Monday, December 6, 2010

Thread Tension questions and answers: 2 wonderful sources

Since I recently taught a free-motion quilting class, thread tension is on my mind more than ever.  Tension issues were front and center for several people in the class, either because they had not experienced free motion work, or they were working with a new machine, or both.
I received the e-newsletter from Superior Threads today which is always a great source of information about thread, but the theme was machine tension, so I am printing part of the email, with prior permission from Bob.  The second source of fantastically thorough information about thread is Sarah Ann Smith's book, "Thread Work Unraveled".  Please stop by both sites for information and inspiration!
Here is what Bob says about threads and machine tension (& a few other things):

WISE WORDS FROM MOTHER SUPERIOR Thank you for being part of our family this year.  We love what we do and have many exciting new products and projects in the works. To show our appreciation and in celebrating Christmas, we are offering a FREE spool of MasterPiece (600 yds.) or King Tut (500 yds.) or Kimono Silk (220 yds.) with orders over $30 through the end of December.  And you can chose the color.  If you order online, please write thread and color number in the Comments box during checkout.  Merry Christmas.   
starburst shipping (Small)
$3.95 SHIPPING ON ALL RETAIL ORDERS CONTINUES within the U.S. 50 states.  You choose the products, we’ll choose the shipping method.  (Wholesale and business account orders have different shipping rates.)  You have the option of paying extra for faster shipping methods.
International orders: We now offer low airmail rates on international shipping to most countries.  Airmail rates are available for packages up to 4 lbs.  International packages over 4 lbs. sent via the Post Office require Priority Mail or Express Mail rates.  UPS is also available.

EDUCATION: Top 10 Questions of 2010
1. Q. I'm new and do not know what thread to use. Do you have a guide? Needles are a mystery to me also. And tension settings.  Should I use a different thread in the bobbin?
A. We have great Reference Guides.  The Thread Reference Guide provides needle, tension, and bobbin thread recommendations for both home machines and longarm machines.  We also have a Troubleshooting Guide, a Thread Index, and a Thread Selection Guide.  All are available free of charge on our Education page.

2. Q. I never touch the tension on my machine.  My dealer said I shouldn't need to.  So, what else can I do to get a perfect stitch?
A. Adjust the tension.  It is meant to be adjusted, even on automatic tension machines.  Many machines are coming out of the box with tighter tensions and are factory set to sew with a strong, polyester sewing thread; not to quilt or embroider or piece.  Experiment with tension settings. This is the key to being able to successfully use a wide range of threads.
(quality thread) x (the proper needle) x (correct tension) = success
3. Q. Can I use a polyester thread in the bobbin with cotton thread on top?
A. Absolutely yes.  The first rule is that there are no rules but hundreds of myths and traditions.

4. Q. Will polyester thread tear my quilt?
A. This is the most common and worst myth in the quilting world. It is perfectly fine to use polyester thread in your quilt.  Some cotton threads are stronger than polyester threads.  Most T-shirts are sewn with polyester thread (I called Hanes Company and asked them) and I've never had a seam thread rip through my T shirt. 
5. Q. Why don't we ship using Post Office Flat Rate boxes?
A. They are more expensive.  Flat rate boxes sound good but we have extensively researched every shipping option available. We choose the most cost effective and reliable methods.  (Want free shipping for a year?  See What's New section below.)

6. Q.  How do I get rid of the thread looping on the underside of my quilt?
A. When the top thread loops on the underside, either the top tension is too loose or the bobbin tension is too tight.  Adjusting either should correct the problem.

7. Q.  I want to use a small needle but the thread shreds when I do. I worry about a larger needle making a too large hole in the fabric.
A. First, make sure you use quality fabric.  Medium weight threads need a medium size needle.  Heavier threads need a larger needle.  Needle holes fill in with a good shake of the quilt. 

Here is Sarah's book:

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