Hi there! I’m glad you’re back to continue on with this block of the week sew along! If you are just joining us, we are on week 5 but you can access the blog posts and block patterns for the last 4 weeks by clicking these links: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4. So let’s get on with block 5.
2022 BOW Block 5 – Odds & Ends
This is a somewhat easy block, comparatively, to the last 4 blocks. Only a few HSTs and the rest of the piecing is all straight seams. Since there really isn’t a new technique to learn, I’m going to cover some threads, machine needles and tools to keep by your machine.
The instructions to make this block are found here: 2022 BOW Block 5. I could not find any history of this block. My thoughts are that it was created from scraps from the sewing basket, thus the name “Odds & Ends”. You can imagine a quilter might have some HSTs leftover and worked out a way to make a full size block from using scrap strips from their stash. As a scrap quilter myself with a lot of tubs of scraps, this seems to be the most logical origin of the block name. Let me know if you have any other information.
Tips of the Week – Thread, Needles and Tools
Like I said above, since this is a fairly simple block, the tips I am sharing are kind of an “odds & ends” grouping.
Have you ever experienced problems with your thread and not know why? Here’s a handy little fact: the way the thread is wound onto the spool determines how you should use it on your machine. Most sewing machines these days come with horizontal and vertical spool holders. Certain types of spools are meant to be used on one or the other. Using the spool on the correct holder allows the thread to unwind as it should.
First, there are threads that are cross wound. Look at your spool. If it looks like the photo below, that is cross wound:
Notice the zig-zag look. Tip: These spools are best used on the horizontal spindle that allows the thread to unwind from the top. Secure the spool with the spool pin (see photo below) that comes with the machine, making sure it’s snug so thread does not get caught between the spool and spool pin. That could cause tension problems.
The other way thread is wound is horizontally onto the spool. These are called stacked threads.
These spools perform best on a vertical spool holder so the thread unwinds at a 45 degree angle. This keeps the thread from getting caught in the space between the thread, the spool and spool pin causing tension problems.
Sewing machine needles need to be changed often, not only when you break one. Needles get dull and develop damage not visible to the naked eye. A good rule of thumb is to change the needle after you finish piecing a large project or you have pieced two or three smaller ones. If you sew with a needle that should be changed, you can cause damage to your fabric. A dull or damaged needle can snag fabric and break your thread. Needles are fairly inexpensive so stock up the next time you are at the quilt shop and change it often.
Damage to a needle is not visible to the naked eye but under a microscope, you will see burrs and cracks. Click here to see what a damaged needle looks like. It can also be bent. Here are some ways you can tell you need to change your needle:
- If you hear a “punching” sound as your needle enters the fabric.
- Your top thread keeps breaking.
- You see snags develop in the fabric where the needle enters when you are stitching.
- You can see the holes where the needle entered.
If you have not used up the needle but need to change it to do something else, put the partially used needle back in the case with the flat part of the shaft facing up so you remember which is used.
It’s also important to use the right needle for your project. Most piecing of 100% cotton fabrics can be done with a universal 80/12 needle. The two numbers represent the two sizing systems: metric (or European) and Singer (or American). The “80” is the metric and the “12” is the Singer. All you need to know is the numbers refer to the diameter of the needle. The lower the number, the finer the needle. Light to medium weight quilting fabrics can be pieced with a needle from 75/11 to 90/14. Most needles made for machine quilting on your home machine are 90/14.
I like to keep several small tools by my machine while I am stitching blocks. I keep them in a shower soap dish that I attached to my sewing table.
Here are the tools I keep there:
I have a small rotary cutter, scissors, small rulers for measuring completed units (to make sure my seams are 1/4″), a pencil for drawing lines and, finally, a pressing tool to press seams on the spot so I can continue to piece a block without having to go to the ironing board after every one.
Well, that’s it for this week. Come back next week for block 6 and some more tips and techniques.
Remember, comment or ask questions throughout this series. At the end, I will have a grand prize giveaway. This will include my book, two of my newer patterns, some fat quarters and sewing scissors!
Thank you for all of the tips! I love the idea of a shower soap dish to hold tools near the machine. While reading about the needles I was curious if a bad needle will cause skipped stitches. I need to change my needle to see if this helps because I had a few skipped stitches. See you next week!
Jana Fouladpour says
Yes it does. I just had this happen to me and the person who services my machine told me to change the needle, and that solved the problem.
More good tips. Correct thread spool placement makes such a difference. Thanks.
Susan L. says
Another great block! Thanks!
Cathy Cooper says
Thanks for the tips on needles! Love this block!
Marylou Crawford says
Some quilters recommend changing stitch length for piecing? What are your thoughts on that? Should I be using different stitch lengths for piecing small blocks together and a different length for joining the blocks and sashing?
If you are free-motion quilting, you are moving the fabric and determining the stitch length by how fast you are moving it along with the speed of the stitching from pressing on the presser foot. Your feed dogs are dropped so the stitch length is no longer dictated by the machine.
If you are doing stitch in the ditch or doing straight lines where you are using the feed dogs, then it’s recommended average 10 stitches/inch (8-12/inch).
Donna S says
Was away when this lesson was first posted. But thanks for the reminder about why threads are used on which sewing machine spool pin. I’ve pasted this on to other quilters.
Enjoy the pretty block. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise!
Thanks for the reminder on stitch lengths and threads also.
Hope you had a great week.
Thank you for the reminder on changing my needle… I don’t do it near enough!
Lois Spinelli says
Another good tip that I learned the hard way – don’t let a year go by without sewing or your machine will freeze up! Costly and lengthy experience. Who knew? I love my Bernina so it is now being used almost daily. I have numerous kits and a fantastic stash and am looking forward to cold winter days, God willing.
Good tip on the sewing machine. I did not know that could happen! A great excuse to quilt often. 🙂
Cathy R Weatherford says
I really like this block, think I will put one together today. And I lovve the idea of the shower soap dish. Thanks a bunch
Thanks for all the valuable information, I always learn something new!
Thanks for the tips on which way the thread comes off the spool. You learn something new everyday if you simply watch out for them.
Melanie A. Schultz says
Thank you for the hints. On cross wound spools I’ve also heard the way it loops off the spool makes a difference. If you pull a length off and when you hold it the length twists around itself simply turn it around and the loop should hang in a u shape. This is the way it should be placed on the horizontal spindle for better thread control
Thanks for the helpful tips. Great reminder for me to change my needle. Love the shower dish attachment! Such a neat idea~
Interesting block. It’s always fun to see secondary designs emerge when blocks are put together. The thread info was new to me. Thank you!