Thursday, September 26, 2013

On Quilting Tension - a tip!

I'm quite fascinated at how a wee change can affect tension on my APQS quilting machine.  

Here is some experience I have gained with quilting tension.  Little tiny adjustments make HUGE differences.   On this quilt, I had two moments of 'railroad' tracks on my backing.  See how the thread kind of sits on top of the fabric, a bit of  looping, and the thread isn't sinking in?  

Here is one slight tweak that completely fixed the problem:   
See the 3 hole thread guide just above the tension dial?   
The position above is in the 7o'clock and 1 o'clock angle...this is how it should NOT look.

Here I tightened it back to 8 o'clock and 2 o'clock angle and the tension fixed itself.  Just that slight tweak gives a little more tension on the thread.  
check your machine manual for proper positioning -  this positioning is for APQS machines

Another issue I came across which makes me laugh at how trivial it seems, but makes a world of difference.   
When I use slippery thread (Glide, Magnifico, MasterQuilter, Aurifil Poly) it tends to spew off the cone faster than a cotton or a matte poly.  (Do you like my term spew?) 
 You can even see in the photo above, the thread just hanging there very loosely.   

If you stick a tiny wad of bating in the thread guide (loosely, just so that the thread doesn't escape) so that it has a bit of friction when going through,  the tension corrects itself.   
 I figured this out when I ran out of bobbin thread, the top thread often breaks.   Then, the wad of batting somehow pops out of the guide.   Not paying attention to this minor detail, I continued quilting and got poor tension (railroad stitches on the backing)  I realized the little wad was missing - popped it back in, and the tension was beautiful again.   

Silly details, right?

 Here are some things I've noted so far that affect tension:
-batik fabric
-quilt top or back too tight
-poor quality backing fabric 
-slippery thread
-poorly wound bobbins
-needle that needs to be changed
-needle that is not quite in the right position

When I get the time, I'll blog more about some tension tips and tricks for the newbie machine quilter.  Have a great day!


  1. Hi - thank you for that tip, I will check my machine when I get home tonight - I often get those mysterious railroad tracks over just a small section!

  2. Great tips, Andrea! I had lots of tension issues when I first got my machine, but (fingers crossed) they seem to have worked themselves out - tension should be a four letter word. Thanks again for the tips - on another note, did you get my e-mail? Come on out for a visit any time . . . I'll be there M - Th next week. Hope to see you then. Bev

  3. Great insights! I'm bookmarking this for when I win the lottery/find a Santa who leaves longarms under the tree... :-)


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