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The stitching on the back of my quilt is wonky

by Faye
(Winchendon MA USA)

Faye writes...

My stitches appear loose. My batting peeks through not consistently, sometime little loops form.

I have worked with adjusting top tension in both directions, I cannot get a good stitch on the back of my quilt.

Julie replies...

I agree with your diagnosis that your sewing machine tension is an issue. It's also possible that it's a needle issue, too.

Here's what I'd do...
  1. While you didn't mention 'thread throw-up' or 'bird's nests', if you're free motion quilting, double check that you've put the presser foot down. Since the quilt sandwich is meant to slide around underneath the foot—even when it's down—it's easy to forget. (Said by one who knows this from experience.)

    If that doesn't work, then...

  2. Completely rethread your machine with the presser foot up—needle and bobbin. Each guide adds a bit of tension to your thread as it travels through your sewing machine. If you've missed one or it has 'jumped out' of a guide, the tension applied is less than you set it for.

    As you re-thread, double check that the strand is properly seated between the tension discs...with the presser foot up, the discs are open. I had a machine that was notorious for spitting out the thread from between the discs if I sewed too fast. 'Never figured out why, but it was something I always had to check.

    Re-install the bobbin thread in its case making sure that it, too, is correctly caught in the tension spring.

    Test on a practice sandwich, tweaking the tension as needed.

    If that doesn't work, then...

  3. Try a new needle. A damaged point can screw up everything. Given the bits of batting you report are poking through the back, I'm concerned that either the needle is too large or that its point is damaged, catching the batting fibers and pushing them through the fabric.

  4. If you're using a walking foot with the feed dogs engaged, check your stitch length. 2.5mm to 3.0mm is pretty standard. If you've used a relatively thin batting, anything longer is approaching a basting stitch. If your machine automatically sets the stitch length based on your declaration of the thickness of the fabric, this may be a possibility.
I hope one of these recommendations helps. Wonky tension is wickedly frustrating!

If none do, then install your regular presser foot and return your machine to its standard piecing settings. Sew two strips together and check the tension.

If it's not good and it were my machine, I'd take it in to the dealer/repairman to see what's wrong.

Readers, your suggestions are always wecome. Just use the 'comments' link below to share your thoughts. Thank you.


Julie Baird

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