I worked for almost ten years in high traffic service centers fixing sometimes up to 16 Sewing, Quilting & Embroidery Machines per day. You know what the most common reason was for people to bring their machines in? You guessed it! Skipped stitches. It’s got to be one of the most frustrating things ever to be in the middle of a project, or worse, finish a project and then upon closer inspection notice your project is ruined! The most common phrase you hear as a Service Technician is “I was right in the middle of a project and suddenly my machine started skipping stitches!” In this article I’m going to address some of the most common causes of of this problem in the hopes that you can finish your project and avoid being forced to take your machine to a shop. Like I said, I have almost a decade of experience so trust me on this!
In my experience, this is the second most common reason why machines skip stitches, but the first thing you should check. This is especially true when it comes to Sergers. It may seem odd but some many Sergers use needles of varying lengths. If the needle is too short or too long then the machine will not properly form a stitch. It’s also possible that the needle length may be correct but not designed for the particular fabric you are working with. This can be seen from corresponding image. It’s important to make sure that the needle you are using is designed to be used with the material you are using. If you’re absolutely sure that you are using the correct needle then move on to the next step below.
I know what your thinking. “But I’m using a new needle”. Please, please, please trust me on this one. Whenever a customer would come into the shop with a sewing machine that was skipping stitches the very first thing I would do before checking the machine in was set the machine up for sewing, replace the needle, and 50% of the time the machine would work just fine. A sewing machine simply cannot form a stitch with a dull needle and there are so many variables that can cause your needle to become dull. Sometimes a needle can become dull even after a few minutes of sewing if the wrong needle is being used. This is absolutely the first thing you should do if your machine is skipping stitches. Replace the needle and if the problem persists then continue reading.
This the third most common reason why machines skip stitches. It is VERY common for lint and thread to get stuck in your sewing machine’s tension plates. When this happens, they need to be cleaned in order for the machine to form proper stitches again. First lets discuss what tension plates are. Where the tension plates are located will vary depending on the make and model of your sewing machine but they almost always look the same. They are two metal discs that the thread passes through when you are threading your machine and they are almost always located somewhere near your tension dial. Sometimes the tension plates are hard to see as they are somewhat hidden on some machines. The easiest way to find them is the slowly thread your sewing machine and watch for the thread to pass through two metal discs. The corresponding image shows what they look like when they are removed from the machine. Once you think you’ve found the tension plates you can confirm by lifting and lowering your presser foot lever. If the plates open up when you lift the presser foot lever, and close when you lower it then congratulations you found them! The first step you need to take in order to clean your tension plates is the lift the presser foot lever up. Once you do this you should see the tension plates open up. This will make it easier to clean them. Often times when you look into the tension plates you won’t see anything, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing in there. There is almost always lint or thread hiding away. Especially if you have been using dark threads. The best way to clean them is to blow canned air into the tension plates. You can normally buy canned air at any sewing shop or hardware store. Most of the time this will remove any dust, debris, lint, or thread that may be stuck in there. Once you’ve cleared everything out of there, thread your machine back up and try again. If the problem persists and you are relatively new to sewing then your next step should be to contact a service technician as there may be something more serious wrong with your machine. If you are seasoned sewer who is comfortable digging deeper into your machine then keep on the lookout for part 2 of this article where I will cover more advanced techniques.
Meet Your Technician
Hi, I’m Daniel Galyean. For the past decade I have been working in the Sewing Industry servicing, repairing and maintaining the very machines that you use for your business, hobbies, and lifestyle. Sewing Machine Repair, just like sewing, is an art that takes many years to master. Due to advances in technology these amazing machines have become increasingly complex requiring knowledge of not only Mechanics, but of Electronics, Robotics, and Computer Science to name a few. Thats right! The very Sewing Machine that you use on a daily basis has the same basic parts that are used in Robotics. With so much inherent complexity, your machine requires a service technician who is well versed in all necessary fields. Due to my experience and background, I am uniquely qualified to be that Technician.