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Good Morning, Quilters!
This week we are tackling one of the most important features of great free motion quilting–creating a well balanced quilting stitch.
First, you must develop your eye for what a good stitch looks like, then you need to understand how to tweak your machine to create the balanced stitch.
To develop your eye, review examples of good and bad tension. I’ve provided several examples in this post.
Then do a tension test with your machine, thread and quilt sandwich.
Your Machine’s Job
It is your sewing machine’s job to create a pretty stitch– but you may have to coax it a little to do the job as well as possible.
First, keep your machine cleaned and well-oiled (just like your car or your furnace). All machines work best when they are pampered a little.
Insert a new needle–important for creation of the lockstitch.
The Quilting Tension Test
Create a quick quilt sandwich.
Clean and oil your machine.
Insert a new needle.
Create a bobbin with 50 wt cotton or polyester thread and thread the bobbin. (Read The Best Bobbin Thread)
Thread the sewing machine with heavy weight thread–40, 30 or 28 wt thread.
Stitch a wavy line about six inches long from left to right and back again. Mark the tension setting.
Decrease the tension by an increment that is convenient on your machine. (On BERNINA’s decrease by a setting of .5)
Stitch another double wavy line and mark the tension.
Continue lowering the tension and stitching wavy lines.
Remove the quilt from the sewing machine and determine which tension setting looks best.
Turn the quilt over to check the back.
Choose the setting that looks best to you–this is somewhat subjective.
NOTE-Most machines seem to create the best stitch by lowering the top tension, however, you may have to repeat the above test by incrementally increasing the top tension.
Every Quilt, Every Time
Because tension is affected by weather, humidity, batting weight, thread and much more, you will need to test the tension every time you begin quilting.
I usually test the tension in the margin of my quilts.
Sometimes I keep a similar fabric/batting combo scrap for testing.
I made the above quilt with tension tests!
Some machines create nicer looking stitches than others. (This is why I’m partial to BERNINA’s–long known for gorgeous stitches.)
However, the nature of free motion quilting, with its pulling and pushing, means it’s not possible to create perfect tension at all times.
Also, by using different weight threads in the top and bobbin we add a higher level of tension difficulty.
If you can’t achieve perfect tension, be sure to use the same color thread in the top and bobbin to camouflage small irregularities.
What about YOU?
Are YOU able to recognize a well-balanced stitch?
Do YOU know how to adjust your sewing machine tension?
When is the last time YOU cleaned your sewing machine?
Is YOUR machine due for a Spring Clean with the technician?
We’d LOVE to hear!
Your Zen Quilter,
PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy Quilts and are intended for personal use only. Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to LKQ. For all other purposes, please contact me at Lori@LoriKennedyQuilts.com. Thank you!
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