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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Now, How Do I Actually Quilt with a Longarm Sit Down?

Posted by on May 26, 2017


by Myrl Breinholt | TinLizzie18 Educator

Principles to keep in mind:

  1. Working towards you is easiest since you are able to see where you are going.
  2. You can create muscle memory and hand-eye coordination by doodling basic shapes with paper and pencil.  Your brain cannot distinguish between whether you are quilting or drawing.
  3. Your eye should be focusing ahead of your needle rather than where you are quilting at the time.  A ball player will tell you that your hand will follow your eye.

Prepare your quilt with a backing four inches wider and longer than your quilt top.  This will make it easier to insure the backing will cover the entire quilt even if it shifts a bit. 

  1. Spray adhesive works well to hold the quilt sandwich together while it is prepared.
  2. Lay the batting out.  Roll the quilt back onto a broom handle, mailing tube or similar object so you will be able to spray adhesive a few inches at a time on the batting and roll the backing and then the quilt top out onto the batting, a little at a time, smoothing as you go.
  3. Use Safety Pins set about four or five inches apart all over the quilt to hold it securely while it is quilted.  Remove the pins as you get to them.
  4. Roll the quilt, burrito-style and begin quilting in the center of the quilt.   Work your way out of the middle, then return to the middle and work out to the other side.

How do I start?

  1. It is important to bring up the bobbin thread as you begin.  To do so, while gentling holding the upper thread, tap the foot control to cause a full rotation of the needle.  This will cause the needle to make a complete stitch and will bring the bobbin thread to the top.  Pull the bobbin thread up through your project until you find the end.  Take hold of both the bobbin thread and the upper thread while you tap the foot control about three times to secure your thread very near where you brought up the bobbin thread.  (You may use the needle up and needle down button instead of tapping the foot control.)
  2. Begin your design and then trim the long thread ends before they become entangled in the design.  (Some people like to “bury” the thread ends with a hand needle rather than cutting them.)

How do I end?

  1. When you come to the end of a row or design it is important to make a secure stitch as in the beginning of your design.
  2. Again tap the foot control three times to secure the thread.
  3. Pull the thread just below the take up lever to release a length of thread without causing it to break in the needle.  Raise the presser foot and pull the extra thread through the needle.  Make sure the needle is at the same position as your last stitch and lower the presser foot lever.  Hold onto the extra thread (it will be like a loop) and tap the foot control once to bring bobbin thread to the top of your project.  When you pull on the needle thread the bobbin thread will be pulled up and you are then able to trim both threads.  (Or again, you may bury the threads if you prefer.)
  4. If you do not bring up the bobbin thread in this manner, it will continue to be connected and be dragged all over the back of the quilt.
  5. When the needle thread breaks it is important to bring the bobbin thread up as well.  In this case it will not be disconnected.  Cut near the end of the thread that is not pulling free.

Quilting gloves with grippers work well.  Quilting hoops also may be useful to move the fabric around easily.


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Advanced Fancy Feathers

Posted by on March 19, 2015

Finger feathers are the type that you stitch as a single barb. Most of the advanced feathers start out this shape because they are plump enough to get a secondary design inside. This type of feather also has a little space in-between so you can add some detail in-between each feather. Some of the following pictures will give you and idea what there is to learn. If you are interested in learning these show winning feathers sign up for one of the TinLizzie18 classes. Remember that one of the greatest combinations with feathers is grids. You can also take a ruler class at the TinLizzie18 Learning Centers.


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Zen Work with the Long Arm

Posted by on October 28, 2014

Some of you did zen work in art class in elementary school and might remember this.

As kids we scribbled across a piece of paper and defined some large spaces. Then we went back with crayons or pencils and using our imaginations made our own fantasy designs within each of the boundaries of these scribbled areas.

In this day and age with all of the freedom we have in creating,  zen work is now showing up in quilting. We love it! There is no right and wrong. An amazing amount of new backgrounds are being created. All of it is acceptable. Following are some inspiring designs that we have put together for you to get a grasp on zen work.

Show us your examples on our Facebook page!

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How to Adjust the Ratchet System on the Phoenix Frame

Posted by on June 19, 2014

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!
There really are only three parts to this ratchet adjustment. This is the order they should be installed. Take notice of the direction the ratchets go. The rotation on the top roller is different than on the backing roller.

ratchet1 ratchet2

This is the order they are to be installed. These are the two ratchets on the Phoenix frame. Notice that top roller rotates opposite of the backing roller. If you do not get this direction the correct way these rollers will not properly snap and stay tight when you are rolling your quilt.

I know you can put these on the other way, but we like the top roller to feed the top fabric off of the bottom of the roller and the backing fabric to come off of the backing roller from the top, so that the two pieces of fabric come together as soon as they can. The union of the fabrics helps to stop any bounce the fabric might have during quilting.


This Allen hex key is the tool that is needed for adjustment of the spring tension that makes the ratchet snap down and stay in the teeth of the gear.


This is the place that the Allen key fits into to tighten (righty tighty) or loosen (lefty loosey).

ratchet5The snap on the ratchet has to be just right. If the tension is too loose the ratchet will not snap down and hold onto the gears. If the tension on the spring is too tight the ratchet will be stubborn and not respond well and you might find that you have to put the ratchet into the teeth by hand. You might have to adjust and check several times to find that sweet spot where the ratchet is the most responsive and still holds tight into the teeth. You can do this!


Top Roller Teeth


Backing Roller Teeth

This is the direction the ratchets should be.

This is the direction the ratchets should be.


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Which Ruler Should I Try First with my Long arm?

Posted by on May 22, 2014

There are so many long arm rulers on the market now that it is hard to decide what you should acquire for tools. You probably should start with something simple.

We believe that the simplest rulers are the straight edge, the wavy edge and the arc. Small rulers fewer than 10 inches are the easiest to control.

The rulers below are the ones that we have chosen to use first in this beginner class.


The wide variety of designs that can be made from the arc ruler will amaze you. The trick is to learn to hold the ruler with slight pressure down and into and toward the quilting foot. As you hold onto the handle bar on the quilting machine also place a little pressure toward the ruler. Some quilters glue small button shaped pieces of sand paper onto the rulers to help reduce the slipping of the ruler on the fabric.


The wiggle ruler will help guide you through small scallops, shells, arc, and apple slices. If you want to add a busy look to the quilt you might use smaller wiggles or waves. If you wish to have a more relaxed look to your work you might use the larger wave or wiggle side of the ruler.


The straight edge acrylic ruler is ¼ inch thick. One end of the ruler has a 45 degree angle on it and the other end has an arc on it. This ruler is sometimes called the ‘stitch in the ditch’ ruler. The long sides of the ruler are notched to help hold tight the front or the back of the quilting machine foot. When you begin or end a straight line, you do not want any wiggle in the end of the line so the notch helps to steady your line. Long engraved lines appear on the ruler and these lines can be placed on the seams of the patchwork to measure the stitching distance from the seam.

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