12/10/14

Tension Headache

Before I go on, I want to say that the cat trap is working.


She must have liked the bait.

If only Anacin could cure my tension problems, quilting would be so much easier. Nevertheless, I think I may have discovered a helpful salve in the form of the APQS website page about adjusting tension.

Are you like me in that you have to turn a map in the direction you're traveling before you can read it? More often than not, I'm navigating with the map held upside down. A similar thing happens with tension. When I spot a tension problem, I'm continually having to look up what the problem is: top thread too tight? too loose? bobbin thread too tight? too loose? I cannot remember how to fix the problem without first looking it up.

This morning I was quilting along on Eliza, congratulating myself about how good things were looking until I turned my quilt over and looked at the bottom. Oy.


This is an ongoing problem for me. When I entered my quilts in the fair this past year, that was the consistent comment of the judges: tension problems on the back.

For one thing, I need to check sooner to see how things are going, rather than waiting until I'm two miles down the road...and at that point, there's no way I'm ripping all of that out.

So to get back to the APQS website page (right here) this sentence stood out to me:

"If the top thread 'lies' on the quilt top, it's winning the thread tug of war and is pulling too hard."

That "tug of war" phrase caught my eye and it just might stick. I'm pretty good with memory hooks...like the the whole "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" thing. If I think of it as a "tug of war" that might help me remember what the problem is and how to fix it. I'm only bringing this up because I thought it might help you too. On the other hand, you might be scratching your head saying, "What the heck is she talking about?" In that case, I'll just refer you to the APQS website page. It'll all be clear as mud in no time. 

Also, the website said I might have to turn the top tension a full half turn before I noticed any difference. ("Full half"...did you get that?) So I got downright assertive and really gave that tension knob a big turn. My tension problems improved significantly. By the time I did the second row of this same motif, it was looking much better. Here's a comparison of the two, but the stitching is looking so good at this point that it's almost impossible to see the stitches.


Oh yes, and about the back of this quilt? Just don't look there...I'm warning you. Think of me as the Punishing Quilter. I will smack your hand into next week. (Do not test me.)

Anyhoo...

So I finished all the quilting on this quilt this morning. Here's what I did with it:

I quilted some wood grain into the trunk of the tree.


Then, I put some Christmas presents under the tree.



I was a little stumped about what to do in the border, but then Lori Kennedy at the Inbox Jaunt favored me with this perfect "mistletoe and berries" motif in her weekly tutorial.


Her tutorial was super simple to follow. I only quilted the two rust-colored borders and left the cream strip open. In any case, if you look at Lori's motif above, you'll see that the set of two leaves alternate from left to right. I was trying to alternate them one to the right and one to the left. At first, I kept having to look back at the one I'd just finished. Then I figured out that if I said out loud to myself, "to the right...to the left...to the right...to the left" it was much easier to keep track of it. It wouldn't do to say it silently...I had to say it out loud. Whatever works, right? Anyway...here's how I did with it:


The thread is so closely matched, it's hard to see, I know. I've messed with the brightness and contrast to make it more visible, so I'm hoping you can see it. That close match is by design. Maybe one of these days I'll have enough confidence to use a contrasting thread.

Finally, I used the same "chevron" motif from the big tree to make some little Christmas trees in each of the four cornerstones.


And there it is...all finished.


Here's how it looks from the back:


Remember not to look too close.

So it still needs binding. I don't know if I'll get that finished today, but I should by tomorrow. I'm going to put a hanging sleeve on it too. When all the stitching is done, I'll affix the hot fix crystals.

And with all that quilting, I didn't disturb even one whisker on the sleeping kitty.


Today I have some housework to do, and I'm hoping to have time to make some fudge. Better get to it if I'm going to get that binding sewn on today. 

It's a dark and stormy day here. How's your weather?



23 comments from clever and witty friends:

Quilting Babcia said...

Great job with the quilting! Snow storm here today.

Debbie said...

Tension problems.....they will always be there, sweetie! Every time you change the thread or bobbin, expect a headache. I keep a stack of small test sandwiches nearby and test stitch before I begin every time. Check to be sure the thread is "flossed" into the tension disks and has not slipped. Learn to check that bobbin tension when you change bobbins....by walking the dog. Go find Jamie Wallen's you tube video on tension. It is great. And yes, it takes some cranking on that top tension knob sometimes. I think there are little gremlin goblins that travel the globe looking for long arm machines to tinker around with. Then they sit in the corner near the ceiling to see our cosmic antics and hysterics....they think we are so funny. One of these days I intend to get my shooting practice in and put they into another world!
By your photos, I think you got it this time....the border looks great!

Aubrey Neussendorfer said...

Oh don't you just hate tension issues with your machine!! I started quilting on my longarm in 2011 and after having issues myself the one thing that always worked for me was using the next biggest size needle. For some reason, especially with batik fabrics using a larger needle just helps everything! The book for my machine states to use a 18 but I use a 21 now all the time and have very little issues. Also using the same brand, weight, and type of thread for the top and bobbin helps. I just love reading your blog and hearing about your life and your kitties!

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Those box traps work so well. Debbi gave some great advice - I keep test sandwiches before FMQ on the home machine because it is different each time - and you fight the gremlins. We are in the middle of a bad snow/ice/wind storm. Luckily we still have power, but a lot of places are out and lots of tree damage.

Dasha said...

I'm Always having tension issues like that!! As I use lots of different types of thread, it seems that I have issues Every time I quilt. The worst is when it drops in and out of correct tension i.e. runs along fine for a while, then drops out, then rights itself & so on. You can't set it at all then.

beaquilter said...

the quilting (on the front at least) looks great. yeah tension is a pain.... I get it too but can usually feel it or hear it and try to stitch a few inches, enough to have the bed be away from the work for me to peek underneath without having to break the thread. A reason why I stick with one brand of thread and have both on top and bottom and use the same bobbin winder at the same setting, not that I don't have tension issues, it just helps.....

Teresa in Music City said...

It's another gray and dingy day here for us .... bitter cold too! Ah well, a great day for quilting, right? Love your packages under the tree! Can't wait to see it all finished with the "lights" on it :)

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

Tension is a pain, no matter the machine. Nice job on the Christmas tree quilt. PS: it's cloudy here. Maybe some sun tomorrow.

Becky said...

As above, test sandwiches every time you start up quilting again. It is helpful every time you change a bobbin. While "everyone" said I could use all different threads, "Black Bart" decided he likes So Fine on top, with Bottom Line prewounds in the bobbin. A thicker batting also helps as there is more distance for the thread loop to "settle in". You are doing a great job. By the way, I call my test sandwiches pot holders!

Patrica said...

Here in Nor Cal we are expecting the most significant storm in 6 years! Batten down the hatches and sew I say. I think I'll make fudge tomorrow too. Your tree looks very festive looking forward to the crystal embellishments.

Kate said...

It's been sunny and cool, but not too bad here. Though I think we are getting rain this weekend. The quilting turned out beautifully (see I didn't look at the back). Have fun with the finishing touches.

Wilma NC said...

I test my quilting each time I change a bobbin. I leave about 8 inches of batting and backing exposed on the starting side of my quilt. Then I take a piece of fabric and lay it on top to test the stitches, top and bottom. Works for me. I also lost my fear of changing the tension on my bobbin.

Sher S. said...

Love the box catcher, works every time for all of our cats. The tension is one thing I always fight with on my quilting machine and I have been known to rip out a good 4 feet of quilting because it bothered me so much. Nice to know what can fix such a problem and thank you for sharing that knowledge. Love your quilt. Glad Smitty wasn't disturbed from his much needed catnap. I did fudge yesterday and yummy just doesn't do it, melt in your mouth does. Have a great day.

Jacque said...

Stay safe and warm....I do so want to quilt like you when I grow up. Hehee! Seriously, it looks awesome!

Diane Wild said...

Great job, Barbara. My tension problems sometimes are due to different kinds of thread. I unquilted half a bed size quilt once because of the thread. Grrrr.

Ann Bassett said...

Wow, the quilt is looking good, can't wait to see it with bling. Sorry about the tension "headache." I hope they lessen with time.

legato1958 said...

I just love your quilt and the awesome quilting touches you put in each section! Thanks for teaching me a lot... about the good stuff, and the tension issues. I am saving your post for future "rescuing". And, as usual, I love your posts and seeing your kitties!!
Susie

Jan Baker said...

I am keeping your post. This is the same problem I keep having and pulling out my hair over. I am going to reread this next time I quilt.

Dana Gaffney said...

I'm laughing because I do that with the map too, David will ask me which way is north and I always point forward, LOL. So, the tug of war thing, the winner (too tight) is the one that's just laying there? Eyelashes on the bottom means the top tension is winning? Yep, clear as mud.

SJSM said...

I love seeing someone getting so much done on their hobby. You are such an inspiration. Today in the San Francisco Bay Area we are getting much needed rain. This is supposed to be the biggest rainstorm in a decade! Schools are closed, warnings from the CHP and emergency networks say don't drive unless no other choice. Freeways flooding, creeks etc. our gutters are overflowing and we did clean them out before the storm. We live on a slope and the water is running down the street to join the flooded areas.

Let's hope the snowpack developes and some of this rain gets into our aquifers.

It's time to sew!

quiltzyx said...

Gracie looks happy as a clam in her new box! (What do unhappy clams look like?)
Sorry you're having to fight the tension headache - I've had that problem too on my home machine. Looks like you've conquered it though. Love the way it's looking!

Michele said...

It turned out great and I'm sure you will enjoy looking at it all through the season.

Brown Family said...

You will get the lay of the land in the tension world! Looking great!