Updated: Aug 15, 2022
This week I am sharing a gift idea for the bride and groom and some information on those frustrating sewing machine tension problems we all suffer from.
I have two weddings I am attending this September for two of my favorite nieces. I never get too excited looking through a Gift Registry for a couple. So, I made them something they will use through the years and something I use myself.
I'm not sure this is my idea but it seems to be a hit with newlyweds. I make an Anniversary Tablecloth and give them a few permanent marking pens. I suggest they bring the tablecloth out for anniversaries or any special occasion and write such things as the year, what is happening in their life or just a thought and have their guests do the same. As they bring out the tablecloth each occasion they have a microscopic history of their years together. It makes a lovely wedding gift and I get a lot of compliments on them.
The table cloth is simple with spaces to write on. Currently, I am making two.
#1 - I made this with a 4 " finished block. I cut the center at 2 1/2". I don't like this one as well as the smaller one.
#2 - This one makes a 3 1/2" finished block and I liked the spacing much better on this one.
I will quilt little on the white signature strips and more dense on the darker fabric.
Why is it when you are in a hurry things seem to fail. I am working on my niece's wedding quilt as well as the two tablecloths. I have an APQS Millennium that is over 18 years old. This machine is incredible but for the past day I have been frustrated beyond belief. I need to get this quilt done and I just can't get my stitches to look good. I know the answer to this and a big part of it is to relax and remember the basics.
So today - a bit about tension problems.
It doesn't matter if you are using a domestic machine, a mid arm, or a long arm, when things go bad it's frustrating. Below are some steps you should take to solve tension issues.
Tension for machines are set at the factory and if we use the same lightweight thread on the top as in the bobbin everything works out well. But we quilters, well we like to play around with things like metallic thread, rayon thread, a thinner thread in the bobbin, different fabrics on the top than on the bottom and using different types of batting. All of these can make a difference in the stitch quality. It may take a bit of tinkering but you can fix it.
Most times we experience issues with the bottom thread being the culprit so the first thing to tackle is the top of the machine because the top controls the bottom stitching.
1. Re-thread the machine. For some reason we really hate doing this. Trust me, this may solve your problem.
A. remove the thread completely.
B. Make sure your pressure foot is up when threading. If it is not the thread will not go through the tension rings which causes some pretty heady thread problems.
2. At times a bit of lint will get into the tension rings. Take a business card or some card stock and put a drop of oil on the edge. Put the card between the tension rings where you placed the oil. and move back and forth. This little trick has worked so many times for me!
3. Replace the needle. A new needle is a pretty simple solution. Keep a bunch around so you are ready.
Bottom of the machine
4. Clean the machine - COMPLETELY - OIL IT IF IT TAKES OIL! - Yes, pull out your screw driver and dive deep on that puppy! Keep a magnet nearby to hold the screws so you don't lose them. Take the time to remove the plate on a domestic and clean the bobbin area with a soft brush. If your machine takes oil make sure you oil all of the spots needed.
5. Make sure the bobbin thread has not slipped out of the tension spring.
If you are still experiencing problems it's time to work on tension adjustments. Make a small quilt sandwich from the fabrics you are using to do some testing. (Note: using the same fabrics & batting to make your sample is extremely important.)
6. Find the sewing machine tension gauge. If you don't know where it is it is time to take out your trusty manual and check it out. Sometimes its called a knob or a button or found on your Touch Screen if you have a computerized machine.
The problem is your tension is either too loose or too tight. Now you get to be the mystery solver.
If your thread loops or is wonky on the back of the project
Either your needle thread is too loose or your bobbin thread is too tight.
99% of the time this the top adjustment solves the problem. Increase your needle tension by 1 number. Test by stitching several inches on your small quilt sandwich. Keep increasing the tension until no needle thread is visible on the backing. Use your sample to test these changes.
If the thread on the top looks "different"
Either your needle thread is too tight or your bobbin thread is too loose.
If the bobbin thread is correctly threaded through the tension spring, decrease your needle tension by 1 number.
Test by stitching several inches on your quilt sandwich. Keep decreasing the tension until no needle thread is visible on the quilt top.
To change the bobbin tension use a small screw driver and move screw clockwise (using very small increments less than an 1/8 of an inch) to tighten or counterclockwise to loosen.
It is helpful to mark on the bobbin case itself where your original tension was set so that you can return to it without difficulty. A drop of nail polish will take care of it.
Under normal circumstances, adjustments to the bobbin tension be the last resort.
Cleaning the bobbin is not.
Even a bit of thread or lint can make a difference in stitch quality.
Take a pin and place it under the tension arm. Drag the need through the entire arm.
Really, just a little lint can make your life pretty miserable.
Simple Tips To Remember
A new needle may just to the trick.
Rethread the machine your machine.
Cleaning the machine top to bottom makes a world of difference.
Making test sample and use it with the fabrics you are using is the best advice I can give you.
Playing with the upper tension first and then the bobbin tension works best. After awhile you will be able to finesse these fairly easily.
Once you start using something other than medium weight threads in your sewing machine, expect to adjust your tension regularly.
I will be in Madison, Wisconsin at Quilt Expo from September 4th through the 7th and then Dennis and I are traveling on to Paducah for the AQS Paducah show from September 14 through the 17th. A little drive through the country in September sounds nice. I hope to see you at one of the shows.
For now I give you my Irish goodbye.
Recipe Of The Week
Cream of Cabbage Soup
1/4 c. butter 1 (16 oz) bag cut up cabbage
1 c. chopped onion or 1 T onion powder 1/2 tsp white pepper
1 c. chopped celery 1pt half & half cream
3 14 oz cans chicken broth 1/4 c. flour
Saute the onion and celery in butter. Add remaining ingredients except half and half and flour. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cabbage is tender (35-45 minutes). In a saucepan, combine half & half and flour and whisk over medium heat. Bringing to boil, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Add to cabbage. Mix well and serve.
I listened to a podcast this week that I loved and found this quote. It is now sitting next to my sewing machine.
Ever tried, ever fail, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better.