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Oh, those pesky threads that show up between parts of an embroidery design! These embroidery jump stitches as they’re commonly called can be the bane of a beginning embroiderer’s existence.
I remember when I first got my embroidery machine and was trying to figure out how to remove jump stitches between letters of a word on a tea towel. I couldn’t get my big sewing scissors close enough to the beginning and end of one of the jump threads, and I ended up clipping the towel! There’s nothing worse than ruining a project in the final steps.
I’ve learned a lot since then about trimming jump stitches, and I want to share this with you as part of my beginner machine embroidery tutorial series.
So, let’s talk about how to trim jump stitches from your embroidered projects!
What are embroidery jump stitches?
As I mentioned, jump stitches are the small threads that connect parts of an embroidery design of the same color. It’s essentially where your machine “jumps” from one part of the design to another.
A well-digitized embroidery design will minimize the number of jumps whereas an auto-digitized design or poorly digitized design will excessively jump all over the place, leaving you a huge mess to clean up after stitching!
When do you cut jump stitches?
High-end embroidery machines offer automatic jump thread trimming, but budget-friendly embroidery machines like mine don’t! As such, I have to manually cut jump stitch threads.
In best practice, you should trim jump stitches at least after each color change on your machine. This prevents those loose threads from getting stuck on the presser foot or needle as the machine stitches the next colors. If your design jumps around a lot within one color, you can even manually stop the machine and cut after each jump.
If you used a water-soluble stabilizer on the top of your fabric, it’s easiest to remove the jump threads before you remove the topping. Those pesky stitches are HARD to find when buried in terry towel loops, for instance!
And, if you’re working with very small jump stitches, there’s no need to even remove them. If you’ve ever examined a professionally embroidered item, you’ll notice that between small letters or design parts, the stitches are still there. Don’t lose your sanity over the small jumps!
In reality, when do I cut jump stitches? I don’t trim any super small jump stitches during the embroidery process, and I also don’t trim if it isn’t possible for the stitches to interfere with free hoop movement later on. About 50% of the time, I end up having to trim everything after each color. The rest of the time, I trim at the end of the project. This is NOT the gold standard, but I find it more enjoyable to procrastinate this tedious task until the end of the project!
How to Cut Jump Stitches
When it’s time for a thread change, you can take the hoop out of the machine to clip the threads or you can keep the hoop in the machine and maneuver around the embroidery foot and machine head. Just make sure not to turn off your machine or shift the fabric in your hoop.
The easiest method for trimming jump stitches is to take a slender pair of embroidery scissors and place them under the jump thread as close as possible to one side of the thread. Pull the thread up a bit with the scissors or your fingers. Then, gently clip the thread as close as you can to the design without accidentally clipping the design. Trim the threads on the front of the design, not the back.
Then, hold the newly freed end of the thread between your thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand. Or, use a pair of nice, sharp tweezers to grab the thread end. Use the scissors in your dominant hand to clip the thread with your favorite scissors.
If you clipped too closely and notice loose threads, apply a sealant like Fray Check to keep the design from unraveling later.
And, if you have a big mess of threads, use a lint roller (or a Seam-Fix) to easily remove them after trimming! I’ve heard of people using lighters to singe any residual thread fuzz, but as a major non-risk taker, that’s not something I’m willing to try!
Types of Embroidery Scissors that Trim Jump Stitches Well
Now, there are some types of embroidery scissors that will make removing jump stitches easier. Any scissors or snips that you use to trim embroidery threads will need to be very sharp and have a small, thin tip to fit underneath the threads. Don’t try to use big sewing scissors (like dressmaker shears) to cut these tiny threads, for instance!
Every embroidery enthusiast seems to have a favorite type, so you might end up trying several pairs before deciding your preference. Here are some of the options I own and use below.
My favorite scissors to use when removing jump stitches are double-curved embroidery scissors. Because of the curves and the long, thin handles, this makes maneuvering around the head of the machine and the embroidery foot much easier if you clip threads with the hoops still on the machine. The curve at the tip of the blade also makes it where you can get closer to your fabric without puncturing it.
There are also single-curve embroidery scissors that will work. I don’t own any of these to show you, though!
Duckbill Applique Scissors
Surprisingly, my duckbill applique scissors do a great job of clipping most threads. They don’t work well in small corners or curves, but the round bill keeps me from accidentally cutting through fabric!
I also have small embroidery scissors. If you don’t want to invest in many pairs of scissors, these will also do the trick, although they are easier to use if you remove the hoop from your machine first. Many machines will include a pair of small embroidery scissors among their accessories. There are some really cute options like the hummingbird embroidery scissors below, too!
Somehow I keep accumulating thread snips, which are another type of scissors that can get close enough to the ends of jump stitches to trim them cleanly. There are also spring-action embroidery snips like the ones below. I could not stand the pair I had, but many embroidery enthusiasts prefer these over the rest!
If you’re absolutely in a bind, a seam ripper will work well enough to get close to the jump thread. However, if your seam ripper isn’t very sharp or you rip at an odd angle, you might get some thread fuzzing.
Embroidery Machines that Cut Jump Stitches Automatically
If you abhor trimming jump stitches, there are embroidery machines that automatically cut jump stitches for you! Here are a few single-needle models to consider if you’re in the market for an embroidery machine that automatically trims jump stitches.
- Brother NQ1600E embroidery machine
- Babylock Flourish II embroidery machine
- Janome Memory Craft 500E embroidery machine
- Bernette 79 embroidery machine
There are some limitations to automatic jump-thread trimming, though. These machines often don’t cut threads under a certain length, and the jump thread trimming isn’t always reliable as the machine ages. That being said, one day if I ever upgrade my machine and can afford it, I want a machine like this!
Minimizing Jump Threads in an Embroidery Design
If you auto-digitize embroidery designs (I’m guilty of this sometimes…Hatch software does a really good job with this on simple designs!) or purchase designs from a novice digitizer, you don’t always end up with a great design. If you take the time to edit the design a bit, you might be able to minimize some unnecessary jump stitches without having to digitize from scratch. For instance, by simply rearranging the stitching order of distant sections, you can eliminate some unnecessary machine movement.
Digitizing isn’t in the scope of this tutorial, though, and I’m only a hobby digitizer, so I’d recommend checking the user manual, Facebook group, or YouTube channel for your embroidery software to learn more about this!
And that’s it! I hope this post has given you some tips for removing those tiny embroidery threads from your project. Happy embroidering!