My Anniversary, 5/14/09

Much to my delight, this is my first year anniversary.  Thank you!  Thank you! Thank you!

As my gift to you, you can download my Garden Sayings for free, just click this link.  These were in my Badgemaster blog, here is a photo of them.

Garden sayings

The flowers are from Floral Accent Design Pack and are the perfect size for adding to the sayings.  In addition to placing these sayings on kitchen towels, you can also do them in a set of cloth sheets suitable for framing.

For my anniversary posting, I decided on some trouble shooting ideas.  Like all my posts, these are my thoughts and experiences, your experiences may vary.  If you have other suggestions, please add it in the commenting area.  We all benefit from differing viewpoints and ideas.

A Newbie will complain about puckering from their first project.  I know I did.  Density can be a cause, but it is more likely to be the stabilizer weight relative to the weight of the fabric/design.  As a really general rule, the lighter the fabric, the heavier the stabilizer should be used and vice versa.  When I work with a newbie, I usually have them do their first project on denim for several reasons, one of which is they are likely to have great results getting them off to a terrific start.  A tear-away is just fine for denim for most uses.

Accurate stabilizer use comes with experience.  I have a ‘general’ philosophy - projects are often under stabilized, but over stabilization is rare.  You don’t want to weigh down your project with stabilizer, but floating a piece beneath your hoop can save a project.

Improper hooping could be an issue as well.  Be sure that the hooped item neither sags nor is too tight.  When you release it from the hoop, there should be no movement of the fabric/design.

An outline does not match up with the design.  The first time I had this problem, the outline was a full quarter inch off the design.  The problem with this issue is that you have completed 95% of the design – probably 35,000 stitches, and then the outline fails.  Occasionally, this is the fault of the digitizer, but, it is almost always an under-stabilized project.  You usually cannot save a project at this point unless it is a very small opening.  In that case, you may be able to fill in a small gap with a ‘Sharpie’ or other marker.

Generally speaking tear away is the least stabile of them all.  Tear away is made from fibers pressed together to make a sheet.  Look through one into a light and you will see scraps and threads holding it together.  On the other hand, Cutaway is stronger making it difficult or impossible to tear.

Design is not sewing out correctly.  You need to be sure that the armature is free from walls or other objects.  If your needle gets stuck or jammed in a thread entanglement, you may find that the arm has moved or not moved and could be off its correct position.

If you have stitches looping under your fabric, you probably have a tension issue.  I recommend that you test your tension regularly.  That tension test for your specific format is available in my blog on needles.  The following configurations show sewing versus embroidering tensions.  Photo courtesy of Design in Machine Embroidery Magazine.

Machine TensionMachine Tension 2

This general information goes for the bobbin thread showing up on the top as well.  However, if the bobbin thread is coming through to the top, you need to rethread your bobbin because there is a tension area that may have been missed when the stitch was created.  After rethreading, you should feel a small amount of tension as you pull thread from your bobbin.

I recently read a suggestion for bottom loops that made good sense to me – what do you think? – It was suggested that you always thread your needle in the embroidery foot in the down position.  The reason was that the initial span of thread will be ‘in the correct tension’ as you begin as opposed to being ‘out of the tension’ as you stitch the very first stitches of your design.

Thread issues can also lead to needle breaking.  Needles break if they are slightly bent or if the thread is being held tight by a mechanism problem.  Place the needle on a flat surface to check for bends.  An extremely dense design could cause breakage as well.  If you hear your machine pounding on the design rather than piercing it, you could have a density issue.  You can try a smaller needle, but the best bet is to avoid dense designs.  Density issues would be discovered during your test sewout.  There are many reasons for a sewout; density is just one of them.

If your top thread is breaking try some of these ideas:

You may have an old spool of thread.  You may have purchased it yesterday, but it could have been on the shelf somewhere for a year or more, causing the fibers to dry.  Additionally, if a spool is dropped and there is a ‘ding’ in the thread, that portion of the spool should be removed because the integrity of the thread has been compromised.  Test a few feet of thread between your index and thumb to feel for imperfections, you could have a bad spool.

If you really need to use a dry spool for color matching, etc., you can use ‘Sewer’s Aid’ available at fabric stores.  Sewer’s Aid is silicon in an expensive bottle.  Silicon has no oil in it, but it could spot some delicate fabrics, so use with care.  I use the spray on silicon from the auto parts department; however, I am very careful with it.  For instance, I spray the thread against a background of newspapers or scrap fabrics.  I give it short bursts of silicon around the spool and allow it to dry for about 2 minutes.  Do not rethread your machine until it is entirely dry.  Never use silicon in or around your machine!!

Check your horizontal spool pin and make sure to place the ‘cap’ (white disk to hold spool) securely against the spool.  If it is not snug, the thread can wind around the spool causing breaking.  Some spools still have a nick on the end to hold the thread when not in use.  Again, that ‘cap’ is needed to keep it from catching and holding the thread back.

Check your needle, it could have a ‘burr’ in the eye, if so, discard it properly where it cannot do harm to people or pets.

If you experience Bobbin Thread breakage, I suggest that when you change your needle (at 8 hours, or for different projects, etc.) remove my bobbin case and thoroughly clean out the area.  I use a clean Q-Tip to collect the lint/dust.  Use tweezers to remove small thread pieces.

Prewound bobbins are one of the best items in your arsenal of tools for machine embroidery.  The winding, unlike homemade ones, is consistent and holds more thread allowing for more sewing between replacing a bobbin.  If you are winding your own bobbins, be sure to use bobbin thread available at your embroidery store.  It is a lighter weight and helps to create a more professional design.

Be sure to check your manual to get the correct bobbin size for your machine.  There are two sizes for the home embroiderer, ‘A’ or ‘L’ which look a lot alike.  They are the same size in diameter, but the height of the ‘A’ is a bit taller than the ‘L.’

If you are working with a fabric which has loft (terry cloth, velvet, etc.), make sure to use a water soluble stabilizer on top.  I also use a top stabilizer if I am doing very small lettering.  It makes it easier to clip the jump stitches and it also helps the lettering to stand out just a little better.

No matter what the issue, nothing beats a discussion with a good technician.  If possible, buy your machine from a reputable dealer with in-house technicians.  The sales people are nice, and some even experienced, but a tech is going to be your BFF in so many ways.

There are hundreds of more tips and tricks, add your favorite now!

Comments (20) -

Great article-many useful tips... Will print this out and save for future reference.

Thank you for the wonderful Garden Sayings!  I'm also keeping your tips - I'm a newbie so I can relate to most of these issues.

sixcatsterry 5/16/2009 11:26:52 AM

Thank you for the review of the basics.  After 14 years of machine embroidery, I still need a good review of the basics.  I guess we get involved with all the "doings" and sometime stopping and thinking again of basics does help with memory. Yes the old saying there are two types of embroideryers(?)"those who do a practice stitch out and those who wish they did" still is true.  I went back and re-read the original blog on badgemaster and guess who had a drainage problem recently in the sink that I wash my wss in. Live and learn!!

Thanks for these comments!  Newbie or experienced embroiderer, I need to be reminded from time to time of the basics.

Even the great athletes go back to the basics when when need to get back their 'game.'  If it is good enough for Michael Jordan and Jack Nicklaus, it is good enough for me!

Thanks again for your comments!  Now, newbie or experienced, lets hear your favorite tip!


Very good information


Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience, Pat!

thank you for the interesting information!! It is worth making a copy!


As always you are full of useful information.  Between you and LaRue I am learning a lot.  Keep up the good work.


Thanks for more comments.  I really enjoy hearing back from all of you!  

You all are the best on the Internet.  I spent 3 days at a craft fair in southern California, and everyone knows who AnnTheGran is and a few even know who The Avid Embroiderer is!

What a terrific craft and super people who come with each design.  


I have various machines and wound a bobbin on my Elna then used used it in my Janome 11000. It didnt work , it took me ages to realize what I had done


Thank you Joyce, Bobbins are fussy, and be careful of using one bobbin in another machine.

When I first began, I had lots of bobbin problems.  Despite the fact that my dealership had knowledgeable sales people, they never asked me about any bobbin issues.  That does not mean they are ignorant, it just means that they did not ask the right questions and I was not giving the right information.  

When you are having problems with your stitch outs, be sure that you make notes of what the machine is doing, what the design is doing, what stabilizer you are using and any other observations.

I have worked a computer help desk, and it is very difficult to diagnose problems when the use may not be able to give me the right info.  

Learn all you can from a reliable source, and frankly,  is one place where you can depend on for good info.  Recently, I wrote something incorrect in a forum discussion and readers quickly corrected me.  That is what helping each other is all about, and I was only slightly embarrassed!


Suggestions, if I may --- 1) regarding the WSS -- I wash mine out in a hand wash tub, then let it dry (add some alcohol to keep it fom spoiling), to use for stiffening fabric or the paint on as liquid WSS.  If I don't want to keep it, I make sure to toss it on a gravel area of the yard.  It won't harm your flower beds, like your pipes!  2) I have several machines & keep the bobbins in different colored babbin rings, w/ the machine name written on the side; 3) keep those test sew-outs to use in other quick projects - that way you won't feel like they're wasted.  

Good info.  

I do have trouble sometimes with stabilizers.  How do you know if you are not stabilized right?


Thank you ekwms - I absolutely agree that being careful with wss is always a good habit.  

My machines have two different bobbins as well, and I have to remember which is what.  I need to do as you say, keep them separate.

I give my test sew-outs and give the good ones to the Quilting Guild.  I personally don't quilt.


Thank you for the reminders.  It's funny, but I tend to forget the basics when doing new projects.  I didn't know that washing WSS could cause pipe problems... wonder if Dawn takes that out too!  My Grandmother told me a long time ago that she never had drain problems when she used Dawn dishsoap, better than Drano!

Thank You.  Bea

Thanks Sherry, I was reading something like your drain issue as well.  It said that if you have a clogged toilet, pour 1/2 Cup dish soap, like Dawn, and let sit for an hour.  It is supposed to make the congestion slippery and eliminating the clog.

There are 'wives tales' and a lot of them are very accurate.  

One of my favorites is when you are sneezing, look up to a lamp to stop it.  The reality is that when you are sneezing, looking up allows the 'tickle problem' to drain down your throat.  The lamp has nothing to do with it, but the concept works just the same.


I live in australia and have stumbled across your Blog Thanks for the info I will now have somthing to look forward too Jackie

Hello and Welcome, Jackie!

I understand that Australia is one of the most active areas in the machine embroidery area.  

I also know that Sue Box, a wonderful digitizer, is located in your part of the world!

Stop back again and I hope you enjoy my blogs as much as I enjoy doing them.


I have a viking designer 20.  Haven't had it long.  Finally doing a project I was excited about but the thread keeping breaking and its looping on the bottom.  Changed needles twice, rethread everytime the thread breaks and I'm at my wits end!!!  I have called my dealer and she says bascially the same as you but nothing has helped.  I'm trying to embroider some golf towels for my husbands yearly golf game which is Saturday.  I'm ready to quit!!!



Please login to comment