An Embroidery Tale of Halloween Horrors

Halloween is coming and ghost stories and spooky tales are on everyone’s mind. Here at Bender Shirts, we don’t love horror stories but they can happen even in the field of embroidery.  Let me tell you a tale…

To truly understand the story, you have to go back to the embroidery room where production magic happens on a daily basis.  Green lights sparkle as all is well in the embroidery world.  Until…that infamous red light appears, that’s when you know, trouble is ahead.  Usually these red lights can be resolved with a simple fix – it is an easy repair like a thread break or a change out of bobbin. But some days…some days if you try both of those simple fixes and the red light still flashes, you have to go searching.

In the embroidery world no one likes a machine that is down more than five or ten minutes because any downtime means lost production time.  Our goal at Bender Shirts is fast turn around so any slow down in that is a big deal.  The first thing that has to be done is to run down the checklist of possible issues…

Is it the rotary hook?  Maybe it’s the plastic spiral bevel gear?  Or could it be bad a reciprocator?

Let’s start simple.


Rotary hook

The rotary hook continuously rotates in place, hooking the upper thread each time its pointed tip passes the 12 o’clock position. Enough upper thread is pulled from above to pass around the bobbin case, which sits loosely inside the hook frame such that loops of thread can pass completely over it. The excess thread, no longer needed, is then pulled back upward by the embroidery machine take up arm. When this is out of sync the stitching process cannot happen. So we have a method of placing the hook back in perfect timing to get back sewing again.  But for this spooky tale, the rotary hook was not to blame.

Plastic spiral bevel gear

The standard definition of a bevel gear is a cone shaped gear which transmits power between 2 intersecting axles. There is one that helps run the main shaft on our embroidery machines. If something gets caught in the main shaft it will tear the gear and threads build up on your shaft.  This can cause many problems.  At Bender Shirts, we keep plenty of these gears on hands so they can easily be repaired. As our story develops, we realized this was not the solution.


A reciprocator is what keeps your needle bar going up and down. In the event you have a needle strike a hoop or cap frame while embroidering, damage to the reciprocator occurs. The reciprocator is plastic and is designed to break away so that further damage is minimized to the embroidery machine main drive components.


And this is exactly what was unfolding for me in my personal Halloween embroidery nightmare.  It was not a simple fix.  To get production back up and running efficiently, the entire head had to be removed and then replaced in correct alignment.

After about an hour of work and repair, I was able to get the machine back up and running just in time to make some awesome Halloween apparel.

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