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Why do I have skipped stitches???

kbalinski | Posted in General Sewing Info on

This is exactly the reason I HATE working with knits. My machine (Viking Iris) is misbehaving, and I’m about to toss it across the room!  It loves wovens, but hates knits.  Huge gaps of skipped stitches, and here’s what I’ve tried:

1.  Brand new ballpoint needle.

2. Lightened foot pressure.

3.  Walking foot (then I got no stitches at all!)

4.  Zig-Zag stitch (worked the best, but still very, very messy)

Can someone please help me.  It seems like everyone else in the universe can sew knits but me!

p.s. Yes, I do have a serger, but I need my standard machine to test the fit, baste, hem, and do fine details.



  1. twreeder | | #1

    I have a machine like yours and have never had any trouble with knits.  Are you using Smeetz (sp?) needles?  I think that is what is recommended.  Sorry, no more suggestions as I have never had this problem.


  2. Teaf5 | | #2

    Deep breaths, deep breaths.  After you take a break, have some chocolate, and are in the mood to try again, here are some things to check:

    A different new needle; sometimes, I've gotten three bad ones in one packet.  And sometimes, a universal needle works better than a ball point on knits.  Make sure that you're not reversing the needle when you insert it; sometimes, when frustrated, I have done that or even skipped parts of threading the machine, though I can do it with my eyes closed at other times.

    Try a different thread and a different sample (woven) fabric to confirm that everything is otherwise o.k.  The thread could be flawed, or the tensions may be way off.

    Check that the bobbin is wound correctly and inserted in the right direction.  Also, check the bobbin chase and under the throat plate for lint buildup.

    More deep breaths, and let us know what happens.

    1. kbalinski | | #3

      Thanks for the quick response, and you're right... chocolate will help!  You made me laugh out loud!

      Okay, I will try all the beginner steps again, and report back.  I see so many wonderful knit garments people are sewing up, but I know how much my machine hates that fabric, so this really makes me frustrated.  In case you were wondering, in the midst of the last frustrating try, I switched to a woven scrap to make sure my machine timing wasn't the problem, and it sewed that just fine.  It really does hate knits!

      Thanks again,


      1. kbalinski | | #4

        Okay, I turned it off, changed the needle again, switched thread, rethreaded the top and the bobbin, lowered the tension, kept the foot pressure light, ate some peanut M&M's and...

        it's working!!!!

        Must've been the M&M's!!!!

        Thanks for your help.


        1. woodruff | | #5

          One more thing: When sewing knits and nothing else is working, try a Schmetz "Stretch" needle. Those things are magic! (I learned this from a professional seamstress)

          1. Pattiann42 | | #6

            I use the Schmetz Stretch also.  No skips. 

        2. Ralphetta | | #7

          Congratulations!When I would call my mother in a hysterical fit about my machine, she would always tell me to be sure the needle was in right, etc., etc., and it would make me madder because I wasn't a beginner. But, she was right. Many, many times I would do all those things that have been listed and it would solve the problem. As she said, you may never know which of the steps actually solved the problem or if it was a combination.One of the great mysteries of life.PS M & Ms have magical powers

        3. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #8

          Kristine, did you prewash your knit? and did you use any sort of fabric softener? Fabric finishes that are put on to make fabric look crisp or good on the bolt or fabric softeners are often culprits for skipped stitches also. If you have used a spray starch on the fabric, this will do that also. Sometimes we skip washing the fabrics when shrinkage is not a big factor, like in knits. Cathy

          1. kbalinski | | #9

            Yup, it was pre-washed and dried, as it is cotton and I wanted to pre-shrink.  It's working okay now, enough for me to get the side and shoulders basted to test the fit before I lop off the seam allowances in the serger.  First time making this pattern, and the reviews on PR all said it runs small.  So, thankfully, the machine is now working and the top fits correctly, so hopefully today I'll be able to finish it up,  which will complete my mini-wardrobe for the August PR contest!

            Then it's on to the fitted jacket (that will also coordinate)...

            Thanks for your help,


          2. sewelegant | | #16

            I am curious as to why you have so much trouble with sewing knits.  Are you taking a wide enough seam allowance for the foot to operate completely on the fabric and not half off?  That seems to affect my machine's operation.  It seems I have been sewing knits all my life with happy results, but I do recall a few instances of frustration:  making a top out of a "poor boy" knit.  I thought I would never get it right!  I finally found I needed to tape the ridges (or baste) so the fabric would be stabilized as I sewed and then I used a very narrow short zig zag so it would have some give.  All the loose or lacy knits present a challenge, and I am finding that figuring out a way to stabilize the fabric while sewing the seam is the biggest.  What we need is a good "How To" book on sewing the knits we can buy today. 

          3. sewslow67 | | #17

            ...What we need is a good "How To" book on sewing the knits we can buy today

            There is a great book on sewing with knits today.  It is: "Sewing with Knits: Classic, Stylish Garments from Swimsuits to Eveningwear" by Connie Long.  It is absolutely terrific ...very help, with lots of information for every challenge I've seen or heard of, using knit fabric.  I would highly recommend it.  It is a Taunton book, thus the quality.  You can get it either directly from Taunton, or Amazon.

          4. sewelegant | | #18

            Thank you, I will have to look this book up.  Unfortunately our local bookstores have cut back considerably on sewing books, I was very disappointed the last time I was in.  Haven't checked the library, but have a feeling there will not be much there either.  Lots of quilting and craft, but not much sewing.

          5. kbalinski | | #19

            All in this thread:

            Thanks for the website tips on keeping my fabric waterproof!  Never thought to seal the s.a.!

            I ordered the "Charcoal" color of the Canadian Mist, but I'm not sure if I will get it.  The bonus of a co-op is lower prices than retail, but the drawback is meeting minimums! I'm pretty sure the bolt will get filled, so I'm not too worried.

            I've had issues with knits in the past, so earlier in the summer I ordered a copy of "Sew U: Home Stretch" by the Built by Wendy lady.  It got lots of positive reviews, and is very user friendly.  Sadly, I tried all her recommendations immediately, but still had wonky stitches!  Anyhow, it's in the past.  Stitches are fine now, and I picked up a Schmetz Stretch pack of needles today!


          6. kbalinski | | #22

            For anyone that helped with tips about my machine's skipped stitches, THANK YOU!

            Here is a picture of the final product.  I had success (in my opinion) and am eager to work more with knits soon!  That's part of the success...


          7. sewslow67 | | #23

            Say Kristine; that's a very good looking knit top you made there, and it looks lovely on you (and fits beautifully) as well.  Thanks so much for sharing the final product and for the photo.  Good job!  I look forward to seeing your next creation.  I also wanted you to know that I'm also enjoying your blog. 

          8. rodezzy | | #24

            Great job, that's a beautiful top.

          9. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #25

            Well, that was certainly worth the effort! Looking Good Girl. I am impressed. Nice professional looking finish. Fits great. You need to make more of that one Kristine. Cathy

          10. Gloriasews | | #26

            Yay!  You did it!  Wow - lookin' good!!!  It looks quite perfect to me, too. 


          11. sewslow67 | | #21

            You are most welcome.  BTW, I think I got mine one Amazon, and at a good discount too, so that might be a place for you to check out.  Good luck, and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have.  I found it to be very helpful.

            Edited 8/29/2008 12:08 am by sewslow67

          12. sewslow67 | | #10

            Wow ...learn something new every day; wonderful!!  I didn't know that you needed to pre-shrink knits for any other reason than "pre-shrink", so the information that you shared about skipped stitches due to fabric softeners or fabric finishes will be most helpful in the future.

            Interestingly, I taught "Stretch and Sew" for Ann Person years ago, after taking all of her classes in the '60's.  It was fun at first, but there was too much push to sell stuff to "older ladies" (tee hee ...which I am now), that it just turned me off.  All I wanted to do was to share a great way of sewing comfortable clothing using nice fabrics with these little cuties.  I just loved all those little ladies and didn't want them to spend money they didn't have on things that weren't really necessary.

            Anyway, thanks for the information, Cathy.  I've got some knits to sew up, so will make sure I don't use fabric softener when pre-shrinking the fabric.

          13. rekha | | #11

            How does the fabric treatment affect skipped stitches?

          14. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #12

            Some finishes make it hard for the needle to penetrate properly, or dull the needle quickly, or gum up the needle so it grabs the fabric. Anything that interferes with the smooth flow or rhythm of the mechanism of the machine has the effect of putting it "out of time" and the stitches don't catch. Fabric softener can cause the thread to slip and not catch properly. Too much fabric softener can also gum up the needle. It takes very, very little to become a problem. Rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab will clean your needle.
            That being said, sometimes, a spray starch can sometimes solve a tricky stitching problem in very fine or slippy fabrics. ALWAYS test stitch scraps FIRST.
            Just a note to remember for those who wash their rainproof jackets, Do NOT use fabric softener on them, it strips away the rainproofing. I just read that on a site on waterproof/water resistant fabrics. They said that if the fabric is hard to stitch because the fabric is sticking, to use fabric softener to remove the coating along stitching lines, then use seam sealant to reseal afterwards.

          15. kbalinski | | #13

            While you're on the topic... I just ordered some fabric "Canadian Mist" from Siltex Mills and have been wondering about appropriate needles and thread, as it is water repellent.  I'll be doing a fall, hip-length coat...

            I got it from a fabric co-op I learned about here at Gatherings, so "Thanks" to the person that let me in on that little secret... It may not ship real fast, but the quality is great and the price is appropriate.

            and, the top that started all this "wonky stitches" business is nearly done, just the sleeves and hem to do.  I'm really happy with how it's turning out.  There will definitely be more knit fabrics in my future!

            Kristine in Michigan

          16. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #14

            Quest Outfitters
            http://www.questoutfitters.com/fabric%20wicking-cart.htm#Wicking%20Fabrics4. had this to say on their website about their waterproof fabrics.
            "Use a smaller needle (size 9-14) for light to medium weight fabrics: taffeta, rip-stop, nylon, Supplex, Ultrex, etc. Use a larger needle (size 14-18) for heavyweight fabrics: Cordura, packcloth, etc. A larger needle (sz. 14-18) may be necessary but it is best to use as small a needle as you can." You would want to use a Universal or Sharp needle to pierce the fabric. Polyester thread would be fine. This site also has good information on seam sealants which you will need to seal the seams after you have sewn the garment to keep the seams waterproof. I would look up the fabric some more to see what that company says about which sealant works best with that fabric. Cathy
            PS The information is under Tips

            Edited 8/14/2008 11:37 pm ET by ThreadKoe

          17. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #15

            Kristine, I just looked up your fabric. http://www.siltex.caCanadian Mist
            Catalog > OUTERWEAR FABRICS > Canadian Mist50% Cotton 50% Micropolyester
            150cm wideOne of our most popular products! Canadian Mist has a DWR (“durable water repellent”) finish - this means that water will bead on the surface and not soak in.uses: outerwear, splash pants for kids, doggy jackets, bags, purses, jackets, lunch sacks, board shorts Looks like really nice fabric. What colour did you get? Cathy

  3. sandyszoo | | #20

    Hmmmm,  After reading all the posts on this subject I wondered what needle I used on the 2 pair of gym shorts I hemed up yesterday ( with remarkable ease ) no M& M's envolved, soft peppermints helped though.  I just checked to see what kind of needle I used it is the Schmetz  ( the only brand I use )  Stretch # 75/11.  I had the length set at 4. And by shear luck I had the correct colured thread that matched the dark green exactly.   My customer was happy, and I'm going to go out and buy some M&M's for my next project LOL   

      On the subject of prewashing I always prewash or have dry cleaned anything before I sew on it.  The results are so much more predictable then, no surprises. I use a Viking ??? I've had too many to remember all the names, this one is new.  I gave my 5 thread  cover stitch viking to my daughter and bought a Babylock that threads itself !!!!!  YEAH.   Well now I'm inspired to get on an outfit I'm going to make for my GD, that is after I wash the fabric LOL    Happy sewing everyone. Sandy Houston

  4. charm | | #27

    when it skipped stitches does the thread get caught? if so you need to clean your bobbin area of dust and broken threads. if not, than you need to check your thread bobbin to check to see if you thread it right through the bobbin it can causes skipped stitches. if these two don't work the last choice is take your bobbin out pull the thread if it's seems not to move smooth than it's too tight it can causes all kind of problems sewing anything. try to adjust the tensions on the bobbin. and alway make sure to check the upper tension of the sewing machine to see if the thread is always running smooth. if not than that has to fix by feeling the thread as you are pulling it and if it's not moving smooth and it seems to be moving too tight or very slow than you need to adjust that area to fix the skipped stitches. always change your needles when you have been sewing for more than a few hours. needles tend to get worn out at the tips of the needles that can also caused stitiching problems so make sure you always replace it with new needles

  5. msflair | | #28

    Hi! Once, I was having the same problem. I switched to a Denim Sharp size 16 and it worked! You might also want to try a Universal needle with a larger eye. A universal needle is about halfway between and sharp and a ballpoint.  Forgive me if I am being too simplistic. I do not know what your sewing level is and there may be beginning sewists out there reading this who need the extra information.

    You see, when the needle pierces the fabric, on it's way back up it has to make a loop at the "scarf" of the needle. (The scarf is the "shaved out" place on the back of the needle just above the eye of the needle. If the needle you are using is too small, the loop will not be made on the way back up and then the bobbin "hook" cannot catch it - the fabric is holding the upper spool thread to tight against the needle.

    I am a sewing teacher. I hope this helps. Please let me know and we will try something else!  

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