Having problems with threads shredding & breaking

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carolphelps wrote
on 27 Apr 2010 7:07 AM

I use a fairly mature Pffaf sewing machine which I love.When using it to machine embroider I am disappointed to find that the lovely embroidery threads I want to use (all types including metallic of couse!) just break and shred. I have bought both embroidery needles and metallic needles and still have a problem.  Any thoughts ?

Carol (UK)

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Peggy Szasz wrote
on 27 Apr 2010 1:04 PM

HI Carol,  I too use a mature Pfaff machine.  I found that if I didn't put the thread through the last thread guide over the needle that keeps my thread from shredding.  I also sew on 1/2 speed and that seems to help with the thread problem.  Hope this helps.  Peggy

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carolphelps wrote
on 27 Apr 2010 3:30 PM

Thanks Peggy I will give this a try.  I will let you know how I get on.


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on 27 Apr 2010 9:18 PM

Carol, I do a great deal of thread painting/sketching.  I some things things for you to try.  If the thread is shredding, look at the way you have put this spool of thread onto the spindle.  Turn the other side up and re-thread.  All threads - especially metallic - are designed to come off the spindle in a certain direction.   Just a bit of experimenting with show you which way the thread should come off the spindle, then right it down so you will remember which way for that thread.  The other thing I do is change the needle.  You may have a defective needle.  If that doesn't work, get a larger needle.  I have begun to use the size 100 top stitch needle.  Not only does it have a larger eye to accomodate thicker thread, but also it has a deep grove down the middle.  Still  having problems, try loosening the top tension and putting a heavier thread in the bobbin.   The heavy bobbin thread will help hold the slinky or heavy top thread down.  Experiment and don't give up!  Metallic thread is very difficult to use if it is one of the really kinky ones.  I try to buy metallic which does not kink up when a small portion is unrolled.  Good luck!  Debbie


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carolphelps wrote
on 28 Apr 2010 2:19 AM

Thank you very much for these tips . I will keep trying and practising. Carol

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on 28 Apr 2010 8:08 AM


Some threads misbehave!!!  As well as the other tips, you could also try puttin the spool behind the machine, in a jar or dish - I don't know why but giving it a bit more 'freedom' sometimes works.  Also some threads seem to be wound tighter on the spools - so try winding it onto a bobbin and then using the bobbin on the spool holder.  Tip if you have a variegated thread and want the colours to appear in the same order as on the spool, or generally want the thread to run off the same way as the spool  you will need to wind it twice.  Spool ABC - first bobbin fill becomes CBA, so take this bobbin and wind onto another to get it back to ABC.

Also try wiping over the body of the machine where the thread runs.  They sell a spray for this purpose, but any furniture polish with silicone in it will work - don't spray direct onto the machine (well I don't) I spray onto a cloth and wipe over.

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ckquilter wrote
on 29 Apr 2010 4:48 AM

hi carol

you have had some good responses to your question. all of them have given helpful info.

also - not all metalic threads are created equal. some are just flat out easier to use than others. any round, fairly smooth thread will be easier to use than the flat ribbon - like threads (like sulky holoshimmer or sliver).

some of the most reliable, easier to use metallics are - oesd's yenmet - available at bernina dealers. one of the easiest metallics to use.

                                                                                                 - yli reflections also runs thru the machine very well.

                                                                                                - sulky metallic (not sliver or holoshimmer) is almost as friendly as the first 2.

                                                                                               -superior also has a very friendly metallic.

after these, they get less reliable.

metallic threads are sharp - and if you stitch back over themslves, they can cut the thread.

some will pull off the spool unevenly - catching on themselves - you will have a hard time with those.

youcan also put a smooth thread in the bobbin - to help prevent it catching the top thread - bottomline was created to help do this. but it can be almost too smooth sometimes - and then i use a rayon in the bobbin.

the last thread guide on some machines is very tight and sharp - and can shred thread. just bypassing it can sometimes solve the problem.

sometimes threading the machine with both the metallic and monofilament, simultanoeusly, will help the metallic run better.

reducing the top thread tension is always a good idea for metallics. and i usually reduce the bobbin tension and then the top tension accordingly.

for yenmet and reflections and sulky, with smooth bobbin thread and reduced tension, i can often use a size 14 quilting needle and be fine. but for anything else i will use at least a size 14 topstitch, and for some a size 16 topstitch needle. the topstitch needle has both a larger eye for the thread and a larger groove for the thread than either a metallica or embroidery needle.

i use the embroidery needles for rayon threads.

some metallics will not run through a needle at all. anything thick or rough should be put into the bobbin and done as bobbinwork. or couched.

if i am doing thread painting - you can see the design from both sides after a bit of stitching  - then just put problem threads in the bobbin and stitch from the back.

if i am quilting a design  and want to use a problem thread -i first stitch the design with water soluble thread in both the needle and the bobbin. then remove my tissue paper or water solublepaper from the top by tearing it away. i don't worryif i lose a few stitches, because they are just temporary anyway, and i can always see enough to tell where the stitching was. once basted with the water soluble, i can then stitch from either the front or the back of the quilt. so if i am using a problem metallic thread, i just put it in the bobbin and sew from the back. or couch it on. then just spritz a bit of water on and gently rub away the basting thread (make sure to use the thin wash away  thread- the thick stuff may have to go through several runs of a washing machine cycle to dissolve - which is way too hard .)


if your machine is shredding rayon embroidery thread, and you are using a large embroidery needle (new needle for every project) then there is a problem somewhere with the machine , because most rayon embroidery threads are fairly strong and smooth and designed to run through the mahcine quickly and easily                      - could be that last thread guide (bypass it)

                                                                        could be the tension - check both bobbin and top tension, and lower them.

                                                                      use the rayon in the bobbin also, or use embroidery bobbin thread, and lower top tension.

and if you have a good machine dealer - take it in with the threads you want to use, and ask for help making the machine adjustments - until it sews happily there, with the threads you want  to use .                                           ckquilter

                                                                         could be

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cindy344 wrote
on 18 May 2010 10:38 PM

Hi Carol,  I have a tip for you to help embroider with metallics without breakage...I worked for Viking for over a year and there was not 1 machine we could embroider on with mettalics without continuous breakage... then I learned this at a local quilt shop.

1)  you already know - use a metallic needle - the larger eye is essential to cut down on the friction that can cause breakage....these threads don't need to heat up much to break...

2) get a thread stand for your metallics....one of those tall single thread stands with the heavy bottom.  use this with all metallic threads and I set mine far off to the right of my machine...these threads - being made of actual metal - MUST striaghten out and get all the "kinks" out of them BEFORE they enter your machine's thread path.  So set it a distance away from from your machine if you can...experiment to see how far you have to go...next to it might be just fine....This has been one of the best investments I have ever made ($15) and has almost completely done away with breakage just by using it.

3) depending on the type of fabric I'm embroidering on with metallic thread,  I sometimes lower the tension just a smidgen....experiment with this also...

4) and as the other lady said...embroider SLOWLY...Slowly slowly...

If this doesn't  make it possible for you to embroider with all those beautiful metallics then I would take the machine for service and have them pay particular attention to your thread path to be sure there is not a tiny something catching your thread. 

it works beautifully for me...

happy sewing!




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