The Art of Stitching

Fine, Smooth Stitching Shouts Quality

 The machines at the trade shows run like a mouse in tennis shoes. This begs the questions: Does speed make a difference?

The faster a machine runs, the more force on the thread. Running too fast can slow production and caused missed stitches.

The first three to five stitches are tie-in stitches and give the machine enough revolutions to catch the upper thread and the bobbin and combine them. The machine may skip these first few stitches at high speeds; this gives the thread a pull and the machine senses a break and stops. If the first stitches are not tied in tight they can also stitch through the overlay causing a fuzzy look.

When the speed increases and the force on the thread increases, a failure to adjust can cause the machine to create a tighter stitch. Satin stitches can be thinner and gaps can appear between any outlines and their adjacent fills or satins. If the machine is not threaded correctly, the thread can come out of the needle eye—which usually occurs after a trim.

Speed can also cause stitch distortion as the machine may not have time to place the stitch where it is intended. This is noticeable with small lettering.

That being said, a design that has been digitized correctly , backed and hooped correctly, running on a machine that is threaded, time and tensioned correctly should be able to un at 850 spm or faster without problems.

Let’s look at some of the other ways to troubleshoot stitching, besides stellar preparation.

 Uneven Stitches

If the stitches don’t look even, like those seen in fine sewing, here are some things to consider:

  • The seams are too thick. Stitching over seams or stays can cause stitching problems.
  • The point of the needle is incorrect or the needle is dull.
  • The tension needs adjusting.

Skipped Stitches

  • Stitches can skip when they don’t catch the bobbin thread.  This can happen if the timing is off because of a hoop collision or other accident. The bobbin thread can also be tough to catch if thread has built up on the shaft behind the hook assembly so keep your machine as clean as possible and alwaysclean the bobbin area thoroughly after a birdnest forms. When stitches skip on a fill pattern, try increasing the stitch length.
  • The fabric is too high off the needle plate—skipped stitches may result because of excessive  hoop vibration. Push the inner hoop through the outer one, recessing it so it rides smoothly on the throat plate.
  • The point of the hook is blunt, damaged or broken. Repair or replace it.
  • The needle is incorrectly inserted or old, bent or blunt. It may be touching the presser foot during stitching. Replace it.
  • The needle is the incorrect size for the thread—too large or too small. This makes it difficult for loops to form. Change the needle or the thread size.
  • There is excessive oil in the hook. Clean out the area with eye shadow applicators. I prefer these to cotton swabs which can leave too much residue behind.
  • The presser foot height is off. Adjust it, but not so low that it bounces off the fabric, not so high that it never touches the fabric.
  • The thread take-up spring is too tight.
  • The bobbin is poorly wound.
  • The top tension needs adjusting.
  • The machine is not threaded correctly.
  • The bobbin tension is not correct.
  • There is dust and debris under the needle plate.
  • The upper thread is not the correct twist. This is indicated when the thread unravels and forms an improper loop, which is not picked up by the hook. Make sure you use thread made for embroidery. Some thread is z-twist, some is s-twist.  The direction of the twist is very important in threads. A Z-twist is a clockwise or left twist; an S-twist is counter-clockwise or a right twist. As the thread passes though the path of the machine, from then cone to the eye of the needle , the friction of the movement produces some twist in the thread. The action of the needle and the hook can put added Z -twist in the thread. If the thread has been carefully prepared and balanced, it resists this further twist and does not tighten up. However, a thread with an S- twist would unwind and then fray and break when used in this machine. When the yarn is twisted together to form the two play product, it is two S-twists strands laid parallel which are twisted together with a Z-twist to produce a more stab le thread. Threads for most modern machines are made with a Z-twist, however there are S-twist threads available on the market, so be aware of this when experimenting with new ideas and yarns.
  • Fabric can make the formation of the stitch loop difficult.  Knits, vinyl and open weaves need backing and proper needles. You may have to adjust the presser foot and time the machine to use a larger needle.
  • The stitch length is too long. Long stitches may not catch the bobbin thread.
  • The machine is out of time. The rotary hook is not catching the thread loop. The hook is too early or too late meeting the needle, the needle bar is too high or the hook is too far from the needle. If the clearance between the needle and the hook  is too great, the thread will fray or not be picked up—resulting in skipped stitches.

No Stitches

  • The bobbin is empty.
  • The machine is threaded incorrectly.
  • The hook point is broken.
  • Check the needle position. If the needle is not pushed in all the way, there will be no proper loop formed, which can mimic a machine with incorrect timing.
  • The needle is inserted incorrectly.
  • The retaining finger is in the wrong position which prevents the loop needed for stitching from being formed.
  • The timing needs to be adjusted.
  • Burrs are present in the needle eye, thread guides, throat plates or hook assembly. Use emery cloth, jeweler’s rouge or crocus cloth to smooth away the burrs.
  • The needle may be too small.

The Gift of Fine Stitches

Color choice, stellar digitizing, straight and correct placement—these are all important components of fine embroidery. But, nothing says professional like neat and even stitches.