Practicing with the good thread certainly goes a long way toward improving machine quilting.
Understanding tension helps – basic rule of tension reduce it. Make sure your presser foot is in the highest position before trying to change the tension. When I was beginning to learn the machine quilting process, I would try and change the tension with the presser foot down, with the tension disc’s locked and nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero would happen. The tension would not change!
Back to thread.
Just looking at the thread rack in the picture there is wool, silk, cotton, metallic and polyester. The cotton and polyester come in a variety of weights. The weight system can be confusing, however Superior Threads has a great explanation. Breaking it down a little bit, if it’s feels thin, it is. If it feels thick, it is. Trust your fingers to help determine how thread can be used in a quilt and what needle size will work best.
Fine thread, 50 wt, 60 wt, 100 wt. (silk) is great for outline, stitch in the ditch, and very dense quilting. Often these threads will head to the background allowing whatever is in the foreground to be the focus. Backtracking with these threads will not produce unwanted or unsightly bulk. These are also great for appliqué when the thread is not a major player in the overall look.
Medium weight thread, 40 wt, 30 wt is great for outlining, detailing (appliqué), stitch in the ditch and some fairly dense quilting, not nearly as dense as the finer thread and will have much more of a presence .
Heavy weight thread 12 wt and heavier will be the focus of whatever quilting happens. Some thread in this category will need to be quilted from the bobbin. When using a heavier weight thread in the bobbin it’s a good idea to have either a second bobbin case where the screw can be adjusted or if you’re a Bernina owner get the black latch bobbin, the screw is longer making it less likely that the screw will come out unexpectedly.
When I’m teaching free motion machine quilting I do give my students permission to adjust the screw, in “seconds” not minutes or hours. Small adjustments make the biggest difference.
It’s important to note that color, needles and speed play an important role in good machine quilting technique. We’ll talk more about that later as they’re essential machine quilting components.