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Troubleshooting Thread Problems

12th August 2009

Troubleshooting Thread Problems

tangled-threadWe at EnMart are not shy about saying we know Iris thread has excellent quality.   Our parent company has been using it in all our plants for over two years now, and we know it works.  We also know that even the best quality thread won’t help you avoid every potential problem.  Over the past 35 years, our parent company has compiled a great store of knowledge which allows us to troubleshoot thread problems with ease.  Today I thought I’d share a few of those tips with all of you.

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

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

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

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

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips, Thread | 1 Comment

10th August 2009

The Importance of Regular Machine Maintenance

sw805I have to confess that I’m not what one would call handy.  I can do simple repairs, if given enough time and very good instructions, but I prefer to avoid repairs if I can.  The best way I’ve found to avoid having to fix something is to make sure I perform regular maintenance on it,  so as to keep the item in top shape.  Anyone who owns an embroidery machine understands exactly what I mean.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

One way to prevent problems with your embroidery machine is to make sure that it is kept oiled.   There should be an oiling chart in your manual which will tell you where the machine needs to be oiled and how frequently.  Most machines should be oiled with white sewing machine oil.  You may not need more than a few drops at a time, so make sure that you refer to your oiling chart for the proper amounts.   Regular lubrication is very important for the smooth and trouble free running of your machine, so make sure you oil it regularly.

Another important part of machine maintenance is keeping the michine clean and free of lint.  Thread fibers can build up in the machine.  Fabric can leave fibers and lint as well.  If the machine is not cleaned on a regular basis, these threads and fibers can build up and gum up the works, eventually preventing your machine from working at all.   An easy way to keep the machine lint and dust free is to regularly clear out all the nooks and crevices with something like EnMart’s Sprayway Lint and Dust Remover.

Luckily, embroidery machine maintenance is generally very simple.  If you remember to keep your machine oiled and to keep it clean of dust and lint, your machine should work well for you for years to come.

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips | 1 Comment

8th July 2009

Why Bobbin Tension is Important

621lh10wWhenever we talk about quality embroidery and/or troubleshooting embroidery problems, it always seems to come down to tension.  The tension is too tight.  The tension is too loose.  The tension needs to be adjusted.  The first question that is generally asked when someone says they’re having a problem with their machine is this: “Have you checked the tensions?”   Having the tensions set correctly can make a huge difference in the quality of your embroidery, the efficiency of your machine and the smooth running of your thread.

For those who may be new to machine embroidery, there are two types of tensions that can be adjusted.  One type is thread tension, which we’ll discuss in another post.  The other type is bobbin tension, which may also be referred to as lower tension.  That is what we’ll address in this post.

There are several reasons why having the correct bobbin tension is important.  One reason for making sure your bobbin tension is adjusted correctly has to do with the quality of your finished embroidery.  If your bobbin tension is too tight, you will get more looping, bunching and birds nests.  Having your lower tension adjusted correctly helps eliminate these common problems and allows you to create a polished finished piece.

If your bobbin tension is too loose, you may end up with bobbin thread showing through your embroidery thread.  Obviously, this is not the look you want, and will not in any way contribute to a quality finished piece.  Adjusting bobbin tension can be a balancing act, but finding the proper tensions is worth the work.  Once you’ve achieved the correct tension, your embroidery will run much more smoothly.

Another factor that can contribute to the success or failure of your embroidery is the bobbin case.  A bobbin case that is too loose may allow your bobbin too much movement.  You also need to be aware of build up inside the bobbin case.  Make sure you clean the cases often and switch them out when there are signs of wear.

One way to tell if your bobbin tension is set correctly is to check your thread ratio when you sew out a design.  There should be approximately 2/3 top thread to 1/3 bobbin thread.  This is a general guideline, but if you are seeing something close to this ratio than your tensions are most likely set properly.

You should also make sure that you have the proper size bobbin for your machine.  Bobbins come in Style L and Style M sizes.  Magnetic bobbins are also available.  Make sure to follow the instructions given in your manual when it comes to bobbin size.

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28th April 2009

Blank Patch Embroidery: Step by Step Instructions

One of the questions that we get asked most often is how to embroider a single blank patch.  Since we sell blank patches, it would make sense that we would get asked this question and over the two years of EnMart’s existence, we’ve worked to develop a satisfactory answer.  Quite frankly, our parent company, Ensign Emblem, which makes the blank patches, never embroiders one patch at a time.  We’re more likely to do hundreds at a time.  Still, we do have a lot of embroidery experts here, so we put our heads together and created a set of instructions for embroidering our patches.

The good news is the process is quite easy.  Our instruction sheet only has six steps, from selecting your blanks to taking your finished patch off the machine.  We also offer all the supplies you need to embroider your patch, from the Peel and Stick backing you use to secure the patch to the embroidery machine you use to embroider the patch.  We even offer heat presses if you need to seal your embroidered patch to the garment.   It probably  goes without saying that we’d be happy to supply the thread you use to embroider the patch as well.

In addition to blank patches, EnMart is working on adding sublimated patches to our store and, eventually, custom embroidered patches as well.  We are also contemplating adding the supplies necessary to make patches from scratch, like the fabric and the heat seal backing.  While we’d love to supply all your blank patch needs, we do recognize that some people like to do it themselves. Whatever your needs when it comes to blank emblems, EnMart is dedicated to being your supplier.

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips | 9 Comments

2nd February 2009

5 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Embroidery Machine

Your embroidery machine is probably one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in your shop.   You most likely spent a substantial sum to purchase the machine and now that you have it (or them, if you have more than one) you want to get the most value for every dollar you spent.   Here are a few tips that can help you do just that.

Tip 1:Maintenance –  Make sure your machine is very well maintained.  Follow the maintenance guidelines in your manual and keep your machine oiled and free of lint and dust.   The more time you spend maintaining your machine, the longer it should run without problems or the need for a visit to a professional repairperson.  For more information on how to maintain your machine, you can visit the following sites:

Sew News

Impressions Magazine

Tip 2:  Read the Manual – Manufacturers provide instruction manuals to help you get the most from your machine.  Make sure you spend time reading through the entire manual.  Use a highlighter to mark the information that is relevant to maintenance so you can find it again later.  Most manufacturers will include a recommended maintenance schedule in their manual.

Tip 3:  Take Advantage of Training –  Many machine manufacturers will offer training on how to use their machines.  Most times the training will not be free, but often times the cost is fairly minimal.  If you are planning to use your embroidery machine for business reasons, the cost of the training may be tax deductible.

Tip 4: Visit Forums –  Some embroiderers are lucky enough to be surrounded by a local community that can provide advice.  For those who don’t have that local resource, online forums can be a great substitute.  Forums like T-Shirt Forums.com and the Stitches Magazine Social Site can be great places to share ideas and get advice.

Tip 5:  Practice, Practice, Practice –  The best way to get the most from your machine is to use it as much as you can.  Learning your machine’s quirks and getting comfortable setting it up for different jobs will help ensure that you will be able to perform quickly and efficiently when asked to stitch out a job for a paying customer.

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16th December 2008

The Basics of Backing

The proper use of backing can make a big difference in the success or failure of your embroidery projects.  A average machine embroidery shop will need to have at least a stock of cutaway backing and a stock of tearaway backing on hand to ensure that the shop can handle whatever projects may come.  Shops that do a wide variety of projects may need to have a more specialized inventory.   If you’re new to backing or new to machine embroidery, here is a list of the basic supplies you may want to have on hand.

Item 1:  Cutaway Backing – Cutaway backing provides a stable base for delicate or stretchy fabrics.   This sort of backing is also generally cut with scissors around the finished design.   Cutaway backing is generally sturdier than other sorts of backing.

Item 2:  Tearaway Backing –  As the name implies, tearaway backing can be torn from around the stitched design.  Tearaway backing is a very popular stabilizer choice as it is easy to use and easy to remove from the finished design.   Good quality tearaway backing will tear easily in either direction and will tear away from the stitched design without damaging the garment or the stitching.

Item 3:  Water Soluble Backing –  This is a biodegradable backing/topping.   It is ideal for monogramming and appliques.  This is the backing you should use when you want to keep your stitches from sinking into the fabric that you are embroidering.   When soaked in water, this stabilizer dissolves.

Item 4:  Cap Backing –  If you often embroider hats and caps, you’ll want to have some of this type of backing on hand.  Our cap backing is our heaviest weight tearaway product.   Cap backing is designed to improve the crispness of letters and columns.

With this basic inventory, you should be able to handle the majority of jobs that come in to your shop.  If you are often asked to stitch designs on pieces that are difficult to hoop, you may want to consider adding some additional items to your inventory.   Peel and Stick backing  has a pressure sensitive coating and a release liner.  It is the ideal backing when you need to embroider small items that can’t be hooped.   If you prefer to use another type of backing, you may also coat your backing with spray adhesive, and hold the item to be stitched in place that way.

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22nd September 2008

Helpful Hints and Tips

In my quest for information and topics for this blog, I spend a lot of time roaming the Internet looking for hints and tips I can share with those who read this blog.  Today I thought I share a few of the tips I’ve found in my travels among web pages and blogs.

The Secrets of Embroidery blog has a nice piece on creating solid fill.

The Embroidery Guide has an interesting article, which could be of use to customers of machine embroidery shops.  It details what you should look for when purchasing machine embroidery.  If you have customers who are new to or tentative about purchasing machine embroidery, this might be a great article to share with them.

Fashion Incubator has a link to an interesting IQ test for designers.   It involves putting different colors in the proper order by hue.  I didn’t do so well, but that’s why I’m a writer and not a designer.  It should be an interesting challenge for embroiderers who have to match colors.

If you’ve ever wondered how many stitches are in a spool or cone of thread, the Common Thread blog from Flying Needle Machine Embroidery can help you out.  They’ve posted a chart which shows how many stitches (approximately) should come from each thread put-up.

Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should really swing by the T-Shirt Forums.   There is a lot of good information there about running a business.  They also have an embroidery section.  If you do stop by, please do say hello.  I’m generally around the forum at some point during the day.  My screen name is EnMartian.

By the way, if you know of any great embroidery forums, please share them with us here at EnMart.  We are always looking for new places to connect with embroiderers.  If you have a forum you especially like, please let us know in the comments section.

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16th September 2008

Is Thread Tension Making You Tense?

If you use an embroidery machine you know how important thread tension can be to the success or failure of your design.  Unfortunately, mastering the proper tensions for your machine can take some trial and error.  Since each machine is a little bit different, you may need to make some adjustments before you get your thread running smoothly.  If you are currently having problems with your thread, here are some adjustments you can make which might help eliminate the issue you’re having.

The first thing to do is try and determine what sort of tension problem you have.  If your tension is too tight, you will most likely get excessive thread breaks and pulling or puckering of your design.  If your thread tension is too loose, you’ll end up with bobbin thread showing through the design, or looping of your embroidery thread.   Neither situation is an optimum one.

When your thread is tightened properly and you sew a test design, you should see the design divided into thirds.  The top third would be top thread, the bottom third would be top thread and the middle third would be bobbin thread.   This test run card from EnMart shows you how your test stitch should look.   If you aren’t seeing the 1/3 divisions, then your thread needs to be adjusted.

If more than 2/3 top thread is showing, you may need to tighten your top tension.  If more than 1/3 bobbin thread is showing, you may need to loosen your main tension or tighten your bobbin.  Once you’ve adjusted your tensions stitch the design again.  If you see the 2/3 top thread and 1/3 bobbin thread, you’ll know your tensions are correct and you can start sewing out your design.

Some thread companies recommend that the tensions be set at a certain range of grams for the best performance.   The question then becomes  how do you know at what tension the machine is currently set? One way to know is to purchase a tension gauge.  Such a gauge is generally relatively inexpensive and using it, and the recommended tension settings from your thread manufacturer can help ensure that your tensions are set to give you the best possible embroidering experience.

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15th September 2008

Machine Embroidery on Denim

Everywhere you look these days you see denim.  There are denim jackets and denim skirts.  You’ll see cute little newsboy caps made out of denim, as well as denim purses and totes.  You will also of course see many pairs of denim jeans. Denim is a very popular fabric, so most embroiderers will probably be asked to embroider on this material at least once in their careers.  If you’ve never embroidered on denim before, you’ll find it has some unique challenges.  Here are some tips to help make sure your denim embroidery goes smoothly.

Because denim is a twill weave, it can be difficult to stabilize.  The weave runs diagonally, which allows the fabric to “give” and makes it more comfortable.  That same diagonal pattern, however, makes it difficult to keep the grain of the fabric square in both directions.  You will have to hoop the fabric carefully.

Always use a stabilizer behind your design.  A good choice might be a cutaway stabilizer.  Once the item is securely hooped, slip a square of tearaway backing under the design area.  This combination of stabilizers has been shown to work with both regular and stretch denim.

Embroidering on denim also requires a heavy duty needle.  A large embroidery needle, like a 90/14 needle, is recommended.   Remember, most denim is thick fabric, so you’re going to need a needle that can handle repeatedly piercing through such fabric without going dull.

Make sure the color of thread in your designs is a nice contrast to the shade of denim on which you are embroidering.  Lighter thread colors will show up nicely on darker denim.  Darker thread colors will highlight your designs on lighter denim fabrics.

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9th September 2008

How To Embroider on Hats

Embroidering hats can be a great profit center for your business.  Like most other types of machine embroidery, there are certain things you should keep in mind when embroidering hats.  If you follow the tips given below, you should find that embroidering caps and hats is an easy and painless process.

Tip #1:  Design Size Matters –  When it comes to embroidering a hat, smaller designs generally work better than larger designs.   Your design should fit into the flat area of the cap where you will be embroidering.   The size of that area will determine the size of your design.

Tip #2: Make a Template –  Making a design template will help you place the designs properly on the hat.  It will also be of help with hooping the hat.   Using a template will give you the cross lines you need to hoop your hat correctly.

 Tip #3:  Use random designs –  Hats are hard to hoop and it is difficult to ensure they are in the hoop straight.  Using designs that are random and don’t require being centered can help you avoid the problems a hat that is hooped crookedly can cause.

Tip #4: Avoid Square Designs – Square designs do require straight hooping and  proper centering, which may be difficult to do.  If at all possible, avoid these sorts of designs.

Tip #5:  Use Backing Developed for CapsBacking designed for caps will enhance the clarity and crispness of your embroidered designs.  Backing will also help maintain the tension on the bobbin thread.

posted in Machine Embroidery Tips | 3 Comments

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