Tips Tuesday

Tips Tuesday :: How to Check Your Sewing Machine Tension Before Quilting

How to Check Your Sewing Machine Tension Before Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Hello friends!

Welcome back to String & Story! Today we are going to talk about sewing machine tension because I messed it up recently, and I don't want you to make the same mistake. Picture this: it was a Friday night, and I was almost done with a densely quilted project. I'm excited, so I throw my quilt under the needle, set my tension to the setting I used the night before, and take off. I quilt happily for an hour and am SO EXCITED about my progress. I flip the quilt over to admire my beautiful stitches on the back and GASP! My tension was too loose! There are pulls around every curve, and I know at once that I'll have to pick out all that quilting. (sad trombone). Y'all, unpicking ONE hour worth of quilting took FOUR HOURS. UGHHH. So, let me teach you what I should have done before I got started. 

My tension fiasco-- You don't want to unquilt for four hours!!

My tension fiasco-- You don't want to unquilt for four hours!!

When Should I Check My Tension:

1) Anytime you start quilting a new quilt

2) Anytime you start a new bobbin or a new thread color or new needle

3) Anytime you are returning to quilting after turning your machine off and back on 

I know this sometimes means a thread break where we wouldn't otherwise have one (taking a quilt out from under the needle to test tension), but it's worth it. Burying a thread only takes moments, but unpicking can be hours.

How to Check Your Sewing Machine Tension Before Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

What should I test my tension on? Make a little sandwich using fabric and batting scraps from the exact materials that are in the quilt you're quilting. Use the same thread, needle, and foot, too. You want all of the conditions to me as similar as possible to the actual quilt. 

When testing tension, be sure to do some loops and zig zags because tension issues show up best on curves and at points. 

Testing Tension is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

1) Do some quilting on your test swatch-- be sure to include curves and sharp points in your stitching design as these are often where tension problems are most evident

2) Examine the stitch definition on the top and back of the sandwich

3) Adjust your machine's tension as needed until there is clear stitch definition on both sides of the sandwich. 

How to Check Your Sewing Machine Tension Before Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Perfect Tension

When your machine's tension is just right, the stitches will be clearly defined on both sides of the quilt sandwich, and there will be no tugging through of thread to the opposite sides, especially around curves and at sharp points in the quilting.

How to Check Your Sewing Machine Tension Before Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Loose Tension

When the tension on your machine is too loose, the top thread will be pulled through to the bottom causing thread loops or birds nests on the back of the quilt sandwich, especially around curves or at sharp points in the quilting. 

How to Check Your Sewing Machine Tension Before Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Tight Tension

When your tension is too tight, the stitches on the back of the quilt look "strained" and the stitches on the top of the quilt are indistinct. If the tension is significantly too tight, then the top thread will appear to be "floating" on top of the quilt or the bobbin thread will show through on the top.

How to Check Your Sewing Machine Tension Before Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Are you excited to have perfect tension on all your quilts moving forward? Huzzah! To make it even easier to test your tension each time before you quilt, I have a handy-dandy guide for you called "Perfect Tension Quick Guide"! Just enter your email below, and I'll send this one page, easy reference guide straight to your inbox!

I'd love to know how this tutorial helped you, and if you have more questions, I'd like to help you with those, too! You can leave feedback in the comments below or send an email straight to me by clicking "reply" when you get your Quick Guide. My job is to guide you to quilt with confidence, and I want to make sure tutorials like this help you to quilt with skill and joy!

If you'd like to see more photos and videos to inspire your daily quilting, be sure to follow me on Instagram. You can find me @stringandstory.

Happy quilting!




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Machine Quilting Monday, #PieceAndQuiltHopAlong

#PieceAndQuiltHopAlong :: Ta da!

#PieceAndQuiltHopAlong Spools Reveal!

Good morning, quilty friends! 

Are you ready? Spools (pattern by Christa Watson) has been a work in progress for 5 weeks, and now it's done and ready to head to market! Its time for the big reveal-- of the quilt and of our two giveaway winners!

So, drumroll please!

#PieceAndQuiltHopAlong Spools Reveal!

Ta da! I'm not sure exactly how many hours of quilting are in this little piece (it's only about 45 inches square), but it's a lot. I made videos while I worked, I talked about graffiti quilting, a quilting plan, and developing free motion quilting skills. In fact, I even took it to an event in my city and got to share about quilting with a lot of local kids. All in all, what I'm saying is that my favorite part of this quilt has been sharing it with YOU! I hope you feel like you've been part of this project because you ARE. Thank you!

HollyAnne Knight of String and Story quilting in Parsons Alley Duluth GA for the Duluth Fine Arts League Art Walk

Speaking of how fabulous you are, let's pick a couple of winners! 

Piece and Quilt with Precuts: Donna Cutting

Modern Marks Fabric Roll: Linda Chin

Congratulations to you both! Please check your email for instructions! Thank you again, my friends-- there were 184 entries in the giveaway!! Speaking of entries, Vicki's and Kristin's giveaways are still open, so be sure to visit them for more chances to win! 

Graffiti Quilting on the back of Spools by HollyAnne Knight of String and Story (pattern by Christa Watson)

As you quilt this week, I'd like to give you "3 Easy Tips for Improving Your Free Motion Quilting." Just click the button below to sign up, and I'll send them straight to your inbox!

And I always love hanging out with you on Instagram, sharing photos and tips! Join me there @stringandstory. 

By the way, be sure to pop by tomorrow. After a rather unfortunate tension issue with my quilting this weekend, I'm writing a crash course about how to check your quilting before you get stitching. You won't want to miss it!

Much love,


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FriYAY Friends

FriYAY Friends :: Chris Webb, Organizer of 52Quilters

The 52 Quilters Project- An Interview with Organizer Chris Webb

Good morning!

Happy FriYAYYYYY! Since I've taken over the @52Quilters account this week, I thought it would be fun to interview Chris Webb! Chris is the guy who started this project and who faithfully oversees and organizes it week after week. Hooray for Chris!

FriYAY Friends: An Interview with Chris Webb, founder of 52 Quilters

1) Tell us a little about yourself-- your family, your hobbies, your creative background, etc. I'm a Canadian maker/educator who lives in London, England. I moved here 12 years ago to do a short term internship at a museum and six months turned into over a decade! I grew up in a very handy/crafty household in Toronto where there was a lot of creativity, and I've carried quilting into my adult life after learning it from a great aunt who was an epic quilter. My regular 9 to 5 job is quite creative - I work in arts education and am a learning curator for a major arts centre in London, creating learning activity connected to our visual arts programmes, but in my spare time I make quilts and teach creative workshops.

FriYAY Friends: An Interview with Chris Webb, founder of 52 Quilters

2) How did 52 Quilters get started and how has the project developed so far? 52Quilters started as a simple idea - I noticed there was a huge surge in activity on social media from quilters, especially on instagram and I was really excited to find new quilters and link with them on this very visual platform. At the same time, not everyone is able to be a full-time quilter/blogger/instagrammer - so I thought it would be interesting to create a platform which built a big following but offered people of all levels and experiences a large community to connect with. Over nearly three years, that audience has grown to close to 10k followers, which is totally beyond my expectations!

3) What do you hope for 52 Quilters in the future? I hope it continues to offer a platform for different quilters to share their work. I've had takeovers from quilters all around the world as well as shop owners, fabric designers, curators and more. As long as it continues to offer a creative platform to people, then I'll keep organising it.

FriYAY Friends: An Interview with Chris Webb, founder of 52 Quilters

4) How is creative community important to your work? Quilting can be quite solitary - I often design when I'm alone, and sew in the morning before work, after work or on weekends. Having a creative community to collaborate face-to-face is important, but it's also nice to connect with people in meaningful ways on social media. I made a quilt-in-a-day a few years ago, and used instagram to get people's feedback on my decision making as I went. In all honesty it was a bit of a crunch, because I was making a gift that needed to be done for the next day, but connecting on social media gave me some creative feedback that I couldn't have had otherwise if it were just me sewing at top speed alone, trying to get it done.

FriYAY Friends: An Interview with Chris Webb, founder of 52 Quilters

5) What words of encouragement or wisdom do you have for other creatives along their journeys? The number one thing I've realised over the last few years is to figure out who you are, what you make and what you do best and then lean into that as MUCH AS POSSIBLE. It's really easy to feel overwhelmed by 'picture perfect' quilters on instagram and people who actually earn a living from their blogs and social media feed - that's a fantastic way to earn a living, but it can seem out of reach for a newbie. Social media can be really empowering if you have the resolve to hold yourself to the standards of your own skill and craft. Focus on the quality of the connections you make, not the number of likes, and make the things that make you happy. If you love what you are doing, and give yourself new challenges then you'll always be satisfied and people always respond best to authenticity.

FriYAY Friends: An Interview with Chris Webb, founder of 52 Quilters

Thank you, Chris! And thank you for the time and energy you put into @52Quilters! It's such a fun way to meet a new quilter each week!

All of these photos are from Chris's Instagram, and you can find him @chrismakesthings. You can find me on Instagram @stringandstory always as well as on @52quilters for the next few days. 

In addition, I'd like to offer you a free copy "3 Easy Tips to Improve Your Free Motion Quilting." You have the ability to be a confident and skilled free motion quilter, and if you're not there yet, this is the perfect place to start! 

Happy Quilting!


PS Don't forget to enter Monday's #PieceAndQuiltHopAlong giveaway! Entries are open till 11:59PM EST on Sunday, October 15, 2017. 

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