Saturday, June 13, 2020

Skipped Stitches and Tension Issues - Help

"My machine can't sew several layers of interfacing" 
"My tension is off"
"My machine skips stitches when I try to sew vinyl" 

Some of the most common cries for help during my classes. As I can't teach classes right now, I thought I'd compile a list of remedies for these issues here, for easy reference for you all =)

 Usually these issues are easily solved by playing around with your machines settings or with simple adjustments of tools used. People are often afraid of adjusting top thread tension, presser foot pressure and similar - but there's absolutely no need to be! I'm here to help you! My patterns are made to be sewn on your domestic machine, and for all my patterns,  I always sew one of my own tester bags on my domestic Husqvarna Opal 690Q, to make sure I'm not asking too much of your machines out there ;)

If you're very unsure about this and currently have settings that work for your most common sewing, take pictures with your phone of your machines tension and similar settings before you start playing around with them.

Skipped stitches

If you experience pretty much any issue when sewing, always start by rethreading your machine top and bottom making sure all is correct, clean out the bobbin area/under your needle plate and change to a brand new needle.

  1. Switch to a brand new needle, preferably a topstitch needle (they have a longer and bigger eye, allowing the top thread to move freely and catch the bottom thread more easily). I sew pretty much exclusively with topstitch needles. For thick layers, a 90/14 or 100/16 needle is usually needed for proper penetration. A skipped stitch happens when the bottom thread doesn't catch onto the the top thread so there is no "joining" of the threads - which is needed for a correctly formed stitch.  

  2. You might need to increase (higher number on the dial/setting) your presser foot pressure to compact your layers, and help the bottom thread catch. Increase it a little at a time, to ensure your fabric still feeds evenly. Many machines especially have an issue with the presser foot pressure becoming too low when using a walking foot.

    On the Juki 2200 QVP mini you adjust your pressure foot pressure like this:

    On the Husqvarna Opal 690q you press the SET menu (A) to get to your settings and there at the top you can adjust you P-foot pressure at the very top. Increase the number for higher pressure.
  3. It might be that your machine has issues keeping the pressure foot pressure even. Switch from a walking foot if you use that to a teflon or roller foot if working with vinyl or similar fabrics. If you’re already working with a teflon foot, try a slimmer one such as an edge stitch foot or a zipper foot (like the universal one in the photo, they’re available for most machines). This will allow the entire foot to lay flat on the fabric while you sew, keeping the presser foot pressure even - even if you're working next to bulky interfacing for example.

    If you don’t have a slimmer foot but can move your needle, try moving your needle as far to the right as it will go, so as much as possible of your presser foot is on the fabric when you sew, keeping the pressure even. But I highly recommend getting one of these feet, they're amazing for everything from bag making, zipper installations and piping.

  4. If you always experience the skipped stitch when making a turn with the needle down, the reason for that is that you haven allowed the machine to "go all the way" and finish the stitch before you stop and continue sewing. Meaning that the bottom thread hasn't catched to top before you keep sewing. So allow your machine to come to a full stop on it's own, or even hand crank the machine so the needle has just started to move up again in the stitch - to ensure the bottom thread catches.

  5. If you experience skipped stitches when sewing over a thick seam allowance, or when sewing a thick strap for example, that's also because it makes your pressure foot pressure uneven due to the leaning angle of the presser foot. To remedy this, you can use a "hump jumper" or "seam jumper" that often comes with your machine. Place the little plastic piece under the back of your presser foot to bring the back of the pressure foot up to the same height as the seam allowance or strap, before it starts leaning. If you don't have a hump jumper, you can do like I do and fold up  some scraps to the correct height and use that instead to level out the presser foot. 

  6. Despite what you might read in many forums, skipped stitches has nothing to do with thread tension, so there's no need to change your tension settings if you're having a skipped stitch issue. 

Saving a skipped stitch after sewing the seam

If you need to save a skipped stitch without unpicking the entire seam, I show you how I do that in this short video, to view full size on YouTube, please go here:

Tension Issues

If you experience pretty much any issue when sewing, always start by rethreading your machine top and bottom making sure all is correct, clean out the bobbin area/under your needle plate and change to a brand new needle. 

  1. If you’re having issues with your tension there’s a simple rule:
    * If you can see the bottom thread on the top of the fabric - top thread tension is too high = Decrease (turn to a lower number on the dial/setting) the top thread tension.
    A highly unlikely issue when working with thick layers - if your machine is threaded correctly that is.

    If you can see the top thread on the bottom of your project - top tension is too loose = Increase (turn to a higher number on the dial/setting) tension.
  2. In the unlikely case that your top tension dial isn’t doing the trick despite being “maxed out” in either direction, try rethreading your thread, top and bottom with your presser foot up. Before rethreading the top thread, with your presser foot still up so the tension discs are loose, blow hard into them to clean out between the two top tension discs to remove any dust or thread residues. Restart your machine if it’s a computerized one.

    On the Juki 2200 QVP mini the tension discs are clearly visible and just by the tension dial

    On the Husqvarna Opal 690q and many similarly constructed domestic machines, the tension discs are "hidden" in the first (to the right) vertical opening the thread goes through when you thread your machine.  So not the left opening with the little "lever" that goes up and down as you sew. 

    If you remove the little middle section by carefully pushing up and out from the bottom of the plastic piece (thanks dad for that tip!) you can clearly see the discs and clean between them easier. You might not be able to do do this on other brands.
  3. If none of those things help, you might have to adjust the bottom thread tension to get this seam perfect. Please check your machine manual or YouTube, as there's a few too many peculiarities with this for the many different kinds of machines to list here.

    If you have a Juki 2200 QVP mini like me, all the ones I've had in classes come from the factory  with slightly too loose bottom thread tension IMHO, so I almost always end up adjusting that for my students when they bring their Juki 2200 QVP mini to class. 
I hope you found this helpful! =)