A Frustrating Quilt | The Thread is Breaking + The Tension is Building!

Seeking spiritual enlightenment often requires a person to detach themselves from conscious thought and to cease distractions of the world entering their mind. By working on this quilt I am in such despair that I am one step away from my brain shutting down and I will attain the meditative state of thinking of nothing.

I hate this quilt it makes me sad copy

This quilt is a troublemaker. It is truly getting on my last nerve. I used to love this quilt, I am really getting into improve style quilting. This quilt was made in a day, just before I moved out of my old house back in august. (yes it takes me ages to get round to actual quilting…) But seriously, how can you not love a quilt that you made in a day that still looks good despite that? Well, I soon found out how.


The first problem that I ran into was during basting. I was spray basting, because it is so much easier and quicker that thread or pin basting. I love spray basting! I sang away. But then I ran out half way through. Oh. So I had to do a bunch of basting with safety pins. I hate pin basting. I sobbed.

I was still basting by the time the second quilt problem announced itself. ‘Look at my gaping hole!’ It sneered at me. A bit rude, I thought. So out comes the needle and thread. I close up the hole. And I do the tiniest zig zag stitching on the edges of the disappearing seam, in the hopes that it would prevent a hole appearing later on in life. And I patch the area with matching canvas to strengthen the area. I figure I will quilt heavily on this patch to keep it all there.

tiny tiny zig zag stitches



I decide I would quilt in a spiral using the walking foot on my Bernina B330, since it is meant to be really good for quilting as it moves the bottom fabric at the same time as the top fabric so it prevents any chance of puckering. I’ve never quilted a spiral, and I was so excited!


I did the first circle part! And then it just went from bad to worse, quite quickly. Spiral quilting is deceptively hard; it actually is something that looks easier than it is. Spiralling out of control? It all makes sense now!

My advice if you want to quilt a spiral design, is to first test out whether you like to go clockwise or anticlockwise. I did not test, and going anticlockwise felt very unnatural to me. I switched to a darning foot to see if it would improve things, and it definitely made it easier and smoother, but I still just wanted to be going the other way the whole time.


After a few encounters with the safety pins, my needle broke in quite an impressive manner. Look at the hole it punched through the safety pin! The thread didn’t even break!


With new needle in, I just got on with it. Trying to be better at free motion quilting. Focus. The top thread began to break. There was a weird fluffy bit, so I got rid of a portion of the thread to make sure that none of the weak thread would be in the quilt, but unfortunately the top thread still breaks every couple of rounds.


I have had to start and stop so much and I keep jumping the thread when I begin to sew again, but by now I have stopped caring. It is just for me after all, and some parts of it look really textural! I actually increased the wonkiness of the spiral to make it look like it was always my intention…clever right?

I considered unpicking, but because I had started and stopped with tiny stitches so many times it would have been too difficult. I feel that there is no other option but to just go on wading through the excrement that is this quilt. Is that too far?

Let me know in the comments if you have ever had the misfortune of having to deal with a project that just keeps testing your limits, it is always more fun to talk bad about crafts with others!

Linked to Let’s Bee Social and WIP Wednesday and Quilt Story



31 thoughts on “A Frustrating Quilt | The Thread is Breaking + The Tension is Building!

  1. Oh my! You are so very brave to continue with that spiral quilting! I’ve got squares cut out; however still haven’t gotten on my sewing machine and put it all together. This will be my first quilt and I’m scared to start 😦 Maybe it’s not as hard as I think it is…just like knitting socks? My very first lace shawl was like that. I frogged so many times until I started using a lifeline. I was ready to frog it for good; however perseverance kept me going and it turned out beautiful. Kudos to you for continuing on in spite of the setbacks. I know it will turn out awesome, just like everything you make!

    1. Thanks Paula, I am brave! I think you should totally get the quilt going! Quilting isn’t too hard, there just a few steps involved! Like the socks, I think quilting will become demystified once you do it. You will love it! And definitely blog about it, I would love to see! 🙂

  2. I feel your pain! On Christmas eve I finished up the first and last quilt I will ever back with inexpensive (Star Wars) flannel. The fabric bunched, threads kept breaking and I kept swearing. I discovered that things went smoother when I regularly cleaned the (massive amounts of) lint out of my machine 🙂 Wine helped too.

    1. Oh no! That is a good call too, I will check the lint levels! 🙂 I keep telling myself it will be worth it in the end! I think writing all my complaints down will help me reconciliate with this quilt. I’ve literally just been giving it dirty looks all day. 🙂

  3. How incredibly frustrating. I have had moments like this in my quilting… particularly before I ungraded my sewing machine (you’re already rockin’ one at the same level as my upgrade so no solution there). Have you played the change the needle game? Switched the brand of thread? I recently had some ugly incidents when using a new brand. I can’t help myself… I so feel your pain in this post that I want to offer suggestion after suggestion! As frustrating as it all sounds to me, it looks good! 🙂

    1. Oh your so kind to offer your help! I’m going to take a look at the lint levels, and clear the bugger out. My old machine was a nightmare to work with too, dark dark times… I’m really boring and I don’t switch between brands much after I find something that works for me! 🙂 I am drawn to blaming the random fluffy bit that appeared, and I think I actually have another spool of the same colour which I could try. If not, I guess I’ll just struggle on! Thankyou for your empathy! 🙂

  4. Oh god, who hasn’t had that kind of experience? Every. Bloody. Week!!! The double quilt I’m hand quilting at the moment has just about everything going for it: blood stains, fraying seams, stitches from the humungous to the minute…meh, who cares, no-one but me’s going to be looking at it under a microscope! I don’t know if you know Mari’s blog The Quilting Edge, but she has a WONDERFUL tutorial for machine quilting spirals – so many little tips that would make all the difference I’m sure – and would take a year of Sundays to work out on your own!!! http://www.thequiltingedge.com/search/label/Tutorial%2FSpirals Happy New Year Hanna! x

    1. Thanks! I did look at that tutorial, but ofcourse i did it after I began… lesson learnt. Research is best done before you begin, not after! Duh. ☺ I think the best tip is probably go slow. I was cocky and rushed it. I love the sound of your quilt, it sounds intense! My first hand quilting sample was a bit blood spotted! As you say so well, who cares! It is for me. I’m now not paying attention to how it looks so much, but thinking of it as a good practice piece for starting and stopping. Mindset. Thanks for your lovely comment, humorous as always. ☺

    1. Oh no! To your knees! ☺ I think not only stepping away from it from a couple of days has helped me too! That, and writing all the things I hate about it. Now I feel more prepared to tackle the issues, as I’m not as frustrated so will be able to take more logical actions rather than just sitting and shouting at the quilt and the machine in turn WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?

  5. Double Check your sewing machine manual… to see if you have the needle in the correct direction or in the right spot… On my machine I managed to get my needle just to the left of the proper needle slot and my threads kept breaking…. the other thing to double check: is your machine threaded properly?… some times my thread will jump a hook or not be in between the tensioning disks where it’s supposed to be. Have you tried your regular thread with just 2 pieces of cotton fabric… do some piecing as you’ll have to go the same amount of distance for the thread to break like on the quilt for a fair test … If your tread still breaks, you know it’s not the quilt! It could be that when you hit that last safety pin, it knocked something out of alignment…. your machine will have to go the sewing machine hospital… sorry.

    1. No! Don’t say the H word! ☺ everyones comments are so great, i feel like im in a murder mystery! Each comment we get closer to catching the culprit! Yes, now you mention it I have sewn up a pillow using the same thread combination (i was too lazy to change it) but my laziness proved that maybe it is the quilt, not the machine. Unless I’m still not quite right with the tension. What I will do when I sit down to it next is to rethread, check lint, and check needle. Cover all the bases! ☺ Thankyou so much!

  6. If you’ve changed your needle and are using the correct needle, say #90 topstitch and rethreaded your machine, my guess is smashing your way through that safety pin threw the timing off.

    1. Yes, another commentor mentioned that thought of horror! 🙂 I think it is okay as I have sewn a cushion cover since the falling out, and all was well. It must be something about the quilt! Thanks for your help!

  7. Ouch! Poor you. I just broke 5 needles in about 1 hour of quilting on my latest quilt. It sucks when quilts misbehave.

    If the thread is still breaking, you might want to try changing the needle. Sometimes when thread frays and breaks like that it means that it is rubbing on a burr somewhere and a needle is the most common culprit.

    1. Hi Catherine, thanks for your input! I always wondered what the fluffy bits were! I thought it was my thread. I even considered writing an angry letter to the manufacturer (ofcourse secretly hoping they would give me more… I would have sellotaped the fluffy bit to the letter as evidence.) All hypothetical ofcourse. 🙂

    1. Hi Jennifer! Yes, I am so reassured from everyone’s empathy, and it shows everybody has had ‘one of those’ types of quilts. 🙂 Yep, still smiling: well, half gritting, half smiling. :}

  8. Oh, girl. Let me first say that I think this quilt is beautiful, even in its unfinished state. I think it’s beautiful because it’s very interesting and different, and I like the colors. Also, let me say that I believe nothing handmade is ever wrong, especially if you can make it work! I hope you find a way to finish this one. Maybe you switch the spiral or try a different free motion quilting design or just do straight line (maybe wonky?) quilting to finish it out. Yes, I have had a challenging quilt. It was my second quilt, and I decided that I would 1) heavily piece the back (which made it extra heavy and hard to quilt through), 2) free motion quilt in metallic thread (which kept breaking because of the thickness of the quilt sandwich), and 3) do a scrap-pieced binding. Why I wanted to do it ALL on one quilt, I don’t know! Call it a learning experience. I would do all of these things again (well, maybe not the heavily pieced back!), but never together! Also, I think I broke about 10 needles (no kidding!) trying to do the free motion quilting WITH metallic thread THROUGH all those seams! You live and you learn!

    1. Oh thankyou so much! I never thought of switching the spiral. I could sort of just do a u-turn and go the other way, your a freakin genius. 🙂 I’ve been working on it some more after a thorough machine clean (it wasn’t even that linty) I oiled it, rethreaded, and changed needles. It seems better. The thread still breaks a bit too often than I would prefer, but I’m dealing with it. Your quilt sounds like textiles self harm. Why would you put yourself through that!? I actively avoid numbers 1 +2, but occasionally delve into some scrap binding! It does sound like you made an interesting quilt however!

  9. Who hasn’t had a quilt like that? It looks great to the rest of the world, but you know it’s just a beast! i recommend a time-out, a week or more! then when you come back it will have been properly chastised and may behave. Good luck!

    1. Haha! Exactly. Yes, I have been doing small chunks of time on it rather than trying to ‘just get it done’. If I am rushing to get it out of my life I know I will do it the quickest way, and not the way I wanted it. Thanks for the luck. I love your blog by the way. 🙂

  10. Oh No. My heart goes out to you. That kind of frustration makes one wonder what kind of karmic load we are working out. I had a similar experience last summer and fall. I even facebooked and blogged about it. I was ready to throw my very expensive Viking into the creek. I have the added issue of living in the back country; many miles from repair. I did everything you did, retreaded, new needle, cleaned, vacuumed, swore, cried, prayed… sigh. After 3 separate trips to different repair shops over 3 months, and bad experiences with customer disservice I think it is fixed. My sister even sent me a different machine. Meanwhile I had been using my old Singer and hobbled through the holidays.

    HOWEVER< the quilt you are making is awesome. Super. Persevere. I wonder what you will name it, the story of the naughty quilt. I love your honesty, and ingenuity, and I look forward to your next post. Hugs and chocolate. Jane

    1. Hi Jane, I love that we can share quilt war stories! It’s like that scene in Jaws where they show off their scars. “I got you beat!” Your quilt war does sound more extreme than mine however, so I guess you do got me beat. Thankyou for your wonderful comments too, it’s so nice to hear such lovely words of encouragement. I haven’t ever really named or labeled any of my quilts, I do note down when I made it in a book and just sort of put down things like ‘colourful crazy quilt, Polycotton.’ How boring is that? I will change my ways, and be more creative with this one for sure! 🙂

    2. I’m having issues with blogspot today with leaving comments, so I may have left you many or none at all! But I read your post on your machine going haywire. Sounds terrible-something-awful. And I hope you feel better these days, I know I get the same way. I become this lump. I live alone so no-one sees it, but it happens. I definitely just lump about my flat sitting around waiting for the sun to go down again. I switch my goal from being productive to ‘yeah, I better just rest. My body is telling me to rest.’ When I rest, boy do I rest!

  11. I tried spiral quilting for the first time as well recently and the tension wasn’t great-but it is done and that is that! I think I will try on a smaller project next time and see if that is any easier. Good luck & hope that both the quilt and machine behave for you!! 🙂

    1. Thanks Emilee! That is interesting that you say that you had problems too. I’m thinking the same exact thing about spiralling a smaller quilt; I really liked the look of the spiral quilting, but it was incredibly difficult to handle at times! 🙂

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