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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

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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 Bluprint 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.

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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?

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…..


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.


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

Patty bolinger

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


Go to Walmart and look at the cat toys I just bought a two pack last night haven’t tried it yet but I’m sure it is going to work beautifully.


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?


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.


I would try a longer needle. I find a size 14 topstitch needle works well unless I am working with something very thick, in which case I go to a size 16.

Valerie Fountain Carline

Hi Dez..I make Elves and Trolls with stretch fabric..I place a sheet of Computer Paper underneath the Fabric when sewing it tears away quite easily afterwards..

Molly Yost Browndorf

Because your presser foot pressure is too loose. You know.. the round button on the top left? Up position is for many things. But lightweight fabrics can’t feed through if it’s too loose. So many stitches will skip. Press it down.

Ellen mensah

Glad to join


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.



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.


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!


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


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.


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.


Thank you so much for this!! Saved me

val baker

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


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!

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.

Diane McRae

Mine is a Singer 404 and I’m having the same problem. Skipped stitches every once in a while doing the hem on a dress. So frustrating. Otherwise it sews great on cotton etc. I’m using a 90/14 needle so maybe I need bigger. It’s just been serviced and I rethreaded and changed the needle. Sounds like it is just the machine.


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


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.


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.


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

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.


My timing seems to be right on, but after a gear change and retiming it misses stitches on heavy, multi-layered repairs which were not a problem before. Which way should I adjust, earlier hook or later?


advanced timing. so a little early if anything. Also check needle rotation. IF it’s not straight then slightly to the right is better than to the left, since the shuttle/hook come from the left side, having a needle eye that is turned slightly to the left is the worst way to install a needle. The hook will crash into the needle and burr, causing thread breaks and all manner of headaches. When you install the needle make sure it’s straight or turned slightly to the right. Say 530 vs 6 o’clock.

Macy Fox

I’m sewing dog collars as a side stream of income. I’m using a size 11 universal needle on regular cotton fabric with a Singer2157c. (They’re very thick, so I’d started off using denim needles, but that was leaving little holes at every stitch.) I’m using a BRAND NEW fresh needle, high quality thread, machine is threaded correctly, machine was serviced at the shop last week and they set the tension at 3 which has seemed appropriate. I set the stitches to 2.5 length with a straight stitch, and the SKIPPED STITCHES are driving me crazy! Any ideas on what could be causing this?


I tried to sew leather yesterday – it was quite thin(old leather skirt). I used special leather needle, brand new (actually about 3 of them), then also a universal bigger needle, tried 2 threads, re – threaded, changed the presser foot, tried different tension and no stitches! It is an old machine, but high quality one, it sews everything else without problems, even several layers of thick fabric. Sorry leather howeverr, I cannot even say it skipped stitches, because no matter what I tried, I got maybe 2 stitches altogether. The leather moved through the machine easily and without my help, it got pierced easily, but no stitches formed. Any ideas what could be the matter? Thanks a lot!

Julia Quilter

I found my wacky stitching was caused by putting my new needle in backwards :/ Newbie lesson: flat part faces away from you..

Valerie Butler

I just changed my needle, cleaned out where the bobbin goes an oiled. I’m an amiture and for sure not a good sewing lady. I’ve had my machine going on 9/10 yrs and have never oiled it. It was skipping bad with any stretch fabric. Finally took the casing out and dusted out everything and then oiled. Played with the tension and did a sample on a small Swatch of stretch fabric and no skipped stitches well from what I can tell. I’m making mermaid tails. ?


I bought a factory refurbished Brother CS 6000i which several times a week, it started skipping stitches on zig-zag recently recently and I opened my machine. There were lots of screws so we were careful of noting what goes where. All I did was cleaning it with a brush, oiled the moving parts only and then we put it back together. Now it’s back to normal again!

Cindy B

I have a new Brother 420. The manual says only use the bobbins made for the machine which are plastic. I had nothing but problems with skipped stitches. I changed to a metal bobbin and now the stitch is fine. Janome and Brother metal bobbins are interchangeable. All I had were Janome Jem metal bobbins so that is what I use.


THANK YOU. Sewing machines make me feel like an idiot, but this article and the comments are a godsend. For me it was stitch length. I had no idea the needles even needed to be changed unless they broke. ?

Ria Favoreel

To all these excellent tips, cleaning out lint and a drop of oil in the right place could also be of help… I had been working on a t-shirt for my grandson without problems, when out of the blue, my machine started skipping stitches. Rethreading, needle change, did not work. I then cleaned out the lint and put a drop of oil on the side of “house” of my bobbin case (as indicated by the manufacturer), and problem solved…

Marie Mol

Hi, I’m having a problem of skipping stitches (free motion)only when going up, but it does it every time i use a different brand of thread! how is this possible? my machine only accept one brand!!


Since it’s 2018 and over the years people commented, i add my two cents, and what inhave learned, when i got a machine that did not stitch at all.

The basics: to make a stitch the upper thread has to be picked up and go around the under thread. Than the upperthread is pulled up to tighten the stitch.

A skipped stitch happens when the upperthread is not picked up to go around the bobbin which holds the underthread.

How does this ‘picking up’ the upperthread done? The needle with the tread is going through the fabric. From it’s lowest point, the needle goes upwards again. By the friction of the fabric and because at this moment there is no tension on the upperthread a small loop is formed.
With steardy woven fabric there is a lot of friction and a loop is formed easy, with strech fabric there is almost no friction, so the loop is very small.

Before going further this makes clear that the correct needlesystem of the machine, and right type of needle is important as well as the uppertension, as the smoothness of the used upperthread. All determen the size of the loop formed.

Easy explenation would be to think of two estafette runners. Not only must the runners have the same speed, but also close enough to handover the stick.
Both have to be right at one moment to work.

Around the bobbin there is the pickup system. Circle formed metal ring, wich is called the hook. A metal point going a bit inwards.
It is this point, that has to go in the thread loop behind the needle at exact he right moment.

What can go wrong: the estafette runner is to slow or to fast, aka the point of the hook is past the needle when the loop is formed or the loop is gone and the point is to late.
This is called ‘timing’

Secondly, As the two runners, even if all above is ok, they, must also be close enough to handover the stick.
The point must be superclose to the needle will the point of the hook be able to go in the small loop.

Sometimes the point of the hook gets a blow from the needle when pushed back and is bend a little, sometimes the point of the hook gets damaged by the impact of a needle point. Sometimes by forces unknown to man:) the timing is gone wrong.
All resulting in the point not going in the threadloop, picking it up, and loop it further over the bobbin and under thread.

These kind of problems can be fixed by adjustment and sometimes a new hook assembly by a sewing machine shop. Or can be done yourself if you know what you are doing and not afraid to spend many hours and possible damaging your machine.

So if you are sure of correct needle system, experimented with different needles and fabrics, and tried differend yarn and uppertensions,
It might be a good idea to go by a repairshop, for a fix and oil etc maintenence.

I hope my, experiences will help future others with the same frustrating problems.


I’ve had 3 Brother sewing machines and every one of them skipped stitches after a thread tangle or a needle break. I have adjusted tension, rethreaded and changed needles and it doesn’t make a difference. When I get to the same place of sewing like top stitching at a corner or going through an up coming thickness like an elastic or zipper it skips 2 or 3 stitches every time. One of the machines went to repair but still skipped when I got it back.
Anyone else have this problem? I’ve heard Brother sewing machines tend to do this.


My bernina seems to be sewing fine with my regular foot but as soon as I put on my walking foot it doesn’t catch the bottom thread and if it does it skips badly. Any ideas why? My walking for has been working like a charm up until now.

Penelope Smith

My sewing machine is pretty old, and it has been starting to skip stitches often. I am glad that you pointed out that there could be a problem with the needle. Personally, I would want a professional to fix a problem with the needle for me.

Karen Gee

My Singer 7466 began skipping stitches. Changed needle, cleaned out bobbin casing area as in past on this and other machines. Better, but still occasional skip. Then, did something I’ve never tried before. Removed cover above needle on left end of machine. HUGE buildup of lint, fuzz, and bits of thread. Gently removed as much as possible with brush so as not to disturb mechanics and wiring, then sprayed out with canned air. Voila! Back to perfect stitching.


My machine is literally only skipping stitches on the far left. I cleaned it, replaced the needle, rethreaded it, tried adjusting the tension. I don’t know what else to do.


My machine (White 979) worked fine until a needle broke. I took out the broken needle, took out my supply of spare needles, and realized by the color coding that the broken needle was a denim/jean needle, and we (my 13 yr old daughter and I) had been essentially using it like an all-purpose/universal needle for everything. So I put in a universal needle. She was the one using the machine at this time, and let me know that she was having trouble with it catching the fabric (I thought she just had too small of a seam allowance). Advised her, unstuck fabric, etc. She still had problems. When I used the machine next, it started skipping, a LOT (at this time she told me it had been skipping for her too). We were both using lightweight specialty knits (shiny, metallic, etc), so I switched to a jersey/knit needle. Still had skipped stitches. Started researching online, adjusted things, cleaned lint out, changed the needle a couple more times, still have skipped stitches. Finally, I realized that contrary to all the advice on correct needle type, the denim needle actually worked well for us. I switched back to a denim needle, and it works!


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