And I'm seeing loads of beautiful stitching! It's so wonderful to see your progress after just two weeks of working on stippling.
We have a wide variety of questions to answer today so let's get going! Pat at Color Me Quilty asked:
I was wondering what do you use in the bobbin when you use special threads on the top, such as metallic or some of the heavier weight threads?
This is a great question because very rarely will we put a specialty thread in both the top AND bobbin of our machine.
So here's my opinion when it comes to metallic and specialty thread:
Metallic - I mostly use Yenmet metallic thread which was designed to be used with Isacord thread. Because the two were designed to be similar, it's easy enough to use Isacord in the bobbin and the Yenmet metallic on top and find a balance between the two.
But here's another, slightly weirder, opinion: why not stitch with the same thread in the bobbin?
Seriously, what is the problem or issue with that idea? Mismatching thread causes enough problems on its own, maybe matching specialty thread will make using it easier? It's worth at least TRYING this idea.
Invisible thread - I'm not a huge fan of this stuff, but I have been known to use it. When I do, I use it in both the top AND bobbin of the machine.
Why in both places? Because if my tension is off slightly, who cares?! I can't see it and neither can you!
Heavier Weight Thread - I haven't had a ton of experience using heavy weight threads in the TOP of the machine. I did use quite a lot of Razzle Dazzle in the bobbin for Emergence and found the most important thing was to use a color in the top of the machine that matched well with the color in the bobbin.
It was also important to crank up the tension on the top to really pull that thick bobbin thread down onto the quilt. The top thread will end up showing up a bit no matter how high you set the tension, so just make sure the colors are somewhat balanced.
And this leads to one more important point:
Always match colors on the top and the bobbin.
You will do yourself the greatest favor in the world by just picking one color and going with it on both sides. Small tension issues, hiccups in the stitch quality, and other small details will be much less noticeable if the colors are the same.
I once got an email berating me over this opinion because I obviously didn't understand that the her quilt was red on one side and yellow on the back, and it wasn't a solution, in her opinion, to just tell her to use the same color thread on both sides.
I replied gently that it wasn't my fault she didn't make a good choice with the color of her backing fabric, and that this really is my solution to 90% of thread tension problems.
Which leads to another good point: PLAN AHEAD!
If your quilt is mostly red, plan to quilt it with red thread, and buy more of that red fabric to use as the backing. It will save you time, money, stress, blood, sweat, tears, and possibly your sanity!
Since we're on this subject of thread and stitch quality, let's go next to Tammy's plea for help:
I don't know if my hands are going to fast, my feet or if the tension is off. Please help Leah!!!
Tammy posted this picture of her stitching:
I see several things in this photo.
Right here in the blue circle, I see loops pulling much longer and tighter in a deep curve than in other places. This tells me maybe Tammy maybe needs to stitch a bit faster in these areas.
But I also see some stitches that are more balanced in the red circle.
Which means that something might have happened to the thread in her machine. It sounds crazy, but I can't count the number of times I've hit my spool of thread and knocked it sideways causing my stitches to go crazy.
I also can't count the number of times my bobbin has suddenly become possessed by demons. It stitched fine 5 minutes ago, but suddenly it's making a CLACKETY CLACKETY CLACKETY noise that's loud enough to wake the devil.
So here's a simple checklist if your stitches go suddenly, inexplicably ugly:
1. Rethread your whole machine. Take out the bobbin, take out the top thread. Start over from scratch and don't rush through it. It's really easy to miss guides when you're in a hurry and getting frustrated.
2. Change your needle. Chances are this wasn't the issue, but it never hurts. A bent or dull needle can wreck havoc with your stitches so it's always a good idea to change it when things get ugly.
Try stitching again after completing #1 and #2. Don't stitch anything super complicated - just try straight or slightly curvy lines.
Then try a deeper, stippling wiggle. Did the issue come back again? If you saw long loops pulling up in the deep curves, try speeding up your machine in these areas.
If the problems persist, try this:
3. Return to Piecing. Change all the settings of your machine back to how you have it set up for piecing and actually piece a few scraps together. Are you still having issues?
If you suddenly stop having issues chances are you are doing something - dropping your feed dogs, changing thread, changing feet, changing tension, changing SOMETHING that is screwing things up.
If your machine is still having issues with piecing and you CAN'T get the tension corrected by any means, chances are your machine is actually broken in some way and the best solution is to see a repairman.
However, most often your machine is NOT broken. Most often there's just a single issue stopping you from finding good looking stitches.
You'll need to begin the process of diagnosing the problem step by step.
The most important thing is to keep quilting. Don't let the loops beat you down! Don't let eyelashes best your spirit! Just keep trying it, keep playing with it, keep working at it until the pretty stitches surface.
One more note about stitch quality: I received this question from Kitty May on facebook:
Why don't my bottom stitches look as good as the top ones? I'm using the same thread, Aurifil.
This is a great question because the fact is - even my stitches look better on top than they do on the bottom. Seriously, out of all 365 of my little design squares, even the ones stitched on black fabric on both sides, I could flip it over and look at it closely and see which side faced up while it was quilted.
So this leads to another point: Stitch quality is always a work in progress.
Everyone is always working to have better looking, more balanced stitches, but it's not going to happen overnight, and it shouldn't be something stopping you from quilting your own quilts.
Please keep in mind that it is SUPER easy to obsess about tension issues, a wobbly stitch in the sea of perfect stitches, a slightly longer string of stitches - but think about when and where you're doing this obsessing: you're sitting at your sewing machine, with your face about 5 inches from your quilt, with bright lights all around so you can see every issue in clear focus.
You're going to see every mistake, but you really shouldn't berate yourself for them! Just keep quilting.
This is the main reason why I beg you to match your thread colors. It's really difficult, if not impossible, to get absolutely 100% perfect tension all the time while free motion quilting.
If you have red thread on top and yellow thread in the bobbin, chances are some of that is going to show on either side and it will drive you crazy. Do yourself a favor and:
- Match your thread color - save your sanity!
- Give yourself a break about thread issues - it's not worth agonizing over!
- Ignore the issues and GO QUILT - thread issues WILL become less, but ONLY if you keep quilting.
I really hope you don't take this as a flippant response. This is my truthful solution to 100% of small thread issues, even the ones I see in my own quilts. Perfection does not exist in free motion quilting, and you can drive yourself crazy searching for it.
One last note and I really will shut up about this:
There is a way to hide 90% of your thread issues, 100% of small line wobbles and noticeable starts and stops, and 80% of massive tension problems. It's a really simple solution:
Wash your quilt!
Seriously, you're agonizing over your quilt when it's flat and perfect and fresh off the machine. Of course the thread issues are going to be noticeable! All that thread is still sitting slightly on the surface of the quilt. It's not yet gotten happy and soft with the other fibers of the quilt.
So throw your quilt in the washing machine, crank the temperature up to HOT, then dry that sucker on the hottest setting in your dryer, and I bet you'll have to SEARCH for those issues you were so upset about when it's finished.
And we have time for one more question from Sisbabestitches about quadrant quilting:
I do have a question- if you start in the middle in the quandrant, where are you supposed to end? Are you supposed to join up with the beginning again? I kind of improvised an extra row and swung back to the middle cos my start line was just hanging there by itself in the center looking really obvious. Though maybe it was just me!!
This might sound a little crazy, but I SO understand where Sisbabestitches is coming from!
For all those type A personalities out there, the idea of a random loose end hanging out in the middle of a quilt is just...well...uncomfortable.
What if someone sees that starting point? What if they see how the quilt was quilted in rows? What if they see other starts and stops and pick apart the whole quilting experience bit by bit?!
This might sound crazy, but I DO THIS ALL THE TIME to myself!
I once decided not to add a border to a quilt because I didn't know how to miter the corners and thought everyone would look at the squared off corner and think it looked weird. I've killed quilt ideas because I didn't know how to piece it or applique huge pieces without seamlines. I've not quilted in certain areas for fear of covering up piecing lines, even if that line was joining two pieces of the same colored fabric. It's enough to make a person crazy.
For the record: no one really cares. If anyone even SEES that starting point of your line of stippling, they're not even going to look twice.
But if you really, really absolutely MUST know what to do with that starting point, here's a few solutions:
#1 - Join up with the starting line when the quilt is 1/2 way quilted.
Basically you'll start in the center of the quilt (red dot), and stitch rows to fill one quadrant, wiggle with more rows to fill the second quadrant, then connect your line of stitching to the starting point.
Break your thread, then start again along the edge of your quilt (blue dot). This new starting point will be cut off when you square your quilt and attach binding so no one will ever see it.
#2 - Split the quadrants and then join up:
This is a slightly different way to quadrant quilt because you first stitch rows from the center to each side, then back into the center to break your quilt up into 4 equal pieces. Because you're able to quilt to each side of the quilt, the center section will be knocked out quickly and you can easily join back up with that starting point.
Again break thread here and start stitching again on the edge the quilt, stitching a row back into the center of the quilt to fill each quadrant. This way the loose end will be on the edge of the quilt and visible in the center.
#3 - Disguise the Starting Point:
Your starting line doesn't have to just start and wiggle straight into stippling. You could stitch a loop or a tear drop shape instead and this will hide the starting point a bit better in the rows of quilting.
#4 - Show off your starting point:
This is the exact opposite of #3. If you're going to quilt your own quilts, why not get credit for it?! Start with a giant spiral, a massive ripple heart, a cluster of pebbles, or big grinning smiley face to add an element to your quilt that no one else has.
Think of it like your signature - your own unique way to start your quilting process, and something your kids and grandkids will look for with fondness on your quilts.
Ultimately I hope you can see that there's really no wrong way to do this!
Quadrant quilting is meant to make quilting your quilts easier and less time consuming or confusing. It's not meant to cause more stress or frustration!
But if it seriously doesn't work for your brain - if you really like quilting in circles or quilting randomly - keep doing it!
There's really only one rule this year:
Find what works.
Find what works.
And I guess that means there's also a second rule this year:
Go DO it!
If something works for you, shut up and go quilt that way. If it doesn't work for you, keep asking questions until you find something that does work.
It's time for me to shut up and quilt!