Avoiding Thread Nests and Broken Needles

Thread nesting, or thread throw-up (because it makes you sick when you see that wad of thread on the bottom of a project) happens to all of us. Fortunately, I have some tips on how to avoid these mishaps!

Thread Nests

Generally speaking, if you have a problem on the underside of your fabric, there’s something going on with the upper portion of your machine, and vice versa. Thread problems on the top side of your fabric may indicate an issue in the bottom section of your machine, the bobbin area.

Nine times out of ten, thread nesting occurs because of how the machine is threaded. Usually, the thread doesn't get seated in the take-up lever and you immediately get a thread nest.

I recommend using two hands when you thread your machine. That way, you can feel the tension as thread goes through the guides and, most importantly, the take-up lever. With both hands on your thread, you can either feel it slip into that take-up lever or you can actually hear it click.  

Another cause of thread nesting is not using the correct bobbin. A lot of us are fortunate enough to have more than one brand of machine, so we may also have different sized bobbins. It is easy to, accidentally, pick up the wrong one and put it in the wrong machine.

Diagram from SuperiorThreads.com (no affiliation)

These are two of the most popular bobbin types, L and Class 15. If you were to look at these two bobbins from the top, you'll see that they look almost identical. They're the same diameter around but when you look at them from the side, you can see that one is actually taller than the other.

If you were to put a taller 15 Class bobbin in where a shorter L bobbin should be, it is going to cause problems with your thread and you're going to get a big mess.

Needle Breaks

Believe it or not, a lot of times, needle breaks are caused by a threading issue. When you thread the machine, you're going to use a spool cap. You would think that a spool cap, any spool cap, just holds the thread in place without problems. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Manufacturers give you different spool cap sizes for a reason, because there are different kinds of threads. The cap should cover the end of the thread spool without any gaps. Otherwise, thread falls down into that little gully, wraps around the thread pin, and eventually pulls and breaks the needle.

For threads on thin tubes that may not work well with thread caps, I like to use what's called a serger sponge on my vertical thread stand. When I put the thread on the sponge, it settles into the center hole. Without a gap, the thread doesn’t get hung up underneath.

Some thread spools are rough around the edge and may have a little slit to keep thread from unwinding. It prevents a big mess in storage, but it's kind of a problem if you don't use the right spool cap on your machine. A properly sized spool cap covers the end of the thread spool and allows thread to unwind smoothly.

Too much tension on the top thread pulls bottom thread to the top. Burrs on the spool can cause skipped and inconsistent stitches. A clear thread path helps prevent issues and ensure beautiful embroidery. You can watch the video here.

May your day be blessed with perfect stitches and GlitterFlex!

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  • Bonnie Welsh - June 27, 2019

    Sandra—That is definitely one solution. But if you use the properly sized spool cap for the thread (one that covers the slit), then that works well too. The slit is there for a purpose—it slip the thread tale in when you’re storing it so the thread doesn’t unravel. =)

  • SANDRA CUNNINGHAM - June 25, 2019

    Those slits in thread spools kept catching with every revolution causing thread/needle breaks or a loop in the thread. It took me a while to figure out what the problem was and now I use an exacto knife to remove every slit and file it smooth.

  • Bonnie Welsh - January 13, 2019

    Patricia—So glad you found these tips helpful. Yep—different machines can take different sized bobbins. Getting the wrong bobbin in your machine can make a mess of things. =/

  • Patricia Poe - January 11, 2019

    Bonnie, I just read this about the bobbins.Never in my life have I heard that before.I have only one machine now, but saved all the bobbins from my last machine.Thank you for expanding my brain.I just love you!!!!!

  • Bonnie Welsh - December 20, 2018

    Caorlyn, Thread nets are nice as long as you remember to fold them back at the top. I’ve had them catch my thread if I didn’t fold them back at the top as did my dealer. But, yes, they are very nice! =)

  • Carolyn Toczek - December 19, 2018

    I am totally in love with thread nets! Thought I would try it and was sold! Prevents the thread from falling to the bottom of the spool …no more thread catching on the bottom of the spool. Yep..using it all the time now!

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