Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hunter's Design Studio Back to School Blog Hop: TNT

Wowza! What a line-up! Today is my turn on Sam Hunter's Back to School Blog Hop! I love learning tips and techniques to add to my bag of tricks and this blog hop is packed with them. When Sam sent out the call for topics I knew right away I wanted to write about one of my favorite subjects: TNT! 

I work at Modern Domestic, a BERNINA dealer, fabric shop and sewing studio in Portland, Oregon. One of the things I get to do is diagnose whether machines need to be serviced or not. I learned TNT, a simple rule of thumb from our machine tech and it changed my life! I now have the power to perform sewing miracles just by following it to a T(NT). So before you drop an anvil on your machine when it starts to skip stitches or create crazy bobbin art, first try these three steps.

T. Thread. 
reTHREAD your machine! This seems really simple and obvious, but it is sooooo important! I have performed miracles by simply rethreading the upper thread! Sometimes you miss getting your upper thread in the take-up lever or between the tension disks. ALWAYS thread your machine with the presser foot up: It opens the upper tension disks and ensures you will have tension on that upper thread. Or perhaps it is your bobbin. It is easy on many machines to put bobbins in the wrong way (some bobbins are clockwise, some counter clockwise: make sure you know which way yours is!) Maybe you didn't put one in at all before your started sewing (true story! And yes, that would be me...) It can make a huge difference when you rethread! 

Also, all that super pretty vintage thread you got for a buck at that tag sale? Make it into garland or fill a jar with it, but for heavens sake DON'T USE IT! Thread has a life span and it WILL deteriorate. Invest in a new spool. If you don't remember when you got it, buy a new one. Do it!

Match your upper thread and bobbin thread. It is a rule of thumb people. If you are going to break the rules then be prepared to mess with your tension. More about that in a moment.

N. Needle.
Guess how often you should change a needle. If you said, "when it breaks?" then you are in the 90th percentile of domestic sewing machine owners. I totally did not know how important it is to frequently change needles. I can hear it now when I'm sewing - that 'puh, puh' sound of a dull needle passing through the fabric. Focus, grasshopper. Schmetz Needles recommends changing your needle every 4-6 hours of sewing time.

Match your needle to your thread and to your fabric. There are knit needles with rounded tips, needles with long eyes, sharp needles, needles for metallic thread - you get the picture. And guess what? There is an app for that!

T. Tension.
Just that word can make people tense. So put those shoulders down and I'll make it really simple for you. 99% of the time we are talking about upper thread tension. That is that little dial on top of your machine and has nothing to do with your bobbin (unless you are using a different thread in your bobbin.) BEFORE YOU MESS WITH THE TENSION PLEASE FOLLOW THESE STEPS:
1. Rethread your upper thread with the presser foot up.
2. Rethread your bobbin and make sure you know if it is clockwise or counter clockwise.
3. Change your needle.
4. Stitch out a sample.
I will betcha that it sews like a dream now! If not, we can talk about adjusting your upper thread tension. But first:
5. Get (as in buy) a new spool of all-purpose poly thread that is cross-wound. I'm serious.
6. Wind a new bobbin with this thread.
7. Double check that you are indeed using the correct bobbin for your sewing machine. You would be surprised how many folks don't. "But I always use this bobbin..." is not an acceptable response. I will let you down gently if I find out you are using a class 15 and you should be using an oscillating bobbin or if you are putting Singer bobbins in your Pfaff. 
6. (Again) Wind the correct bobbin with your new spool of thread.
7. Thread the upper thread with your presser foot up.
8. You already have a new needle from step 3, but if you skipped that then PUT A NEW NEEDLE IN!
9. Sew a sample. IF (and I mean if because at this point I am pretty sure your machine will be stitching great!) you are still having problems then we can chat about adjusting your upper thread tension or checking your bobbin spider (another topic for another post.) If nothing I have suggested works, you may need to consider checking in your machine in for service. It could be that the timing is off or there could be a burr on your hook. It happens sometimes.

So next time your machine is acting up remember TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension. It could save you a whole lot of frustration and you will feel like a genius - a super genius!

Check out these posts for a ton of great info! Thanks Sam for the fun hop!

Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuilts – So, Does that Diagonal Method for a Pieced Backing Really Work
Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of – The Quilter’s Knot
Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams – The Importance of Pressing
Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts – Color Coding for Paper-piecing
Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio – How to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt Studio – Credit where Credit is Due
Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique
Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit
Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101
Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips
Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Jem Jam – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3 Little Birds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up

PS. What's with the Roadrunner? That was my favorite cartoon to watch after school. I lifted all these images after numerous attempts to find the original sources. Sorry Warner Brothers!

PSS. Last tip. You made it to the end so I am going to share some top notch, valuable info with you. When you take your upper thread off your machine, cut the thread near the spool, lift your presser foot, and pull the thread out of your machine in the same direction as the machine stitches. Get out of the habit of yanking it backwards out of the machine. This will lengthen the life of your upper thread tension disks. Think of it as taking your vitamins everyday. You may not remember every time, but when you do you will reap the rewards.

Have machine, will travel.