January 25, 2020

By RaNae Merrill

As I've been quilting my latest Free-Motion Mastery in a Month sample quilt, I've been using a large cone of thread, and so I'm using a thread tower. Over the course of this quilt (and I'm not even finished yet) I have broken a record 4(!) needles. Dach time, when I investigated why, the problem went back to my thread tower. So here are the four ways that my thread tower caused my needle to break. I hope you'll learn from my problems and avoid your own!

After fixing any of these problems, re-thread the machine and check your tension before beginning to sew again.

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Broken Needle #1: The thread caught in handle of the sewing machine.

It just so happened that my thread tower lined up perfectly with a small groove in the handle of my sewing machine (left side), and the thread gradually worked its way down into the groove until it would no longer move. When that happened, the needle snapped. For a few minutes prior to that, I noticed my top thread tension getting tighter. I should have paid attention to the warning earlier!

Fix: I changed the position of the thread tower so that the thread no longer aligned with the groove in the handle (image on right).

Broken Needle #2: The thread slipped out of the tower's hook

I bumped the thread tower at some point and turned it so that the open side of the hook was facing the sewing machine (image on left). When that happened, the thread slipped out of the hook. Since the thread was no longer pulling up off the cone, it just wrapped tight around it and . . . snap! Another broken needle.

Fix: Turn the thread tower so that the closed side of the hook faces the machine and the thread won't pull out of the hook (image on right).

Broken Needle #3: The thread wrapped around the spindle

I was using a rather slick, shiny polyester thread. Between quilting sessions, the thread loosened and slipped down to the base of the cone. The next morning when I started quilting, the thread tightened below the base of the cone and wrapped around the spindle (image on left) so it couldn't feed upward. Snap!

Fix: Before you start quilting, check the thread on the cone to make sure it is pulling up through the thread tower, not falling below the cone and wrapping around the spindle.

Broken Needle #4: The thread wrapped around the hook of the thread tower

I'm not sure how it happened -- perhaps there was a kink in the thread that caused a loop? -- but the thread looped around the hook of the thread tower and stopped feeding (image on left).

Fix: Pull the thread loop off the hook and re-hook it. Be sure to position the hook with the closed side toward the machine. Check for knots -- you'll probably find at least one. Cut off the knots and re-thread the sewing machine.

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