Easy Trouble-Shooting In Machine Embroidery

  • General Rule In Case Of Any Problem
  • Top Thread Breaks
  • Bobbin Thread Breaks
  • Needle Breaks
  • Stitches of Design "Sinking" Into The Fabric
  • Stitches Looping Under The Fabric
  • Bobbin Thread Shows On Front Side Of Fabric
  • Top Thread Shows A Lot On Bottom
  • Skipped Stitches
  • Fabric Puckering
  • Design Parts "Run Away" from Each Other (design not lining up, outlines off)
  • Machine Makes Strange Sounds
  • Machine Glitches


    General Rule In Case Of Any Problem

    1. Make sure that your machine's embroidery arm can move to all directions, and nothing is disturbing it.

    2. Re-thread both top & bobbin thread.



    Top Thread Breaks

    1. Re-thread your machine, while making sure that you hold the thread very tight (it mustn't loop anywhere). Then, BEFORE stitching:

    2. Verify that your thread cone sits steadily on spool pin (especially if the holder is horizontal). Secure it using spool holders if necessary (these are the little plastic caps that come with each embroidery machine).

    3. Ensure that the thread CAN'T wrap around thread holder. If it wraps, it will DEFINITELY break.

    4. Make sure that the thread doesn't catch on the spool edge. This problem often pops up when using small "mushroom" type thread spools (usually the 275-yard ones). After unwinding normally for a little while, the "mushroom" edge starts preventing the thread from going off well, and the thread starts breaking. This is one of the reasons to use large thread cones, and not the small ones - large cones usually have a better shape.
  • If you already have some small spools and are determined to use them - try them with vertical spool pin, and loosen top thread tension a bit. A separate vertical thread stand also helps thread to feed up better, and avoid it's friction with plastic spool edge.
  • In case your machine doesn't have a vertical spool pin and you don't own thread stand either - consider getting a kit with 1000-yard thread cones. Thread stands cost $50 - $100, and for that money you may get many good thread cones.

    5. Check needle size, type & condition:
  • A new needle is required every ~8 hours of constant embroidering.
  • 80/12 needles usually work great with regular 40wt embroidery thread. For metallics or thick cotton thread, try using metallic needles. They have larger eyes, often coated with Teflon, to help thick thread move better.

    6. Take thread end into your hands. Unwind a couple of meters and pass it between your fingers. It should be smooth and consistent, without knots. If it's not the case - try to unwind several more meters. Sometimes thread can be damaged only in a certain place on spool. If it's still inferior after you unwind several good meters - put that spool aside and take another one.

    7. If none of the above helps, and you're SURE that the thread doesn't catch anywhere, try to lower top thread tension (your machine manual should have an instruction for adjusting thread tension).



    Bobbin Thread Breaks

    1. Take the bobbin out. Clean bobbin case. Insert the bobbin again and re-thread.

    2. If re-threading doesn't help - try to take a new bobbin.

    Tip: Our troubles with bobbin thread breaks ended the moment we started using pre-wound bobbins. Apparently, factory made bobbins are wound more consistently than home made ones, therefore unwind better, and the thread breaks less. Since prewound bobbins cost "per yard" nearly the same like regular bobbin thread, it is plain stupid not to use prewounds, if your machine takes them. Most machines work fantastically with prewound bobbins. Just be sure to get the right size of bobbins. Plastic sided bobbins usually are better, but there are exceptions, because each machine is different.



    Needle Breaks

    1. Needle may break because of all the same reasons that thread breaks. Therefore, first follow all steps against thread breakage.

    2. Slide off the hoop, and take a look at it's reverse side. If you see thread loops – carefully remove all of them together with stitches, take your machine a few stitches back, and embroider them again.

    3. Needle may break if the design is too dense. This is especially frequent on poorly digitized lace and photo-stitch designs. To overcome this problem, try using a thinner needle. If this doesn't help - just avoid bulky designs.



    Stitches of Design "Sinking" Into Fabric
    Always use water soluble topping film to prevent stitches from sinking into stitches-observing types of fabric (like knits, terry cloth, fleece, short fur, velvet, corduroy, jersey). It's easy - you cut a little piece of film, and put it over the background fabric (no need to hoop the topping film). Then start embroidering. After your design is ready, tear away or cut the large pieces of topping, and dissolve the remainder in warm water.



    Stitches Looping Under The Fabric

    1. Your machine may be not threaded correctly. Re-thread both top & bobbin thread.

    2. Your needle may be old, damaged, or just secured not well enough.

    3. Your top thread tension might be too loose. To check whether the problem really is with tension, remove your hoop and inspect the reverse side of your embroidery. If your tension is well balanced, you will hardly see any top thread on reverse side. However, if you see a lot of top thread - increase top thread tension. The loops may occur just because the needle is catching on those bubbling threads.



    Bobbin Thread Shows On Front Side Of Fabric
    Generally, when bobbin thread shows on top, this means that top thread tension is too high. Yet, before rushing to reduce it, check these two issues:

    1. See whether the top thread unwinds and feeds up well. Make sure that the spool doesn't slide off from horizontal spool pin. If it falls – it creates overly high tread tension by not allowing the thread to unwind properly.

    2. Check that the needle is good, not sticky, and that it allows the thread to come through it easily. Needle eye should be large enough.



    Top Thread Shows A Lot On Bottom
    Tighten top thread tension little by little, until you see only one thread color on each side.



    Skipped Stitches

    1. Skipped stitches are usually caused by old needles. Be sure to take a new needle every 6-8 hours of embroidering.

    2. Secure the needle well.

    3. Make sure that you've selected correct pressing foot.



    Fabric Puckering

    1. Poor hooping – “re-hoop” your fabric carefully.

    2. Wrong stabilizing - check out "Easy Rules for Stabilizing".

    3. Some computerized machines should be adjusted with the type & weight of fabric you are currently using, to embroider properly.

    4. The needle might be damaged (hooked) and therefore damage or just pull the fabric, causing puckers.




    Design Not Lining Up, Outlines Off (design parts "run away" from each other )

    1. This issue usually appears when embroidery machine stands on an unstable surface (the surface must be unmovable and unshakable, even if you try hard). Unfortunately, most sewing tables aren't stable enough for computerized embroidery. The best suggestion we can offer, except of ordering a custom "built into floor & wall" heavy table, is to put your machine on kitchen cabinet, or directly on the floor, while it's embroidering. This is perhaps an uncomfortable, but well working solution. Otherwise, no matter how hard you try, your designs have all chances to become a mess.

    2. Because of improper hooping - if you've hooped the fabric too loosely, or too tightly.

    3. Because your hoop doesn't hold the fabric well enough, and the fabric moves slightly while your machine is working. This issue is frequent with large hoops, and with slippery fabrics. To overcome it, get a new hoop with metal spins, OR roll sticky paper around your old hoop, to increase it's friction with fabric, and therefore hold fabric better.

    4. Because your stabilizer choice wasn't correct. Most often this happens when fabric that you select to embroider on is a little (or a lot...) stretchy. While the design is being embroidered, the fabric pulls, and therefore different design parts "run away" from each other.
    To overcome this problem completely, you must make stable fabric out of stretchy one. To do this, take cutaway stabilizer of proper weight. Hoop it well. Then, spray "Temporary Adhesive Spray" over the stabilizer and attach the fabric to it, without stretching or deforming the fabric. Because the fabric will be actually glued to stable material (cutaway backing), it will not pull while you embroider.

    5. If none of the above tips solve the problem - perhaps the design is inferior. Embroider it on something very stable, to see how it performs in ideal conditions. If it looks ok - then just don't embroider it on the fabric you've selected before. Choose another fabric. Not every fabric type is embroidery friendly. In case the design doesn't line up even on perfectly stable fabric and you're sure you've hooped and stabilized it well - delete this troublemaker from your collection forever.



    Machine Makes Strange Sounds
    Stop stitching at once, and do the following:

    1. Inspect your design. Perhaps it's too dense, or the thread looped heavily at the bottom.

    2. Open the machine, take the bobbin and bobbin case out. Clean that space using a small brush. You may even use a vacuum cleaner to breath thread pieces and dust.

    3. In case your machine should be oiled - oil it according to manufacturer instructions.

    If the above doesn't help - don't embroider any more and call your dealer for tech support.



    Machine Glitches
    If your machine suddenly starts making strange things - like embroiders half design on one place in hoop, half on another, or just doesn't want to embroider - do the following:

    1. Turn it off (completely).

    2. Remove the hoop. If it's embroidery arm is removable - take it out too.

    3. Give the machine a rest for 10-15 minutes.

    4. Insert the embroidery arm back. Make sure that it has enough space to move to all directions.

    5. Turn on the machine, and try to embroider again.



    Hope you will benefit from these tips. You may want to print these troubleshooting pages, and highlight all headlines for easy navigation. Happy stitching!



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