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Longarm Technical Tips : Skipping Stitches and The Reasons Why
By Dan Novak

Skipping stitches is a frustrating experience for any Longarm quilter. The cause of a skipped stitch can be hard to find. Sometimes people confuse a skipped stitch with a long stitch. A skipped stitch occurs when the needle penetrates the fabric but the thread is not tied in a knot. A long stitch occurs when the needle moves a longer distance before penetrating the fabric. Look for the puncture hole in the fabric when trying to determine which you have.
There are many different reasons for skipping stitches. Most of them are easy to cure.
One of the main reasons for skipped stitches is too wide of a gap between the needle scarf and the hook point. Too large of a gap allows the thread to slip past the point of the rotary hook and you have a skipped stitch. Move the hook assembly closer to the needle to reduce the gap.
Always make sure the hook assembly is in good, working condition. Keep it clean and oiled to your manufacturers specifications. The point of the hook needs to be sharp. A rounded hook point can miss the thread in the scarf of the needle. When it is sharp it actually scoops the thread off the back of the needle.
Changing from a large diameter needle (#20) to a smaller diameter needle (#14) can produce a gap large enough for the thread to slip through. Reduce this gap by moving the hook closer to the needle.
Proper installation of the needle is critical. Make sure that the groove is in front and the scarf is on the hook side. The needle needs to be in all the way and square.
Another cause of skipped stitches can be flexing the needle away from the hook point. This again creates too large of a gap. Needle flex is common when you combine thin needles and fast movement. When working from the needle side of the machine, the most common flex caused skip happens when pushing the machine away from the operator. This can be cured by increasing the motor speed, or by slowing your movement down. Using a larger diameter needle can also reduce needle flex.
Worn needle bar bushings on heavily used machines allow the needle to move away from the point of the hook. Check for bushing wear by lowering the needle to its lowest point. Grab the needle bar just above the needle and try to wiggle it with light pressure. If you can wiggle it more than 1/16", and you have been skipping stitches, it may need replacing. Replacing the needle bar bushings should be done by a repairman or the factory.
Some other causes include; having the lining fabric stretched to tight, some polyester fabrics, some chemicals on the fabric, excessively worn needle, and incorrect needle all have been blamed for skipping.
What it all boils down to is that the hook isn't picking up the thread off the needle. If you look carefully, you will see the cause, and be able to fix it yourself.

Happy Quilting!