How many times do you run into a problem while piecing a quilt and wish there was some way to avoid it? Or perhaps there’s an easy fix for one of these situations? I have been thinking of some of these situations and I have some tips to offer based on my own experiences. So let’s get started on solving some issues!
No, I’m not talking about in your neck… although sewing machine tension problems could cause that. LOL! The wrong tension in either your bobbin or you top thread can cause all kinds of things to go wrong when you are piecing. Here’s a few tips.
Tip #1: Before starting a project. Grab a few scrap pieces of fabric and sew a seam. If the fabric is looping up on the underside, the top thread tension is too loose. If you see the bobbin thread on the top piece of fabric or your thread breaks, your top tension is most likely too tight. Adjust the tension and keep sewing test seams until you are satisfied with the results. Be sure to use the same weight of thread and the same type of fabric for your testing as you will be using for your project.
Tip #2: When unthreading your machine, do not snip and pull the thread out from the top.
The thread runs through your machine going down towards the needle, so pulling it out from the top through the tension disc (below, left photo) can throw off the tension.
Instead, snip the thread up top and then pull the thread down and out from the needle area (above, right photo). This keeps the thread going in the direction it’s meant to and should not effect tension.
Thread Breaking and/or Fabric Damage
It’s really frustrating when you are stitching along and your thread keeps breaking. There are a few reasons why this may be happening.
First, it may be that your needle needs changing. If you can’t remember the last time you changed the needle on your machine, that probably means you should change it. An old needle may look good to the naked eye, but there’s wear and tear that you can’t see that will cause the thread to break or cause damage to your fabric.
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 in the fabric you are piecing.
- You can see the holes where the needle entered.
A good rule of thumb is to change your needle after every large project or two or three small projects. Needles are relatively cheap compared to thread and fabric. Change the needle and save your money!
Another reason for your thread breaking is our old friend, tension! Circle back to checking your tension if the needle has been changed and your thread still breaks.
Fabric Puckering and Uneven Seams
When it comes to fabric puckering or uneven seams, this can happen because you are not letting the feed dogs on your machine do the work they are meant to do. As you are guiding your fabric through, make sure you are not pulling it towards you, holding it too tight or pushing it through because that can cause the top layer of fabric to move slower or faster than the bottom layer is moving across the feed dogs making your seams uneven. Your job is to just guide the fabric. To help with this, you can use a stiletto:
Also, do not pull your fabric through from the back. This will also cause thread breakage, uneven seams or fabric puckering.
Seams Pulling Apart
When you notice seams pulling apart after you have stitched a unit together, it can be frustrating.
To stop this from happening, backstitch when beginning and when ending a seam to lock it. This will keep the seam of the stitched unit from opening up. If a seam of a unit opens while you are piecing it into a block, that can lead to a unit or block not measuring correctly and also coming apart completely. When I am piecing units into a block, I will also backstitch over seams within the block.
In the photo above, I am joining two rows of pieced units. As you can see where my finger is pointing, these areas are where I will do a quick backstitch. So basically, my seams are all doubly reinforced.
Use a leader/ender piece when you are stitching. It’s just a scrap piece of fabric that’s found a new use!
This is a thread saver (above photo), since I am not pulling my finished piece away from the machine to snip it. I just run this leader/ender piece through at the end of my stitching and snip my sewn unit off after it’s out from under the foot. I like using this to lead off my sewing to avoid thread glitches on my block pieces or my block pieces scrunching up. The goof ups will happen on the leader/ender scrap.
Fabric Shifting/Uneven Seams
If you are following my advice from above and just gently guiding your fabric as you sew a seam but still have problems, I bet I know why. Are you pinning the pieces you are sewing? I’m guilty of skipping this step if I’m just sewing a quick, short seam. But I’m here to tell you… don’t skip pinning.
With a short seam like on the left, pinning keeps the edges of the pieces you are joining aligned. If you are joining two blocks where seams need to line up, like the photo on the right, then pinning helps keep things aligned while stitching.
So, that’s it for the problem solving for this week. Can you think of some other problems you have encountered? Leave a comment or ask a question below and I will see if I can answer it. I will draw a name from the commenters to pick a winner for my new pattern, Reunion.
The drawing will be on Monday, June 26th. Good Luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Mary Smith!**