There are things I collect: miniature shoes, quotes, people and helpful hints. I thought I’d share with you some of the ones I think are the best at smoothing the road, especially for beginners—that is, “newbies,” in our world.
Many people have helped and guided and advised me on my journey and I send out a thank you to all of them because naming them all would put me way over my word quota. You know who you are, though, and so do I.
Always suspect the needle first. Changing to a new needle solves many a stitching problem.
Apply silicone spray to the needle with a cotton swab to help keep it from gumming up when using spray adhesive or stitching through sticky backing or coated fabrics.
Synthetic thread can create heat, from the friction as it passes through the eye, and cause thread breaks. That heat can also cause residue to accumulate on the needle. Slide a piece of waxed paper under the hooped goods to help lubricate the needle and dissipate some of the heat.
Insert the needle in backwards when timing the machine. Once the point of the hook is approaching exactly where the scarf of the needle will be, turn the needle around.
The size of the needle is dictated by the thread; the point of the needle is dictated by the fabric; the eye of the needle is dictated by the thread.
Use a new sharp needle—rather than the wedge point—when stitching on leather.
When stitching on dark garments with dark thread, place a piece of white paper or a backing scrap on the garment—all the better to see when threading the needle. Do the reverse when stitching on white garments with white thread—a piece of dark construction paper or black backing will do the trick.
A 65/8 is a sharp needle but fine, and can pass through many knits without cutting the yarn and causing runs.
Store thread in a clean, dry place.
Don’t use tape to secure the cut ends of thread. Its residue will gum up the needle and can cause thread breaks. If your cone or spool doesn’t have a slit in the bottom of the cone for holding the thread, cut one with a sharp utility knife and color with a marker to find it fast.
A drinking straw can help small spools fit better on the thread rack.
When stitching problems occur, after changing the needle, check to be sure the thread isn’t caught under the cone or spool and check the thread path to make sure the machine is threaded correctly.
The friction of stitching can cause the thread to stretch, changing the size of the loop. Minimize stretching by spraying a square of tearaway with non-staining silicon lubricant and slide it under the hoop. This reduces friction which makes for smoother stitching. Set your embroidery stitching with a heat press for a fine-quality finished look.
Clear nylon thread can be used to make realistic windshields on cars and beer mugs that glisten like glass. Multi-filament is easier to stitch than monofilament. You may have to adjust the check spring and tension when using this thread. Try wrapping it an extra time around the pre-tensioner.
Think of the bobbin as a common denominator. When stitching problems occur on all needles, change the bobbin then check the bobbin case and hook assembly.
Use a cotton bobbin when you stitch small details. Cotton holds tightly and has minimal stretch.
Try using filament polyester bobbins to help metallic thread stitch smoothly. Metallic threads don’t have the flexibility of cotton, rayon or polyester thread and can use some extra help.
If bobbin stitches show up on the top of the goods, clean under the leaf adjustment spring before doing any tension adjustments.
When winding your own bobbins, use a quality, thin sewing thread. Bobbin thread ranges from 80 to 120 in weight.
You can remove the backlash spring in the bobbin case when using pre-wound bobbins, but it acts as a brake on a spinning bobbin when metal bobbin reels are used. If you wind your own on a metal bobbin reel, make sure the spring is in place.
Use the small brush that comes with an electric razor for fast and easy cleaning of the bobbin area.
Punch a hole in a thin piece of plastic and hang near the machine for cleaning under the bobbin adjustment arm, also called the leaf-adjustment spring.
Backing is used to create stability. We are actually stitching on the backing: The target fabric just happens to be in the middle. Backing that doesn’t stretch in any direction makes for superior embroidery.
Use polymesh backing on white and light-colored shirts. When trimmed, there is no “badge” showing through on the front.
Adhere your goods, especially knits, to the backing to stabilize the embroidery. It is a lot easier to hoop the goods as one piece.
Use waxed paper under your backing to smooth the ride of nylon or rubber-coated fabrics over the throat plate.
Use topping as backing on afghans or any other goods where the reverse will be easily seen.
Round hoops hold fabric the best as the tension is even all the way around.
Hoop your backing with your garment for better hold. Make sure the backing covers the entire area and is caught all the way around. If not, start over.
Plastic and fiberglass hoops resist moisture but can cause hoop burn on the fabric. Prevent hoop burn by adding a piece of backing on top of the goods and cut out a window for embroidery.
Adjust the thumb screw before hooping goods. Don’t pull the fabric after it is hooped as stretched fabric can pucker when removed from the hoop. Holes around the stitching are often caused by threads that are cut when the fabric is stretched too tight.
Baby powder on the rubber side of any goods will help them slip into the hoop.
Make sure the widest part of your design is in the widest part of the hoop.
Hoop delicate, napped or hard-to-hold items by spraying (away from the machine) hooped backing with adhesive spray and then affixing the goods to the backing. Digitize a basting stitch around the edge to further secure the goods and consider an underlay that stitches first, in the color of the target fabric, to marry the backing to the garment and increase stability.
Hypodermic needles are great for dispensing oil. A few drops at a time is a comfortable way to oil, especially when putting those all important ones in the raceway of the hook assembly each day.
Oil the ports while the machine is running. You can see the oil being taken up. If the oil runs back out, check for a blockage.
Scissors should be kept sharp, oiled and never used to cut paper. Try cutting a small shape, triangle or star, from chiffon fabric. The scissors should move easily and the cuts should be clean.
Cleaning the bobbin case or changing the needle cures most ills.
If you have to take the bobbin case apart, work over a hooped piece of backing so that no screws fall on the floor and get lost.
Righty-tighty/lefty-loosey for tension.
Check along the thread path, on the throat plate, around the needle hole and in the hook assembly for nicks and burrs that can cause thread breaks.
Use the smallest needle, hoop, tension and thread possible for superior quality embroidery.
Combine that “smallest” rule with a cotton bobbin and #60-weight thread for quality embroidery, especially when stitching small details and letters.
Check your garments and goods using a black-light table. Oil spots and holes will be easy to catch.
Videotape all installations and tech visits for your education and future reference.
I hope you have found something of value that you can use in this month’s “Hart of Embroidery” and I send out a big hug to all those who have shared their tips and tricks with me over the years.