Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Tension Wrecker Apprehended: Pigtail Guide on M-Class Bobbin Case Increases Bobbin Tension!

Good morning, friends, and happy Sunday!  I've just returned from "Drive By Communion" in my church parking lot!  I kid you not -- Crazy times.  We watched the live streamed worship online this morning as usual (or, as has BECOME usual since early March), but this is the first Sunday since early March that they've offered in-person communion in the parking lot, served by masked and gloved pastors.  We are blessed at Christ Lutheran with church leadership that is faithful, creative, and prudent.  We didn't see a lot of cars when we went for Drive-By communion following the Traditional service, but I'll bet there will be more who come at lunch time, after the Contemporary service.  My husband wanted to have his sins forgiven and then "get on with his day," as he put it.  Oh, and do you like the mask he decided to wear for Holy Communion, complete with a little red devil next to his nose?  It's not like that's the only one I made him, either.  Maybe the pastor didn't notice.  More likely, my pastor would not care.  [For more information about how I made my masks, and a link to download the pattern, see this blog post].

Check Out the Mask My Husband Picked Out for Holy Communion (?!)
I did head up to the studio for several hours after yesterday's overload of puppy cuteness.  It took me at least two hours to rip out the really bad tension stitches from my quilt, and it was disheartening work since I was so proud of some of that free motion work when I was looking at it from the top side of the quilt.  

Behold, Love's Labors Lost

Some days are like that, and it's all part of the process.  I only took out the very worst stitching, what I knew would result in thread hanging loose on the back side of the quilt after washing if I'd left it in.  The not-quite-perfect-but-structurally-sound stitches got to stay in.

All This Wretchedness Got Ripped Out
So in the photo above, the outlines of the rectangles had been stitched first, with nicely balanced tension, and then disaster struck a few days later when I decided to come back and fill in every other one with a squiggle.  But I think I figured out what went wrong that day, and as long as I learned something from all of this, it wasn't a waste, after all!  

Note to Self: Threading the Pigtail Guide on the M-Class Bobbin Case INCREASES Bobbin Tension

On the Disastrous Day of Stitching That All Had to be Ripped Out, I believe I unintentionally unbalanced my tension by slipping the thread tail through the pigtail guide, adding a little more tension to the bobbin thread without making any adjustment to the top thread tension.  After running the machine unthreaded for 15 minutes to warm up the motor, I was impatient to start quilting and figured "My tension was excellent yesterday, nothing has changed since then, so no need to do any test stitching today."  

APQS M-Class Bobbin Case, Pigtail Guide Threaded
I vaguely remember that, when I took my bobbin case out to oil the hook at the beginning of that Fateful Day of Frightful Tension, I dropped my bobbin case on the carpeted floor and my bobbin popped out of its case.  When I reinserted the bobbin, I had this split second of doubt about whether I'd been using the little pigtail thread guide of my M-Class bobbin case.  I knew I'd experimented both ways, with and without threading the guide, when I was adjusting the tension, but I hadn't made a note of which way I ended up doing it.  I figured I'd PROBABLY threaded the pigtail, and didn't think it would make a huge difference...  Wrong!

APQS M-Class Bobbin case, Pigtail Guide Unthreaded
APQS recommendations using this guide "for best results with most threads" because it helps to ensure that the bobbin thread is properly positioned to catch the hook with every stitch, but it does put some additional resistance on the bobbin thread.  Which I should have known, since previous Berninas that I've owned in the past had the same little pigtail guide and you were supposed to thread the pigtail for embroidery or satin stitches, where you want the top thread to pull slightly to the back side.  Don't misunderstand me; I'm not saying to never thread the pigtail guide.  I could still get balanced stitches with the pigtail threaded if I increased the upper thread tension accordingly.  And, if I was getting skipped stitches with the pigtail unthreaded, for example, threading the pigtail would be the first thing I'd try for an instant fix.  However, when changing from no pigtail to pigtail threaded midstream, it's important to check and adjust the upper thread tension again to ensure that the stitch is still balanced.  The pigtail is like adding one more person to Team Bobbin in the game of tug-of-war, without adding any more pulling power to Team Needle Thread!

With any thread combination, you can get balanced stitches both with and without threading the bobbin case pigtail.  You can have an evenly matched tug-of-war with three people on each team or with five people on each team, right?  I think I determined in my test stitching that my stitches were more attractive with the particular thread combination I'm using for this quilt (50 weight So Fine in the needle with 60 weight Bottom Line in the bobbin) when tension was balanced but a little looser overall versus balanced but tight overall tension.  Think two duds pulling from each side rather than four dudes pulling from each side. So I had skipped the pigtail and then adjusted my upper thread to balance the looser bobbin tension.  

Well, at least I've learned something, right?  I need to put a sticky note somewhere to remind myself of whether or not I'm using the bobbin pigtail guide on a particular project.  And I should probably get in the habit of ALWAYS doing some test stitching and/or crawling under the frame, run my fingernail along the stitching line on the back of the quilt, or SOMETHING after a few minutes of quilting to check that all is well under there before I put in thousands of stitches that will take forever to rip out.

I am remembering -- and now following! -- advice that quilter Jamie Wallen shared in his long arm tension video tutorial (above) several years ago.  Jamie recommends that you start by adjusting your tension so that the bobbin thread is pulled up to the top of your quilt and then loosening your top tension until you can just see the dots of bobbin thread in the needle holes.  When your quilt comes off the frame and relaxes, those little bobbin thread dots will settle back into the middle of the quilt sandwich, but seeing those dots of bobbin from the right side as you're quilting is your insurance that you are not getting flatlining and eyelashing on the back of your quilt!

One more thought: This is my first time using Quilter's Dream Cotton Select batting on my long arm.  I know I read somewhere -- maybe in my APQS new owner class handouts? -- that a batting with a bit more loft, like an 80/20 blend or wool, is more forgiving for longarm quilting because more batting loft equals more room in the middle of your quilt sandwich for the needle and bobbin thread to lock together without showing through on either side of the quilt.  I am already seeing that the all-cotton batting is not giving me as much dimensional contrast between the unquilted rectangles and the squiggled ones, so I will probably steer clear of 100% cotton batting on the long arm going forward.

Recently Ripped Out and Requilted.  It Was Better the First Time
This section was all ripped out and requilted yesterday.  I thought that maybe I didn't need to use a stencil this time, since the needle holes were still visible from the previous quilting, but I couldn't see them well enough as I was actually stitching out the design.  The result: Notice how these curls are slightly square?  That was the problem I was trying to avoid in the first place, by stenciling guidelines onto the quilt before quilting it.  Well, the next one will be better, right?

I'm looking forward to making some progress quilting NEW areas of the quilt later today!  The other project that I've been working on in weekly dribbles is my FrankenWhiggish Rose needle turned appliqué.  My bee group has been doing virtual Zoom get togethers every Monday throughout the pandemic shutdown, and this is what I work on during that time.  I haven't been sharing it because I'm trying to work efficiently, doing all 16 leaves on all 9 blocks before moving on to the next shape, and it would be really boring if I kept posting photos of the same block over and over again...  It is definitely getting boring to be STITCHING the same exact block over and over again!  That is one of the great benefits of sampler quilts -- variety!

Still Plodding Along with my FrankenWhiggish Rose Needle Turn Applique Project
As a reminder, this is what the first (and only) completed block looks like (below).  All eight of the other blocks are in the process of getting their leaves, like the block shown above.

One Block Completed, Eight Still In Progress at the Leaf Stage
I am definitely looking forward to moving on to the tulips soon.  Hope I still remember how to do the deep inside points and the reverse appliqué  but if I don't remember, I'll just have to relearn it!  I'm linking up today's post with:


·       Slow Sunday Stitching at Kathy's Quilts  
·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  


Sherrie said...

I don't have a machine to quilt, I do it by hand...
Love your flower colorful.
Have a great day!

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

I'm so glad that churches and other groups (like high school graduations) have found ways to make the best of a bad situation - because what else can we do, really?! So sorry your amazing quilt is experiencing tension problems. I hope it "eases up" this week! :)

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I bet you are glad to get all that ripped out and redone - looks great to me - I have to laugh when I read the first comment - that is so me - I don't have time in this life to learn how to machine quilt I get more done by hand. Love your mask including the devil - I'm sure the pastor thought you had quite the sense of humor

The Joyful Quilter said...

Ugh! I feel your pain, Rebecca. I recently loaded a quilt with the SAME batting. :o((
I've watched Jamie's video SEW many times! I like the visual that you provided. It's a helpful reminder of what to look for (and now, just maybe I can finally STOP watching Jamie's video over and over again!)

linda said...

How lovely to find your blog, thank you for visiting mine and leaving such lovely comments. I can see you are a veritable sewing expert, I'm afraid my sewing machine and I share a very temperamental relationship, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't it's usually the tension that's at fault with a bunch of loose stitches on the underside but strangely I find if I put it away and get it out the next day it works perfectly haha. Anyway your sewing is beautiful I look forward to seeing more of your work, have a great week.

Kat Scribner said...

Your applique block is gorgeous! Makes me want to think about doing a bit of applique, if i can get past the prep work.

Quilter Kathy said...

Very beautiful applique block! Great idea to have your quilt bee group meet on zoom!
I have been doing that too, but don't seem to get much accomplished except talking!

Jill said...

Lol on the devilish mask at communion. I'm guessing the pastor didn't notice unless he is a fabricalcoholic. We may have in-person church next week. Sorry you had to rip out. It's a painful process. Ask me how I know. Since I'm not a longarmer and never will be, I can't comment. To my eyes the redo looks great. Keep moving forward including on the pretty needleturn blocks. said...

Glad you figured out the issue and that it was a simple fix! I hope no more ripping will be involved. . .I don't think I have ever completed a project that I didn't spend some time ripping some part of it! LOL

Kathleen said...

Love the "communion mask". Miss my church and I think it will be awhile before I go to an in person service of any kind. It is good to have notes to remind us of the "different things" for different situations. I have watched Jamie's videos and am thinking I need to rewatch them. I like the thing about bringing the bobbin thread to the top and backing off.

Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

Ripping is no fun, but at least we all learned something from it! Your quilt is beautiful.

SJSM said...

I was wondering what the status on “Frankenwiggish”. I’m glad you updated as it is too beautiful to allow it to linger in a box and not complete. Hopefully you have nailed the solution to your tension issues. For my latest angst, my embroidery module on my Bernina is having fits. Embroidery was started on a friend’s baby blanket and the registration kept inching rightward. It’s on minky so taking out the stitches took a lot of time. I’ll call today to ask about a fix and the resulting costs to fix the module.

Enjoy a tension positive day.

Preeti said...

You two lovebirds make such a cute picture - even with your masks. I have not been to meditation in months although they have collective meditation online. Stay safe and I am sending big squishy hugs to you - from a safe distance away.

Kate said...

I like the idea of drive by communion. Our church had services for the first time last Sunday, but as cases are still rising in our county, we decided not to attend and continue to watch the on line services. Very fun masks by the way. At least you figured out the problem with the quilting and have a good way to avoid it in the future. Your Frankenwiggish is looking good. Happy stitching this week. Hopefully no more tension issues.