Monday, 23 February 2009

Trouble Shooting

TNT is a helpful mnemonic for trouble shooting when it comes to thread related problems. It reminds me to check the Thread Path, the Needle and the Tension.
If my thread breaks or the tension goes wonky, the first place I check is the thread path. Free-motion machine quilting is relatively fast paced on a table top frame. And sometimes the thread jumps out of place and catches somewhere along the thread path which stops the steady flow of thread. A quick check to make sure the thread is moving smoothly from the cone to the needle is my first check when I'm trouble shooting.

A word here about spools and cones; the smaller spools and the larger, more economical cones are wound differently. Notice the smaller spools in the bottom front of the photo. The thread on these spools is straight or parallel wound and intended to come off the spool from the side, either from the front or back. But it should not come from the top as that creates drag. Now look at the larger cones in the back of the photo. These larger cones are cross wound. Look closely and you'll see the criss cross pattern of the thread. The thread on these cones is intended to come off from the top. Most newer sewing machines have a facility for this and older sewing machines can still take advantage of the larger cones by using a thread stand. Whether you use smaller spools or the larger cones, make sure that your thread is unwinding the way it was intended.
Once you've checked the thread path move on to the needle. We often hesitate to change the needle but the benefit of changing the needle is worth the bother of doing it. Make sure that you're using the right needle. For machine quilting use a Topstitch 90/14. If you're free-motion quilting on or off a frame move up to a Topstitch 100/16. Topstitch needles are ideal for all types of quiting and all types of threads. The eye of the Topstitch needle is twice as large as other needles.This allows the thread to move smoothly through the eye. Many times thread breakage is simply due to the eye of the needle being too small. A Topstitch needle will solve this problem. Needles get dull and sometimes bent with use. So change the needle with each new project. If you're having trouble with thread breakage, and you've checked the thread path, try changing the needle. This often solves the problem.
Finally, check your tension. Again many people are worried about altering the tension of their sewing machines. Sometimes we're told by the sewing machine guy, " Never touch the tension. Tension is set at the factory." Please ignore this advice. Factory tension setting is usually geared to making clothes. Quilting puts different demands on the sewing machine. Be brave and learn to play with your tension until you get it right. The rule of thumb is that machine quilting, especially free-motion quilting needs a lower tension. So take your tension way down almost to nothing. It should go all loopy underneath when you do this. Then bring the tension up until the loops disappear. The tension dial on my JUKI goes from naught to 4 and I have it set to one. Every machine is different. Set aside some time to play with the tension on your machine so you get to know your machine better. Learning how to adjust the tension on your machine to accommodate different kinds of thread and stitching will make you a happier quilter!

1 comment:

Trudi said...

I always adjust my tension, both top and bottom. Especially when I have different weight thread top and bottom. Its important to get them balanced for stitich quality. Somewhere along the line I picked up this 'Left for Loosey, Right for Tighty' which helps me remeber the 'how to' when I'm adjusting my bobbin tension.