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superior needle diagramSkipped stitches are usually a sign of needle wear or incorrect needle size.

Q. I am free motion quilting and every once in a while, my thread skips stitches. I can't find a consistent pattern to it and it is quite frustrating. Is it the thread I'm using?

A. Skipped stitches are a frustrating problem to encounter. Most likely, your needle is causing the problem. The first step to resolving is to make sure you're using the correct needle size for your thread. Most Quilting thread is a #40 (40 wt.), which should use a #90/14 needle on a home machine and a #18 (MR 4.0) on a longarm machine. We have thread reference guides for both Home Machines and Longarm Machines which display what needle size should be used with all of our threads. No more guessing!

If you're FMQ on your home machine, please swap out for a new needle. We use and recommend Superior's Titanium-coated Topstitch needles. Click here to see why these needles are the best. 

If you are FMQ on a longarm machine, make sure that the needle is inserted correctly. Unlike home machine needles which can only fit one way inside a home machine, longarm needles have a rounded shank and must be facing the correct way. The groove running along the shaft should be facing you with the scarf of the needle facing the machine. We use and recommend Groz-Beckert needles. We carry SAN-6 and SAN-11 needles which are great for longarm quilting as they have a unique shape which accommodates multi-directional movement. The SAN designation stands for 'Special Application Needle'

Another cause of skipped stitches can be speed. If you are moving the fabric too fast on a home machine or sit-down midarm machine, you may get skipped stitches. When quilting on a longarm, especially in circular or rounded motions,slow down when making these movements. 

If you have the correct needle size and style, are slowing down movement, and still experiencing skipped stitches. The problem may lay within your machine. Give it a thorough cleaning and add oil if required. Perhaps it is time to have a qualified technician look at it and make sure your machine timing is correct.

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By: Bob Purcell