Make sure to get your sewing machine thread tension right

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As I started quilting my Scattered Baby quilt, I completely forgot to check the tension on my sewing machine before starting. I didn’t get very far before I had to stop and rip out the stitching.

Sewing machine tension

Can you see how the thread lies on top of the fabric and is pulling the bottom thread to the top? This means my top tension is too tight. SuperiorThreads has a very good blog post about tension. At the end of the article, you can find an image to download showing correct tension. I printed this out years ago and keep it in a drawer next to my sewing machine.

Poor tension on my quilting

Make a sample of your stitching first

Whenever you begin to quilt a new quilt, take the time to check your tension on a sample piece first.

The other day I hemmed some heavyweight curtains for my grandson and changed my needle to a Schmetz Jeans needle. I normally quilt using a Schmetz 80/20 needle. I did change my needle back to the 80/20 but I forgot that I also changed my thread. Yes, sometimes that does make a difference.

When you change the tension on your sewing machine, you want to do it in small increments. I ended up going from a tension of 5 to a tension of 3. Every sewing machine is different, I am using my vintage 15-91 Singer sewing machine.

Make a test sample of the stitching first

Tension is good, time to quilt

Once I had the tension correct, it was time to start quilting. Many quilters wear gloves when quilting but I have always used Neutrogena hand cream. One tube lasts for a long time. I put a little on my fingertips to help me grip the fabric as I’m quilting.

Get the Scattered quilt pattern

Using Neutrogena hand cream to quilt

Rusty my helper

I shared my Scattered baby quilts in my last post if you want to read more about them.

I almost forgot to show a picture of Rusty helping me. I use curved quilting safety pins to hold my backing, batting, and quilt top together. I don’t use a lot of them and I always start quilting in the center of my quilt. This helps me keep from getting folds on the backing.

Here is a closeup of Rusty. He goes in for his wellness examination and shots next week. It is hard to believe we have had him for almost a year!

Rusty on the Scattered quilt


I also thought it would be fun to share this picture of a squirrel trying to get into a bird feeder. After I took this photo I knew it was time to head to the store. We picked up 100 pounds of Black Oil sunflower seeds this week which should last us a couple of weeks.

Squirrel and bird feeder

Get the Scattered quilt pattern

More posts about the Scattered Quilt

Miniature Scattered Quilt

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Connie with her dogs

About Connie

Hi, I’m Connie Kresin Campbell, the quilter, writer, and photographer behind Freemotion By the River. I enjoy inspiring others with my quilt tutorials and patterns. You’ll also see my sweet adopted dogs from time to time.

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  1. Margaret Dunn says:

    I just love your quilt. It has given me ideas to use in a quilt not necessary using black borders but pink or blue could be used, it would look just as stunning. Love your squirrel.

  2. Rusty appears to be sleeping on the job! Tension is always a challenge. The slightest change makes a huge difference. Like you, I have that printout by both my sewing AND quilting machine. your Scattered quilts look really nice.

  3. Oh Rusty. Glad to see he is so comfortable – you made a great choice – or did he chose you?
    Tension – they will give the Nobel Prize to the person who invents a sewing machine that doesn’t have tension problems. I know a couple of companies promise but nope. We’ve all been there. It’s when I’ve sewed about a 4 ” square and run out of bobbi and wonder HUH What the Heck? and look at the loopy back – and swear…loudly.
    Thanks for the reminders and the great pictures!

  4. Karen Poole says:

    I love the bright fabrics you’ve used in these quilts. It’s also a really nice quilt, looks like it would go together pretty quickly.
    That squirrel picture is great!! That squirrel was probably wishing it could stretch just a bit more 😄😄.

  5. The baby quilt is gorgeous! Hopefully both of your upcoming appointments will yield good results. I had a “hiccup” a few years ago, and discovered I have an irregular heartbeat which has been managed easily by 1 medication. This summer I had another hiccup in the EKG before hip replacement surgery, but the stress test came back clean. Heart issues can sure be scary.