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What causes eyelashes when sewing?

The term eyelashes is used when there is an extreme case of looping of the threads on the back or top of a quilt. The typical response to eyelashes is to blame the thread for causing the problem. This reaction is often times incorrect. While bad thread can definitely lead to uneven tension and a host of other problems, it's best to start triage process with your machine.

The first thing to check is whether or not the top thread is properly threaded. Is it in the takeup lever? Sometimes, the top thread doesn't clip into the takeup lever or it falls out. A top thread that is not properly seated in the takeup lever will not stitch properly and will cause significant thread buildup beneath the needle plate or cause eyelashes.

Is your needle damaged or worn? Needles are the least expensive tool in our sewing kit. It does not hurt to try a new needle and see if this improves or fixes any stitch-related problems.

Thread not properly seated in the takeup lever

Thread not properly seated in the takeup lever

Example of eyelashes from uneven tension

Example of eyelashes from uneven tension

Another source of eyelashes is speed. If you are stitching too fast and moving the fabric faster than the stitch has time to create a chain of stitches, eyelashes can result. Try to move your hands, if you are free motion quilting, or move the machine slower around curves and angles.

Now for the most common culprit, tension. Do not be afraid to adjust your machine's top and bobbin tension. There's a reason why home machines have a number system in place for tension, you can always revert back to a previous setting. If you are experiencing looping on the back of your fabric, your top tension may be too loose or bobbin tension is too tight. Compensate for the difference by tightening your top tension first. If you are have rethreaded your machine, put a new needle in, reduced your stitching speed and are still experiencing problems. Try loosening your bobbin tension by turning the tension screw in small, 1/4-turn increments. If your machine is in good working order, one of these recommended fixes should resolve the eyelashes problem.

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