Whenever two or more embroiderers gather together, the ideas, short-cuts and stories just flow. Here is a list of some of my favorite tips on the tools and techniques (along with some refresher information for the EMB-101s) that keep the needles running.
Swab needles with a bit of silicone to prevent adhesives from sticking to them.
The size of the needle is dictated by the thread.
The eye of the needle is dictated by the thread.
The point of the needle is dictated by the fabric.
Damaged needles are often the cause of ragged edges and holes in the corners or in tight corners.
Use small needles when stitching small letters and details.
Clean the bobbin area with an electric razor brush.
Test tension with a full bobbin; a half-used bobbin can be flatter which can decrease the tension.
Clip the bobbin thread’s tail to three inches so it doesn’t get wrapped around the hook shaft.
Check for debris on the leaf-adjustment spring on the bobbin if your tension goes out or bobbin threads show on the surface of the embroidery. Debris will open the space which removes tension from the bobbin thread, compromising your stitching. Use a thin piece of plastic to clean between the leaf adjustment spring and the bobbin case.
Place a bobbin on the top of the machine while it is running. If it rattles and rolls, use a carpenter’s level to check the machine. Level it if necessary. (Remember that leveling may require the heads to be re-timed.)
Skipped stitches and broken threads are not always a sign that the timing is off. Timing should be the last resort. Always check the needle first when stitching isn’t satisfactory. Many troubles can be cured with a new and properly-installed needle.
If the timing seems to be off, check for thread that may have wrapped around the shaft behind the hook assembly. This can force the hook closer to the needle and mimic a timing issue.
Clean residue from hoops with Goo-Gone, denatured alcohol or even shaving foam. Make sure any oily feel is cleaned away before using the hoops again.
Wrap the inner hoop with velvet ribbon, florist’s tape or athletic tape to create a tighter hold. Blue painter’s tape will work but don’t use masking tape as it will leave a residue.
Don’t remove a shirt from the packaging to embroiderer a sleeve.
Leave a placket shirt buttoned, hoop the target area so that the shirt loads upside-down and then reverse the design on the machine. Trim through the bottom, fold the shirt and be done.
Hoop a piece of backing on the top of a garment, then cut a window out for the embroidery. This will create a tighter hold without wrapping the hoop.
Never tighten the thumbscrew on the hoop after hooping. If it’s not right, start over. Since the fabric can easily be bruised or cut, leave the hoop a quarter of a turn looser and then tighten it carefully. Before you un-hoop, loosen that turn. (An exception is on T-shirts.)
Digitize a walking stitch around your design when it first starts. This will baste the garment and backing together. Use long running stitches that can be removed easily.
Baby or talcum powder applied to the rubbery side of a fabric will allow the goods to slip easily into the hoop and to glide across the throat plate during stitching.
For an appliqué that is more supple, cut out the center of the shape on the piece of fusible backing. Only the edges of the design will be fused.
Try something different and use a printed image as an appliqué. Make it easier by using a paper-backed fusible stabilizer. Iron it to the wrong side of the fabric that you are going to print but leave the paper backing on the opposite side. Print the fabric and then remove the paper and fuse the image directly to the garment, finishing with appliqué stitching or other embellishments. (There are many printable fabrics available that work well with a standard inkjet printer.)
Slide some waxed paper under the hoop when stitching though heavy fabrics or those backed with vinyl or rubber. The wax coating this creates on the needle will keep build-up from fouling the needle and help the needle pass through the fabric more easily.
Adhere the backing to fleece or knit before hooping. This lessens any movement between the backing and fabric and results in crisper embroidery.
Apply iron-on stabilizer to the reverse of stretchy knits where the design will be placed, then hoop with tearaway. The result will be straight grain lines and a lighter feel to the embroidery.
Use the trace function before you stitch. A misplaced stitch or a wide segment in a narrow part of the hoop can cause a hoop crash… and costly repairs.
Fill a chalk wheel with baby powder and use this to mark your goods. Most of it will be gone before the stitching is complete and the rest just blows away.
The angles at the neckline of robes make lining up a logo more of a challenge. Close the robe naturally and place face-up on a table. Place a long ruler across the robe with the top at the area where the armholes meet the sides. Place a marker just above the ruler, far enough from the lapel so it won’t be covered during wear. This will be the center of a monogram unless it is very large; the marker will then serve as the bottom point of the design.
When stitching a design or monograms on towels, place the monogram on the opposite side and opposite end from the sewn-in label. The texture—and the color—of the towel will then appear the same on all the towels.
Fixing and finishing
A needle-threading tool or thread pusher will slip through the reverse of a shirt, grabbing any unruly threads or loops and pulling them easily to the back. A very thin crochet hook will work as well. Secure them with a small amount of fabric glue or weave them under adjoining threads.
Use a table with a black light to check incoming goods. Holes and oil spots will be easy to see.
Fly-tying scissors from the sporting-goods store are great for trimming threads. The fine points and larger finger holes make for comfortable and easy clipping.
For easy topping removal, steam and then blot with a coffee filter.
Salt added to water sets dye. Vinegar and water will set color.
When trimming threads between letters, cut one side and then the other to leave a longer tail to trim.
Bleach is a color remover, not a stain remover.