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Often, I have very large and complex projects to design, digitize, test, photograph and write the instructions.  These tasks are intense, highly-technical and deadline-oriented. Now don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I’ve been doing it for a long time, a realllllly llllllong time. So I know what I’m doing. And I relish digging into a big project. Recently, I set aside a whole day to work at home (way less interruptions!) to tackle this new project.

I was pumped because I was at the testing stage. All designs were digitized and critiqued in software. It was time to stitch the designs on fabric before moving to the actual project – a full size quilt. I’m never satisfied until I actually stitch the design on fabric.  I see results during the stitch out that I never catch in software. So I grabbed a quilt sandwich for testing and popped it into a Snap Hoop Monster.  And pressed Start. Thirty stitches later and I see skipped stitches. And again, and again.

Then the thread breaks.  I rethread. Same result.

I check the bobbin and reinsert it. Same result.

I change the needle. Same result.

I put the thread on a vertical thread stand. Same result.

I call my sister Marie and complain. She listens and laughs. I’m not laughing, good thing she’s 1200 miles away.

I start the machine again. Same result.

I change the bobbin. Same result.

I change the thread. Same result.

I CHANGE DESIGNS. Same result. By now, you can imagine, I am F U R I O U S.

I exhale, several times. And then I call Scott Goodman, author of the Great Scott column in Designs, and explain the situation. Scott is like a good therapist; he listens intently and asks thought-provoking questions.  But this time, none of his questions provide the answer I need – how to make the machine work!  So he gently suggests that I have my dealer take a look at the machine.  That’s the kiss of death. Now I love dealers and totally respect all technician’s abilities but I DON’T HAVE TIME TO GO TO THE DEALER today. So I thank Scotty and just when we are about to hang up, he says, “Well, flagging can cause that.” I said, “Flagging?”

He responded, “Flagging, when the fabric is not secure in the hoop, the needle can lift the fabric off the bed and the needle and bobbin threads do not connect to make the stitch.”

I turned 10 shades of pink. I was so glad Scott wasn’t actually in my sewing room because I know what flagging is and what causes it. You see, in my haste, I grabbed a quilt sandwich that did not FILL the hoop. And I know that the fabric should fill the hoop but I did it anyway.  Then when disaster struck I didn’t connect my mistake with the skipped stitches. I blamed every variable except the user.

Shame on me!  Scott and I had a good chuckle over that. The fix was so easy – I hooped another quilt sandwich – larger than the hoop – and it stitched perfectly!

I’m grateful for Scott’s long-distance diagnosis – he’s a gem. Connect with him on facebook at

I’d love to know if you’ve ever had an experience like this. What do you do when you ‘hit the wall’ with an embroidery project?




  • Jacci Winfield

    I call Scotty or one one of his ladies. Been going to Sewing machine warehouse for over 8 years now.

  • Sharon R

    I’ve been there before! Sometimes, I turn my machine off, put it in time out, and let it sit and think about why I’m frustrated. Then, I take a few pictures, pop them into one of my favorite Facebook groups, Machine Embroidery Help, and ask the 20,000+ members to tell me what I’m doing wrong.
    In 2 years, I don’t think anyone has ever suggested flagging as a problem; I’ll need to keep that in mind when someone asks this question!

    • Georgia Brousseau

      Thank you for that!

  • Belinda Germain

    When something like this happend, I walk away for awhile and come back with fresh eyes.

  • Esther bartels

    When that happens to me, I take apart the bobbin and vacuum it out, then rethread everything once again. Oh, and I change the needle too.

  • JD

    I also walk away from the area so I don’t make matters worse by doing something in frustration that may only add to the problem. Usually something will click or I can calmly look at it again and my brain will see it differently. Then if all else fails I can pull my hair.

  • Diane M.

    After I have done the usual, check bobbin, rethread, change needle, etc., I remove the project, hoop and embroider something small, that I know has worked before, and see if I still have the same result. Just saying, this usually tells me a lot.

  • [email protected]

    I take a time-out and come back later.

  • janet

    I forget about it until I’ve had time to sleep on it. It amazes me how often I wake up with the solution clearly in my mind. It seems to work with everything. As to this problem, I have heard of basting extra strips to your smaller fabric to get it to fit the hoop. Haven’t done it, but it makes sense..

  • Clem

    Never heard of flagging. Good to know for future frustrations…Now, let me see… has this ever happened to me? hummmm… OH YEAH!!!! lol…Glad it was a simple fix. Hate when you have to take your machine in during a “must get done before deadline” project. ESPECIALLY when you get it back and find there was nothing wrong with the machine… (which would have been your case)

  • Susan F.

    Since embroidery has so many variables, thread, bobbins, hooping, stabilizer, tension, and design, you are at your wits end by the time you check them all and it still doesn’t work. I turn off my machine and walk away and clear my head and say a prayer to refocus. When I go back to my project, I start from the beginning and all is well.

  • Deborah

    Been there done that. Take a breath and I went over the whole threading process to find out the thread wasn’t in one of the tension holders. Just one little thing and your machine is completely thrown off course. Now I look to make sure.

  • Joyce Lockyer

    It is wonderful you hav people you can consult when you have a problem! This article is very helpful for two reasons. The first is, I understand your furstration. It is comforting to know, I am not the only one who gets frustrated when stitch outs go wrong. The second reason this blog is helpful is because I know the reason I had trouble with a stitch out yesterday!

    Thank you,

  • Heather

    Welll, I have learned something new today! I have not heard of flagging but understand it now.
    Also Janets idea of basting strips to make a project fit the hoop is so simple and I will be doing that in future for smaller items.

  • Kathleen De Verville

    The first thing that comes to mind when I get myself into this situation is, ” I Sew…… Therefore I Swear! >>>> THEN I go into a timeout, and figure out where I went wrong, then the phone calls.

  • Janette Delbarre

    Thank goodness even experts make silly mistakes, it make me fee; a whole lot better. TYVM for sharing! xx

  • Royce Zook

    Been there. I generally try the common corrections, relative to the indication, one time as a starter. If none of these work I’ll stop, get something to drink and sit down away from my machines – think things through in detail. Most of the time I “find” the solution in my mind then go to the machine and correct the problem. I have gone to bed, gone to sleep and awakened knowing the solution. Never get frustrated, no panic, just relax and let the answer “find” you!

  • Vickie Stevens

    I have just recently learned about “flagging.” I had been noticing my machine doing this but didn’t realize that it would cause so many problems!! Just wondering how to prevent it when you’re floating but glad to learn about it!!

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  • Sara Redner

    In the past, the dealer would try to come up with some reason that it was my fault whether it was or not. (That’s because I didn’t buy my machine from him and he was very resentful.) Now my husband has taken on-line classes to be able to clean my machine and do minor repairs, so when I get frustrated I can ask him to look at it. And sometimes it’s me being an airhead. We only go to the dealer once a year now – and we have a different dealer!

  • Joan Shriver

    this usually happens to me late in the day. When I’m finally “biting nails”, I stop, go to bed and everything looks better in the morning.

  • linda brown

    I was having a similar day, my design would stitch for a few inches into the DIME hoop, then stall in one spot. I tried everything i could think of, called a friend, said bad words, etc. After the 40th time of rethreading, checking every little thing I had every heard of, I took the hoop off (4th time while talking to friend on phone) and found a pair of scissors stuck to the bottom/back of the magnetic hoop! It just stopped any forward movement! I couldn’t believe it, but taught me to keep my tools away from the magnet! I think the scissors were picked up when I removed the hoop to trim an applique piece, and I just didn’t notice. Operator error!

  • Maggie Hancock

    I try and not waste fabric but I have noticed lots of problems with my embroidery ornaments, thanks for the advice.

  • Nancy

    When it is an absolute “hit the wall” moment, I start everything over fresh. New needle, rethreading etc. but I also include a deep clean of the machine to get out any and all little fuzzies.

  • Dawn

    When I get in a tizzy over a project going sideways and I have tried all the usual solutions I pour my self a good stiff drink of chocolate milk, curl up with a good book and change my perspective for a while. It is usually an ID10t error and I have gotten steamed up for nothing. I appreciate the purls of wisdom from your blog and the comments. It is nice to know I am not alone.

    • Nancy Owens

      When I get to that point I just have to turn everything off and save it for another day. I didn’t realize that SCott will answer questions for you. Will he answer my questions if I didn’t by my 10 needle from him?