Frequently Asked Questions
"When I sew out a design, some of the stitches are loose, and there are loops. What's causing this problem?"Response:
If looping occurs in your sewouts, there are a number of possible explanations. Although it may seem obvious to you to blame the design, it is never the direct cause. A design is digitized as a series of stitch points - a computerized instruction for the machine's mechanics to shift the hoop to a specific place (an X-Y coordinate), and to raise and lower the needle once it has arrived at this specific spot. The digitizer can't create an instruction for the machine to do anything different on one spot compared to another, or to raise the needle faster or more slowly - this is all controlled by the machine.
Aside from the design and the machine, there are several other components in the machine embroidery process: the fabric, the stabilizer, and the thread. Each of these components, and there successful combination, have an affect on the sewout.
The fabric should be considered a given - you want to embroider on whatever fabric you choose, and shouldn't be expected to choose any other fabric than the one you want. Removing that element from the list of possible causes for looping in a design, stabilizer and thread remain. The wrong stabilizer for a given fabric can have a definite affect on the design, but it is more often responsible for a consistently bad result - bobbin thread being pulled through to the top, for instance - than it is for looping, which is inconsistent.
That leaves thread - perhaps the most difficult element in the process to standardize. Purchasing inexpensive thread seems like the last place to look for somewhere to economize in machine embroidery, since it is already one of the least expensive components. Assuming that you are buying good thread, you still can't determine how old it is, or how it has been stored. Thread age, storage humidity and temperature can have a major affect on the tensile strength of the thread, and how it was wrapped around the spool can influence how consistently it unwinds when you use it. Thread color can also create variations in consistency, since mistakes in dying dark colors are sometimes rescued by redying to make black, and similar mistakes with light colors can be saved by mild bleaching.
Don't forget the bobbin - which is also thread, and subject to the same variations as top thread. Pre-wound bobbins tend to be more consistent than those you wind yourself, but their age and storage conditions can cause variations in the design.
In order to determine which of these various components is causing the problem, try switching thread - color or manufacturer. Also try a different stabilizer, or a different combination of layers. Take a close look at the back of the design. The ideal result on a satin stitch column, looked at from the back, would show top thread on the left and right, each taking up 1/3 of the width. The bobbin thread should occupy the center third of the column width. The joint between each 1/3 section should be smooth and even. If it is jagged like an EKG, with regular peaks and valleys, this suggests that the thread is unraveling from the spool or bobbin inconsistently, affecting the machine tension.
The condition and timing of the machine can also cause looping. Has the machine been service recently? The belts that run the mechanics may be slipping. If the machine is in good mechanical order, dust or lint from tread - cotton thread is a major culprit - can build up under the throat place and throw off the machine's timing. Needles can also cause problems - try switch out needles for new ones on a regular basis.
Although machine manufacturers might not agree, how much or how little you use your machine can also affect results. Mechanical devises, even computerized embroidery machines, sometimes need to "warm up" to achieve consistency in their operation. It's always a good idea to begin any embroidery session by sewing a sample. If you notice problems in the result of your sample you have an opportunity to correct them before ruining something valuable.