Sewing Machine: Skipping stitches

Lint in the shuttle race, wrong thread tension, bad needle timing, a damaged needle or using the wrong type of needle can cause the sewing machine to skip stitches.

Use the right size and type of needle for the fabric and thread you're using so the needle can hook the bottom thread and doesn't skip stitches. Check the needle for wear and damage. Replace a dull or bent needle that won't pick up the bottom thread.

Check thread tension because the needle can skip stitches if upper or lower thread tension is too tight or too loose.

Check the shuttle race for lint buildup because the debris can prevent the needle from hooking the bottom thread. Clean the shuttle race if necessary.

The needle also will skip stitches if needle timing is off. Adjustment of the needle timing typically requires service by a technician, who uses special tools to synchronize the shuttle hook with the needle. If you eliminate all possible causes for skipped stitches except for bad needle timing, you'll likely need to have a service technician adjust the timing.

sewing machine

These repairs may help solve your sewing machine problem

Adjust the sewing machine needle timing

Adjust the sewing machine needle timing

If the machine won't pick up the bobbin thread because the shuttle hook isn't synched with the needle, adjust the needle timing. Adjustment of the needle timing usually requires service by a technician. Using special tools, the technician positions the needle and loosens the shuttle drive gear set screws then adjusts the shuttle drive gear to synchronize the shuttle hook with the needle.

Adjust the sewing machine thread tension

Adjust the sewing machine thread tension

Tight upper thread tension causes skipped stitches. Reduce the upper thread tension when the sewing machine skips stitches. Adjust lower thread tension as necessary to balance with the upper thread tension to create perfect stitches.

Clean the sewing machine

Clean the sewing machine

Clean lint and debris from the shuttle race every 3 months because it often attracts lint and dust. Clean the feed dogs at the same time because they also attract lint and dust. Clean those areas more often when using the sewing machine regularly. Oil the sewing machine after cleaning.

Replace the sewing machine needle

Replace the sewing machine needle

Examine the needle regularly and replace it when it's dull or bent. A dull or bent needle causes skipped stitches. When the machine skips stitches, check the needle and replace it if it's worn or bent.

Symptoms common to all sewing machines

Choose a symptom to see related sewing machine repairs.

Main causes: machine needs lubrication, internal gear failure
Main causes: disengaged clutch, broken drive belt, internal drive gear failure
Main causes: problems with the feed dogs, setting stitch length to 0
Main causes: faulty foot pedal, locked drive gears, wiring failure, bad drive motor
Main causes: dirty shuttle race, wrong thread tension, bad needle timing, damaged needle, using the wrong type of needle
Main causes: power supply failure, bad power cord, faulty On/Off switch
Main causes: lack of lubrication, lint buildup, worn drive belt, faulty drive motor
Main causes: thread bunched up in the shuttle race, bad needle timing, internal drive gear failures
Main causes: dirty shuttle race, improper thread routing, incorrect thread tension
Repair guides common to all sewing machines

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your sewing machine.

April 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a sewing machine drive motor

If the drive motor on your sewing machine runs roughly or doesn't run at all, you can replace it in about 30 minutes using these simple steps.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
April 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a sewing machine on/off switch

If the sewing machine is completely dead, replace the On/Off switch using these 6 steps.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
April 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a sewing machine drive belt

You can replace a broken sewing machine drive belt in about 15 minutes.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
Articles and videos common to all sewing machines

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your sewing machine.

January 18, 2016
How to use a multimeter to test electrical parts video
By Sears PartsDirect staff

Learn how to use a multimeter to check for wiring problems in an appliance that's not working

April 1, 2015
Sewing machine common questions
By Sears PartsDirect staff

These answers to common questions can help you make the most of your sewing machine.