embroidery, machine quilting, quilt, quilting, thread

Quilting/Embroidery Problem Solving

20160807_213840_resizedThe other day I posted this, “While working on some embroidery I thought my machine had a problem. I’d get started stitching and the stabilizer would tear, the thread was building up underneath in a most unbecoming way. Re-threaded, cleaned, oiled, changed the needle, checked the stitch plate. Still happening. I decided to change the foot and see what happens. Problem solved. At some point the foot itself developed a burr causing it to catch the thread, and therefore tear the stabilizer.
Sometimes the solution isn’t obvious but worth thinking through OR calling the dealer to get help.”

A bit of background I am working on a Pickle Pie in the hoop embroidery project that will debut at Quilt Market. Pictures later. Frustration set in when hoop after hoop ended in disaster, stabilizer shredding, birds nests building under the stitch plate, one piece had to be tossed. As described above I tried all the things.I walked out of the sewing room because I needed time to think this through to figure out what I was missing. Figuring out the solution made it possible to go back to the work.

Teri_Lucas_class_4I woke up thinking about what I teach, and why I teach things like pairing needles and thread, how and when to adjust tension, things that look like tension problems but are really something else. These things make big differences in our work. Knowing how to make these changes made the difference in getting better as a quilter. While this process seems “intuitive” to me I know it’s not for new machine quilters/embroiderers. Here are six things I do to make things works

Re-thread the machine. Sometimes it’s as simple as this. Start with clipping the thread at the top, pulling down from the needle. If there is any lint in the thread tack pulling down will drag it out. Take the bobbin out too check for lint, stray thread. Maybe give it a bit of a drink of oil. Make sure the bobbin is properly seated.

Change the needle. Needles are consumable and it’s worth changing them to match with thread weight. There’s good detail in class on this. Remember fine thread, finer needle; heavier thread, heavier needle. When somethings wonky try sizing up or changing needle type. Make sure the needle is all the way up into the needle clamp.

Re-threading and changing the needle are always the first steps and usually solve the problem. Then:

Check the presser foot pressure. The presser foot pressure is adjustable on most machines. For machine quilting the quilt needs to move freely under the foot. If it doesn’t then it’s hard to move the quilt. 

The next to last step is:

NYB dropping in the needle

Check the tension. If the top thread is showing on the back of the quilt raise the top tension. If the bobbin thread is showing on the top lower the top tension. On most machines make sure your presser foot lever is in the highest position (some machines have multi level levers for quilting/embroidery and  so the tension discs are open. If the

presser foot is down the discs are closed, the tension won’t change. On the newer sewing computers often the tension will change without having to raise the presser foot.

Check the thread. Even new out of the package thread can have problems. When all else fails change the spool of thread. While working on @play I had problems with one color of a type of thread. I swapped out another color and type of thread. It was weird, it’s rare, but it happens.

Ask for help. When you’re new to quilting and/or have a new machine this can be the first step because there are things we don’t know. Give as much information as you can. The person helping will go through some problem solving steps in order to assist you. Go with them on this, do the steps even though you may have tried them on your own. Sometimes we’re more mindful about what we’re doing when working with another person.

As adults we’re often frustrated while learning new things, we want it to be excellent right now and without help. We forget that when learning to walk, ride a bike, memorize times tables, how to spell is hard work because right now we can walk, ride a bike, know our times tables and spelling – well at least we try, most of the time. When teaching I speak words to remind you that learning is hard, sharing my own experiences including banging my head on the front of the sewing machine and nicking my forehead with the thread uptake lever (yes it’s true, it was just in the right position) of walking out of the sewing room for days to think essentially putting myself in time out, and stitching my finger more than once (of course it was the middle one that was shared on social).

thread and needles from mqxJust so you know taking my machine in for service for the embroidery problems was in consideration. I really wasn’t certain what was happening and entertained serious problems with the machine, particularly when the “normal” things weren’t working.

Happier Stitching,



1 thought on “Quilting/Embroidery Problem Solving”

  1. Some good suggestion/tips here! We all run into this from time to time. And you do have to just be calm (not always easy to be! ha) and go through the process! Thanks for the reminder and tips!

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