Obstacles to your Creativity

Posted by on July 31, 2017

by Lynn Bell, TinLizzie18 Educator

Hi again, and thanks for joining me for this article.  So, hmmm, obstacles to your creativity.  I’m not talking about you having to climb over a pile of fabric to get to your quilting machine, I’m talking here about SELF-IMPOSED obstacles, aka rules, attitude, etc.

I have found that if someone truly enjoys doing something that does not bring in an income, it is considered “play” and it gets shoved to the back burner.  It’s like we must “earn” or “deserve” the privilege of partaking.  Well, it’s time to climb over those obstacles and tear down the barriers!

Here are a few synonyms for quilting (in my house, anyway):  Therapy, Zen, Mood Altering, happy dance, Valium, rehabilitation, healing, attitude adjustment, anger management, cease-fire, anti-depressant, peacefulness, harmonious, anti-stress, decompression chamber, my happy place.  I could go on and on, but I’d like to get this article wrapped up so I can get to my quilt studio!

Okay, first of all, what are your self-imposed rules of “must do” before quilting?

  • Clean the house
  • Do the laundry
  • Weed the garden
  • Yadda, yadda, yadda

First you must identify ALL of your obstacles, both self-imposed and others.  Then look at your list and determine which are truly necessary.  Can you do these things once a week rather than every day? How about baby steps, once every-other day, then once every two days….get the picture?

What will happen if you don’t do it every day?  Which rules are worth it, and which are totally unnecessary?

I remember my adult daughter coming home for a visit once, and she commented “Wow mom, you’ve really let go of all of your rules.  You enjoy life and don’t go crazy if a dirty dish sits in the sink!  When did that happen?”  It was news to me, but then, I don’t have time for dishes all the time, because I am quilting, and I’m a much happier, easier-to-be-with person because of it.  Yes, my house is a little messy, we may run out of underwear once in a while, there may be weeds in my garden, but the tomatoes still manage to grow!

The Quilting Artist In you needs MORE TIME!!  Sometimes we think we must stay on schedule in order to squeeze out more time for our quilting.  Other times, we have all the time in the world, so we take our time getting into the quilting space, then we run out of time.

Step out of your box and break your chains!!!  Break your own rules. Try taking one whole day every week just for spending time in your quilting space.  Once you get used to that, add another day in the week (or an evening, or whatever is available to you).  I’ll tell you this:  I managed to spend more time quilting when I held down a full-time job while raising a granddaughter than I spend now that I’m retired.  How does that even make sense??  I knew I only had so much time, so I carved it out.  Now I have all the time in the world, so I hardly ever get in my studio.  Hmmmm, well, that changes right now!  I promise (myself) to get into my studio at least 2-3 days a week and to save the weekends for family time (unless there is a quilt retreat somewhere).

By the way, why not break the quilting rules too, while you’re on a roll. The quilt police aren’t watching you.  Quilts don’t always have to be perfect.  Take whatever doesn’t work for you and change it.  I remember Gail Garber once said (in a class), “I can’t do bound corners and I kept getting marked down for them at quilt shows, so I quit making quilts with corners”.  Google her and take a look at her quilts.  Rounded corners!

Have fun with your quilting.  Allow yourself to soar with the eagles as you create and play with fabric.  We are so incredibly blessed to be able to express ourselves with stitches and fabric.  I am not an artist.  Failed drawing 101 and painting 101, but I can stitch fabric together and draw on it with my beautiful thread and my wonderful Tin Lizzie.  Life is as good as I allow it to be, and mine is awesomely blessed.  Fabric just makes me happy!  Okay, time to go do a happy dance in my studio.

Thanks for joining me here at TinLizzie18, where we’re committed to helping quilters of all levels realize their quilting dreams.

Happy Quilting!
Lynn Bell


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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?????


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!


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Threads: The long and short of it

Posted by on July 10, 2017


Hello and thank you for joining our blog!!  These articles are written by our education team members in an effort to enhance your TinLizzie18 quilting experience (“Quilting Without Tears!”) because we at TinLizzie18 are committed to helping quilters of all levels realize their quilting dreams!

Thread is a huge and very important element in quilting, yet I am constantly surprised when quilters tell me “Oh, I just use the same thread all the time.” I assume because of the price or the lack of breakage, or because (they think) it doesn’t matter!!

Quilters, you have spent a great deal of time and money on your quilt tops.  Not using a complimentary thread to finish it off is like going to Tiffany’s, then wrapping the gift in newspaper with string. Really???  I agonize over my choice of thread just as much as I do over my quilting design, or as I did for my choice of just the right fabric, and you should too.  I am not promoting or recommending specific brands of thread, but I am naming some that I am familiar with so that you have something to compare other threads with.  So….here is the basic skinny on threads along with a few tips on tension and needles:

  • Long fibers are less fuzzy (use more tension)
  • King Tut is fuzzy (use less tension)
  • Permacore and Polyester threads are less fuzzy (use more tension)
  • If using Metallic threads on top, loosen top tension and use a smoother thread in bobbin (poly or tri-lobal poly or rayon)
  • If using Slippery top threads (tri-lobal polys or rayons), they are best paired with a cotton or a wrapped poly bobbin (rougher texture, less slippery – So Fine is a good choice).
  • Use thread nets with slippery threads both on the top cone and on the bobbin winding cone.
  • If using Slippery top thread with Slippery bobbin, consider hand tying & burying knots, or taking 7-8 tiny or overlapped stitches to start & stop, otherwise threads will slip until they become loose.  I have experienced even small overstitched starts and stops coming undone when machine washed.
  • Bobbin threads should always be equal to or lighter than the top thread.  Never heavier unless you are doing “bobbin work”.
  • Thread must come off spool or cone according to how it is wound.
    • Cross wound thread should feed up and the off top of cone/spool,
    • Stacked thread (most spools) should feed straight off of the side. You can purchase adaptive products that attach to your Tin Lizzie thread tree and allow the stacked thread spool to unwind properly.
  •  REMEMBER: Slippery threads paired with rougher threads are the best combination.
  • If specialty threads break too often and tension is good, consider using the next larger needle to reduce friction.
  • Make fine adjustments to tension with thread nets and by using extra holes in thread path.


  •  USE # 14, 16 OR 18 NEEDLES, BUT TEST FIRST***
  • TOP THREAD TENSION SHOULD FEEL SAME AS ANY OTHER THREAD WHEN PULLING FROM NEEDLE (Have thread above foot.  Foot down.  wrap thread around forefinger and hold thread directly behind eye of needle.  Now apply pressure to thread with thumb.  Needle should deflect very slightly and tug of thread should feel same as any other thread.
  • Other threads can create a “channel” in the eye of the needle, causing SLIPPERY THREADS to fray, so always use a fresh needle for SLIPPERY THREADS.

*** TO TEST NEEDLE: Before putting needle in machine, cut a piece of thread 2-3 feet long.  Thread one end onto needle.  hold one end of the thread up and the other down.  Needle should slide freely along thread.  If it catches at all, or doesn’t slide easily from end to end of the thread, the needle eye is too small or it could have a burr.  Either way, try a different needle.

And last but certainly not least!  Following is a handout given in our TinLizzie18 classes.  This handout was compiled by our head of Education, Myrl Breinholt and is published here with her permission:



Spun: these threads are made with little fibers tightly twisted together into long strands and then two or more are twisted together to form the thread.  Most common are cotton and polyester.  Cotton fibers are short.  Polyester fibers are very long and must be cut into short lengths before the spinning takes place.  Mettler™ all-purpose polyester, Maxi-Lock™ and Gutterman™ are example of spun threads.

Filament threads: Silk is the only natural filament thread.  All others are man-made.  These fibers are all very, very long and can be made round or in other shapes.  These need little twisting to keep them together. YLI™ Ultra sheen is a good example of continuous filament threads.

Monofilament threads: are made with a single strand of fiber that is stronger and bigger than single strands used in the filament thread.  They are usually clear. Wonder Invisible Thread and Sulky’s™ invisible thread are good example.

Texturized  Threads are also filament thread, but rather than being twisted they are treated with heat and chemical to give them texture and bulk.  Woolly Nylon™ is an example of Texturized thread.

Core threads are combination of filament thread and spun thread.  These feel soft, but are made strong.  Dual duty™ and Signature™ are examples.

Laminate threads are multiple layers of polyester and are bonded together in sheets.  They are cut into tiny strips and wound on to spools forming a flat, shiny thread.

Metallic threads are a combination of materials bonded together for form a bright, colorful decorative thread.  Japanese have been making metallic thread for hundreds of years.  You can tell a good metallic thread by the way it drapes instead of twisting back on itself.

Trilobal Polyester: are extruded through what is called a spinneret.  It has tiny holes in it that the fibers are forced through.  The shape of the holes determines the shape of the thread.  Trilobal thread has three sides that catch the light and make for color filled with luster.  It keeps it color well in heat, light and is not affected by detergents and body oil.  Magnifico™, Fantastico™ and Glide™ are examples of trilobal threads

Weight refers to how long the piece of thread is when it weighs 1 gram.  A thread that weights 1 gram and is 30 meters long is considered a 30 wt thread.  A longer thread, maybe 40 meters long, that still weighs only 1 gram is considered 40 wt and is thinner than the 30 wt.  Weight sizes = the bigger the number, the smaller the thread.

Tex size refers to the weight of 1000 meters of thread.  If 1000 meters of thread weighs 25 grams it is a 25 Tex.  This means that if a thicker thread is 1000 meters it will weigh more, maybe 60 grams.  It is a 60 Tex thread.  Tex size = the bigger the number, the bigger the thread.

Although it is never printed on labels, thread twist is measured by the number of twists applied per meter. Why is this important? A loosely twisted thread requires less total fiber content, takes less time to produce, and is less expensive to manufacture. “Regular” cotton thread may have as few as 150 twists per meter. (Think of a budget thread that can easily be untwisted by rubbing it between your fingers.) King Tut has almost 7 times as many twists per meter, resulting in a smooth, consistent surface.

If stored correctly, thread will last many years.  Keep your thread out of direct sunlight and away from open windows.  Sunlight is a thread’s worst enemy.  Too much can make it dry and brittle.  Dust and dirt can build up on thread stored too close to an open window.

As a rule, filament thread, flat thread and metallic thread need much less top tension than cotton.  These threads are much more fragile and many of them have quite a bit of stretch to them as well.  Reducing the top tension on your machine will reduce the number of thread breaks and allow the thread to float on top of the quilt, rather than being pulled too tight.

Soft: only died and lubricated.
Mercerized: treated in a solution to increase is bulk and affinity to receive dye.
Gassed: Passing cotton thread through a flame at high speed to reduce the fuzz.
Glazed: cotton thread are treated with starches and chemicals under heat and then polished to a high luster.
Bonded: treating continuous filament nylon or polyester with a special resin that encapsulates the filaments.  It is a tough smooth coating that adds to the thread’s strength.

Helpful resources:
A Thread of Truth  www.ylicorp.com
Needles and Threads and Bobbins, Oh, My by Nancy Goldsworthy http://www.fil-tec.com/thread

I hope this article enhances your quilting experience!

Lynn Bell
TinLizzie18 Educator





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