Superior Education

Skipped Stitches

  • Needles
  • Tension
  • Stitching Speed

What causes skipped stitches?

Skipped stitches are usually caused by an old or worn needle. With every stitch, there is friction placed on the point of the needle and with repeated action, the needle experiences abrasion. Over time, the needle becomes dull and doesn't perform well. This results in skipped stitches.

Needles are one of the least expensive tools in our sewing kits. If you experience skipped stitches or feel that your stitch quality is suffering even when your tension is set properly, try replacing your needle. Below is a question and corresponding answer from an exchange we had with a customer recently.

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

Skipped stitches
Skipped stitches can be caused by old or worn needles
Superior titanium-coated needles
Titanium-coated needles last up to six times longer than standard needles

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. I don't know how to fix this and am wondering if I am using bad thread? How do I know what the problem is and what do you recommend I do to fix it? I feel ready to give up on this quilt.

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. If you are quilting with a 40 wt. thread you should be using a #90/14 needle on your home machine or a #18 (MR 4.0) on your longarm machine. We have thread reference guides for both home machines and longarm machines which recommend the proper needle size and tension settings for Superior's threads. This is a good place to start.

If you are quilting on your home machine, check the thread path and make sure the top thread is threaded properly and in the take-up lever. If the tension appears to be even (top and bobbin), replace your existing needle. The needle will degrade with every stitch, albeit slowly. We use and recommend titanium-coated needles because they last up to six times longer than regular nickel-plated needles.

If you are quilting 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's needle bar, longarm needles have a round shank and must be facing the correct way. The groove running along the shaft should be facing you (toward the front face of the machine) with the scarf of the needle facing the back machine. If the needle isn't set correctly, you may experience skipped stitches. We recommend and use Groz-Beckert needles for longarm machines.

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

Read our educational article on how tension works.

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