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Needles and Thread for Free Motion Quilting

Needles and Thread for Free Motion Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

Good morning!

In all my classes, my most common questions are about needles and thread! Let's tackle some of these FAQs, shall we?

I went over each of these in the video, but here's a little written refresher for you:

How are needles and threads sized?
Needles are intuitive-- the bigger the number, the thicker the needles. Thread is opposite-- the bigger the number the thinner the thread because thread is measured by weight and thicker thread is heavier.  

What kind of thread is your favorite?
I LOVE Aurifil thread. Their 50 wt is my go-to piecing and quilting thread (2600 is THE most perfect gray for absolutely everything), and I'll use 40 wt when I want my stitches to stand out

Do you ever use other kinds of thread?
When I make tshirt quilts, I use ye old faithful Coats & Clark All Purpose or their new 30 wt mercerized cotton because ain't nothing gonna break those stitches and tshirt quilts get washed a LOT and the stretch of the knit fabrics requires strong stitches

Cotton Vs Poly?
My love of Aurifil probably already gave this away, but I'm a cotton girl. Here's why: 1) natural material 2) I love to quilt densely, and quilting fabric is also made of cotton, so the quilting thread just melts into the fabric and doesn't leave you with that "quilted to cardboard" feeling. Quilts stay soft, even when they have a lot of stitching. At one time, there were concerns that poly thread would actually cut the cotton fabric over time and affect the integrity of your project. I don't believe this is still an issue because of improved manufacturing, so Cotton vs Poly is a matter of personal preference

What about needle size?
My go-to needle is a size 70/11 Universal for both quilting and piecing. If I'm quilting something with bulky seams (aka a Bonnie Hunter quilt), I go up to a size 14, and if I'm making a tshirt quilt, I use a size 16 ballpoint needle

How often do you change your needle?
With every project and between piecing and quilting if it's a big or densely pieced quilt. Change your needle more often with paper piecing (paper dulls the needle more). If I'm bouncing around between projects with no clear "beginning" or "end" point, I'll change my needle at least once a week, usually when I clean my bobbin casing. Needles are SO MUCH CHEAPER than a damaged machine (or eyeball) caused by a broken tip, so be proactive with your needle changing

Speaking of your bobbin casing, how often to you clean your machine?
I clean out my machine AT LEAST once a week, but as often as daily if I'm doing a lot of piecing or quilting or every bobbin if I'm doing a tshirt quilt or working with flannel or minky. ALWAYS brush lint OUT of your machine, never blow it in. 

To make this whole needles and thread thing headache free, I've made a quick little chart reminding you how to pair needle and thread sizes and what tasks to use them for. Just enter your email below, and I'll send the FREE Quick Guide straight to your inbox!

Finally, understanding needles and threads is just the beginning of a wonderful free motion quilting adventure. I'd like to help you with the next steps, too, in my FREE online workshop, Intro to Free Motion quilting. We'll talk about setting up your machine, learn four foundational motifs, and introduce you to making a quilting plan. This class is all about teaching you to quilt with confidence! 

Happy Quilting,
HollyAnne

Needles and Thread for Free Motion Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story
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Tips Tuesday, Facebook Live

How to Check Your Sewing Machine Tension for Quilting

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

Hello, friends!

TENSION. When all is well, tension helps us sew beautiful stitches, but when something goes wrong, nothing brings out the sailor in me quite like tension problems. UGH. In fact, one recent fiasco that started with an hour of happy quilting resulted in four hours of frustrated unpicking. That fiasco prompted my first post about tension, and I'm going to share this information again today because it is absolutely critical to your quilty success.

As I shared in the video, you should test your tension often to ensure gorgeous stitches. Let's review:

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.

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

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

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"! It includes photos of what perfect, loose, and tight tension look like, as well as reminders about when and how to check your tension. Just enter your email below, and I'll send this one page, easy reference guide straight to your inbox!

Finally, learning how to check your tension is just the beginning of a wonderful free motion quilting adventure. I'd like to help you with the next steps, too, in my FREE online workshop, Intro to Free Motion quilting. We'll talk about setting up your machine, learn four foundational motifs, and introduce you to making a quilting plan. This class is all about teaching you to quilt with confidence! 

Happy quilting!
HollyAnne

How to Adjust Your Sewing Machine Tension For Quilting with HollyAnne Knight

 

 

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Machine Quilting Monday

Easy Quilted Mug Rug

Easy Quilted Mug Rug with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Hey Friend!

This blog could just as easily been titled "Hobbs Fusible Batting is My New Bestie," because I'm super excited to encourage you to try it as part of this easy mug rug project. Now, y'all know I loooove my homemade spray baste-- so much so that when Hobbs sent me this fusible batt to try, I wasn't even sure how I would use it. But, as the eager beaver I am, if I get the urge to try some little project, I don't want to wait for baste to dry! Enter my new hero, Hobbs Heirloom Fusible Cotton Batting. This batt is an 80/20 cotton poly blend, and I have not had any issues with my needle gumming up from the fusible feature. Simply layer your quilt sandwich, give it a quick press (I use a dry iron, but I've heard a few friends mention the fuse is even better with steam), and you're off to the races!

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Now, since that review was quick and easy (because fabulous is fabulous, y'all, and this batt is fabulous), let's make a quick and easy mug rug to try out this batting.

First, cut out 3 8.5 inch by 16.5 inch rectangles-- two from fabric for the top and back of the rug, and one from the Hobbs Heirloom Fusible Cotton Batting. If you don't have a fabric lying about with some handy pre-printed squares on it, you can piece 2.5 inch squares together, draw a grid on a solid piece of fabric, or use a fun pattern like my friend Lindsay's Charming Mini pattern

Easy Quilted Mug Rug with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

After you have cut and/or pieced your mug rug pieces, layer as a quilt sandwich and press to fuse. 

Next, let's use this as an opportunity to practice some continuous curve quilting. My friend Dorie is a wonderful expert on continuous curves, and I highly recommend her book Making Connections. I'll include a basic video primer here, and if this kind of quilting is your jam, be sure to check out Dorie's book for all the really exciting ways you can develop continuous curves. 

Easy Quilted Mug Rug with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Finally, bind your mug rug! I love machine binding, and I've included all my favorite tips and techniques here.  Now you're ready to snack in style with your own little quilted mug rug! Hobbs Heirloom Fusible Cotton Batting is excellent for small projects like this mug rug, but it has also become my go-to for creating sandwiches for practicing my free motion quilting. I in just a few minutes, I can turn some scraps and a bit of this fusible batt into a perfect little practice session. Thank you, Hobbs, for making small projects and free motion quilting practice easier than ever! (Also, since I love to give an extra little plug when I'm using products from companies that also support Quilts for Cure, please give three cheers for Hobbs as they are huge supporters of Quilts for Cure as well and our efforts to send quilts to kids fighting cancer)

Easy Quilted Mug Rug with HollyAnne Knight of String and Story

Mug rugs make wonderful little friend and teacher gifts (just add a cute mug and a coffee shop gift card!), so keep them in mind as the school year comes to a close. And don't forget to pick up some Hobbs Heirloom Fusible Cotton Batting to make them a truly quick and easy project. Oh-- and be sure to tag me @stringandstory on Instagram if you share pics of your mug rugs!

Happy Quilting!
HollyAnne

Are you ready to start Free Motion Quilting with Confidence? Sign up for my FREE online workshop, Intro to Free Motion Quilting!

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