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Embroidery Machine Troubleshooting

Embroidery Machine Troubleshooting

Embroidery can be a profitable business, but you need to know your way around your machine to be successful. Whether you've been working with embroidery machines for a long time or you're a newcomer to the trade, you're bound to make mistakes and suffer mishaps. That's okay, but the important thing is that you know how to effectively troubleshoot when things go wrong and identify what is causing things to go array. Today we're going to look at how to identify the most common problems you'll run into with commercial and industrial embroidery machines and how to fix them.


If you've noticed that your threads are fraying, then the first thing to do is check your needles. You need to ensure you are using the correct needle type and size for your machine. Whilst single-needle, home sewing machines typically use flat shank needles; commercial embroidery machines use round shank needles. Fraying can result from a needle being too small for the thread, too tighter thread tension, which is causing excess friction, or worn-out needles that need replacing. Needles usually need replacing after around eight hours of use, rather than waiting for them to break before changing.

Thread Breaks

Good quality embroidery thread will be snap-resistant – but this doesn't mean it won't ever snap, and if you're noticing frequent thread breaks, there's probably an issue with your machine that needs resolving. Check your bobbins as the tension may be too tight – refer to the manufacturer's manual to ensure you are threading your bobbins correctly. Excess lint build-up can also affect bobbin tension and cause thread breaks, so it's good practice to regularly clean the bobbin area and ensure it is lint-free using a lint brush and canned air.

Thread Build-Up

Thread balling up under the embroidery or throat plate is a common issue. If you find frequent thread clumps, check to ensure your material has been threaded through the tension bars correctly. Your bobbin may also not be inserted properly, there may not be enough tension, or your top and bottom tensions may be different – they should usually be about the same.



We use the term birdnesting to describe what happens when a thread gets caught and gathers between the needle plate and the fabric. Unsurprisingly, it's called a bird's nest because the wad of thread that builds up resembles a bird’s nest. Birdnesting prevents the material from moving freely and is mainly caused by incorrect top thread tension. If this happens to your embroidery, check and adjust until you have the correct tension and balance your top and bottom tensions. Ensuring your fabric is hooped tightly over the embroidery frame will also assist significantly in preventing birdnesting.


Unwanted waviness in fabric embroidery is called puckering - the design will refuse to lay flat on the fabric, bunching up and sticking out unintentionally around the embroidery threads. Unlike many other issues we've discussed, puckering sometimes isn't noticeable until after the embroidery has been completed and the fabric is removed from the machine. Only once it's not stretched over the frame will you notice the unwanted waves, which several things can cause.

Puckering can result from inadequate stabilisation – this is where either not enough or the incorrect type of stabilisation is used. It can also occur when the fabric has been hooped incorrectly, usually when stretched too far. In this instance, the fabric and embroidery may look fine when fitted on the machine, but bunch up once removed, and the material is allowed to relax. Puckering can also occur when thread tensions are too tight.

To safeguard your embroidery from garment puckering, make sure you understand the fabric you are working with, use the correct stabiliser, ensure you are hooping correctly and that your thread tensions are correct. There's a lot to remember when thinking about how to prevent embroidery puckering, but as you work and learn with your machine, you'll begin to understand what to look for and how each different type of fabric responds to your machine.

False Starts

A false start, or skipped stitch, is when the stitching isn't picked up at the beginning of the pattern, or a stitch is unintentionally missed midway through the design. These can be incredibly annoying, forcing the process to start from the beginning and slowing down production times. Check the backside of your design to determine the top thread to bobbin thread ratio. If you can see only a small amount of bobbin thread, then your bobbin may be too tight, or your top tension is too loose – adjust accordingly.

When you look at the reverse of your design, you feel you have enough bobbin thread showing, try tightening the top tension and check the threading in your machine to ensure it is threaded correctly.


Whether you're an embroidery expert or just starting, we hope you found this troubleshooting guide useful. Here at Stocks Sewing Machines, we supply industrial and commercial embroidery machines across the UK, and our trained technicians are always on hand to support our customers when things go wrong. Contact us today to find out more.