Things That Can Influence Your Quilting

Posted by on July 24, 2017

Huh?  What?  Are you saying there are more things to think about than what thread I use and what design I quilt?????

YES!

There are so many things that come into play when we’re quilting.  The basics are the fabric, needle, thread and batting, and there are sooooo many considerations just with these basics, but then you go into other things like paint on the surface, embellishments, etc.

So, let’s start with these basics.  Thread I won’t go into in great detail, since last week’s blog article was an in-depth article on threads and which needles to use and how to adjust tension for different types of threads.

Needles: The composition and sculpture of the needle is paramount.  At TinLizzie18, we use the Groez-Beckert titanium needles.  They have a scarf that is a bump and a very long groove.  The bump spreads the fibers of the fabric and the batting, paving the way for the thread to pass through with less friction (thus less tension).  The groove protects the thread, also from tension and friction as it passes through the fibers because the thread can nestle in the groove. Less friction means less tension AND less heat.  These needles go up and down through the quilt sandwich thousands of times and they can get hot.  The titanium helps keep the needle cool too.  You should change your needle every 8 hours of quilting time, or sooner if you start hearing it “pop” through the fabric.  That is the sound of a dull needle. Dull needles can cause skipped stitches, poorly formed stitches, fraying or breaking thread and they can even create a “run” in your fabric by pulling a fiber rather than penetrating it.

Batting: Polyester is fluffy and makes it easier to form a stitch within the batting.  It generates less heat, so it is good for metallic and rayon and trilobal poly threads.  100% cotton is thinner and harder.  It is much more challenging to get good tension with cotton because there is less “forgiveness” than with poly.  Remember that tension is a tug of war between the top and bottom threads and ideally, they meet in the middle of the batting, with neither thread showing on the other side of the quilt. Blended battings (cotton and poly, cotton and wool, silk, bamboo, recycled bottles, etc.) are common blends.  They are usually 80/20, 70/30, 60/40, etc.  meaning they are perhaps 80% cotton, 20% poly, or whatever their label says.  It is easiest to get good tension with a 60% cotton/40% poly batting, or a 100% bonded poly that is NOT high loft (a whole other set of problems with that).

Fabric:   The influence of the thread count in the fabric is huge!  Count pertains to the threads per inch in the fabric weave.  Most common is 60 threads x 60 threads woven in each direction.  Batiks are usually 200 x 200 threads, so your needle doesn’t last as long and they cause more drag on your thread, so tension may need to be a little higher.  Also, you’d think a #18 needle to spread those tight fibers and keep the thread cool, but a # 18 on Batik leaves very large holes that are harder to close up unless you wash the quilt.  I typically use a #16 needle, but everyone has their own preferences.  So, the higher the thread count, the tighter the weave, the higher your tension and the faster your tension will get dull….oh my, is it worth it to use batiks???  (YESSSSSSSS, Yes it is!)

Paint: The influence of paint on the surface of your quilt is that it causes the thread to pull harder, so more tension is needed to create the stitch within the batting.  Remember that a larger needle will pave the way for your thread, but it will also leave large holes, so you must pick your battle.

Thread:  Okay, I said you should read the post on thread from last week, but I’ll do a quick summary here:

  • 100% cotton is fluffier, less tension
  • Poly threads are usually lighter, so more tension
  • Slippery threads require more tension
  • Metallic tread on top, loosen top tension and use a smoother thread in the bobbin (poly, but not trilobal)
  • Slippery top thread should have a rougher bobbin thread to hold the stitch
  • Slippery top and bottom threads, consider tying and burying your threads because they will work loose.
  • Always use equal or lighter thread in the bobbin than top thread.  EG King Tut on top & So Fine in the bobbin are a perfect combo, So Fine on top and King Tut in the bobbin, presents a tension challenge.  Doable, but a challenge.
  • Thread should come off the cone according to how it’s wound.  Cross wound comes off the top while stacked should come off the side.

Bobbins: TinLizzies have an M size bobbin.  Aluminum runs smoothly, and is light so it causes less tension and stays cooler.  The backlash spring in the bobbin case is there to stop the bobbin from coasting in any direction, so it prevents backlash, thus it’s name (backlash spring).  USE THE PIGTAIL in the bobbin case!!!  Using the pigtail causes the thread to come off the bobbin in the same direction consistently, regardless of which direction the machine is moving, and you don’t get that wonky stitch when you change direction.  Remember, equal weight thread or lighter weight in the bobbin than on top for the most successful results.

I hope these tips help you along your quilting journey.  Thanks for joining me here at TinLizzie18, where we’re committed to helping quilters of all levels realize their quilting dreams!

lynn

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