Thread Breaks | Prevention and Troubleshooting

You know how it is. There you are, happily stitching along, when BAM! Your thread breaks and everything comes to a screeching halt (sometimes over and over again)! Every machine embroidery enthusiast knows how frustrating thread breaks are. So we’ve gathered our very best, Kimberbell-proven ways for preventing thread breaks, figuring out why they’re happening, and quickly getting back to the business of enjoying your sewing experience!


You’ve heard the old proverb: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is certainly true of thread breaks! So here are some little preventative “ounces” that will make a big difference in stopping thread breaks before they start:

  • Make sure your bobbins are wound correctly. The thread on the bobbin should be nice and straight on each side--not thicker on the top and thinner on the bottom (or vice versa). 
  • Clean your machine often. You might be surprised at how much lint collects from cotton fibers and thread, so thoroughly clean and oil the bobbin area regularly! If that area is dirty at all, you’ll have friction and rubbing and thread breaks.
  • Change your needle. Using the correct needle for the thread and fabric type makes a big difference in a smooth thread delivery. Here are Kimberbell’s recommendations for needle usage:


    • Topstitch Needles: Have a large, reinforced eye and a long, super-sharp tip. Use topstitch needles when you’re working with heavier thread, including 60/90 weight or metallic/glitter threads. These needles are also good to use when working with zippers. The larger eye will allow the thicker thread to pass through more easily. 
    • Embroidery Needles: Have a smaller eye and a blunter tip. Embroidery needles are well built for the quick stitches that happen with machine embroidery. (Fun fact: at Kimberbell, we use a 75/11 embroidery needle probably 80% of the time!) 
    • Sharp Needles: Have a very sharp point and are especially good when stitching through puffy foam, thick layers, denim, etc.
    • Universal Needles: Are similar to the embroidery needle, but have a smaller eye. When using a universal needle, make sure your bobbin thread is at least 60 wt or smaller and you slow your machine down!



When troubleshooting thread breaks, you’ll want to use a “TNT”(Thread, Needle, Tension) formula for identifying and solving the problem. 


  • Check your top thread. Because of the long path your top thread takes through the machine and to the needle, chances are high that the thread-breaking issue lies with your top thread. At Kimberbell, we always check the top thread and try rethreading first (even if you’ve just threaded the machine)!
  • Check your bobbin thread. Make sure the bobbin thread didn’t pull out somehow and/or get trapped underneath the bobbin. You might also check your bobbin for wear--plastic does eventually wear out and have scratches, which can cause snagging. So try using a new bobbin!


  • Check  your needle. If your needle is even slightly bent, it’s going to start shearing the thread and causing a break. Your needle also can become gummed up, so use a new needle every eight hours of stitching. 


  • Check your thread weights. Make sure the weight of your top thread is a good match for the weight of your bobbin thread. A 40 wt top thread to a 60 wt bobbin thread is generally a good combination. (Avoid using a 40 wt top thread with a 90 wt bobbin thread when stitching small lettering; otherwise, the bobbin thread will come up through your stitches.)
  • Check the tension on your bobbin case. Many bobbin cases have a tension control on them. You can loosen or tighten the screws to set your tension how you want it. Pull the thread to see how smoothly the thread is unwinding from the bobbin (you want it to pull smoothly off of the bobbin)! Remember, friction causes thread to break!
  • Check the height of your presser foot. When you’re sewing, the top thread and bobbin thread want to meet at the perfect point to form a stitch. If you’ve raised your presser foot for any reason and haven’t put it back down again, the top thread and bobbin thread will meet above the thread (instead of below the fabric where you want them to meet). Make sure the presser foot is set at the appropriate height of the fabric being sewn.  We recommend you set the presser foot at factory settings. 
  • Check your machine speed. Simply slowing the machine down can help alleviate thread breaks, whatever the cause! 

Watch this video to see Lauri (from Tuesday Tips with Kimberbell) explain each of these points in even greater detail:


by Jenny Lyman

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