Little Things Make a Difference: Thread-Needle-Tension

I spent much of last weekend at my sewing machine, and I was reminded of a few basics I return to time and again. They’re little things about sewing, quilting and machines that make a BIG difference. I hope you’ll find them to be helpful.

1. During Bernina University, I once sat next to a chatty sewing machine repairman during dinner.

One thing he said stuck with me. “People always think they are having problems with their tension. It’s hardly ever the tension! Always remember T-N-T. Thread, needle, tension.

T-N-T

When you’re having machine problems, first check the thread. Rethread top and bottom or change the brand or weight of thread. Next check the needle. Put in a fresh needle. If neither of these work, then it might be your tension.”

I was having thread breakage problems during the first hour of sewing last Saturday. Changed the thread a few times but it didn’t help. Finally installed a brand new needle, and all my problems were solved. Bernina Guy was right! Always remember: T-N-T. Thread, needle, tension.

IMG 6761 Little Things Make a Difference: Thread Needle Tension2. I’ve been sewing on tiny little patches: 1.5″ x 2.5″ rectangles and 1.5″ squares, shown above. I was having trouble with the fabric migrating down into the needle hole so I changed to the throat plate with the teeny tiny opening.

I have three throat plates. The one below has the widest hole available for my machine, which is 9 millimeters. It’s used for very wide stitches, where the needle must swing far to the left and right. This one tends to eat very tiny patches, and you don’t need that large opening if you’re sewing straight stitches.

platepapa Little Things Make a Difference: Thread Needle Tension

This throat plate has the widest hole available for my machine. It’s used for very wide stitches, where the needle must swing far to the left and right.

The next one has a medium opening for medium-width stitches.

platemama Little Things Make a Difference: Thread Needle Tension

This is the throat plate with a medium opening for medium-width stitches.

The one below has a tiny opening. There’s no space for the needle to move left or right so it’s used only for straight stitching. It’s great for piecing tiny patches.

platebaby1 Little Things Make a Difference: Thread Needle Tension

This throat plate has a tiny opening. There’s no space for the needle to move left or right so it’s used only for straight stitching. It’s great for piecing tiny patches.

The patches do not get pulled down into the throat plate and your sewing is fun again! If you don’t own one for your machine, consider getting one—it makes a huge difference in many cases! You must remember not to switch to zigzag with this throat plate, though—instant broken needle. icon sad Little Things Make a Difference: Thread Needle Tension

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3. Shorten your stitch length for better piecing all around! I’m always amazed by the settings my students use for their stitch length—much too long. If you’re on metric settings, 2.0 is the minimum I use for piecing. Sometimes I go down to 1.6. (That’s the length of each stitch in millimeters. Learn more about stitch length here.) If your machine settings are measured in stitches per inch, go for 15 or 17 per inch.

A good rule of thumb is that the shorter the seam you’re sewing is, the shorter your stitches need to be. If the seam is only 1/2″ long, you’ll want more stitches in that space in order for the seam to be secure.

Just a couple of small things to make your sewing easier and more trouble-free!

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Need a quickie quilt for a little person? Totally Turtles fits the bill. Easy piecing and fusible applique means you’re done in a flash. Convenient quilt kits available.

turtleskit Little Things Make a Difference: Thread Needle Tension

Totally Turtles from Quiltmaker’s Nov/Dec ’14 issue; time-saving kits available

 

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