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Question: What standard of perfection do y'all use? I'm making myself completely insane today wanting perfect-perfect-perfect.

I'm relatively new at this (got my machine - a Millenium - in June, but had done FMQ using a Bernina with a BSR before) and tend to... ahem... challenge myself. The first quilt I threw on - after messing about with muslins for an hour - I used batiks, King Tut thread, a sheet backer, and decided, just for the hell of it, to do ruler work. I've done various things since then, mostly involving pantos and old, ugly, or just plain challenging quilt tops. (I... er... went a little crazy when Urban Elementz had that sale.)

Now, I'm prepping to move to Austin (I leave in 2 weeks, my stuff leaves in 6ish months) and have to finish up a whole load of tops before storing my machine where neither my roommate nor my cats can get at it. One is a really unique, pastel, colour blocked quilt for a friend to give to her mom. She's drawn in each block. Navy back, navy thread on the back and a cream colour thread on the front (Can-Sew for both, which my dealer recommends.) Warm & Natural batting.

So, I cleaned, oiled, etc. Wound bobbins. Got myself all set, feeling very proud of myself. Did a test for tension - I'd had king tut on previously to do a panto, and that turned out gorgeous. Set the bobbin, it doesn't quite freefall, but comes close. Approximated the top. Was way off. Adjust. Get little navy dots on top. Adjust. Get little white dots on bottom. Adjust. Get *almost* perfect tension. It looks great about 75% of the time. When I make circles & loops on the test, I get navy dots on top (if it were a clock) from 9pm to 12 am, going clockwise. Same if I go counterclockwise. Using both stitch regulator and non-stitch regulated modes.

I really, really want to do well on this. So I want "perfect-perfect-perfect." My friend, her mom, my mom, damn near everyone else doesn't... quite... have the same perception of perfection that I have, and have expressed the following:

"Liz, you're new, and it looks great. Shut up."

"Liz, you're being incredibly anal retentive. Shut up."

"Liz, none of us could do anywhere near that well, ever. Shut up."

(My family is so caring. They're also used to me displaying this level of neurotic over absolutely nothing.)

So I guess what I'm wondering most is this: Where is "Good enough," especially when doing it as a business? Where do you just stop and say "I cannot reasonably do any better than this, and I'm just going to have to live with the fact that I am a human?"

My secondary question is "What the hell am I doing wrong and why won't my stitches do what I want? I know that it's difficult to use 2 vastly differently coloured threads top and bottom, but I don't want any mistakes or starts and stops to show on the back, and my friend really wants cream on top. The back is just plain dark blue broadcloth. Why do things the easy way?

Picture show time:


B.'s Quilt - Bird by e.c. moore, on Flickr

There's no navy on the bottom of the tail, but there is on the wing. This is as close to "perfect" as the top tension will allow - any more, and I get more blue, any less, and I get more white on the back.)

(My friend is happy with how warbly the bird is. My friend is happy with the whole thing, actually, this is a case of *me* not being happy with it.)


B.'s quilt - Bird 2 by e. c. moore, on Flickr

(If you click on the photos, you'll be taken to Flickr, where you can see the specific notes I've made on where I'm experiencing frustration...)

Any help, with either question, is most gratefully appreciated...

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I know exactly the problem you are having with the tension, I have had the same frustration.

One solution is to use a higher loft batting, the stitches will sink in more and no dots!

Another solution is to use the white thread in the bobbin and let your quilting show against the navy back.

The last solution is to start over with the tension. I would make the bobbin a little looser and then adjust the top thread tension points, which include: using a thread net, going through only some of the thread hole guides, the tension gauge itself, and using a different weight thread on top.

I assume you are using a new needle. Don't be stingy with your needles. Good luck!:D

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With a thick top thread like King Tut you will have tension problems because the stitches have no place to "snuggle". If you can sneak a thicker batting in, give it a try. A thick poly batting or a double batt of cotton and poly will give a thickness to the sandwich where the finished stitches can hide.

If you have a thinner batting like 100% cotton, it is almost imperative that you use matching thread. Plus, as you stitch around curves, the flex of the needle will change the tension slightly, as is shown by dots of color showing usually when you are going in the same direction.

If you want to use highly contrasting threads in a quilt---

Use a thicker batting.

Make sure your threads are near to the same weight.

Slow down--make it a waltz, not a cha-cha when you stitch.

And as Heidi said--don't beat yourself up so much!

(I love your bird!)

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Match the thread, top and bottom. It's the best way to get over yourself. The stitches will look so much better and it will help you improve your starts and stops.

The tension is probably perfect. When it is perfect, you will at times see the top thread on back and the bottom thread on top. If it's little dots it's good. If you get whiskers (train tracks) on the ends of your loops, that can be adjusted out.

That's what Dawn taught me and I believe it like the gospel:)

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Thank you all so much for the reality check :) You're right, I do need to get over myself. ;)

Knowing that I *will* see little dots helps a LOT. My goal was "no dots, ever" which... well, was probably pretty unrealistic, based on what anniemueller says (Thank you, thank you, thank you! Part of my learning curve is knowing what is just plain utterly impossible.)

I think I'm going to swap out to cream on the back and just make my friend frog what I've done so far (one of the FEW joys of doing this as a favour - I don't have to do stuff I really don't want to.) It was a new needle, and, Linda & hmerrill, I think you're both right, that it is needle flex. I don't have any needles other than those that came with the machine originally, but I will keep that in mind for the future. B. loves the feel of W&N, and I traded her some off of my bolt for some made-from-scratch pizza, so I can't change that, alas.

Oddly enough, I've had fantastic luck with King Tut thus far (rap wood...) Even when I used it in my DSM (Even in the bobbin of my DSM!), it didn't want to fight me other than the very rare broken thread. My mother says I have expensive taste, I suppose it's true in this as well.

And Linda, I shall pass your compliment off to my friend. She bought a pack of folk-art applique eons ago, and when we were trying to figure out how to quilt the colour blocks, she decided to combine, modify, & trace the motifs into each square. If she lets me, I'll post photos when I'm done :)

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After going to quilt shows and "really" looking at the quilting of people who I considerexcellent quilters and get paid well for their work ARE NOT PERFECT ! I've seen feathers not quite right, SID not in the ditch, etc. The only perfect quilting I saw was done with a computer..............So, I decided I can do pretty darn good and I know I will improve over time, but trying to be perfect will never happen...........Relax..........have fun.........enjoy. :P

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Originally posted by ecmoore

....... My friend, her mom, my mom, damn near everyone else doesn't... quite... have the same perception of perfection that I have, and have expressed the following:

"Liz, you're new, and it looks great. Shut up."

"Liz, you're being incredibly anal retentive. Shut up."

"Liz, none of us could do anywhere near that well, ever. Shut up."


:P Wise words, your friend, her mom and your mom (and everyone else) .... they are absolutely correct...

So shut up, Liz ! :cool: (Just kidding!!!)

Well, let me tell ya the real darned truth, Liz: There Ain't nuthin perfect with quilting - no matter "who" you are... even the big quilty rock stars are not perfect. I know cuz I looked closely at their quilts... and...They do amazing things. But are they perfect? Nah! ;)

And, in the big scheme of things, it's not really about perfection anyway, so lighten up on yourself. OK?

Now, that I've gotten that off my chest, here is my advice:

1) Same color thread is your friend. Use it. You won't see the oopses so much.

2) King Tut. It's a great thread. I use it A LOT and have had excellent success with it on my Millennium. The trick (for me) is to keep top tension as tight as possible so you don't have pokies or loopies on back. Ya gotta keep Tut tight on Top! I always run through all three holes on top, and by exception only (if I struggle with thread breaking, etc) do I reduce down to two holes. By exception only.

3) Sewer's Aid is your friend. Use it.

4) No matter what thread you use... always try to keep top the tension as tight as possible. This makes tension on the bottom good. I set my bobbin tension using the drop test method. If my bobbin can drop slow and smooth (like a spider) then the tension is good.

5) Make sure your bobbin area is clean. WD40 and oil. Keep this area with no fuzz. Tut creates fuzz so you have to blow out bobbin case and bobbin area with every bobbin change. Oil a few little drops when needed.

6) Go SLOW. Slow down. Relax.

7) Have fun. :)

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Originally posted by alnaquilts

So many of you mention Sewers Aid and how great it is. Would someone explain what it is and how and when to use it?


I run a few beads in various areas along the thread cone or spool. Don't have to use a bunch, just a few lines. This helps lubricate the thread a little so it doesn't have so much friction going through the needle eye. You can buy it at quilt shops, sewing stores in the notions section. I got mine at Ben Franklin.


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