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Thread: Preventing seam separation

  1. #1
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    Preventing seam separation

    Hi all! I just finished quilting a channel pattern with 2 inch spacing. In the past I have had seam separation of my piecing when I grossly underquilted (as a newbie). I do not want to experience this again. I'm wondering if 2 inch spacing will be supportive enough to prevent separation? One of my pieced seams that runs the entire length of the quilt is smack dab between two lines of quilting, with no intersecting lines of quilting. I'm especially concerned about this channel, and am considering doing something decorative between those lines, but would prefer not to, aesthetically. Advice appreciated!

  2. #2
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    I wonder if the problem could be with the piecing, rather than with the quilting. Perhaps you need more stitches per inch? Seams can also come apart if the thread is weak, or if the seam allowance is too small. If your fabric has a loose weave, you may also need a bigger seam allowance. I wouldn't expect the seams to come apart merely because the quilting is less dense.

  3. #3
    Super Member meyert's Avatar
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    I was thinking about the piecing as well. I had that problem when my pieced seams didn't have the accurate 1/4"

  4. #4
    Junior Member yolajean's Avatar
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    Having seems come apart on a gifted quilt is so embarrassing and frustrating. Ask me how I know? Part of the seem problem, I believe, is mishandling (especially large quilts) quilts when they are wet and not properly removing them from the washer. I always give a card with my quilts with directions for washing and preserving the integrity of the quilt. I am now convinced that no one reads these directions.

    When repairing my great granddaughter's quilt, which had open seems, I decided to use a design on my Brothers' machine that is a wavy line. I used this stitch on all of the long seems. It is easier than SITD and it is quite nice. Here is the back of a quilt where I used this stitch.
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  5. #5
    Power Poster RedGarnet222's Avatar
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    I try to make my quilting as evenly dispersed within a quilt to give it support and stabilization. Remember the rule, form follows function?

    Perhaps make a row of "beads" across the seams to set them. You just curve one way and then the opposite cured way to form the beads along straddling the seam. The second pass the opposite direction makes the beads. Kind of serpentine , if you know what I mean?

    Yes the wavy line is the first pass and sewing back the other direction makes the "beads". You cross over as you go.
    Last edited by RedGarnet222; 02-28-2018 at 05:45 PM.
    RedGarnet222

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  6. #6
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I would also say that it may be a piecing issue. The max distance apart you can quilt is established by your batting. The packaging will give you this info, but it assumes that the piecing is secure. Before quilting it's a good idea to look over all your seams to ensure that you have a minimum of 1/4". This gives you an opportunity to take a bit larger seam if you find any skimpy ones.
    Another thing to consider is the fabric weave. Fabric that has a looser weave, such as homespun or lesser quality quilting cotton can fray or pull apart.
    If you piece by machine, you probably won't have an issue, but the seam length normally used is 2.5 or smaller.
    These issues can be mitigated by heavier quilting, and if you are worried about a specific seam, then definitely quilt over it. There are some great suggestions above.
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  7. #7
    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    FMQ would help when quilting as you could quilt over the seams too. I never stitch in the ditch, I don't think it helps anything. I quilt about a 1/4" from the seam, usually where the seam allowance is. I try to make sure I don't have any skimpy seams after I sew a seam. Easiest to fix then. I set my machines stitch length on 2.
    Another Phyllis
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    Thank you everyone!

    The quilt that I had a problem with I used quality quilting fabric, but I was inexperienced and did random straight-line quilting from edge to edge on all different angles. But not nearly enough. So some parts of the quilt had several inches without any quilting.

    For this quilt I did Slightly larger than 1/4 inch seam allowance, should that be enough insurance that it will hold up? My stitch length was 3, I didn't know I should piece with smaller stitches!! Also, the fabrics are all interlock (t-shirt), flannel and thermal fabrics (it is a memorial quilt made from clothing, which I've never done before). My sashing at the seam I'm worried about is all interlock, so maybe this should be reassuring since it doesn't fray??
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 03-07-2018 at 07:00 AM. Reason: remove shouting/all caps

  9. #9
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    It depends a lot on the quality of your piecing stitches. I used to fix up vintage sewing machines for charity and often needed to adjust machines to get a good, secure stitch.

    Secure stitching requires that the top and bobbin tensions be set correctly. The tensions need to be balanced so that the threads meet in the middle. When they don't meet in the middle, one thread lies flat against the fabric and can be easily pulled out. In addition to being balanced, the tensions need to be somewhat tight. If you have a balanced stitch where the top and bobbin tensions are loose, you can pull apart the seam and easily see lots of the stitching thread in the seam. When the tensions are tight the way they should be, very little of the thread is visible when you pull the seam apart.

    Stress on the seams comes from everyday handling, sitting on a quilt, washing and drying a quilt, hanging, etc. Quilting reduces the stress on seams. The closer together the quilting lines, and the more often quilting crosses over seam lines, the less stress there is on the seams.

    In your particular situation, the seam within the channel will be stressed more than others in the quilt because you have a long seam line that has no quilting stitches running over it. If the stitches used in piecing the seam are tight and secure, then there will be enough support so that no single thread is ever taking all of the stress. If, however, the piecing stitches are loose because of one of the reasons above, sooner or later the stress will be concentrated on a single thread and that thread will break.

    Edit: Shortening stitch length does make for a more secure seam; however, it also adds thread to the seam and makes un-sewing more difficult. That would be my last resort if I couldn't get the tensions right on my machine.
    Last edited by Prism99; 02-28-2018 at 08:31 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    It depends a lot on the quality of your piecing stitches. I used to fix up vintage sewing machines for charity and often needed to adjust machines to get a good, secure stitch.

    Secure stitching requires that the top and bobbin tensions be set correctly. The tensions need to be balanced so that the threads meet in the middle. When they don't meet in the middle, one thread lies flat against the fabric and can be easily pulled out. In addition to being balanced, the tensions need to be somewhat tight. If you have a balanced stitch where the top and bobbin tensions are loose, you can pull apart the seam and easily see lots of the stitching thread in the seam. When the tensions are tight the way they should be, very little of the thread is visible when you pull the seam apart.

    Stress on the seams comes from everyday handling, sitting on a quilt, washing and drying a quilt, hanging, etc. Quilting reduces the stress on seams. The closer together the quilting lines, and the more often quilting crosses over seam lines, the less stress there is on the seams.

    In your particular situation, the seam within the channel will be stressed more than others in the quilt because you have a long seam line that has no quilting stitches running over it. If the stitches used in piecing the seam are tight and secure, then there will be enough support so that no single thread is ever taking all of the stress. If, however, the piecing stitches are loose because of one of the reasons above, sooner or later the stress will be concentrated on a single thread and that thread will break.

    Edit: Shortening stitch length does make for a more secure seam; however, it also adds thread to the seam and makes un-sewing more difficult. That would be my last resort if I couldn't get the tensions right on my machine.

    This is very helpful! Considering that I am unsure whether or not my piecing stitches were at perfect tension (although they seemed ok, neither top nor bobbin were stretched flat), would you still err on the side of caution and find a way to add more quilting? I'd prefer not to, as I like the simple design I have done. But it would be better than a disaster down the road. Here is a picture of the channel I'm concerned about, if that helps!
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    If you used wider seams and pressed to the side and not pressed the seams open, it should be okay. It also helps to put in more quilting then the package calls for to prevent the layers from moving when it is washed. If you are concerned about that seam, you could stitch in the ditch down it and it wouldn't detract from the other quilting.
    Last edited by Tartan; 02-28-2018 at 09:02 PM.

  12. #12
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I think that if, as Tartan mentions, you pressed the seams to the side, it should be okay. Keep in mind that vintage quilts were hand pieced with a single thread. They stayed together largely because of close quilting, often 2" apart.

    The gray fabric isn't a knit, by any chance, is it?

    Edit: I could be biased because I don't think it's a big deal to hand stitch an opened seam back together. But I might be in the minority on that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    The gray fabric isn't a knit, by any chance, is it?
    Yes it Is a knit! I asked in another reply above if that might be a benefit since it is interlock (t-shirt) which typically doesn't fray. This is a memorial quilt made from the shirts of a friend's 16 year old son who passed, so I Really don't want it to fall apart!! I've never worked with apparel before so I don't know what to expect from these fabrics! It has been a challenge. The other fabrics used are thermals and woven flannel.
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 03-07-2018 at 07:01 AM. Reason: remove shouting/all caps

  14. #14
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    Suggest that you check the width of the seam before you quilt it. If it is less than 1/4" than sew the seam to the 1/4" width. You don't have to take the too narrow seam out first. If the fabric is shredding - happened to me once, even with the 1/4" seam, LQS fabric, too - do a narrow zig zag down the seam to prevent more shredding.

    I make these suggestions because I am not sure that quilting down the seam will make up for a too narrow seam or seams shredding apart. And it is 1000% easier to fix seams before you quilt than after.

    Just saw your response to Prism99. I have never made a quilt using knit shirts, so my suggestions may be invalid - except that it is easier to fix seems before you quilt.
    Last edited by cathyvv; 02-28-2018 at 09:29 PM.
    A quilt is like a good life. It's full of mistakes, but, in the end, it looks pretty good.

  15. #15
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I really like what you've done with this quilt. It looks very comforting as well as very reminiscent of a young man. It is quite a challenge using all of those different fabrics.

    If you ever sew with knit fabrics again, you would be better off using a very narrow zigzag stitch. This is because knit fabrics stretch and a narrow zigzag allows the stitching to stretch a little too. A zigzag would have given your seams more flexibility. However, because the gray is interlock, it's probably not as serious as with other knit fabrics. This is because interlock is soft and can flex a lot around the stitching line. With many stretchy knits, if you sew a straight line and then put stress on the seam (for example, by pulling both ends of the stitching line), the thread will break because the fabric will stretch while the seam does not.

    I still think you will be okay without additional quilting. The good thing about interlock is that, if the seam does open up, it's pretty simple to hand sew it back together by hand. Because it doesn't fray, you will still have a seam allowance to tuck in.

    If you have scraps left of the interlock fabric, you could create a test strip to kind of test the seam. I would seam two strips of the interlock, sandwich it with some leftover batting and backing, and sew quilting lines 2" apart just as in your original. Then twist and pull on the strip every which way to see if the seam holds up against stress.

    If the thread in the seam snaps, you might want to consider adding some quilting. I wouldn't add another line in the same direction, but maybe add some perpendicular lines (running east-west to your current north-south) to cross that long seam. They could even zig and zag around blocks, staying in the gray interlock. This would strengthen the entire quilt and still be in keeping with the masculine nature of the quilt. In the photo above, I could see a quilting line coming from the right, following in the seam to the middle of the next gray strip, then proceeding on to the left. You wouldn't have to do this in every block; you could skip some. Or maybe not zig zag, but keep moving up when you encounter a block, making them long zig zag diagonals. Then another line similar, starting a couple of blocks down. This would be a modern type of quilting design that would not detract from what you already have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    If you have scraps left of the interlock fabric, you could create a test strip to kind of test the seam. I would seam two strips of the interlock, sandwich it with some leftover batting and backing, and sew quilting lines 2" apart just as in your original. Then twist and pull on the strip every which way to see if the seam holds up against stress.
    This is a great idea! I was kind of considering doing this but was a little worried it might not be representative of real-world wear and tear. But you Really seem to know your stuff, so since you recommend it I'm definitely going to try it!

    Thank you for the compliment! Masculine/modern is exactly what I was going for. I added a couple more pictures. If you look closely you can see where some stretching while quilting has warped otherwise straight lines. An unfortunate but difficult toprevent side effect of working with apparel fabrics! That is why I chose apattern with intentionally wonky blocks.. it hides my flaws pretty well!

    I also want to thank you So Much for all the time you havetaken (and everyone else too!) to help me out! I am feeling much morecomfortable with this quilt now! Also, as you point out, if any threads were tobreak, I will not have a hard time fixing since it won’t fray (unlike my otherpoor quilt that was ruined)!
    Attached Images Attached Images

    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 03-07-2018 at 07:02 AM. Reason: remove shouting/all caps

  17. #17
    Super Member Dolphyngyrl's Avatar
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    Decrease your stitch length when piecing
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    What size is this quilt? On some garment fabric, like in t-shirt quilts, it is advised to back the fabric with a non woven fusible lit weight interfacing....in the piecing process, might be something to remember if asked to do another memory piece.....
    i think what you have done in the quilt design is sufficient to keep the integrity of the piecing in tact.

  19. #19
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Wow! That is such a wonderful quilt! It really captures the essence of a 16yo young man. After seeing your entire quilting pattern, I really think that is enough quilting. I wouldn't add more. When you present the quilt to the family, I would give them instructions on how to treat it gently. It can be used to drape over a couch, wrap up in, even make forts with, but they wouldn't want to routinely sit on it. Washer should not have a central agitator, wash cycle should be short with cool water, and remove from dryer before completely dry. Never hang wet on a clothesline. And return it to you for repairs right away if they should see a seam coming apart or other problem. Earlier repair is much easier and better for the quilt.

    Honestly, though, I think the quilt will be fine as is. What a wonderful gift to the family!

  20. #20
    Power Poster RedGarnet222's Avatar
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    I just understood what your quilt content is. I am sorry. This is like making a t-shirt quilt. I did that Once. as a favor to the diabetes association in my area for their office with cut out t shirt fronts as the blocks from past events. I had to stabilize the t shirt from behind with a knit interfacing to stabilize the block before piecing it. It was way too stretchy to sew without it. I used regular cotton fabric for the sashings and border. When it was all assembled, I quilted the wall hanging with a stippled all over design and I echoed around the images. It had 80/20 black batting and a cotton backing. That made for a heavy finish, but a finish none the less. I swore never again.

    I suppose what I am trying to say is, it is best to stick with regular cotton fabric. The knit is hard to work with. I work with polyester spandex blends for summer tops. I love it as a garment. But a quilt? No thanks too much work and weight for my poor wrists on my domestic machine for quilting.

    By the way, use a knit or a zig zag stitch to quilt with or you will have popped out stitches from the weight of it in the wash or pulling on it. I suppose the batting will stabilize it somewhat. At least I hope so for all of the nice work you did on it.
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 03-07-2018 at 07:02 AM. Reason: remove shouting/all caps
    RedGarnet222

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    If I were you, considering the 3 stitch length, and the loose weave of several of the fabrics, I would sitd with a wide decorative stitch on every seam, or at a minimum a serpentine. Holding this quilt together is the most important consideration.



    "The quilt that I had a problem with I used quality quilting fabric, but I was inexperienced and did random straight-line quilting from edge to edge on all different angles. But not nearly enough. So some parts of the quilt had several inches without any quilting.

    For this quilt I did Slightly larger than 1/4 inch seam allowance, should that be enough insurance that it will hold up? My stitch length was 3, I didn't know I should piece with smaller stitches!! Also, the fabrics are all interlock (t-shirt), flannel and thermal fabrics (it is a memorial quilt made from clothing, which I've never done before). My sashing at the seam I'm worried about is all interlock, so maybe this should be reassuring since it doesn't fray??"
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 03-07-2018 at 07:02 AM. Reason: remove shouting/all caps

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    If you have scraps left of the interlock fabric, you could create a test strip to kind of test the seam. I would seam two strips of the interlock, sandwich it with some leftover batting and backing, and sew quilting lines 2" apart just as in your original. Then twist and pull on the strip every which way to see if the seam holds up against stress.
    Ok so I tried this. I made a test piece and pieced and quilted it as I did with the quilt. Even with moderate pulling, the stitching was popping left and right!! I tried several stitch lengths and zig-sagging but nothing really helped. Both the piecing and the quilting are not holding up!!!

    I considered for a minute requilting this, even in a different pattern if needed, using stretchy thread. But then I considered that if I quilt with stretch thread it will probably leave the regular thread I used for piecing even more vulnerable to popping!!

    So I've realized I've done this all wrong. But I have two thoughts:

    1. If I requilt it using regular thread in a traditional stippling pattern, perhaps having a less linear quilting pattern will prevent as much stress on any given line of stitching or individual stitch? In theory I could see how this could help.

    2. Someone mentioned above that I could have lined the knit fabrics with a woven interfacing before piecing. It's too late for doing this before piecing obviously. But what about possibly using a lightweight fusible interfacing on the entire pieced front? I'm not sure how this would affect the feel of the quilt but it seems like this might be the most secure option???

    Anyone have any thoughts?

  23. #23
    Power Poster RedGarnet222's Avatar
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    You might have to chalk this one up to lesson learned. Even if something is cotton it can be stretchy and unsuitable for a quilt. After all your work, I hope you don't get discouraged from making another quilt. You seem to have really a talent for quilting.
    RedGarnet222

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  24. #24
    Super Member Peckish's Avatar
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    I didn't see anyone mention anything about the thread you're using. Don't use old thread. Don't use rayon thread. In my experience, serger thread isn't good for quilting either (others may disagree with me, which is fine). Use a good quality cotton or polyester thread. Don't use thread that says "hand quilting" because it will mess up your machine.

  25. #25
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I have been giving this quilt some thought. If you are willing to take the quilting out, as in option #2, I think there are several things you can do to make this quilt strong. If you decide to take out the quilting, be sure to Google "how to skin a quilt" before you start to get some tips on how to make this job easier and faster.

    After looking at your quilt some more, I think that a lot of the issues arise from the use of cotton interlock for the sashing and backing. I used cotton interlock for my daughter's dresses years ago, so I know how soft and stretchy it is. Most people who make t-shirt quilts, whether or not they first use fusible interfacing on the t-shirts, use regular quilting cotton for the sashing. Sewing a stretchy fabric to a non-stretchy fabric will prevent the seam from stretching enough to break the thread, even if you use a straight stitch instead of a small zigzag.

    It is not a good idea to try to replace the sashing fabric. However, I am thinking you could replace the backing with a woven quilting cotton. Quilting would do what I described above -- secure a stretchy fabric to a stable fabric, preventing the quilting thread from breaking. I do think you might have to change to a smaller, closer-together quilting pattern (it could still be straight lines) to make sure that only small distances of the interlock seams are exposed to stretching.

    Replacing the backing fabric and adding closer quilting would probably be enough. I am not an expert on fusing interfacing to stretchy fabrics, but I am thinking that trying to fuse a single piece of interfacing to your quilt top would be difficult because of all the seams. If you do want to try fusing, definitely make up a test block with your fabrics first, including seams, to make sure it will do what you want. Also, the brand and type of interfacing you use would be very important. The wrong kinds would add considerable weight and stiffness to the quilt. My concern about using a lightweight fusible such as Pellon P44F, which is often used to line tie silk before cutting into shapes for quilts, is that it might not be heavy enough for the cotton interlock. Again, if you want to try this, test the fusible on a scrap of the interlock to make sure it will prevent it from stretching.

    It seems to me that changing the backing fabric to a woven cotton would be enough. I would spray baste the quilt sandwich together to ensure the top fabric does not stretch while you are quilting. If you really, really want to line the quilt top, then instead of fusible interfacing, I would look for an extremely lightweight muslin, prewash and dry it for shrinkage, and spray baste that to the underside of the quilt top. Muslin will not dissolve or come apart the way fusible interfacing eventually does, even if the muslin is very fine. You would want to spray-baste these two layers together -- which makes it a temporary fusing. The muslin would be the very cheap kind -- as thin and flimsy as you can find. You do not want a heavy, good quality muslin for this job.

    Honestly, though, I don't think you need to line the quilt top if you (1) replace the backing with a woven cotton, and (2) quilt more closely. Maybe make up a test strip to test. If threads still break, then add the fine muslin lining to the top.

    Edit: Peckish has a point. What thread did you use for the quilting? In addition to all of the above, I would recommend switching to the heaviest polyester thread that looks good. Polyester thread is stronger than cotton thread, so a polyester thread the same weight and ply as a cotton thread will be less likely to break. Glide is an excellent brand, but Superior Threads has good ones too. I would look for a poly thread with a weight similar to Glide. Bottom Line, for example, would be too fine. Look for a matte finish in the poly thread, if possible. (Glide is slightly shiny, as are many polyester quilting threads.)
    Last edited by Prism99; 03-06-2018 at 12:18 PM.

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