What About Bamboo Batting?

Posted by on September 25, 2017


Questions about bamboo batting often arise in class.  That led to a bit of research and I thought I would share what I have learned.

First, experience with bamboo batting showed that it makes beautiful, draping quilts. The fibers are silky, soft and even supple.  It is beautiful with either hand or machine quilting.  However, bamboo fibers are also sensitive to heat.  Be careful in laundering and use warm or cold water.

The first generation of bamboo batting was 100% bamboo.  Experience has shown blends are more long-lived and user friendly.  At present the blends are usually 50% bamboo and 50% organically grown cotton in keeping with the bamboo organic farming.

Bamboo is considered renewable. The crop can be harvested year after year without replanting. Some grow two feet a day.  Bamboo fiber is biodegradable and the crop doesn’t require fertilizer or pesticides.  As a result, many products from bamboo are advertised as environmentally friendly.

Inner parts of bamboo are treated either chemically or mechanically. Most, but not all, bamboo fabrics made today still are processed with chemicals to become a ‘rayon soft’ fiber.  Many bamboo battings are advertised as being antibacterial.  While the fibers from bamboo are, the manufacturing process destroys this characteristic unless it is treated with natural enzymes.

Bamboo batting can wick moisture very well.  This is nice for winter warmth similar to wool batting.

Try using bamboo batting in your next quilt.  Stay with a tried and true manufacturer and use warm or cold water in the washer and drier.  Happy quilting!


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What Needle Do I Use?

Posted by on September 18, 2017

I was sewing for literally decades before I knew that there is a groove running down the front of every machine needle!  What is the groove for?  It is where the thread “hides” when the needle is moving in and out of the fabric.  The groove protects the thread from friction, which is a big culprit of breaking thread.  Often, we say that a thread is weak when it actually is experiencing too much heat from friction.  Each size and style needle have different size grooves.  For instance, when using a top stitch needle, it is assumed that you will be using a heavier thread.  Both the eye and groove of the top stitch needle are larger to accommodate the thread size.  The larger the number on the needle size such as 70 or 80, means the larger the needle diameter and groove.

If the groove is too small for the thread, the thread will experience friction and break.  It the groove is too large for the thread, the thread will wiggle around and out of the groove and also break from friction.  If the groove is the correct size for the thread it will glide along and stay cool in the groove.




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What Causes a Skipped Stitch?

Posted by on September 12, 2017


A skipped stitch looks like a long stitch when compared to the other stitches.  There are two main causes of skipped stitches.  One is a problem with your encoders.  Encoders are little wheels that roll left to right and back and forth to tell the machine how fast you are quilting.  These are used when you are using the regulated stitch that will run the needle at a pace to achieve the desired stitch length.   The encoders require a smooth, clean surface to roll consistently.  If they roll over any debris on the rail it will hesitate and assume you have paused, resulting in a longer stitch.  If the encoder has hesitated there will not be a needle hole punched in the fabric because the needle has hesitated as well.  Other reasons an encoder may hesitate is oil on the rail, the spring action has become loose or the electronics need repair.

Another reason for skipped stitches is a timing problem.  Timing refers to the synchronization between the hook and the needle.  The hook picks up the thread from the needle, pulls it around the bobbin and picks up the bobbin thread to create a stitch.  If the hooks is not coming around at the correct time to pick up the thread, no stitch will be formed.  The needle will still move and create a needle punch in the fabric where no stitch was formed.

There are several reasons why the timing may be off.

  1. There has been an event where the needle hit a foreign object and broke.  This may cause the needle bar to be in a different position in relationship to the hook.
  2. There has been a thread jam where you had to force the handwheel to get the thread out.  This may also cause the needle bar to be in a different position.  These two examples will require your machine to be put back in time.  Other reasons include:
  3. The needle has flexed away from the hook and it did not pick up a stitch.  Make sure you are using the appropriate needle for the weight of fabric you are using.  If you are stitching over a heavy seam, sew slower to help the needle to penetrate the fabric rather than flex away from it.
  4. The needle is bent and the hook is unable to pick up the stitch.  Change the needle.
  5. The needle is in backwards or not all of the way up in place.  Check the needle installation.
  6. The take up rail is too high. This makes it difficult for the hook to hold on to the thread.  Often the rail is raised up for a previous quilt and left in that position for a new quilt.
  7. The quilt is too tighton the rails.  Loosen the quilt slightly so the hook will not have the thread pulled away by the trampoline-effect of a quilt loaded too tightly.

The more information you have the better you will be able to trouble shoot.  Happy quilting!


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Thread Weight or TEX?

Posted by on September 6, 2017

When using different threads in the needle and bobbin we stand by the rule of using the same or lighter weight thread in the bobbin as is being used in the needle.  Following this rule helps the quilter achieve the best tension.  Since a 40-weight cotton thread has more drag because of the exposed fibers than a 40-weight poly thread I like to refer to the drag a thread has rather than just the weight.  So, a 40-weight cotton thread in the bobbin combined with a 40-weight poly thread in the needle would make good tension more difficult.  It is good to be aware of the fibers in the thread being used as well as the thread weight.

The most common weight of thread is determined by how much thread it takes to weigh a gram.  So, the finer the thread, the larger the number since it will take more fine thread to weigh a gram than a heavier thread.    The thread weight will be noted on the label with a # or wt. followed by its weight, such as #40 or 40 wt.

The TEX system of thread weight askes the question, “How much does 1000 meters of thread weigh?”  So, the heavier the thread, the higher the number.  This is the exact opposite of the weight measurement.  This will be noted on the label as TEX 30, or whatever the TEX measurement happens to be.  TEX 30 and 40 wt. are nearly the same.  TEX measurement is most often used on industrial thread labels.  Some companies note both measurements.

For best tension, consider the drag and the weight of the thread being used in the needle and bobbin.  Happy Quilting!


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