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While working on my latest machine embroidered quilt, I continually ran into a problem with my Brother embroidery machine skipping stitches.
It drove me batty that my machine would, out of nowhere, irregularly skip long-length basting stitches and longer-length fill stitches.
Thankfully, following basic troubleshooting steps fixed the issue, and I could breathe easier.
Is your embroidery machine skipping stitches also?
If so, here are the troubleshooting steps I always follow to get my machine stitching well again!
Why Embroidery Machines Skip Stitches
Stitches are created when the upper embroidery thread and lower bobbin thread link together.
When the top and bottom threads fail to make a perfect connection, the stitch does not form.
Issues with either the top thread or the bobbin thread can be responsible for this issue.
Sometimes a machine will skip all stitches because it doesn’t pick up the bobbin thread at the beginning of the design sequence. This is sometimes referred to as a false start.
Other times, machines will start skipping stitches here and there. I find this scenario more challenging to troubleshoot.
If the skipping gets frequent enough, your thread can also shed, causing your thread or embroidery needle to break. Other times, you may finish an embroidery project only to find several long pieces of unattached thread where there should have been multiple stitches instead.
How to Fix an Embroidery Machine Skipping Stitches
Now that we’ve gotten the “why” out of the way, here’s the “how.”
Check out the list of troubleshooting steps I follow when my embroidery machine starts skipping stitches.
1. Check the Needle.
For something so tiny, a needle can cause big issues for embroiderers. I always check my needle first when I experience skipped embroidery stitches.
A dull, bent, or scratched needle can affect how the lower and upper threads interact. Even if your needle looks fine, go ahead and replace it if it’s been used before.
However, before getting that new needle, ensure you have the correct needle type (ballpoint, universal, sharp, etc.) AND size of needle for your fabric and thread.
For instance, if you use metallic threads, choose a topstitch or metallic needle with a larger, elongated eye.
If you are using a thick thread, don’t expect that big thread to fit itself comfortably inside an eye of a small needle!
Also, if you have been using a sewing machine needle for your embroidery, try a dedicated embroidery needle. It will be better suited for most projects.
Lastly, stretchy knit fabrics may benefit from a ballpoint embroidery needle, whereas thick, dense fabrics like marine vinyl may need a larger needle with a sharper point.
Lost? Check out my post on choosing the best embroidery needle, or consider purchasing a helpful tool like the Embroiderer’s Compass (above) to suggest needles and stabilizers based on fabric selection.
And finally, when it comes time to change that needle out, ensure you insert the needle in the correct direction and push it all the way up into its opening.
You can refer to my post for how to change a sewing machine needle for devices that help insert the new needle easier.
2. Check the Upper Thread.
Clean the upper thread path, and rethread your embroidery machine.
Make sure to thread with the presser foot up. (You can lower the presser foot when it comes time to use the needle threader, though.)
Also, cleaning the upper thread guides and between the tension discs can help dislodge any offending thread pieces. Clean an embroidery machine much like you’d clean a sewing machine.
3. Check the Bobbin and Case.
If you’ve never cleaned your embroidery machine before, you will be STUNNED at the amount of lint and small thread pieces you find under your needle plate.
Remove the needle plate and then bobbin, and clean within the bobbin case.
Then, remove the entire bobbin case and clean the compartment underneath.
Use a small brush and keyboard vacuum to help.
As you clean, inspect all parts of your machine for tiny nicks. (The bobbin itself, needle plate, and bobbin case.) If you notice anything or want to rule out an unseen issue completely, temporarily replace these parts with new ones.
4. Check Your Supplies.
Consider changing to a new brand or type of thread, especially if this is the first time you’ve used a particular thread spool on your machine.
Poor-quality or old threads are not intended for high-speed embroidery, and some specialty threads (metallic!) require more patience and troubleshooting. Also, some machines are just picky with thread brands.
For example, I cannot understand why my Brother Luminaire XP2 hates one particular maroon color of Coats and Clark thread, but it does. So, I’ve learned to avoid using this thread with my machine.
This reason’s out there, but when I have my machine stitch long-length basting stitches on a very thin stabilizer, sometimes the stitches pull through the stabilizer and look almost like they didn’t form.
It’s not an issue with my machine but instead with my stabilizer.
So, just check to ensure you have the best stabilizer choice for your fabric and embroidery design characteristics.
4. Check Your Thread Cutter.
If your embroidery machine skips stitches at the beginning of new thread colors, check if your thread cutter has been cutting the thread end too short.
If so, make it a habit to pull the top thread out more before starting a new color of your embroidery design.
5. Adjust Tension as a Last Resort.
If you examine the back of your embroidery design and see that the top thread is not pulled through to the back (your embroidery bobbin thread may be showing on top), try decreasing the top tension and observe if this makes a difference.
If your top thread is pulled too much to the back of the fabric (minimal to no bobbin thread visible), increase the top tension.
Worst Case Scenario: Maintenance Time
If you’ve checked every area of your embroidery machine that you can access and your skipped stitches problem persists, it might be time for a trip to your local embroidery machine repair tech.
While a service trip can be expensive, embroidery timing issues or problems deep inside the machine are usually better fixed by a professional.
Embroidering Back Over Skipped Stitches To Fix Issues
Thankfully, if your machine has skipped a few stitches and your project is still hooped, you can use your user interface to back up and restitch!
For Brother embroidery machines skipping stitches, back up using the little needle button with the +/- next to it. Then, use the arrow to back up.
For other manufacturers, check your user manual for the exact instructions.
If your project is already unhooped, you can use your sewing machine or a needle and thread to fix small skipped stitches.
I hope these troubleshooting steps for an embroidery machine skipping stitches help get your machine back up and running nicely.
Please share any other troubleshooting steps that have worked for you in the comments to help other embroiderers!