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By Dan Novak
Thread breakage can happen at any given time regardless of your quilting skills or experience. You can tell a lot about thread breakage by looking at the break itself.
When the thread breaks, take a moment to look at it before rethreading the machine. If the thread looks like it was cut with a pair of scissors, it is likely a bur or sharp edge somewhere. If the thread looks like a few of the fibers on the outside have been cut, chances are that the hook assembly is cutting the thread. If the thread looks like it has been pulled apart, chances are that that is exactly what happened. This would be a tension issue.
If you think a bur caused the thread break, look to see where the broken end of the thread is when you stop the machine. If the thread break is anywhere from the take-up assembly forward, look down in the throat plate area. This is the most common place. What usually occurs is that the needle has flexed and put a nick in something. Check the hopping foot or presser foot. The needle may have bumped the edge of the foot. More often than not, the bur will be directly in the thread path. If you can remove the foot, do so and smooth the bur out with a very fine emery cloth or sandpaper. If you can not remove the foot, be sure to cover the hook area with a rag to avoid getting grit particles in the hook assembly and creating further problems. If the bur is in the throat plate, remove the throat plate and debur with sandpaper or emery cloth. Sometimes the bur is on the hook assembly or the hook shield. The best way to remove the bur from the hook assembly is to remove the hook assembly from the machine. After removing the bur, be sure to clean and oil the hook assembly, making sure to clean out any grit or debris from the sandpaper or emery cloth.
When the thread looks like the outside fibers have been cut and pushed up around the main part of the thread, This is more often than not what is called a hook break. Heres what happens; The hook comes around to pick up the thread, instead of scooping up the thread, the hook point catches the outside fibers and cuts them. This can happen for a few different reasons. If the needle is not inserted properly, this will happen. If the quilt is stretched too tight, this will happen. When the quilt is stretched too tight, the holes in the fabric close up pushing the thread off to the side of the needle. The hook point catches the edge of the thread instead of scooping it up. This also happens when the needle bar bushings are worn allowing the needle to pull too far away from the hook point. Flexing the needle will also result with the same effect. Many times when someone resets the hook timing, they are hesitant to get the hook assembly close enough to the needle. This creates a gap between the needle and hook point giving the same end result.
If the thread looks as if it was pulled apart, it probably was. The chances are very good that this is a tension issue. Try loosening up the tension a little at a time. If the problem still exists, check to make sure that the thread is not just getting hung up. Sometimes the thread will catch on the cone that it is coming off of. The thread may also catch on one of the thread guides. Make sure that the thread guides do not have any grooves worn into them. A rough groove may catch the thread. After using metallic or monofiliment threads, check the condition of your thread guides. Most thread guides are cheap and replaceable. Sometimes as the thread comes off of the cone, it will form a loop that will travel along the machine and wrap around a thread guide or any thing else in the way. One simple way to prevent this is to fold a small piece of batting over the thread and tuck it into the first thread guide above the cone. This will smooth out the thread travel and eliminate the thread forming a loop. This may add a little tension to the thread; you may have to adjust for this. Always look for the easy solution first, nine out of ten times it will be an easy fix.