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How to Fix Embroidery Realignment Problems

October 02, 2013

By Steven Batts, Contributing Writer

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The last few articles I’ve written have explored different first aid techniques for “healing” embroidery mishaps. Now, let’s look at the most difficult type of repair: realignment of your embroidery work. This goes beyond simple repairs to more time-consuming, tedious mending.

The need for embroidery realignment usually arises for one of three reasons: the machine moves off pattern, a repair was recently made or the item was removed from the hoop. Let’s look at each of these issues in detail and how they can be overcome.

An Off-Pattern Machine
An embroidery machine moving off pattern often occurs because of restriction to frame movement. This can easily happen on smaller machines, especially singleheads. Any object, such as a cone of thread, can fall in the wrong spot and cause the frame to hit it and make it move off pattern. I have even caused this problem by leaning against a machine.

Fortunately, today's machines are more advanced and have features to correct such problems. When I see that the machine has shifted off because of a restriction, I first correct the problem and then turn the machine off and back on. Then, I follow the same procedures listed in my manual for recovering from a power failure. This typically realigns the frame back to a fixed point: either the beginning of the design or the exact stitch position when I turned the power off. If the machine was jammed and had moved off pattern before I powered down, it probably didn't know this was the case, and will recover to the correct position.

Post-Repair Realignment
The second reason to realign your work is after a repair has been made. It is important to leave the design in the hoop, as this will make the alignment process a lot easier. If the garment is left in the hoop, it will be fairly well-aligned and no additional realignment often is needed.

Sometimes when I am making repairs, I will remove more stitches than are needed just to make the alignment less precarious. For example, rather than replacing one letter in a word, replace the whole word. That way if your alignment isn't perfect, it won't be noticeable.

When realigning work that requires the frame to be nudged one way or the other, it is important to remember how the frame operates. You basically are dealing with two directions: front-to-back and left-to-right. When aligning the frame with the design, focus on one direction at a time.

I trace the design forward and backward over parts that already have been sewn. As I trace, I keep an eye on one direction at a time while checking alignment. Once the design is tracking left and right properly, I work on the front-to-back alignment. The key is to slightly nudge the frame ever so often as you track a direction until it follows along the existing section perfectly.

Item Removal from the Hoop
The final need for realignment also is the most difficult. This is when the item has been removed from the hoop (either intentionally or accidentally) and has to be reframed and realigned. In these cases, not only do you have to deal with the alignment process I just described, but also with getting the item back in the hoop aligned squarely the way it was before it was removed.

I find it helpful if there is some sort of straight edge available when I re-frame the item. Sometimes I stretch a piece of tape across the hoop and align it with the marks on the hoop to give a nice straight line. This helps align the parts of the design that had been previously sewn with the hoop as it is being framed. The key is framing the item as straight as possible compared to the existing parts of the design. Once it is framed, simply trace back over the parts of the design that had been sewn and move the frame a little at a time until it is lined up properly.

Repairing items that have been moved off pattern is one of the toughest types of repairs you will have to accomplish. The satisfaction of reparing these pieces is not just rewarding financially (by not having to replace an item), but also emotionally, knowing you have risen to the challenge to conquer it. While I don't enjoy having to overcome these particular types of challenges, I take great satisfaction when I can repair a piece to the point where no one could ever tell there was a problem.

Steven Batts, a consultant with more than 20 years experience in the embroidery industry, owns Righteous Threads, Greensboro, N.C., which offers digitizing, embroidery and machine maintenance services. Steven regularly leads seminars at ISS shows and is an industry speaker and consultant. For more information or to comment on this article, e-mail Steven at

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