Teaching people how to use their sewing machines is almost as fun as teaching quilters how to best use their machines for quilt making. It is in teaching Machine Guide Classes that new machine owners learn what they can do with their new machine from basic maintenance to making a blind hem and a buttonhole. It wasn’t until I started sewing in machines (sewing on them with several different stitches, sometimes they need a wee nip of oil) that I learned how (remembered how?) to do a buttonhole on the non-computerized machines. It must be remembered because I did make them on my old Singer, and in home ec class. For years though it did befuddle me, because – Quilting!
Most times these classes are pretty straightforward. Every now & again someone just gets excited about learning About their machine. What can it do? How can I do this? I want to do this again! How does that work? Oh my goodness this makes the classes so fun. I just love watching people “get it”!
Getting to know your machine is such a huge part of quilting – the better you know your machine the easier it is to quilt. A basic understanding of tension, and where to change it makes a huge difference when free motion machine quilting through all of the layers of a quilt. Knowing how to adjust the tension is necessary. For most sewing (piecing, garment construction, home dec) the machine tension should stay at the preset, whatever this is. Most machines are between 3 and 5, with most around a 4. On the more computerized machines the tension adjustment is in different, preset increments, however it’s still towards a higher or lower number. For quilting with a walking foot, the preset *should* be fine, however because stitching through the layers, with the interplay of batting and everything else, make sure to check now and again. For Free-Motion quilting this is where understanding machine tension is necessary.
I’m going to pause here and tell you something very, very, important: You are smart, and intelligent, and can DO This.
If tension seems a problem when I get started making sure the machine is threaded properly is key, try re-threading first. When free-motion quilting basically if you’re seeing the bobbin thread come up to the top, the top tension is too tight – move the tension dial towards a lower number; if the top thread is showing on the back – move the tension dial towards a higher number. Towards is key here, the adjustment may not be a big move, frequently a small adjustment goes a long way. Sometimes adjusting the tension doesn’t work, that’s when we look at a couple of other things 1) needle and 2) speed. That’s a blog post for another day.
There is a lot of information in that class, particularly on the high end, computerized machines. One thing I realized a few weeks ago, when quilters are kind of uncomfortable with their machines, is that if you own a smart phone or some kind of tablet, you’ll be able to use your machine well. We don’t need to understand all of the features, we just need to be able to use them to our best advantage.