literally horrified that I had a metal bobbin! One so mean even said to me “who taught you to sew?!!” To which I said “I did!” Anyway under their pressure I bought more plastic bobbins and ever since then my stitching hasn’t been right. So last night i went back to metal and no problems at all!

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joyce

I have the same problem on some knits , my machine skips stitches (It’s a 1964 Singer) does beautifully on everything else..and there are a few knits that it works on.Have tried the ball point needles but that didn’t help. I need to try just changing the needle ,, I had it serviced about a year ago ,Luckily I don’t sew much on knits except a few swim suits and gymnastic costumes for doll clothes. When it happens it is aggravating/ Glad to have the suggestions

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joyce

Oh, I forgot to add that the man who serviced my machine said I use only plastic bobbins, ????? I actually think that the needle should be adjusted to go alittle further into the bobbin case to pick up that thread.

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Amanda

My problem turned out to be that the needle was turned slightly. I took the needle out, put it back in, made sure it was secure, and then, like magic, it worked again.

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val baker

threded right ,but no stiches on fabric ,not sewing any stiches at all

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Lindy

I was so frustrated! I serged a few outfuts and then suddenly my kenmore (circa 1977) began to skip. It began to skip stitches even with straight stitches! I was so sad! I will try to change my needlle before I take it back to the shop!

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Beth Morgan

I tried rethreading and that improved but did not cure the missed stitches. I was using old thread, however, I actually prefer what used to be called mercerized cotton thread to some of the all-polyester stuff one gets these days. My machine is a Singer Slantomatic from the ’60s.

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Tammy

Great advice in this thread! I’m working on a circa 1978 Kenmore machine. Removing and reseating the needle worked wonders.

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Linda

Thanks for sharing these tips! I just spent an hour ripping out some quilting due to skipped stitches (should have looked more closely when I was sewing). I agree with all of the tips you shared. I’ve also found that cleaning out any link around the bobbin case and feed dogs is helpful.

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Alex

After hours of trying to figure out why my 70’s Domestic sewing machine was skipping stitches and or not stitching I was about to give up and retire my machine, but then I came across your post and sure enough just needed to change the needle and wuala Good as new, PS I only use metal bobbins,Thanks for your help you are a charm.

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sidra

Thanks for sharing I am facing the same problem. And I am sure its needle to change

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John Kelly

I think you can include the timing when the eye of the needle meets and passes the shuttle. It is the a other factor to add on because mostly from the needle or the needle bar when it occasionaly didn’t reach the hook of the shuttle to form a loop.

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