Troubleshooting embroidery thread woes…

by Ramona on January 2, 2015

Note: Click on a picture for a larger view.

Last week I posted on the ASG Facebook page the trouble I was having stitching with polyester iridescent thread; it kept shredding and breaking after only a few stitches.







It took me a good bit of troubleshooting to figure out what the problem was; I said I would share the answer in this week’s blog.  Here is the original post.






There were some wonderful and accurate suggestions as to what may be the cause of such a dilemma with my sewing:

  • Did you also change the type of needle?
  • Change the thread because not all brands behave the same.
  • Catching on the slit I bet.
  • Change the position of the thread on the spool pin.
  • Use a top stitch needle
  • Sew slowly and keep your eye on the spool itself.
  • Too much twist in the thread?
  • Is it static?
  • Is the embroidery pattern designed for metallic thread?

When embroidering, and there is troubleshooting to be done, it is best to start from the most obvious and work toward the solution, changing only one thing at a time so the solution can be either mentally noted or written down for future use.

The most obvious in this situation was re-threading the machine. The machine and bobbin were both re-threaded, a test stitch done, and there was still shredding. So I moved on to the next most obvious thing–changing the needle.

I put in a new needle of the same type I had started with, then changed to a larger size, changed to a topstitch needle and tried a metallic needle, all with no resolution to the shredding. On to step three in troubleshooting—checking for lint.

I pulled out the bobbin case, removed the throat plate and cleaned all around the feed dogs. I checked the take up for lint, around the needle clamp screw and removed all little bits of lint found, tested again; still the same problem. I would not give up and was on to step four in the troubleshooting process.

Step four was to check for any nicks on the throat plate, shuttle and race, bobbin case and anywhere I thought a burr may have been formed by perhaps a needle deflection while stitching. Not only do I check this with my finger, but I take a small piece of nylon stocking and run it over the areas. The nylon stocking will quickly pick up any small irregularities in a surface. Nope, no burrs so on to step five.


Step five was to remove the  housing cover on the machine (do this ONLY if your tech has showed you how and you take the necessary safety precautions as instructed by your technician) and check to be sure there wasn’t a spring dislodged. From  my limited experience, everything seemed ok.








I followed the thread path and discovered the problem.



One of the hints on the Facebook page was: “Here’s another clue–it may confuse things more, but when the answer is posted this will probably really make you scratch your head: I can run regular polyester embroidery thread on the machine with no problem (at this point). The machine is the 7 year old Bernina 630E.” The clues were: 7-year old machine, and polyester thread.

Because of the type of embroidery I have done over the years, I have used polyester thread. Polyester holds up to wear and tear better than rayon for children’s clothes, uniforms and bleaching. It will not fade nor will the thread really be affected by use of some chemicals. Polyester embroidery thread is very strong! Have you ever tried breaking it against your pinky finger? I have and I actually got a small cut like a paper cut on my finger.

The problem I was experiencing with the shredded thread was caused by the thread, over the years, wearing against a plate.


Each time the thread was thrust upward from the take up, it forced the thread against the plate. After seven years of almost daily use of polyester thread (not only embroidery but poly core sewing thread), the plate had gotten a small nick in it. Which reminds me, note to self: if stranded on a desert island, make sure to have polyester embroidery thread for a multitude of uses including cutting!





The reason the thread shredded is because there are little segments which make up the thread that give it the luster and catch the light which is why we like to stitch with these types of threads; these segments were catching on the groove in the plate.



When stitching with other polyester embroidery threads the shredding did not occur but at some point when the groove wore down enough it would have. So there you have it. A systematic methodology of checking and troubleshooting by beginning with the simplest and working toward finding the solution solved the problem. When troubleshooting remember to change only one thing at a time and test again. If too many things are changed at once, you may never know what actually caused the problem.

Now the local technician gets to have my machine and take an emery cloth and smooth out this area of the plate. The machine is due for a tune-up anyway, so I’ll have that done at the same time.

Good wishes for a trouble-free new year of sewing!

Sew ‘til next time, enjoy the journey of sewing!






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