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    Minimizing thread breakage


    Original text by Marina Belova 

    I've been drawn to the idea of saving lately. Nothing can help you to save money better than the absence of the thread breakage. Just try to estimate how much money you waste on dealing with a broken thread, then come back and retrace the embroidery. One should also remember that the place where the thread had broken stands out to the naked eye. 

    In theory (and in practice), every design should not just be beautiful, but, with the good performance, able to be embroidered, too. I've read on Frank Gawronski's website recently that a machine embroidery design is considered good when the thread breaks less than once every 10—15 thousand stitches on the multi-head embroidery machine. And less than once every 60—100 thousand stitches on the single-head embroidery machine. 

    Unfortunately, the facts that I've picked up in the course of my embroidery career, say the opposite. Often the consumables — needles and threads — were to blame. I remember that once when I was using a Chinese brand, the thread broke every 100—150 stitches, and when a German brand was used instead, the trouble vanished as it by magic. The embroidery looked fluffy without using any acrylic threads. Sometimes, an embroidery machine had its needle in the pie. And also the designs often are third-rate. 

    The reasons for the thread breakage depend on all kinds of factors: 

    I will not enlarge upon the embroidery process itself and also upon the consumable materials — those are the topics for two separate articles. I'd better bring your attention to the things you should check out in order to minimize the thread breakage. 

    The design 

    The embroidery sequence begins with the good design. Before digitizing it, you'll need to make the assessment in order to find possible problems. Such problems as too many details that result in multi-layered embroidery, which can lead to the thread breakage because of its thickness. Too small details: thin outlines, curved in too many places, etc. It is possible that some of them can be spared or simplified. 


    There are 3 main reasons why poor digitizing leads to the thread breakage

    • Wrong stitch length
    • Automatic trimming in wrong places 
    • Excess stitches squeezed into a too small embroidery area 

    Dealing with these reasons prevents about 75% of the thread breakage. 

    Wrong stitch length 

    As you know, almost any embroidery machine is capable of making stitches from 0.1 to 12.7 mm long. But in reality, it becomes clear that stitches under 1 mm and over 7 mm are the reason for additional thread breakage because of the curves and because the needle deviates from its axis. 

    Therefore, you should check out the stitch lengths in a design before digitizing. Modern embroidery software offers all kinds of handy tools, such as removing stitches shorter that the stated value. Also, there is splitting long stitches into shorter ones. 

    Carefully digitize automatic trims 

    I won't reinvent the wheel if I mention that a trim requires a tie-off before and after the trimming. Though I've often heard that you can dispose of the one after — the understitching is there, anyway, and it should not be secured with lock stitches, for they are underneath. Moreover, I tried this once. Technically the absence of lock stitch on the object that follows is a common reason for the thread coming out of the needle. And this can count as breakage. 

    Tie-offs protect the design from breaking loose. When the machine resumes the embroidery, in only has a short thread end to make the loop.

    Therefore, you should place a lock stitch and resume the embroidery on a low speed in order to avoid thread coming out of needle at this moment. 

    Nowadays the digitizer won't have any trouble inserting a tie-off. For virtually every editor has a logical value that automatically does that after color change and trims. This makes the job much easier. 

    Lower the density 

    The excessive stitch count in a small embroidery area will lead to the thread breakage because of the high density. It is necessary to lower the design's stitch count, simplify the details, decrease the number of layers and use motif stitches and patterns. I.e. reduce the number of stitches as much as possible. I've expanded on the subject here. 

    Proper digitizing depends not so much on the software, but on the knowledge and skills of the design creator. For any embroidery editor is only the instrument for making the task quicker and easier. It cannot estimate whether the design is made right or wrong. Machine embroidery software does not know, what can be done and what is not recommended. It does not have an algorithm for such things. 

    It has been said that everybody who can draw in a computer program can learn to digitize machine embroidery in no time. But based on the above, one can conclude that a digitizer should know the embroidery process inside out and also have a profound knowledge of the theory of machine embroidery. This is necessary for understanding what embroidery software options work well enough, and what would be better done manually. 

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    Another expirince and opinion. Minimizing thread breaks in order of importance: 1) use good quality thread and bobbins. Isacord is well regarded for thread strength. Polyester is stronger than rayon, so make sure your problem areas are stitched with your most reliable thread. Use the right weight of thread - there is lighter weight thread available for tiny lettering and details and sometimes that makes all the difference for thread breaks and embroidery quality. 2) use the right size needle with the right point for your project and check often for needle burrs. A needle that is too large for a dense design can cause thread breaks. 3) check your needle eye angle - turned too far to the left or right affects hook timing. 4) check for correct bobbin tension and uniform bobbin tension - those prewound suckers can have flaws. If your bobbin tension goes loose-tight-loose-tight as you pull it out you're in for a bad time. Tension will also naturally loosen from the start of the bobbin to the end. Clean your bobbin case under the spring now and then. 5) use the appropriate speed and tension for the thread and material you are stitching. Some materials are just fussier than others. 6) use a topper on thick, stretchy items like polarfleece. 7) keep up with your machine maintenance, especially if you use spray glue or a sticky stabilizer that can gum up your machine. That sticky stuff will cause extra drag on your thread feed if it isn't cleaned off. 8) make sure your hooping is nice and snug, especially for knits and caps which are inclined to add extra bounce. If all that is correct, and you have a tried and true design that is sewing fine, THEN your digitized design is probably the issue. You may be working with a bad digitizer (switch digitizing services). If you are the digitizer, you either don't know what you are doing or you may be crippled by software limitations. Your design could also be made specifically for wovens or knits, flats or caps and you're trying to make it perform on a product it wasn't intended for. You may have resized the design and it didn't scale well. Etc., etc. So many things can be wrong with the digitizing. BUT FIRST check all your needles and bobbins and settings and such.

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