Archive of ‘Machine and Tool Maintenance’ category

Multi-Needle Monday | The Dreaded Error Message

Stitching grinds to a halt and the dreaded error message appears. Check upper and bobbin thread error message

Here’s my method for unearthing the problem. First, check the needle thread and make sure the needle is still threaded. Checking that needle is still threaded

Then take a look at the upper thread path and make sure the thread did not pop out of a tension disc or thread guide. If all is well above the needle, look below the fabric and open the bobbin case. Often, my problem is solved at this moment – the bobbin is empty! That’s a simple fix with a fresh bobbin. Bobbin

If the bobbin is not empty, then look at the bobbin case a bit more closely. Remove the bobbin and then brush the inside of the case. Empty bobbin case

Once it’s clean, take a business card or thin – VERY THIN – piece of plastic (no thicker than a standard business card) and slide it under the tension adjusting spring. Bobbin5


Often, lint or fibers get caught in the spring and it effects the tension on the bobbin thread. In fact, it’s a good idea to clean the tension adjusting spring every time you change bobbins.

Once it’s clean, reinsert the bobbin and check the stitches under the needle. Touch the needle advance key and go back to the last stitch that was laid down prior to the break. And believe it or not – those steps solve the problem – almost every time! These multi-needle machines are amazing.



Multi-Needle Monday | Cleaning the Upper Thread Path

Just like lampshades and overhead fans at home, your multi-needle machine deserves to be dust-free. It will sparkle and perform at its very best if you keep the upper thread path clean. Set aside 45 minutes to an hour to give it the full spa treatment.

Even though my photographs don’t show it, it is a good idea to unthread all ten needles (I was in a rush to take my photographs!). Slip the bristles of the small brush that comes with your machine under the upper thread guide to remove any lint. Maint1

Clean the thread guide behind the tension discs. Maint3

Take a larger, natural bristle brush to clean around the tension disks. Maint2

To disassemble the tension disk, turn the black dial counter clockwise. Maint4

Set it aside. Maint5

Remove the spring (keep the top plastic part with the spring – it is a separate part). Maint6

Remove the plastic base. maint7

Remove the tension disc and blue felt washer. maint8

Remove the bottom felt washer. Maint9

Clean the base with the brush. Maint10

Place the bottom felt washer back on the base. Add the tension disc (magnet side down) with its blue washer on top. Maint11




Add the plastic base, spring and tension dial. Turn the dial clockwise to tighten. Repeat for all ten needles. After you’ve cleaned each tension disk, stitch the tension test design to critique the tension on each needle. Make any necessary adjustments. Maint13


Has this ever happened to you? (Part 2)

By Sherry McCary

I was putting together a piece-in-the-hoop quilt block, and for some reason I still can’t figure out, decided it was a good idea to walk away from the machine while it did the final quilting stitches – even though it had already created three nasty bird’s nests on this one block…Not a good idea!

Eileen had the brilliant idea of removing the foot from the machine instead of cutting it out and we were able to save the block after all. Yay!


Here’s your assignment this week:

Stitchers… has this ever happened to you? Were you able to save your project? Post a comment and share your story. You’re in good company! One comment will be chosen to receive a Bird’s Nest Tool Kit!


The winner of last week’s assignment is:

What embroidery product on the Designs in Machine Embroidery website is on your wishlist?  Who knows, maybe you’ll see that product go on special in the near future! Post your comments for a chance to win a 1 year subscription to Designs in Machine Embroidery magazine.


And the winner is…Teresa R. “I want so many things but top on my list is the PAL”

Multi-Needle Maintenance

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Are you giving your multi-needle machine the tender loving care it deserves? Every day, before revving that baby up, slip one drop of oil into the hook. It takes less than a minute and is worth every second.  A well-oiled machine is a high-performing machine.

Here’s how to do it. First, remove the bobbin case. Clean all fibers out of the bobbin case and hook area. I bend the end of a pipe cleaner about 2” from its sharp pointy end and use it to clean my machines. It gets in all the nooks and crannies with snagging or scratching any metal parts. Clean the inside of the hook area.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

 Swipe around the hook.


Place a drop of oil into the hook and replace the bobbin case.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Every once in a blue moon – okay 40-50 hours of sewing time, drop a dollop of oil on each needle bar. How do you know how many hours you’ve stitched? This machine is so smart it keeps a record.  Go to Notes, page 6 and read the information. You’ll find the stitch count – the stitches from the beginning of time, the stitches since your last dealer maintenance and the hours from the beginning of time and since your last maintenance. My machine is just six hours short of needing another drop of oil on each needle bar so I’ll go ahead and do it now.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Close the Notes screen and touch the Needle bar icon.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

I’ve already oiled the first needle bar so I’ll select needle 2.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Place your finger on foot 2 and pull it down to expose the felt washer above the needle bar. Add a drop of oil to the felt washer. Repeat for all 10 needles.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Now, do yourself a favor and stitch a test design. Go to the main page and touch the first design icon.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Select the 10 bar design.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Stitch the design.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Inspect the wrong side of the embroidery to check the tensions.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Next week, we’ll clean the upper thread path.

Multi-Needle Monday! Tension Test!

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Refer to your machine’s manual to determine the correct size bobbin for your machine. Do not guess here – follow the manual’s instructions. Most multi-needle machines do not come with a bobbin winder so purchasing pre-wounds in the correct size is a must.  The bobbin slides into the bobbin case just like it does on many single needle machines.

Hold the bobbin case in your left hand and slip the bobbin (with the bobbin thread winding off the bobbin clockwise) into the case. Pull the thread through the guide (or slit) and under the tension adjusting spring. 

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Hold the bobbin thread and let the bobbin case hang down.  There should be resistance on the thread. In other words, the bobbin case should not slide down.   If you bounce the thread, the case will most likely release more thread but it should not fall to the floor.   Refer to your machine manual for tightening the screw on the bobbin case if more tension is required.

Now insert the bobbin case into the hook on the machine, aligning the base’s tab with the notch on the hook. It will snap into place.  Leave about 2-3” of thread tail and close the hook cover. You’re ready to sew!

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Let’s check the tension on the needles. Select the thread tension test pattern on your machine. It is a row of 10 vertical satin columns – each a different color. Hoop fabric and tear-away stabilizer and stitch the design.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Critique the tension by first examining the right side. If all you see is the polyester/rayon embroidery thread, then you know you’re headed in the right direction.  Now flip the fabric over and take a close look at the wrong side of the embroidery.  The bobbin thread should fill one-third of the column with equal amounts of the top thread framing the bobbin column. 

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

If no top thread is visible on the wrong side of the embroidery, then the top tension is too loose.  Tension dials work just like screws: righty tighty; lefty loosey. Turn the dial to the right if no top thread is visible on the wrong side and to left if too much top thread is visible.

It’s best to aim for properly balanced tension so that the machine can produce professional results every time it stitches. Sew the test pattern again – skipping the needles (or colors) that did not need to be adjusted. Once the tension is set, you can move on to your embroidery project.

If your machine does not have a built-in thread tension test pattern, then just make your own.  Use the built-in lettering on the machine to program one capital letter “I” for each needle. Assign a different color for each letter and stitch the newly-created design. Store the design in your machine’s memory for future use. It will save you time down the road.

Next week, we’ll hoop!


This is week 3 of our multi-needle Monday and I have many more helpful topics to cover.  In the meantime, what other multi-needle topics would you like me to discuss?  Let me know by posting a comment!

Did you miss the last three Multi-needle Monday topics?  Need to review?
Multi-Needle Monday Part 1:  Introduction

Multi-Needle Monday Part 2:  Securing your machine

Multi-Needle Monday Part 3:  Basic Threading

Multi-Needle Monday: Basic Threading

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

It’s Multi-Needle Monday!  This week we cover Basic Threading Techniques.

Hmm…what color thread goes on what pin? On the Baby Lock Enterprise and the Brother Entrepreneur®, you’ll see an LED light under each thread pin. Use the LED lights as a guide, selecting a matching spool of thread for that pin.  Just like embroidering with a single needle machine, you can easily reassign a color to any portion of a design.

If they’re not already in position, slide a spool mat (a black foam disc) over each pin. They hold the spools in place without slippage or bouncing.   Place a spool of thread on the first pin (the numbers read right to left, 1 is on the far right as you face the machine).   Insert the thread into the metal thread guide A over the spool, entering the hole from the back to the front. Bring the thread forward into the second guide, thread guide B.

Open the thread tension lever on thread guide C by sliding it to the left.

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Insert the thread into the hole and close the lever (slide it to the right).

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Now insert the thread into thread guide D.

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Holding the thread with two hands, pass it under the metal plate.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Wind the thread around the number 1 tension disc. Use the visual display on the machine as a helpful reminder. This step is very similar to threading a single-needle machine except you don’t see the tension discs on a single needle machine because they are encased in the plastic body of the machine.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Pull the thread around the right side of the first pin and around the left side of the second pin. Slip it under the metal plate.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Just like your single-needle machine, pull the thread down the slot (labeled 1) and back up and thread it into the take up lever (from right to left).

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Insert the thread into the hole (1) above the needle. You’re almost done!

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

There is one last thread guide to thread before the needle.  Use the threader tool to hold the thread above the needle guide and pull the thread through the curved guide.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Pull a length of thread. Touch the automatic threading mechanism button on the machine’s screen.  A fork shaped device will surround the needle.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Pull the thread under the fork and the guide on the presser foot. Pull the thread up and across the cutter (located above the needle).

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Touch the needle threading button again. Needle one is threaded!  

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Repeat for all 10 needles.  Now that you’ve threaded 10 needles, you’re a pro! You’ll know exactly how to rethread when the need arises.

There are several ways to assign thread colors to the needles. The easiest and fastest way for designs with 10 or less colors is to turn on manual color sequencing.  Go to Settings (the page icon at the bottom of the LED screen), page 5 and turn on the manual color sequence.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

After selecting a design, touch the color change icon in the embroidery editing screen. 

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

To assign a new needle bar (or spool of thread) to the first color, just touch the desired needle (the two-column list on the right). Use the spool plus icon to assign a needle bar to the second color.  

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Continue until all colors of the design are assigned to a needle bar. If you want the machine to stop after stitching a specific color, just touch the hand. It will stop the machine at that color segment.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Even though a multi-needle machine looks much more sophisticated than a single-needle machine, it really isn’t. Yes, you do have 4, 6, 10 or 16 needles to thread but when a problem occurs, it only happens with one needle at a time. After all, that’s all that’s stitching at one time. If you own a serger, then you’re comfortable stitching with many moving parts: needle and loopers.   A mutli-needle machine is not more complicated than a single-needle, it’s just more efficient.

Tell me what’s your biggest fear about multi-needle machines?

Help is Just a Photo Away


Recently, I installed the cutwork upgrade on my Brother Entrepreneur. This isn’t something you pop into the side of the machine, select an icon and say OK.  No, this is a bit more involved because there’s the machine upgrade, the installation of the cutwork knives (needles) and the PE-Design NEXT upgrade. The upgrade kit comes with excellent instructions so I felt confident I could pull it off. And I did, or so I thought.

Once the machine was upgraded, I placed the included spacer under the needle plate which involved taking the plate off, inserting the spacer and reattaching the needle plate.  Now I was off to digitize my design. I followed the manual’s instructions and stitched color 1, an outline of the cutwork shape. Once the trimmer was activated, a harrowing sound belched out of the machine and an error appeared on the screen: Trimming error. Uh? The machine was locked, I couldn’t do anything. So, I called my Stitching Sister, Marie Zinno. Surely, she would know what to do. She has three of these machines and runs them 5 days a week. Are you ready for this? She HAS NEVER encountered this problem. I almost hung up on her. You know how sisters are – you often think your sister’s life is way better than your own and this was just one more example of how flawlessly she lives. Oh wait, this blog isn’t about sister rivalry. Sorry – back to the upgrade – I was desperate…deadlines looming ahead, I was starting to freak out.

I Googled the problem and found a quick video explaining it’s probably just a thread wrapped around the cutter.  So I took off the needle plate, looked deep into the bobbin area, and found nothing. Clean as a whistle! Now what? Marie calls back, she still doesn’t have an answer but she does have a suggestion. She says; call our buddy Scott Goodman aka Great Scott.


I hesitated. I hate to bother busy people with technical questions. But really, I was in a jam. Scotty quickly listened to my dilemma and said to text him a photo of the needle plate area. He would in return send me a photo of a properly-working needle plate area. We did, and compared notes.  



It seems when I installed the cutwork spacer, I loosened a screw that I never should have touched. The lesson here people!

With Scott’s close-up photo on my phone (oh my, how amazing is that?), I stood at my machine and saw the cutter – the blade on the right – was out of position.  I just loosened the screw, set the blade in the right position, and tightened the screw and Voila! It worked!  Three lessons I learned:

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions verbatim.
  2. Cameras on cell phones are worth every penny.
  3. Having a problem past regular business hours in your town can be overcome if you have a friend in another time zone – like Pacific Time!  Even though I was struggling at 6:00 PM in Dallas, my friend Scotty in Los Angeles hadn’t quite finished his working day!

By the way, I learned quite a bit about cutwork which I’ll share with you in the upcoming weeks. Fashion_1-0001


Here’s your assignment this week:

Oh the stories we could tell! Leave us a comment on your oddball embroidery problem and solution if you found one. One comment will win a $25 gift certificate to the Designs in Machine Embroidery website. Thank you for visiting Eileen’s blog.

The winner of last week’s assignment is:

Summer is almost here! Leave us a comment about your plans for summer vacation and tell us if they involve embroidery. One comment will be chosen to receive a copy of Machine Embroidery in 6 Easy Lessons written by Eileen Roche! Eileen demystifies embroidery machines and tools, designs, placement, hooping, stitching and finishing in easy to understand segments. It’s a great book for beginners or seasoned embroiderers alike. Good luck and thank you for reading!

And the winner is…“For my vacation I plan to spend a long four day weekend hold up in my sewing room mastering the beginner steps of machine embroidery! I am terrified of trying a project on my own. I have tried two workshops but I felt I was out of my league and was totally lost. I had a hard time keeping up with everyone. So, I will work with myself! Good Luck me….” – Rita R.

One Hot Partner

As stitchers, irons are really important to us. We are known to spend over $100 on an iron because pressing is an integral part of sewing. Many of us (including me) resisted this fact when we first learn to sew. But once embraced, the results are dramatic. And the results are what endear that hot little appliance to us. But like many hot relationships, they don’t last forever. It’s heartbreaking when one fails, when it just isn’t getting hot enough, shuts off quickly or spews dirty droplets over fresh clean fabric. Ugh. If you’re like me, you tossed the iron into the dumpster. But…it doesn’t have to be that way.

Appliance parts are just a click away. Really? On the internet? Then what? What do you order and what do you do with it? Well, let me introduce another hot partner of mine – Pete Kutsopias, my fiancé. Pete, sweetheart that he is, does his own ironing and does it really well. He owned a Rowenta before I met him. Wow – how many chicks can say that? Recently, his other hot little partner, a Rowenta Professional model DX8800, fizzled out. Pete loves a challenge so he jumped on the internet and found exactly what he needed to breathe some life back into Model DX8800.

So take a look at how easy it is to replace the innards of a high end iron.

First, unplug the iron. Unscrew the plastic housing and remove it.

Set yourself up for success by taking a digital image of the inside of the iron once the back plate is removed. Trust me, you’ll be so glad you did this!

Look inside – all of the guts are a tidy little unit housed in molded plastic that pops out of the socket. Remove it.

Throw it away. Unwrap the new unit.

Review your digital image to insert the white plastic part into the bottom channel.


Slide the green circuit board into the upper socket.


Place the light bulb into the left chamber.

Now it’s time to insert the electrical cord into the top groove.


Replace the back cover by installing the top edge first.

Snap into place.

Tighten the two screws on the back.

Tighten the two screws under the iron.

Plug in the iron and voila! It’s all hot and steamy again!

How much do you think those replacement parts cost? A whopping $19.99! How cool (or hot) is that? Now that’s one hot partner.

Resources: or

We are a throw away society but it doesn’t have to be that way. Today, with the internet, appliance parts are just a click away. Who knew?

Tell us what you prefer in your hot little partner, the auto shut-off or continuous heat? You could win a $25.00 coupon for any purchase from!  Just leave a comment below!

Last week we asked what your favorite type of embroidery thread was.  The winner of Smartneedle thread is…Betsy!

“I have an equal amount of rayon and poly threads but prefer the sheen on the rayon for some projects. Smartneedle has a winner with the built-in prewound bobbin!! I’ve tried all kinds of things to keep my matching bobbin with the thread spool. Currently, I use extra long golf tees through the holes of the bobbin and the thread to keep them together. To have the bobbin snap in under the thread spool….genius!!!!!!”

Congratulations, Betsy!

Give Your Embroidery Machine a Spa Treatment

I have a guest blogger here this week! Denise Holguin, Designs in Machine Embroidery Managing Editor, shares her experience on machine maintenance. Denise wears many hats here at Designs, including a new one of ‘embroiderer.’ Believe it or not, she’s resisted the urge to dapple into embroidery for almost 9 years. But this summer, she got bit by the Stipple! bug. And as many of you know, treading into the hobby of machine embroidery brings more than its share of challenges. – Eileen

Give Your Embroidery Machine a Spa Treatment

We all like to pamper ourselves — it rejuvenates, refreshes and makes us feel like a new person. But how many of us take the time to pamper our embroidery machines?

Your embroidery machine is an investment—whether you use it for a hobby or a business. It’s a good decision to take the machine for a periodic servicing about once a year.

Here’s proof:
As you can imagine, we use our embroidery machines daily at Designs in Machine Embroidery.

As I was stitching a new project using Stipple, the machine stopped stitching and sounded the alarm—the needle got unthreaded. I noticed the brown thread I was using was shredded. I also noticed some lime green thread stuck in the thread guide.

Hmm… how am I going to fish that out? I stared, wide-eyed at the lime green thread for a few moments—I need the jaws of life to get it out. I tried a pipe cleaner. No. I tried some tape—I figured if I could get the thread to stick to the tape—I could pull it out. No.

Thirty minutes into this ordeal I decided the lime green thread wasn’t worth the battle. I decided to take it to the experts down the street— Mr. Sewing Machine. Walter Castro and Antonio Orozco are our friendly machine service technicians on Harry Hines, in Dallas, TX.

I walked in, told them a hideous blob of lime green thread was stuck in the thread guide. Can they fish it out? As Walter expertly removed the cover from the machine—our eyes zeroed in on the culprit—which he easily removed.

It turns out the thread wasn’t quite as big a blob as I thought and perhaps I was foolish for bringing the machine in.

Then Walter said… it’s a good thing you brought the machine in. Take a look. He started to fish out something far worse than the small blob of lime green thread. He started unrolling/unweaving multiple strands of black thread—that were caught in the inner workings of the machine. Oh my. I had no idea. I wasn’t even stitching with black thread today.

The moral of the story—don’t assume that what you can’t see won’t affect the outcome of your projects or your machine. While I was concerned about the lime green thread that I could see—there were worse issues inside the machine that I could not see. It was a very educational afternoon at Mr. Sewing Machine and one that I hope our readers will also learn from.

So, take your machine in to your local dealer for some TLC on a regular basis. It will keep your machine running in tip top shape, you’ll have better success as you stitch your projects and you’ll enjoy the embroidery experience all the more.


I think that’s very wise advice from a novice embroiderer. Denise may be a beginner but her passion for embroidery is evident in her commitment to Cook’s Children’s Hospital. Denise is completely responsible for Designs Stitch-a-Bear Charity Campaign. The total is growing – click here to see how many children will receive a new, embroidered bear. 

Remember the pool table that hubby had to have but now just collects dust? Or the garage full of fitness equipment that collects dust? Wouldn’t it be great to test the waters before diving in to a new passion? Entry level embroidery machines are the perfect starting point for the budding artist/fashionista or the newly married couple that needs to decorate their home on the cheap. Who do you know in your life that would do cartwheels to have a machine? What would they make?

Share your response with us and win a $25.00 Designs in Machine Embroidery coupon!

Last week we asked what your favorite Designs in Machine Embroidery project was.  The winner of the  Mini-Perfect Placement Towel Kit is…April!

April  I loved the article on personalizing Market Totes. I made one for me and one for my daughter’s teacher, which we stuffed with all sorts of goodies at the end of the year to make sure she was stocked for the year ahead. Loved how easy they were to embroider!

Congratulations, April!