Free Motion Tension Problems

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Baby quilt on deck rail by snowy river

Can you guess what I’ve been working on lately? I am working on a baby quilt that I pieced a while ago and finally quilted. I guess I should really say I am removing the stitching on this baby quilt!

Free Motion Tension Problems

ripping out stitches on baby quilt

While I was packing things up  in my quilt studio this cute little baby quilt surfaced. I almost packed it away and then thought it would make a fun quilt project to share. It wasn’t very big so quilting would take no time at all!

I did a medium sized meander quilting on it, I’m still working on increasing the size of my quilting so my quilts will be fluffier. For years all of my quilting was very small stipple quilting with beautiful texture. I still love this look for wall hangings but for quilts, I’m going more for a softer look.

I knew I had jerked my quilting a few times but I still figured it would be okay. I trimmed it and added the binding. All done!

I brought it upstairs and really took a close look at the quilting…..ugh! There were way too many places where the stitching was awful. I made one of the biggest quilting mistakes you can make…..I never double-checked the back to see what the stitching looked like.

If I had I would have realized that the tension was all wrong. The threads were lying on the backside of the quilt. There were sections were it was really bad! My top tension was too loose plus I know when I try to move the quilt too much I tend to pull it.

Superior Threads has a great post about stitch tension. I have their graphic on the wall by my sewing machine. I like using their Bottom Line and So Fine! thread. I am very fortunate that my old vintage 15-91 Singer sewing machine likes just about any kind of thread.

The Quilting Company also has a great article on thread tension. All of my quilting on this quilt was done with Aurifil thread which I really like using.  I used a light yellow Aurifil thread to quilt the baby quilt.

Poor quilt tension

I’m removing more stitching than I needed to. That happens when I’m chatting on the phone with my daughter. I’ll probably remove entire sections and then quilt it again.

I once had a large quilt I did on a friend’s longarm that had stitching like this. It actually worked as basting and I eventually re-quilted the entire quilt. That was the Sea Glass quilt. I am using my favorite seam ripper by Dritz.

Close up of ripping out the quilt stitching

It is freezing out and we have lots of snow, a perfect day to just sit and…..remove stitches!
7-Day Free Bluprint Trial at through 1/29/19.

Pelly watching while I rip out quilt stitching

I thought I would be able to get a photo showing how much snow we have but it is too windy. I had about four clamps on the corner of the baby quilt to keep it from flying away! I hope everyone is keeping warm today!

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  1. Oh Dear Connie that was a lot of frogging you did. However you saved this sweet baby quilt and can be very proud of your work. January Joy and stay warm and safe.

  2. Susan the Farm Quilter says:

    So frustrating!! I use long tweezers to frog my quilts…no danger of accidentally stabbing a hole…and when the tension is off, it is really easy to frog a quilt. It is awful when you have a queen sized quilt and do the entire width (by 16″) only to decide you don’t like the pattern…and the tension is perfect!! Never fun. You have my empathy. I’ve learned to get down under my longarm with a flashlight to check the tension!!! Maybe it is just time to pack LOL!!

  3. Brenda Ackerman says:

    Hello Connie, As soon as I saw the quilt picture, I said out loud that I really like the way she designed this quilt and I need to make one! Sorry about your tension issues. It happens to me all of the time, which is why I rarely even try to Freemotion Quilt any more. The problem is because of my brain injury. Thank you for sharing the links that you have though, I like to read articles such as these before I do try Freemotion. Have a fabulous day inside looking out at the beautiful snow.

  4. Patricia Evans says:

    I had a similar experience while sewing layer cake squares using the cake mix papers. I put a new bobbin in my fairly new, low-end Baby Lock machine and sewed maybe 10 blocks. They looked fine from the top, but when I turned them over, there were skipped stitches everywhere. Had to unsew all of them,; Now I try to remember to do a test piece and check the back since I’ve had it happen more than once on that machine when putting in a new bobbin. Fortunately, it’s a travel machine and I rarely have tension problems with my Bernina.

  5. So happy that this happens to more experienced quilters. But it’s always best to rip out what makes you unhappy.

  6. Susan Ulrich says:

    Love that Pelly!! I also love that quilt, I adore a good scrappy quilt, It was definitely worth the extra time!

  7. The last 2 runners I quilted had loopy tension on the back, but I did check!! At first it was quilting great no problem, but once I was done and turned it over, about a third of the quilting was loopy tension!. I don’t know what happened. Same thing happened on the round one I quilted. So I switched machines. For some reason my Juki Tl200 Qi doesn’t free motion without some tension issue. I still have my similar Brother PQ1550, and that machine quilts the best. The baby quilt is sweet and cheerful.

  8. Totally agree with you that it’s better to rip it out and requilt it! I used to have a lot of tension issues on my old machine, so I am very dilligent about testing the tension every time I put in a new bobbin or break the top thread. It’s worth the extra check to not have to take it out later!

  9. Kathleen McCormick says:

    I hate when that happens! I had problems with it on my ambassador project for this month, but a needle change helped as did a little cleaning.. Sorry you had so much ripping – but I am sure you are happier that it is fixed.

  10. Oh no, so frustrating. This happen to me on a quilt, one of my first on the longarm. The quilt is adorable and well worth the time to remove the ugly stitching.