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Bad 'thread' day....


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I\'ve been lurking on this forum since I got my Millie 3 years ago. I know we are never to old to learn but thought I was getting the hang of things over the last 3 years. My customers have been happy anyway. This week I can\'t seem to get anything to go right.

I\'m working on a large twin size quilt with a hand-embroidered centre panel - approx40" x 48" . It\'s a patriotic design with an eagle and banner done in stem stitch so I planned to do a \'simple\' diagonal line behind the embroidery and skip over her stitches. Yes, I\'ll have lots of threads to knot and bury but stippling in the background which I\'d originally planned to do was taking away from her embroidery and it needs the simplest non-competing design behind the embroidery. I\'m pantographing the rest of the quilt which is a red, white & blue pieced design.

All went well until I started on the diagonal lines. It seems as if the tension discs are locking up and the thread keeps breaking near the needle. I\'ve changed needles, backed off the needle a little, adjusted stitch size, tried with and without SR, re-threaded the top thread from the spool, checked the thread is running free, cleaned the machine again (I do it everyday anyway) checked the bobbin tension again, taken the quilt off the machine and put back my practice piece and taken the tension back to very loose and worked back to get a decent stitch. As soon as I get to somewhere near a decent stitch the tension seems to stiffen up coming out of the tension discs and the thread breaks near the quilt top.

Help, I\'m going crazy. I normally only do pantographs so was feeling stressed about doing this quilt before I started.


Stowe,VT 05672 where the snow just keeps coming!

APQS Millie

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Hi Anne,

Here\'s a stab in the dark: Have you tried cleaning in between the tension disks? Every so often I loosen the tension way out so I can carefully rub a Qtip dabbed with rubbing alcohol in between the disks to clean out any gunk that might have built up. You could also place a wee bit of machine oil in there to lube it up a little, too.

Did you try running some Sewers Aide on the thread to slick it up? That might help.

Is this only happening with this spool of thread? Have you tried other thread?

Best wishes with your perserverence! :)


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Hi Anne,

Have you checked inside the tension disks for a piece of lint. I usually make a 1-foot long rope consisting of 3 threads. I put 3 knots about an inch apart in the center of the foot long threads. Unthread the machine. Dip the foot-long thread in alcohol, squeezing out the excess between my fingers. Then I run that foot-long back and forth thru the tension disks so that the knots pick up any lint or debris that might be in there.

I have to say though, that if the thread keeps breaking at the needle, the problem may be closer to the needle than the tension disks. You might want to drag out your screw-driver and remove the needle plate. You may have a build up of lint under the plate.

I want to see what some of the APQS crew has to say. We all learn from others problems/mistakes. It\'s you turn to be the guinea pig, Anne.

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Hi Anne, to go along with Linda & Shana\'s tips, a friend gave me this tip and that is to use a ring of nylon (off of a knee high) and to use it like floss thru the tension disks, then you don\'t have to open them up hardly at all. You may also use your canned air to see if it is just a piece of thread that has gotten hung up in there. I hope that helps.

I had a day like yours last Monday. It seemed that nothing was going right, but then I backed away from the machine, hands held high until out of sight, and had a cuppa coffee and when I went back I was able to think better and was able to figure out what I needed to do to make things work better. This usually happens to me when I\'m under pressure and I had a new client I was trying to do a very good job for.

I hope that works. And welcome to the chat. Lots of good tips & tricks here and great friends.

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What kind of thread are you using? Sometimes the issue is not the machine but the thread. Let us know so we can troubleshoot the spool. It might be as simple as loosening the bobbin case tension more, or skipping one of the three pre-tension holes above the tension disks.

Check these mechanical things as well:

1) Is there a notch or groove in either of the two pigtail thread guides? (You can find out by grabbing your thread both above and below the thread guide, and then slide it around inside the guide as if you are "flossing" it. If there\'s a worn groove or nick in either guide, it acts like a little saw on your thread.

If you discover a groove, loosen the screw holding the thread guide and rotate it 180 degrees so that the thread is rubbing on a different area. Then next time you order supplies, order a couple of spare guides. (These are made out of a fairly soft metal, so can easily develop a tiny groove that you don\'t easily see with the naked eye.)

2) Use your finger to "flick" the little spring at the tension disks--does it still bounce back? Do you feel a little resistance? These can also break or wear out.

3) Try turning the eye of the needle just a smidgeon to the left. Insert a straight pin into the needle\'s eye and observe its position. If it is coming straight out and pointing to "6:00" if you looked down at the machine and imagined a clock face, try turning it until the pin is aimed at 6:35.

This makes sure the needle doesn\'t rub on the hook.

4) Make sure there is no burr on the hook assembly or inside the needle plate hole. Remove the needle plate and run your fingernail all along the hook\'s surface and edge (you manual will have a section called "hook maintenance" to help you identify where to concentrate your efforts). If you discover a burr, sand it smooth with fine emery cloth or sandpaper, but avoid the very tip of the hook.

5) Review the machine\'s timing (see your manual for photos that walk you through the steps of what to look for). Check the clearance between the hook retaining finger (it will look like a little metal extension coming from the front of the machine and protruding into a U-shaped opening in the bobbin basket when you look into the hook area from above.) It should only be 1/3 of the way into the opening.

6) Try a larger needle size. When you stitch on the diagonal, in certain directions the needle is pulled closer to the hook and come sometimes gets pinched between the hook and needle, snapping the thread. A 4.5 needle reduces the flexing.

Let us know how things go!

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