Today’s Topic: Machine Quilting Perfect Tension
Other topics we will cover this week:
- Wavy Line Motifs
- Five Ways to Grip a Quilt for Machine Quilting
- The Messy Spiral and Other Motifs
- Bobbin Cases
Welcome to Week Six!
of The Better Machine Quilt-a-long based on my book 25 Days to Better Machine Quilting.
Find all of the previous Lessons HERE.
Sign up for emails of the class HERE.
Good Morning, Quilters!
Welcome to another week of happy quilting. This week we will focus on tension for machine quilting. We will review what good tension looks like and how to achieve it. In addition, we will learn a few new motifs to add to our workbasket.
It’s another family-filled week here. I hope to stick to my blogging schedule…but if something better comes along, I hate to say it, but I might stand you up.
(Minnesota Statutes 1.01 Mandatory Practices. Subdivsion 1. All residents must take advantage of good weather when available regardless of other duties including dusting, blogging, etc.)
Manufacturer Calibrated Tension
Most sewing machine manufacturers calibrate tension using 50 wt thread on the top and in the bobbin. The technicians adjust the machine to create a balanced straight stitch while sewing on two pieces of fabric.
Well…. when we are free motion quilting, we are using a variety of thread weights on top, from 100wt to 12 wt. In addition, We add a layer of batting between the cotton. And we are definitely not just straight or zig zag stitching-we are (gently) pushing and pulling our quilts in all directions!
In other words, we are using our machines outside of her(!?) tension “comfort zone”.
Therefore, it is likely we will need to make a few tension adjustments to attain The Perfect Quilting Stitch.
Balanced Tension for Machine Quilting
In balanced machine quilting tension, the top thread and the bobbin thread meet in the middle of the batting. You should not see the top thread on the back of the quilt, nor should you notice the bobbin thread when looking at the top of the quilt.
In the illustration above, imagine you are looking at an unbound quilt from a side view. You can see the blue quilt top, the gray batting and the green backing. When the tension is balanced, the brown top thread meets the red bobbin thread and they twist in the batting layer.
From the top of the quilt, you can see the blue quilt fabric with even brown stitches. From the back of the quilt, you see the green backing with even red bobbin stitches.
When the Top Tension is Too High
When the top tension is too high, it pulls the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt. The twist (where the top and bobbin threads meet)- is noticeable on the top of the quilt and shows up as dots of color on top of the quilt. (See red bobbin thread dots on top of blue quilt-illustration above.)
On the back of the quilt, the stitch looks tight and poorly formed.
When the Top Tension is Too Low
When the top tension is too low, the bobbin thread pulls the top thread to the back of the quilt. The stitching on the top of the quilt is tight and poorly formed. On the back of the quilt, you will notice dots or pulled lines of top thread.
When the Top and Bottom Tension are Both Too Tight
Sometimes, the top and bobbin threads meet in the center of the batting layer, but both are too tight. This results in puckering of the quilt-and may indicate a need for professional service of the sewing machine.
Top Tension v. Bobbin Tension
I’ve purposely reviewed tension from the point of view of the TOP thread. (Notice that I wrote “top tension too high or too low”.)
I did this because on most sewing machines, tension can be balanced by adjusting the TOP TENSION alone–and never adjusting the bobbin case tension.
In my experience teaching workshops, almost all machines can be calibrated to create a good quality stitch by lowering the top tension. A rare few, require increasing the top tension. Almost no machine, in good working order, requires tension adjustment in the bobbin case.
Evaluate the tension on the samples and quilts you’ve made in weeks 1-5.
Review how to make tension adjustments in your sewing machine manual.
Tell everyone on social media about our quilt-a-long (THANK YOU)
Try a few LK motifs- from BERNINA We All Sew:
Happy Tension-Free Quilting,
PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of LoriKennedyQuilts 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. Thanks!You might also enjoy my motif books: Free Motion Machine Quilting 1-2-3 and More Free Motion Machine Quilting 1-2-3