Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cut the Thread!

A few weeks ago, I started a semi-regular conversation about things that I do when I quilt that might surprise you. This week, a word or two about the thread cutter--that little button on the sewing machine (not all sewing machines have it, but mine does) that cuts the top and bobbin thread when you press. Some quilters wear out the printing on the button, because they use it so much. My button is rarely touched!

It's nothing personal against the thread cutting mechanism. In a tight spot, when I've got all kinds of folds crumpled up and an extra hand to reach in and cut the thread just isn't available, it's a fantastic feature!

But for regular quilting and piecing, I'm too much of a control freak and tidy-butt. Notice the short thread ends on the bottom of the quilting? That drives me nuts! And I don't like that long thread end that got all tangled up in the quilting stitches on the left either.

So I have a little routine when I quilt to solve both problems.

To start quilting in the middle of a piece. I position the foot and the needle over the spot where I'm going to start a line of quilting. . .

. . . . then I drop the needle down . . . .

 . . . then pull the needle up, bringing up a tiny loop of the bobbin thread.

With a seam ripper or stiletto, I pull the bobbin loop so both the thread ends from the top thread and bobbin thread are visible.

Then with one hand, I hold the thread ends out of the way (in this case toward the back left) and quilt (my quilty objective is the white triangle in front).

Later, I bury the thread ends in the quilt sandwich by making a square knot with the thread ends, then popping the threads into the eye of a self-threading needle . . .

. . . and feeding the needle through the batting layer. The needle is inserted right at the beginning of the line of quilting.

The threads are flush with the quilt top. The result is no little bumpy knots or loose ends on the bottom of the quilt. I realize there are plenty of other ways around this, but this is how I prefer to handle the thread ends without engaging the thread cutter.

I prefer not to use the thread cutter when I piece, too! I'm not fond of the little thread nest that appears mysteriously on the bottom of some of my pieced blocks.

Instead, I release the thread tension and pull out about 3" of bobbin and top thread and hold them to the back of the presser foot for the first two or three stitches of the piecing.

Rather than cut the thread between pieces, I chain piece. Once I finish sewing across one seam, I take a couple of extra stitches to nowhere, then add a second set of fabrics to be sewn. . . .

I keep adding pieces, then cut the short thread in between. Typically I have a second piecing project handy so when I get to the end of a piecing run for the main project I'm working on, I just add a pieced element from the secondary project.

No messy backs to upset Tidy-Joan!
(However, it appears that the machine needs a bit of an adjustment from all the stitching I've been doing lately--that straight stitch looks a little wobbly! Time to make a maintenance appointment!)

How about you? Do you use your thread cutter ALL the time, some of the time, or hardly ever?

Happy Stitching!


  1. Some of the time. Love to chain piece when I can, Use the thread cutter when I need to. Do without it on my featherweight.

  2. I use precisely the same method when quilting - pulling up the bobbin thread, leaving a longer tail, using a square knot then burying the threads. Works like a charm, and I am much happier with the finished piece. Right on Joan! Carol R - Ithaca, NY

    1. I'm glad to hear I'm not so 'weird' after all!

  3. I'm with you! I don't like the thread nest so I almost never use the thread cutter. Really the only time I do use it is when I'm programing words or my name to be used on a label. I'm a neat freak about my thread ends too!!!

    1. If you're going to be a neat-freak, you have to 'own' it! Bravo!

  4. Could the wobblies be taken care of by tension adjustments?

    1. I've considered that, but I think it might be a calibration thing.

  5. i love these semi-regular quilting convos. very helpful! never use my thread cutter…too in love with my snippers : )