Monday, August 27, 2012

Tension Issues

I have tension issues with almost every quilt.  I've learned that every quilt, thread, needle, batting, and day is different.  So before I put my quilt under the needle to start quilting it, I set up my sewing machine and do some practice doodles on some scrap quilt sandwiches (this is also when I practice the designs for a quilt).  I used to have a bunch of scrap sandwiches from a couple of quilt workshops I taught, but they were trashed in the whole swallow bug ordeal.  Those were good ones for practicing on though--about one foot square, with just plain muslin front and back so I could see exactly what my thread was doing.

Before I started quilting the rainbow quilt, I found a very small scrap quilt sandwich in with my scraps, and used it to check my my machine and thread.  

This is about 10" x 4-5".

It was a difficult scrap to tell how bad or good things were (already had the white and red stitching and is quite small).  I fiddled with my machine, changed out my needle (I always try to start with a new needle for free motion quilting--it does make a big difference!), but could never get the tension just right.

Well it was late and I wanted to get at least one square quilted, so that's what I did.  And then I wasn't happy with the stitching...the tension still wasn't right.  But the next four days were spent getting ready and then going camping.  So finally today I looked over the stitching with fresh eyes:

This is the back of the quilt--those loops shouldn't be there.

This was the worst spot.  I think it was a spot that I had paused at.

The stitching on the left is okay, but on the right it's too loose.

Since I'd tried everything else, I decided to clean my machine.  The lint really collects and clogs up things underneath the plate thingy.  I think the last time I cleaned it was before the Prayer Quilt (so it would have been back in January).  I try to clean it before and/or after every large quilt, but forgot in the whole baby being born and the rest of our life craziness.  Anyway, this is was I got out:

I use the little brush that came with the machine and a small makeup brush to get all the lint out.  It was definitely time to clean, look at all that gunk!

Put everything back together, did a few test lines on the scrappy sandwich and decided it was decent.  Then I quilted another square on the quilt (can you tell it was a good nap day? ha) and was happy to see that the tension was about right!

Hurray!

Now I feel good about finishing the free motion quilting.  Maybe tomorrow will be another double nap day!

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