When you KNOW the BASICS… you can achieve great results, which shows not just for the front of your quilt top, but the back as well.
Considering the resources we have available at our very fingertips these days, it’s much easier to figure out tension, thread weights and needle combos to get the best results. When I first began free motion quilting, I had a lot of questions. And I was a bit confused why the backside of my quilts looked so ugly tension-wise. When I asked about these issues, I was told by quilting stores as well as others who quilted, that one shouldn’t expect tension to be very good on the backside; the most you could hope for was to have it look good on the front. Well thank goodness things HAVE CHANGED! Nowadays, with the development of high-tech computerized machines, sensitive tensions, and the amazing variety of top quality threads and needles available to us, there is no longer any excuse not to have good tension anywhere!
And yet, what hasn’t changed is EDUCATION! It’s absolutely vital. And to get there, it’s time to ‘get back to the basics’ — (borrowing from Waylon and Willie and their country music lyrics!)
KNOWLEDGE. EDUCATION. PRACTICE!
Backside of Montana Gold tablerunner
Okay… I want “my backside” to LOOK good! (Enough said there!) It was a challenge, but I deliberately chose a Superior Threads, tri-lobal polyester for the backside of “Montana Gold” – pictured above on the feather motif. I wanted this quilt to be reversible, so the thread (in the bobbin) is the same one I used for the top, in the free motion couching. (See more detail pics on that post here) THEN… I switched, using masterpiece (50 wt) on the bottom which is the gold thread you see in the pic above, when I did the more intricate free motion stitching, afters the feathers were done. I also matched it in color to the top thread, which was a 40 wt Superior Threads “Art Studios” tri-lobal poly in a gold color.
Again, I used Superior Threads “Masterpiece” 50 wt cotton to accomplish good backside tension; I had 40 wt cottons or polyesters on top, as well as some satin cording on top. I used white and pink, to match the colors of my threads on the top.
USE the best thread you possibly can; even in class! It’s so much more fun, and way easier if you start with good quality threads to BEGIN! It’s best to match the weight of the top thread as closely as possible with the weight of the bobbin thread. They don’t have to be exact, but say, for example, within ‘ten’ (weight size) of each other. I’ll use a 40 weight on the top and a 50 weight on the bottom. If I choose a 60 weight on the bottom, then the adjustment of the top tension becomes a little bit more challenging with my machine.
Of course, knowledge, practicality, fabric use, technique and tension adjustments are important factors to take into consideration on any project you play with. Do I sound repetitive?! I mean to! Repetition is a good teacher!
Backside of “Montana Gold”
“The Secret Ingredient” to good tension on the back of your quilts” is TENSION and THREAD knowledge. Pure and simple! But it’s not a secret! It’s easy to know more. So how do you begin?
—TOUCH the tension button on your machine!
—PRACTICE what you know… and you will find out what you don’t know! And then… you will know… MORE!
If you want your stitching to look GOOD… it’s truly very simple. You must study, learn, and apply. That means PRACTICE. If you don’t apply what you think you know at the time you are learning it, you won’t get any better! Do the exercise — practice! See more on threads, needles and tension in this post.
How do athletes become winners? They practice. They lift weights. They do specialty training. How did you get good at your job? Practice! Are you an excellent piecer? Drafter? I bet you’ve spent a good bit of time doing it if you are. The ones who excel have spent hours and hours practicing, no doubt about it! And, it is no different in free motion as you learn to apply knowledge concerning threads, needles and tension adjustments… so YOU can get great results.
With “Grace” I chose for my bobbin thread, a white thread from Superior Threads Masterpiece 50 wt thread, an extra long staple Egyptian cotton; called “ELS” right on the label of the spool Why? Because I wanted (and did) use 40 weight (larger) King Tut extra long Egyptian cotton as the thread on my top. These two combos make for a great partnership. I decreased (lower number) my tension —down to a 2.0 as I was free motion quilting. Those two threads do a VERY nice tango, together on my quilts!
When I do bobbin play, like in my quilt, “Be Still,” or the bobbin play of the quilt GRACE… I chose a polyester; a 40 weight from Iscacord. It has excellent strength, and by INCREASING my top tension (higher number) to a 5.0 or more, depending on the look I was going for. I knew this 40 weight thread could handle the extra tension and be strong enough to pull up that extra thick bobbin type thread.