Embroidery Troubleshooting

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When an embroidery machine is not running at optimal performance there are certain Embroidery Troubleshooting tips one can follow to attempt to get the embroidery machine to run properly.

Before calling your embroidery machine technician, this troubleshooting guide might be used to fix basic problems.

When an embroidery machine becomes problematic chances are its not the machine but instead more than likely operator errors, design problems, hooping problems, thread or needle issues, etc. Before mechanically doing anything to your machine, one should check for most of the common issues.

Symptoms and Resolutions

One of the most common problems encountered in daily embroidery production is a thread break. This section covers the main reasons that a thread will break and how to minimize thread breaks. The six problem areas involve: thread, needles, materials, design, mechanics and operator technique.

Tensions Test
Tensions Test


The tensions should constantly be checked on the machine. If the tensions are off, the machine might break threads. For more information on setting the tensions, read Embroidery Machine Service Guide - Tensions

Also check the thread path to insure the machine is threaded properly. Then sew a tension test such as an 18mm capital "I" test. If the machine is not threaded correctly, it will not embroider. At times, its best to take the entire spool and thread off the machine and then re thread from scratch.


Thread is a major cause for thread breaks. Thread like food has a shelf life. When thread is exposed to the elements (air, wind, A/C, heat, cold, humidity, oily hands, etc) it rots internally eventually and becomes very brittle. There is not a specific number of days a cone of thread is good for. Thread does not necessarily have an specific expiration date. Even new wrapped thread can rot over time.

The best thread test to preform is just to try to break the thread by hand. If it breaks easy or does not make a good clean break, then the thread is probably bad. If thread is bad, its best just to discard as it is worthless and causes more problems than the cost of the spools. Bad thread will cause numerous thread breaks and can drive an operator or technician crazy.

The best advice is to buy the best thread available and not cut corners. If the spools are expensive, that cost should be passed to the customers. Spools of threads can also be unwound to many smaller spools. When doing this, its very important to unwind the thread in a uniform fashion and with a constant tension.


Needles are generally not a major cause for problems. If the needle is installed correctly with the scarf at the back and the needle eye perfectly straight then there should not be problems unless the tip of the needle is dull, or bent.

Gently Running a finger around the tip of the needle is a good way to check for burrs. If the needle seems like it has any flaws, replace it.


Certain materials require special digitizing. A good digitizer should be able to digitize for any material as long as they know what material the design will be embroidered on before digitizing the design.

If the material is not hooped properly this can also be a cause of problems.


A bad embroidery design will cause havoc on even the worlds best tuned embroidery machine.

There is an entire write up at the Digitizing section about quality digitizing.

Needle Breaks

Needle breaks are another common issue. Here are some likely causes:

• The needle may be dull and needs to be changed. If the needle has trouble getting through the fabric, it will eventually cause the needle to break.

• Make sure the needle is inserted properly. If it is not inserted all the way into the needle bar shaft, it could come loose while sewing and break.

• Make sure the hook timing is correct. If the machine is not timed properly, the needle may hit the hook, which could cause it to break.

Bird Nesting

There are three primary causes to bird nesting: unbalanced tension, flagging, or problems with the hook assembly.

Flagging problems. Check to make sure the fabric is framed properly. It should be tight. Also, make sure there is not a significant gap between the hoop assembly and the sewing arm.

Hook assembly problems. If there is a problem with the hook assembly, look at two things. Either the hook positioning finger is mounted too close to the hook basket, or the hook basket does not allow the sewing hook to spin freely.

Looped Stitches

If the stitches look looped on the top, then the top tensions are probably too loose and need to be tightened. If the thread on all the needles is looping then the bobbin is probably too loose.

If the looping is random then the bobbin case might need to be changed. When changing bobbin cases be sure to remove the metal shim piece inside (unless you are using metal bobbins and not cardboard bobbins).

Skipping Stitches

Skipping stitches is generally a mechanical issues. The problem might be the needle depth, stop position, or hook timing.

Vibrations and Noise

When an embroidery machine vibrates excessively then it might mean the machines is not on a flat surface or is not properly leveled.

If a noise such as a ticking can be heard, it is sometimes due to a lack of oil.

Bobbin Case Ticking

Noises heard in the bobbin case areas might be the cause of of a lack of oil.

False Thread Breaks

False Thread Breaks are usually due to the machine not being threaded correctly or the machine is dirty. Sensors can be cleaned with alcohol when the machine is unplugged from the power source.

Taking 5 minutes of the day to clean the machine will increase the machines life drastically. A dirty machine will gum up, overheat and fry boards and cause many other problems.

Operator Error

Embroidery machines are very easy to operate. However, without proper training running the machine can be very difficult. Embroidery Machine Technicians usually offer hands on training or classes. It is well worth the money to spend a few days with a technician or with someone who has a lot of experience in embroidery.


When all else fails, the best thing to do might to have a service call by a Embroidery Machine Technician. However it is highly recommended to check all other possibilities provided in this article before spending the money on a technician.

Tools Recommended

Having the right tools is not only important for an embroidery machine technician but also for the embroidery machine operator.

A good set of tools can be purchased at Sears or anywhere else that sells quality tools.

Some recommend tools are

  • Sharp Nippers (clippers)
  • Screw drives
    • Extra Fine, Fine, Medium size Phillips (star) and flat screw drivers.
  • Razor blade (for cleaning machine)
  • Lighter (can be used to burn off pills or loose thread on the garments)
  • Offset (L-Shapped) flat screwdriver (for removing the needle plate)
  • Air compressor with WATER FILTER for cleaning the machine. Air compressors usually spray microscopic water drops that can eventually rust the machine.

Other Support

Check the Technical Portal for more embroidery troubleshooting