Skipped Stitches: How to determine the cause and fix

Q:  I’m getting skipped stitches on my Gammill.  What can be wrong with my machine?

A:  Before being able to resolve this, you need to answer a few other questions:

1.  Is this happening while you’re in regulated mode doing free motion with the belts dropped (Statler).

2.  Is it only on horizontal lines, or on vertical lines?

3.  Are there needle penetrations, but the stitch does not form, or does the needle hesitate and not go into the fabric?

4.  Have you recently completed a quilt with thick seams or silkscreens (Tshirt quilt), or did you hit a pin or other hard object?

Did you just change the needle?

If you’re in regulated mode, and the stitches are skipping in only one direction (vertical or horizontal) you have a cracked or missing encoder.  If they’re skipping vertically, it’s the encoder of your Y axis, located on the crosstrack near the back right handle.  If it’s horizontal, it’s your X encoder, located against the long back table track or on older machines, it rides on top of the back right wheel of the cross track.  Carefully replace it, as you don’t want to bend the shaft of the encoder.  To replace it on the older machines, it is best to prop the crosstrack up on some books and remove the outer wheel to access the encoder.  DO NOT force it down past the wheel or you’ll damage it.  There is more about encoder rings in one of my previous blogs.

If you are skipping in both directions with needle penetrations, and you’re recently changed your needle, the needle might not be properly seated.  There is a small hole opposite the needle set screw that you can look in – make sure the needle is seated all the way in the needle bar.  Also, if you’ve switched to a thinner needle, your needle might be flexing away from the hook while the machine is traveling.  I recommend sticking with size 4 needles (18s) as this is what the machines are generally timed to.

If your belts are attached and you are in computerized mode, and it’s skipping WITH stitch penetrations, your needle bar might have been jarred out of place by stitching multiple seams or hitting something, or Tshirt quilts with lots of thick silk screens can knock it out of position.  You’ll need to adjust your needle bar height.  For information about how to check this and make an adjustment, click here.

If the needle is hesitating and not penetrating, it’s skipping stitches in both directions and your needle bar is in the correct place with the needle properly seated, your motor belt may be slipping or need replacement.  The tension on it will need to be properly adjusted by raising the motor slightly.  Do not over tighten the belt.

Whatever you do, don’t assume that the timing is off.  Chances are great that it’s one of the above issues and the timing rarely go out – the last thing you should do is attempt to retime the machine, so for the sake of your own sanity, step away from the screwdriver!