Bustser's Tip of the Month
Join us each month as Buster shares the knowledge he has learned from all of his years studying under Shawn. We hope you enjoy Buster's tips, tricks and helpful hints.
Change Your Needle Often
A proper needle and quality thread are two of the most important factors for achieving a good quality stitch.
Change your needle often!
every 8 hours of sewing.
It may need to be changed more
frequently if heavy material is used.
Always change your needle if it is
bent or the point is dull.
These needles are an example of
needles that should be avoided.
Any blunt or broken needle will cause
endless issues while sewing.
The Importance of Good Quality Thread
- If the thread breaks easily, it is not good quality and will cause numerous issues while sewing such as frequent thread breaks
- If the thread does not break easily and requires a good amount of force to break, it is more than likely quality thread.
- While this test will help determine thread quality, it is not the only factor and should be used in conjunction with other testing methods.
2. Hold a strand of thread up to a light and see how many fibers fan out from the strand
- If a lot of fibers are sticking out from the strand, it is not good quality and will cause tension issues while also causing excessive lint to be produced which can cause issues with your machine.
- If little to no fibers stick out from the strand, it is likely quality thread.
- Some fibers will naturally be more "fuzzy" or fan out than other fibers. The fiber content of your thread needs to be considered when determining thread quality.
3. Hold out a strand of thread and check for a consistent width
- If the thread has an inconsistent width, it is low quality and will cause issues. The tension unit will not be able to properly apply tension and it will create poor quality and inconsistent stitches.
- If the thread is a consistent width, the thread is more than likely quality. The consistent thread width will allow the tension unit to properly apply tension at all times which will create good quality and consistent stitching.
This example shows a good
quality thread because it has
little to no fuzz fanning out
and it has a consistent
This example shows poor
quality thread because it
has a lot of fuzz fanning out
all directions and an
Notes to Consider
Some thread will naturally break more easily than others because of the type of fiber that is used. For example, cotton thread will be easier to break than polyester thread because of the type and length of the fiber. Cotton is a natural fiber short in length which makes the fiber naturally weaker than long synthetic fibers such as polyester. We will go into more detail about the difference and types of fibers at a later date.
The Importance of Fiber Content
There are three main fiber groups used to classify the type of fiber in textiles and thread. These groups include natural fibers, regenerated fibers and synthetic fibers. Below is a brief description of some important characteristics of each fiber group.
1. Natural Fibers
Natural fibers are considered a renewable resource which does not require chemical processing before use. Natural fibers can be divided into two categories: protein (animal) and cellulose (plant). The most common protein fibers include wool and silk. The most common cellulose fibers include cotton and linen. Natural fibers are typically short (staple) fibers which will create a less durable thread and textile than long (filament) fibers. The only type of natural fiber that has the potential for being a long (filament) fiber is silk. While each fiber has specific characteristics that are associated with it, generally natural fibers will accept dye more easily, have a higher cost and be less durable than synthetic fibers. The fibers are spun or twisted together to produce a continuous strand of thread/yarn created by interlocked fibers. These continuous strands are then knitted, woven or felted together to produce a textile.
2. Regenerated Fibers
Regenerated fibers are one of two groups that are considered man-made. Regenerated fibers are made by using natural resources, typically cellulose fibers such as wood pulp or cotton waste, that are reformed or regenerated by chemical manufacturing. This category was created by the desire to have a low-cost alternative for silk. These fibers include viscose rayon, acetate, lyocell, bamboo and more. These fibers can be short (staple) or long (filament) fibers depending on the process while regenerating the fiber. Typically these fibers have great moisture absorbency, drape beautifully and feel very soft. On the negative side, these fibers are weak with low durability, have poor sunlight resistance and easily wrinkle or distort. After the fibers the have been regenerated, they will be spun or twisted into yarn/thread with a similar process as natural fibers. The thread is then woven or knitted to create a textile.
3. Synthetic Fibers
Synthetic fibers are considered the second group of man-made fibers. Unlike regenerated fibers, synthetic fibers are made entirely by chemical synthesis and are usually derived from by-products from petroleum or natural gas. Polyester, created from petroleum products, has become the most popular textile and has overtaken cotton in popularity. The most common synthetic fibers include polyester, nylon, acrylic and elastomeri (spandex). This type of fiber is produced in long continuous strands referred to as filament fibers. Filament fibers are stronger and create less lint than short (staple) fibers. Typically synthetic fibers will be stronger than natural and regenerated fibers, be resistant to shrinkage and distortion, wash and dry easily while also being wrinkle and mildew resistant. These fibers are also spun or twisted together to create thread/yarn which is then woven, knit or felted together to create a textile.
Troubleshooting Tension Issues
What should I do if my tension is messed up?
Try out these tips before making changes to your upper or lower tension. You'll be surprised how many important aspects of sewing can affect your tension!
Tips for troubleshooting:
- Change your needle!!! If your needle is bent or has a burr on the it, the needle needs to be changed. You may not be able to visually see a bent needle or burr so it is important that you change your needle on a regular basis, about every 8 hours of sewing.
- Are you using the correct size needle? Always match the needle you are using with the fabric you are sewing on and the thread being used.
- Is your machine threaded properly? One missed step in the threading process can create a huge tension issue, so always double check your threading before making adjusts that may not be needed. Always thread your machine with the presser foot raised so that the tension disks are open.
- Are you using the same thread on the top and bottom? It is possible to use two different weights of thread while sewing, but you will need to understand how to adjust your tension to achieve a balanced stitch. Using the same thread on top and bottom will make it easier to keep your tension balanced.
- Is there lint between your tension disks? Lint builds up over time and it is important to clean that lint out on a regular basis because it will cause endless tension issues.
What does a stitch with balanced tension look like?
The top and bottom should look exactly the same when the upper and lower tensions are properly balanced. Think of tension like a tug of war with each side pulling against the other. When an equal amount of force is applied to both the upper and lower thread, the tension will be balanced. When one side has more force than the other, the weaker side will be pulled to the stronger side.
- The first example in the picture below demonstrates the upper tension being too loose. The bobbin thread is "winning" the tug of war and pulling the top thread down. To fix this issue, increase your top tension in small increments until you achieve balanced tension.
- In the second example, the top tension is too tight. The top thread is "winning" the tug of war and pulling the bobbin thread to the top. To fix this issue, decrease the top tension in small increments until you are satisfied.
- The third example shows a stitch with balanced tension. The upper and lower threads are meeting in the middle because an equal amount of force is being applied to each side. The stitching should look exactly the same on the top as it does on the bottom.
Choosing the Correct Needle
Sharp: sharp point and more slender than universal, good for fine woven materials
Jersey/Ballpoint: needle has a rounded tip, good for closely knitted material
Stretch: slightly rounded tip and specialized eye for use with elasticized material such as Spandex
Jeans: strong sharp point and slender eye for use with tightly woven material such as denim and canvas
Leather: distinct triangular point used to make a large, clean hole in in non-woven materials such as leather and vinyl
AND EVEN MORE! In addition to the various types of needles, each type varies in size anywhere from 60/9 to 110/18! Some specialty needles come in larger sizes, but a typical domestic machine will use the sizes listed above. An example of the differences in needle types are illustrated below.
- 60/8 – 100 weight silk and polyester invisible thread
- 70/10 – 100 weight threads
- 80/12 – 50 weight threads
- 90/14 – 40 weight threads
- 100/16 – 30 weight threads and thicker