Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thread and Tension

I always advise a quick tension check when you switch to a different spool of thread.  The color and type of thread, even the brand of a certain type of thread such as silk, the humidity, a dull needle, all will affect the top tension and how the stitch looks.  It only takes a few minutes to do a bit of off-quilt stitching on a sample to see if all is well.
One of the first things I advise students in every class I have taught is to check the thread pathway before beginning to quilt.  From the spool all the way through to the needle's eye, make sure nothing is catching or interfering with smooth, even flow of thread through the machine. 
With the presser foot UP, pull the top thread through the needle.  It should move smoothly and easily; the needle shouldn't bend.  If there is a catch, or the thread is not coming off the spool evenly, you will feel it right away.
Bless your heart, try a cone thread holder....!
Make sure all thread guides are used.  If you have issues with the top spool pulling too tightly and creating tight tension, try a cone thread holder instead of whatever your machine provides.  In the photo, above, you can see it sitting behind my machine to my right, out of the way. 
A large cone of thread sits on the base spindle, unwinds gently with no pulling or tugging, goes up through the metal loop, then goes down to the thread guides on the machine.  It's the best method to deal with large cones or unruly threads such as invisible monofilament, but I have used it for normal spools because it works so well.  It's a nice option to have if you sometimes have trouble with upper thread tension.
However, trouble might be in a place you never check, the spool itself.  In her blog today Jenny Lyon discussed her adventure with figuring out why the top tension suddenly was very bad:  quiltskipper.com 
Jenny has many good ideas and posts about home machine quilting, design, problem solving, etc. on this blog, and you might want to check back often, and also enjoy her creative and beautifully done work.
Meanwhile, may all your spools be well behaved!  Take a break as I am from dusting the house, or shopping, or baking, and do a bit of quilting.  You will feel better for it.....


NMSue said...

I absolutely LOVE my metal thread holders from Superior Threads. Worth every penny.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

Thank you for your kind comments Diane! I use both my cone holder and my Superior thread holder all the time-not sure if I need to, just do. I love your recent columns on getting back to the basics-they are so helpful!

Jenny K. Lyon said...

Thank you for your kind comments Diane! I use both my cone holder and my Superior Thread Stand all the time, not sure if I need to, I just do. I love your recent columns on getting back to the basics-so helpful!

iamaquilter2 said...

Thank you so much for all your help regarding machine quilting. I took a class from you here in Michigan about two years ago and my machine quilting confidence has skyrocketed. I have been quilting all my quilts myself and love the results. Thank you for being so generous with your tips.

Jacqueline Bahí said...

Gracias por todos los consejos ofrecidos en las últimas publicaciones del blog. No me canso de leerlas una y otra vez y tomar nota de todos los consejos y ponérlos en práctica. Gracias de nuevo.

Jacqueline Bahí said...

En ocasiones al acolchar en máquina doméstica de produce el salto de puntadas, es decir, en lugar de 2 puntos queda uno grande ¿puede ser debido a la poca coordinación de la velocidad de puntada con la velocidad de las manos? Gracias por su respuesta.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Thanks - these basics sometimes are helpful, and I am glad I can reach so many who have never taken a class with me.

Jacquelin asks:

"Sometimes the domestic machine quilting in skipped stitches occur, ie instead of two points is large one can it be due to poor coordination of the speed with the speed of stitch hands? Thanks for your reply."

Yes, sometimes it can be due to poor coordination (hands too fast, machine too slow), and sometimes it is because the needle is too small for the thread, or the free motion foot isn't at the right pressure or height. If there is a flat batt and the pressure is lessened, skipped stitches can happen. Try slowing hands, speeding up machine, check needle size for thread weight, and pressure on the foot. Hope this helps!

MulticoloredPieces said...

Hi, Diane. Just happened upon your blog and I stand in awe of your expert machine quilting, which is a delight to see. I was also interested by your discussion of products and technique. I enjoyed the visit and have a very merry holiday season.
best from Tunisia,

Diane Gaudynski said...

Nadia, thanks for your comments, so glad you enjoyed your first visit here! Please come back, I'll try and add more info in the coming months.