Thread Geek Speak
Sometimes the inexplicable happens. Like when I’m working on a piece that has a looming deadline and all of a sudden this happens:
Now this has happened before-in fact this is a photo from a previous post, appropriately entitled “My Torturous Trek to Terrific Thread Tension”. My tension was actually good, except in the loopy parts.
And I gotta tell you, tension problems usually are torturous-you try this, you try that, you have some chocolate, drink some wine, try something else. That post is still a good lesson in solving tension issues and is worth a read if you didn’t catch it the first time.
And when you have a new spool and the sticker on the top covers the hole, don’t just smash your spool holder through it-check out this thread tension epiphany post where I show why that can lead to big-time tension issues.
But this time, the problem was clearly not the thread, needle, batting or fabric. So what the heck was it? Maybe my machine? I was using my Bernina 185. She came back into service when I sent my Bernina 730 in The Punishment Room for misbehaving, as I wrote about here. I thought changing machines might fix the problem. Nope. I still had the same problem.
I even double checked and made sure that the 730 was not in Diva Mode:-/ Nope.
My default Last Ditch Move is always to call Superior Threads. You need to know: if you are using a Superior Threads product and you have trouble, call them. You’ll talk to a person, a real person! And, you don’t even go through a cue, they just answer. the. phone!
So I got Carrie (sp?) on the line. We went through all the typical problems and none of them seemed likely. Then she said something that surprised me-she suggested putting the spool on its side. I was using Sew Fine and it’s on a straight wound spool-they are supposed to be placed upright, not on their side.
Let me divert here with a short lesson on the correct orientation of your thread spool. When I teach, I teach thread, tension and needle issues according to The Gospel of Superior Threads. They are the best source of information on thread related issues that I have found. According to the Superior Book of Thread Orientation:
Cross-wound threads should be positioned so that the thread comes off the top of the spool-
or this way. Either way, the spool does not move as the thread is unfurled.
Conversely, straight-wound spools should be oriented so that the thread comes off the side. Now the spool moves as the thread unfurls.
Threads are wound at the factory to come off the spool in the prescribed way. If you orient your spool the “wrong” way, it introduces a twist to the thread, kind of like you get with your garden hose. That can cause tension and stitch issues. So, it’s all about the twisting of the thread.
So, when Carrie suggested I put the spool the “wrong” way, I asked why. Since I had the spool in its upright position, the spool was turning as the thread unwound. That can create drag. Normally that is not an issue. Since no other fix was working, I tried putting my spool on its side….and it fixed the problem-yippee!
Bottom Line (a pun that only a hard core thread geek will understand)-if you have weird tension or stitch issues, try orienting the spool the other direction. It may be just the fix you need.
You may have glazed over by now. I guess it’s really clear by now-I am a Thread Geek. Yes, I admit it. And, my tension has to be Perfect. That’s just me.
And I’ll be linking up with Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday-there are always really good links so check it out!
Sandy Curran says
You are amazing. I have been trying to quilt this week, and if I tear any more hair out, I will need a wig. Your quilting is so very beautiful and your tips are marvelous. I would never think to ask the questions you ask, I would just assume I did something wrong, which would usually be the problem. Thanks so much for your insights!
It’s funny because I actually start with the thought of “What have I done wrong?”. I have come to LOVE it when it’s Operator Error because that I can fix it, at home, without any expense, and quickly! I think the real hero here is Superior Threads. Carrie diagnosed the problem for me. I would not have thought to turn the spool sideways. And I know about the tearing your hair out thing too Sandy….
Barbara Black says
Of course, tension must be perfect! Bottom Line (love it!), we have great machines and great threads and fabric and batting–it should all be so easy. But it’s not, that’s why it’s called Art!
Yeah, all that great equipment requires great operators-that’s the problem! And yes, that’s why not everyone can make art.
Betty Jo Tatum says
Yes! Yes! Yes! On my 830 putting it on its side means not threading it through the eyelet. I have solved tension issues that way for some threads too, and amusingly felt I was doing something wrong! Sometimes you just gotta try it. LOL. Great post.
Okay, so I’m not the only one! I’m surprised that this works for the 830 too. Yes, it feels “wrong” to do it that way, but I’m beginning to wonder if all straight-wounds need to be put on their sides because of the drag issue. Thank you for the input Betty Jo.
Mary Helen in OR says
Thanks for the truly great post. I have had many fewer thread and tension issues since switching to Superior Threads. Classes by Cindy Needham and Libby Lehman introduced me to their website and threadology. Love your blog. I appreciate your posts.
Well we’re on the same page then Mary Helen-I love Superior threads and their site with all that information. Thank you!
Thanks for a great post. I would not have thought of doing this either. I recently picked up my older Bernina 1080QE from the shop after cleaning and timing. As I tested all the stitches, one stitch kept forming loops (loops on a blanket/buttonhole stitch are not good). It turned out that it was all Operator Error: I was using the wrong size needle for the thread. I know this information, but was apparently having a brain fart when I grabbed the thread. Boy did I feel small!
Oh Paula, I think this happens to all of us. But, I hate it when I go to the dealer and they point out something really basic like that. I feel like they must be thinking “And you teach this stuff?”. We all do this kind of thing though.
Great information Jenny. Now if we could only get Superior to print the thread number on the spool instead of the cap. Can’t tell you how many times I have had a couple caps off that are close shades and then gotten them mixed up. I try to write the number on the spool with marker, but it would nicer if Superior did that on all threads.
You should write Superior and suggest that-I’ve had that same problem. Good idea for a solution!
Janet Becker says
Wish I could figure out how to successfully use Sulky metallic ribbon thread. I’ve done all of the above plus using “Sewers Aid” to no avail. It’s just utterly miserable, for my otherwise trouble free Bernina, to sew on my wearables. I have more success with Superior for sure… but I need to use up the insufferable Sulky!
Janet I am not a fan of Sulky metallics for good reason. I haven’t tried their Holoshimmer in awhile (ribbon-like). If you had the spool oriented so that it comes off the side, and used a 90 Topstitch needle and it didn’t perform for you, I would go directly to Superior’s Glitter and I’ll bet it works. You MUST use the highest quality thread for metallics. I’d probably throw something grabby in the bobbin like a 60 wt cotton. And loosen your tension a good bit.
I’ve just done battle with Holo Shimmer, and finally succeeded with Superior invisible poly thread in the bobbin and a thread stand with the spool in a vertical position. Sulky’s website says it needs a vertical position, which is the opposite of the Superior’s website advice for their similar product. No wonder we get confused.
I have used the Sulky “Sliver” on my Bernina, Juki TL2010Q and Sweet 16 and they all require the same thing…….almost ‘0’ tension!!!!! The “ribbon” is sticky as it goes through the discs and if there is any resistance at all it’s all “down hill”!!! Because it is a “ribbon”, the shine factor is off the charts but I am more in love with Superior’s Variegated Metallic Gold. I order it in the largest cones available and keep a spare one on hand at all times. Every time I use it, the compliments avalanche!!!!!!
Hmmmm…me thinks I should take my Bernina 1530 out of ‘the punishment room’ and do a bit more trouble shooting. After all, she has been an enormously faithful and hard worker for many a long year. Bottom Line…it is probably operator error. This operator can be just a bit short-tempered when it comes to tension issues.
I know, it sounds impossible that it can take hours to solve a tension issue. But I have spent hours and finally solved the problem, so it was worth it. I know, I just want to QUILT, I don’t want to solve tension issues. Many sewists wax poetic about that 1530! No one will give theirs up-they keep them. Poor little 1530, languishing in The Punishment Room!
Joanna the Holoshimmer is straight wound and would come off a vertical spool according Superior also. Superior’s Glitter is a straight wound also and would come off a vertical spool. Conversely, their “Metallic” is cross wound and would come off the top. Yikes, I think what’s confusing is that some metallics are cross-wound and some straight. My head spins….
LeeAnna Paylor says
that top picture looked familiar. Love the room of punishment.
your post was great reminder to give them what they want.
I’m going to put a link to this post on my info page for others to read.
LeeAnna at not afraid of color
Yes, it’s familiar because it’s happened to me before…unless you’re saying it’s familiar because it happens to you too! Thank you for reposting LeeAnna!
Jenny love the crazed picture of you! I’ve often wondered about that drag factor and I noticed when I use Glitter on the top it still twists. I need to ask them about that. Great article thread geek to thread geek.
My Glitter will look like it’s twisting but will stitch flawlessly-doing the whole Superior routine: 90 titanium topstitch, SewFine in the bobbin, upright orientation, going a little slower. I’ve even done feathers with it. Thank you for the kind words and the repost Roxane!
Janet McElroy says
Great post again Jenny, this has been indelibly printed on my mind now so when my threads play up I won’t sling them across the room and scream and shout, I will turn them the opposite way to what is expected and hey presto they will behave – in theory. Many many thanks. I have some of that holistic ? thread, never used it, too scared.
Janet, it just has to be good thread (Superior makes excellent metallics), use the topstitch or metallic needle, orient the thread the right way and you’re good to go. You should try it-what have you got to lose?
Teresa Wong says
I have the Bernina 820. I went thru about a year of problems… a lot having to do with thread issues, tension, skipped stitches, etc. I LOVE this photo of you. I totally get it. Been there. WIth my machine, I figured out most of my problems had to do with 2 things – I need to oil the machine every hour or so, no joke!: and I got rid of the stitch regulator. Now it runs like a dream. Not saying these are related to your issues… just saying I understand how difficult these machines can be at times. Hang in there!
Teresa-Oil the machine every hour-really? Ugh! I do know that the BSR’s sometimes need to be recalibrated for them to work properly-it’s free from your dealer. It’s amazing how hard we have to work sometimes to get the tension right!