Thursday, March 29, 2012

Free-Motion Quilting Challenge for March

SewCalGal's Free Motion Quilting Challenge is turning out to be lots of fun (as well as challenging!).  This month's free-flowing, whirling, swirling fill patterns from Anne Fahl gave a nice balance to last month's improvisational but precise and technical feathers.  
Clockwise from upper left - loopy loops, loops and stars (it's funny how easy it is to forget which way your line needs to go on a star!), sproingy spirals, and loopy flowers.  It's a treat to loosen up and to be a little whimsical and care-free.

Well, not entirely care-free!  I've been wanting to try those multi-colored threads, and this seemed like a good time for it, so I got some Sulky Blendables 30 weight cotton (this is #4117 Fall Holidays) and a 90/14 Topstitch needle, and this is what happened on the back (weirdo pulled stitches on the lower left):
It actually looks kind of cool and makes me wonder if one could use this as an artistic effect somewhere, but really, it is a tension issue, and needed to go away.  I was also having trouble with the thread breaking - frequently.  Adjusting the tension did almost no good at all, so I went back to Leah Day's Question Thursdays  and trolled for questions about thread and tension issues and this is what I found (and tried).

#1.  Re-thread your machine - this actually helped a little, so I did it every time things went worse instead of better.
#2. Check your needle/try a new needle (sometimes they are defective) - voila, thread stops breaking so much (only happened once on my final sample block - still want to get that down to never breaking - more investigation needed).
#3.  Go back to what has worked before, look at what you've changed, and check the changes one-by-one - obviously the thread changed, but that needs to stay changed, and also the needle, but I also changed the tension and the stitch length -so I went back to "auto" tension and normal 2.5 stitch length, and things got even better.
#4. Use the same thread in the bobbin - well, I was still using my regular sewing thread in the bobbin (trying to use up random bobbin colors, I confess), so that got changed, and la - it's all good now (you can see things get a little better in the middle with the tension and stitch length change, and all good at lower right with the thread change)!

I still get some thread dots on top and bottom occasionally, but I think that may be due to getting so in the swing of the curves, that I put a little swoop in my sewing instead of keeping the speed of my hands in harmony with the speed of the machine (can't have too much fun, I guess - or maybe I just need to swoop with both hands and foot pedal equally . . . ).

In other FMQ news, although I am hopelessly behind, I am still following Leah Day's Quilt Along Wednesday  projects, and finally finished lesson #3 - playing with scale - and combined it with a little warm-up for the current lesson (# 12!) on micro-stippling
Started with something around 1/2 inch, and went in stages down to something close to 1/16th inch!  The 1/16th inch stippling gets a little wonky, but the others are coming more easily, mostly.
Used the Sulky again (in color #4113 Country Decor) with what I learned on the March challenge, and had no tension problems and no thread breaking!  Yay!


  1. Hello FarmNana,
    Your stars, loop de lous and flowers are beautiful. I love your variegated thread colours, very pretty. You did an excellent job trouble shooting your tension issues. Unfortunately, some sewing machines are fussy about thread. My Pfaff Creative 2 will not sew Sulky 100% cotton 40wt, but my Husqvarna/Viking 530 sews wonderfully with that thread. I switched to Gutermann 100% cotton variegated thread with the Pfaff and it sewed beautifully.

  2. I haven't seen the Gutermann variegated - that's my regular brand, so I'll have to look into that! And I still want to try those little butterflies you added into the mix - they look fun and cute!