Thread Dynamics

One of the most overlooked aspects of machine embroidery, which can lead to mounds of frustration and horrendous results, is the way the thread comes off the spool or cone. Thread is straight wound on a spool and cross wound on a cone. That means that thread on a spool is meant to come straight off the spool and the thread on a cone is meant to come off the end of the cone. See the picture below.

The proper way for thread to come off a cone or spool based on wind.

If the thread comes off the spool or cone opposite of the way it was wound, then severe twisting of the thread will occur as demonstrated in the video below.

The incorrect way for thread to come off a spool or cone based on wind.

The twisted thread coming off an incorrectly positioned spool or cone can cause several different problems. The most likely problem is chronic thread breaks. As the thread passes through the eye of the needle, it will straighten out, but the twists do not go away, they bunch up behind the needle which will eventually cause the thread to break.

A second common occurrence is what many people describe as “bird nesting”, a big, knotted mess of bobbin and top thread on the bottom of the fabric. This occurs when the eye of the needle is larger and allows all the twists to pass through, which then interact with the bobbin thread forming the birds nest.

Take care when setting up your machine to embroider, and  whether you are using a spool or cone of thread, make sure the thread is coming off correctly.

5 thoughts on “Thread Dynamics

  1. i have a lot of breakage and use a 10 needle brother and i use mini spools by Metro, I have watched the thread and do wonder if its coming off wrong how do you know for sure. I don’t mean to sound stupid but what you are saying makes sense and i am starting to wonder if my thread is doing that.
    thanks nancy

  2. Most of the time my machine(Pacesetter6500) seems to work best if I use a thread stand, the single thread kind; but I don’t use the small pin that is included with the stand that is supposed to keep the thread spool/cone standing upright. I like using a small metal basket that is actually made to be a pen/pencil holder that can be found in a office supply store. I put several small strong magnets on the bottom of the basket so it will stay put on the metal base of the thread stand. All but the large cones( the ones that stand about 6″) have worked fine in the basket laying on their sides but I never knew why!
    Chris, thank you so much for explaining how thread should properly unwind, never thought I was doing something the “right way”!

  3. That is exactly what my thread is doing, but I can’t seem to correct the problem. Either way I turn the spool still results in twisted thread. I use isacord and mettler.

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