Looking to reduce headaches and speed production? Who isn't? Here are 5 quick, down and dirty tips you might not know that will make your machines run better, keep your embroidery looking great and keep you sane!
I get more questions about backings than any other embroidery topic. Why? Because backings cause - or solve- more problems than nearly any other aspect of the job. If you have problems with designs not lining up, birds-nesting, puckering or thread breaks, nine times out of ten your backings or hooping techniques are to blame.
The next time you are trying to figure out what backing to use on a fabric, start thinking 'backings' - yes, plural, not singular. Instead of one sheet of a single backing, consider two lighter sheets of that backing or even two lighter sheets of two different backings. Different backings offer different properties and qualities. You can even combine a sheet of tear-away with a sheet of cut-away backing to get the best of both. Experiment with combinations.
Want to get more strength out of ANY backing? Use two lighter sheets instead of one heavy sheet, and rotate one sheet 90 degrees from the other. Every backing has a grain, and it is more stable against the grain than with it. Tear-away backings tear much easier with the grain, so if you want stability in both directions from a tear-away backing, you need to use two sheets and rotate one.
Stay Sharp - Get Blunt.
Hopefully you already know that the general rule for needles is to use sharp-point needles on woven fabrics and ball points on knits. Sharp needles will cut the fibers of knits and ball points tear the threads of woven fabrics. So do you constantly change needles in your machine as you change fabrics? What a nightmare! Let's say you have a machine with sixteen needles. How often do you really do sixteen color work? Too many embroiderers think of needles as colors. Not true. If the majority of the garments you sew on are knits, keep ten needle-bars of your machine equipped with ball point needles and six needle bars loaded with sharps. When you set up a job, set the machine to use the needles in the correct range and stop worrying about changing needles with fabrics.
What is the right needle for the type of thread you are using? The answer is simple. You want the slimmest needle that can accommodate the thread. How do you find out? Thread a loose needle with a length of the thread you want to use. (about 20 inches of thread) Take one end of the thread in each hand and see-saw up and down. If the needle glides back and forth along the thread - that needle is acceptable.
Oil Machines in the Morning
Most embroiderers oil their machines at the end of the day because they are afraid of getting oil on the garments they will sew. That way, any oil that might drip out does so overnight. That might seem logical, but it actually defeats the purpose of oiling the machine! Oil needs to be worked into the parts to be effective. You want to oil the machine and start sewing right away to get the parts properly lubricated. If you are afraid of getting oil on garments, then sew a small design on scraps first. Also, you should own a spotting gun with cleaning solvent made for oil - and know how to use it so you don't destroy garments trying to fix them.
Clean Bobbin Cases
It amazes me that technicians never seem to teach this when setting up a customer's machine for the first time. Or does everybody just forget? Bobbin cases need love too. If you ever experience wacky tension problems where one minute your tension is too tight, and the next it's too loose, it's probably your bobbin case. Embroidery thread is made to some amazing standards, but if it's never perfect and sterile at the molecular level. There are always microscopic deposits and residues on thread, and those deposits end up clogging the tension spring (That little metal strap) of your bobbin case. I clean bobbin cases every other week or more often if necessary. If you've never done it, you're in for a surprise. Unscrew those two little screws on the bobbin case and see what you find inside. If it's been a while, you'll find a tiny pile of clay-like crud that is playing havoc with your embroidery tensions. When you put it back together, adjust the tension spring so that the properly threaded case drops about six inches when you hold it by the thread and give your hand a one-inch sudden drop.
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