Machine Maintenance and Backing

Tip #1 – Keep your machine lint and dust free – Dust and lint can cause problems with your power supply and with how the machine runs. Make sure you keep a can of canned air near your machine. Lint brushes are also handy to have and useful for cleaning out the small crevices.

Tip #2 – Keep your machine oiled – Proper lubrication will help ensure your machine runs smoothly. White sewing machine oil can be used for lubricating large moving parts. A zoom spout oiler, which also contains white sewing machine oil, is useful for smaller or hard to reach areas.

Tip #3 – The H Test – The H test will help ensure that your tensions are set correctly. To perform this test, set your machine to sew out the letter H. When you look at the back of your sew out, you should see 2/3 embroidery thread and 1/3 bobbin thread. If you see a different ratio, then your tensions are most likely off.

Tip #4 – Clean your bobbin case - This step is a simple thing but can make a big difference in how well your machine holds tensions. Lint and dust can accumulate under the tension spring and should be removed. Used the edge of playing card or a business card to clean away the debris. Do not use anything metal as that could cause damage to the bobbin case.

Tip #5 – Use the right amount/size of stabilizer - Embroidery stabilizers can be logically divided into two main types: "backings" and "toppings." A "backing" is a piece of special material (usually nonwoven) that is placed UNDER the main fabric on which you intend to embroider, to make this fabric more stable.  Embroidery backings prevent fabric puckering, fabric stretching and deformation of embroideries after laundry.  "Topping", as you may already have guessed, is placed OVER the fabric on which you want to embroider. Embroidery topping is a special material that is designed to stop embroidery stitches from "sinking" into stitches-absorbing types of fabric. For example - if you embroider on fleece, jersey, terry cloth, velvet, corduroy, artificial fur and so on - using embroidery topping is simply a must. If you neglect to do this, your precious project will be hopelessly ruined. A topping is also great to use if you want your design to "stand out" a little, even on regular fabric.

Thread Issues

Tip #1 – If your thread is fraying:
•    Check your tensions, they may be too tight
•    Check your needle, it may need to be changed or might be inserted improperly
•    Change out your cone of thread, you may have gotten a bad cone

Tip #2 – If your thread is snapping:
•    Check your bobbin tension, it might be too tight
•    Check top tension, it may be too tight
•    Clean dust and gunk (if any) from behind plates of machine
•    Change out your cone of thread, you may have gotten a bad cone

Tip #3 – If your thread balls up:
•    Check your tensions, they may be too loose
•    Make sure your top and bottom tensions are about even, if one is too loose and the other is too tight, you’ll have problems
•    Be sure all thread is out of the bobbin and hook area

Tip #4 – If your thread is birdnesting
•    Check your tension, if it is unbalanced birdnesting may occur
•    Make sure the fabric is framed tightly. There should be no significant gap between the hoop assembly and the sewing arm

Needle Breaks

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

Tip #2 – Remove your hoop, and see what happens at the bottom. You mustn't see any thread loops there. If you see loops – carefully remove all stitches, reverse your machine several stitches back, and embroider them again.

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

Stitches of Design "Sinking" Into The Fabric

For stitches-absorbing fabric types, like towels, fleece, short fur, velvet, corduroy, jersey and knits always use water soluble topping film to prevent stitches from sinking into the fabric.

It's easy - you just cut a little piece of film, and put it over the background fabric. Then start embroidering. After your design is ready, the large pieces may be removed and all remainder dissolved in warm water.

Stitches Looping Under The Fabric

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

Tip #2 – Your needle may be damaged, or just secured not well enough.

Tip #3 – Your top thread tension might be too loose. To check whether the problem really is in tension, remove your hoop and inspect the reverse side of your embroidery. If your tension is well balanced, you will almost not see the 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, it means that there's too much tension on top thread. Yet, before rushing to reduce top thread tension, first check these two issues:

Tip #1 – Check if top thread unwinds and feeds up well. Make sure that the spool doesn't slide off horizontal spool pin. If it falls – it creates too high tread tension by not giving the thread to unwind properly.

Tip #2 – Check that the needle is good, not sticky, and allows the thread to come through it easily. It should have a large enough eye.

Top Thread Shows A Lot On Bottom

To solve this problem, just tighten top thread tension until you see only one thread color on each side.

Skipped Stitches

Tip #1 –  Skipped stitches are usually caused by old needles. Replace your needle when needed and you shouldn't see this problem. Also, secure the needle well.

Tip #2 –  Make sure that you've selected the right pressing foot.

Fabric Puckering

Tip #1 –  Poor Hooping – try to “re-hoop” your fabric.

Tip #2 –  Incorrect Stabilizing - look at tip number five under machine maintenance and backing.

Tip #3 –  Some computerized machines should be adjusted with the type & weight of fabric you currently use in order to embroider properly.

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

What are the three main types of stitches?

1. Fill stitch - is created by rows of running stitches with a density and offset value. Modern digitizing software like Forte has many embedded formulas to allow the digitizer to present many different looks with fancy fills.

2. Walk or run stitch - is a single stitch on a single path and is primarily used to track under the design to get from one place to another, to create manual underlay and to create finishing stitches or outlines.

3. Satin stitch - is used to fill an area and create a solid look and is commonly called a column stitch. The satin stitch is governed by its stitch length which is actually the column width. The stitch length is important as too short a stitch is invisible and breaks thread; too long a stitch adversely affects tension and machine speed as well as leaves loose floppy stitches which catch and rip out. When the satin stitch column is too narrow, then a run stitch is used. When the column is too wide, then a fill stitch is used.

What are the most common mistakes by embroiderers and how can they be avoided?

1. One of the biggest mistakes is improper hooping. Fabrics must be first stabilized in their own natural lie. A common mistake is to make the fabric drum tight in the hoop. This leads to the fabric being stretched out of its natural lie. This invariably produces puckering in the finished design as the fabric relaxes after the hoop is removed.

2. A second common mistake is not to use a complete piece of backing which is large enough to fill the entire hoop. If your hoop is seven inches round, you will need an eight inch square piece of backing. Incomplete support of the fabric across the whole hoop will lead to wobbly irregularities as the fabric is not stable for sewing.

3. A third common mistake is choosing inappropriate fonts. There are thousands of fonts to choose from, but memorize and keep a short list of the most common ones that work well for embroidery. Sew them out on different fabrics at different sizes so you can show them easily to a customer and have a great reference tool for yourself. A good embroidery font is one that creates clear and legible words.

What are the three most common stitching issues and how to avoid them?

1. Thread tension - Thread tension is the most common sewing problem. Improper thread path is the main culprit of tension problems. First check the thread path by pulling the thread out from the needle. Make sure the thread is clean and glides out smoothly and not caught up in any area along the thread path. Also check the needle position; it should be in the center of the presser foot and the needle plate. Tension too tight causes thread breaks and unthreading after trims, while loose tension leads to skipped stitches and trim failures.

2. Needle depth - When stitching, the needle must go down far enough to create the proper loop that the hook tip can grab. If the needle depth is wrong the stitch quality is affected with skipped stitches, thread breaks, thread fraying, trimming problems and needle breakage. First, make sure the needle is inserted all the way up and secured by the part that holds the needle. If the needle is in the proper position check the needle depth by removing the bobbin case and rolling the needle to its lowest position. When looking inside the hook basket, you should see the needle’s tip and about half of the needle’s eye. If you can’t see through the needle’s eye, the needle depth isn’t set deep enough. If you can see the top rim of the needle’s eye, the setting is too deep.

3. Hook timing - Timing is rarely the problem when having sewing problems, but it might be if you have excessive thread breaks. If you suspect this is the case, contact the distributor of your embroidery machine.