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To use the automatic thread cutter for quilting...or not?

Jocelyne asks:

After using the automatic thread cutter, a tangle forms at the beginning of the next seam.

How can this be avoided when the bobbin thread is too short to be brought up? I am sewing on a demo Viking Sapphire 930.


I'm not quite sure if you're talking about the piecing or the quilting activities so I will address both. I hope you don't mind.

The thread cutter is set to manual
For those of you with older machines (i.e. my circa 1992 Viking #1+ didn't have the automatic thread cutter but my 2001 Designer I does), you engage the thread cutter with a push of a button and a cutter in the bobbin area slides across to cut your threads. It's a really nifty feature and does save time. While the machine is cutting, my hands are free to align the next patches for stitching.

There is a downside, at least on my 10+ year old machine. The cut isn't flush with the fabric. It leaves a thread tail of 1-1/2" to 2" long. Personally, I go back and trim them with a scissor when I get to a good stopping point.

For piecing...

I usually disengage the feature and use an anchor cloth instead (some people call them 'spiders' or 'bunny tails'— there's probably some other cute names, too...)

An anchor cloth is merely a scrap of fabric that you start and end stitching on before and after your actual patches. They save time and money because you don't have the longer, wasted thread tails.
A much-used anchor cloth

To the left is a heavily used one.

I keep them around until it's a problem getting the needle through them or I've accidentally dropped one on the floor and I need another one...pronto!

All those corners you trim off from the connector corners technique now have a purpose!

Below is a picture of it in use at the start of some piecing. You'll see them in use frequently in the instructions for the Free Quilt Block Patterns on this website.

For machine quilting...

Again, I disable the function for machine quilting by setting it to 'manual'.

I don't want any thread tangles on the back of my quilts so I'm quite diligent about pulling the bobbin thread to the top. I use both micro stitching and hand knotting to tie off. The short tail left by the cutter just isn't long enough for either.

So I just don't use it.

The same goes for the 'fix stitch' or the automatic knotting that newer machines have. I think the knot is unsightly on the back of my quilts. I'm also not convinced that those machine tied knots will stand up to the wear and tear that so many of mine are destined for. Again, I prefer micro stitching or hand knotting to secure my stitching lines.

So when DO I use the thread cutter

I love this feature, particularly when I'm piecing something that will be cut down to size— that means both paper piecing and a lot of the basic units that I make that go into a quilt block. All the extraneous threads at the edge of the block or unit get trimmed when I cut the block with my rotary cutter. The shorter tails left by the auto-cutter don't get in the way during piecing. It's use pretty much speeds up the piecing process.

Other topics that may be of interest to you:
Jocelyne, I hope I've addressed your question completely. Always remember to do and use what WORKS FOR YOU. That's the important thing. Take the ideas you see and modify them to fit YOUR STYLE!

To our Readers, if you have an opinion or experience you'd like to share, we'd love to hear from you!

Just use the 'comments' link below to join in the conversation. Thank you!


Julie Baird

Comments for To use the automatic thread cutter for quilting...or not?

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Thread Heads
by: Cheri

I call them Thread Heads and taught my 7yo grand daughter to use them and she won't sew without them now!

I keep all my little scraps that normally are thrown away but I have a small basket right by my machine and just grab a little piece and start my sewing stitches and then my fabric piece. I hadn't thought about using one at the end, but that could be a good help. I don't use them as much as the one you show here...couple dozen times, but since I have so many tiny little scraps, I don't have to use them more than a dozen or so times and then toss them.

It also helps that nesting ends when you start stitching on the pieces...that nesting is done on the "thread head" and then the stitches start perfect on the actual fabric pieces being sewn together.

Thread cutters are great but only sometimes
by: Jo Goranson "The Thread Lady

I call them starters and use them because our needle plates are made with a wide opening from side to side. When you try to start sewing at the edge of your fabric it's often sucked into the hole along with the threads. It's a pain to get it out without ripping the fabric. Sometimes you have to take the throat plate off in order to get the bobbin holder back in its proper place. So Julie and I use a starter when we begin sewing. It is an amazing and free tool. I fold the starter in half, sew a few stitches, then put my fabric right up snug against the starter. It's the same as if you are piecing strips and put them into the machine one right after the other.

I have a Janome 6500 with a thread cutter and I always use it when I am making blocks. My cutter leaves about a quarter of an inch of thread on both sides. When I am piecing I don't bother with them. It's when I am quilting that I run into trouble. If you use the cutter often, it's so easy to hit that button and then whack yourself on the forehead for being such a dummy. Most of the time I can hold the top thread and pull up the bobbin thread and catch it with my tweezers and pull it up. Of course, this means I've had to move the quilt to get to the bobbin, so I've wasted time when I do this, but I always bring it up. I can sew very easily if I don't bring up my bobbin thread, but then I look at the back of my quilt and I have all these little 1/4" pieces of thread sticking out. If I cut them off there's the danger that my quilting will come apart, even though I've anchored my thread on top by sewing the first few stitches so close together that you can't tell they aren't in the same hole. So my solution is to tape over the cutter button with lots and lots of blue painters tape so if I hit that button the tape usually, but not always, prevents me from engaging the cutter.

Thread tangles are horrible and if your cutter doesn't cut the thread cleanly this might be because it isn't sharp anymore. I do love my cutter, but I know my dealer changes it to a new sharp one once mine has become dull. I have my machine cleaned at least once a year. I need to mention each and every little thing that seems to be out of whack when I bring it in to be cleaned. My dealer can't read my mind. I have to tell him what I think is wrong.

One of the best teachers you will ever have is your sewing machine manual. If you read and re-read it and keep it within reach you will save time and money. If you don't have a copy you can download one from the manufacturer, usually at no cost. It is one of the most valuable accessories you get with your machine and it's hardly ever used.

My manual isn't an important part of my sewing accessories because I can't remember what it says about things I do all the time. It's important because when I do something new or something I haven't done in a long time I can check my manual to make sure I get it right.

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