Resolving Stitch Issues
The following issues are commonly seen and discussed across the internet and social media. For the sake of this reference material, we will assume that the customer has experience with setting the proper tension. There are many videos that discuss this so we will not be covering it here. Everyone has a bad day and can forget to check these common causes.
- Skipped Stitches - Needle makes a whole but does not make a stitch.
- Long Stitches - Needle does not go down when expected, leaving no whole and a long stitch.
- Looping on the Bottom - Almost always the top thread being outside of the tension disks.
- Shredding/Breaking Thread - Sharp edges in the thread path, bad thread path, or wrong needle size for thread.
- Inconsistent Tension - An interesting topic.
- Jagged Stitches - noticed going front to rear in vertical line.
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SKIPPED STITCHES - Won't Pickup the bobbin thread
- Have you replaced the needle?
The "every quilt deserves a new needle" is specious. (Look it up.) That being said, it is a good place to start when when troubleshooting. Make sure the needle is the correct type and gauge for the thread you are using. The groove in the needle needs to fit the thread. https://www.superiorthreads.com/education/thread-weight
- Is the needle in backwards? Groove should be to the front, concave eye to the rear.
Everyone will do this at least once. Avoid the embarrassment. Triple check by running your finger nail down the front groove of the needle.
- Is the needle inserted straight and all the way to the top in the needle bar?
If the needle is too long due to not being fully inserted in the needle bar, it will throw off the timing.
- Is it skipping a lot, or only occasionally in one direction?
Many machines will get 'a little out of time' and only skip in certain situations such as going right to left and basting. If you have cleaned the hook and basket by taking off your needle plate and checked everything else, you are likely looking at a timing issue.
- In very old machines, the needle bar brass bearings can wear. These can only be replaced at the factory. This should be your last concern as we are normally talking about machines that are over 80 million stitches. An un-serviced machine may see this sooner due to a lack of oil.
- Did you have an "unfortunate incident" like a needle breaking?
Resetting the timing on a machine is not a warranty issue. When set properly, the timing on a machine will not change without a physical event happening to jar the Hook & Basket so that is moves on the shaft. Watch the MK Quilts 'Checking the Timing' video and save up to purchase the timing tools. Each service manual has good photos and instructions on how to do timing. It does take practice and skill, but does not require opening the machine.
- Is the hopping/presser bar still moving and holding the fabric down as the needle comes up?
One common problem occurs when a hopping foot gets caught under a seam and it gets pulled from the internal mechanism. It is spring loaded and should snap down without banging hard on the needle plate. If the hopping foot is not articulating as expected, it likely needs to be popped back into place by opening the machine. This is best done by a technician, but could be done with remote technical assistance.
- Is your hopping/presser foot at the right height?
Many experienced longarmers will raise their hopping foot on very thick quilts and then forget to reset them. The hopping foot is spring loaded and almost never needs to be adjusted in this way. The hopping foot should barely touch the needle plate when the needle is in its lowest position. Anything more than a business card worth of space could lead to stitch issues.
- Time to check the timing and Needle bar height.