Tips And Tools Tuesday – Some Breaking of Bread, Some Breaking of Thread

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with a dear friend who is going through some health issues. We ate lunch, and chatted a while.

She is not able to work in her sewing room right now, and wanted to work on hand-piecing quilt blocks. So, I had brought something with me to work on. We pieced, and visited, and laughed. (I think I received the greater blessing out of that visit.) It was a good day.

I brought some Drunkard’s Path units, that I had cut out eighteen years ago, to work on. Yep, you read that right. Eighteen.

I’d had had a blood clot in my leg, and was on my back, on the couch, with my leg elevated above my heart.  I was only allowed to get up to go use the bathroom, and then, right back on the couch. The kids took care of the house, the laundry, and the cooking while my Sweetheart was at work. And, he helped when he got home at night. I could fold the smaller pieces of the laundry on my chest. That was all I could do.  And I looked forward to it! (Did I just say that????) It broke up the monotony of just laying there.

What’s a body to do to keep from going stir crazy?

I had begun learning to quilt about a year and a half before this happened. We were homeschooling at the time, so I hadn’t had much free time to make blocks or quilt.

Well, I had free time then!

I decided to try hand-piecing.  I’d been wanting to learn how to make the Drunkard’s Path block. The kids brought me my sewing supplies, fabric scraps, scissors, a pencil, a clip board, and the paperboard back of a legal pad.  I drew the pattern pieces onto the paperboard, and cut them out. Then used those templates to trace the patterns onto fabrics scraps and cut them out.

I cut a zillion of those pieces out of scraps and muslin. Okay, a zillion is a bit of a hyperbole, but there were enough pieces to make this more-than-queen-sized quilt. (I’m in the process of hand-quilting it.)

And, have a bunch left over!

Some units have been pieced.
And, I still have a tin full of pieces.

Come to think of it, these are the perfect pieces to keep in my “Go” bag!

One of the many things we laughed about yesterday as we pieced, was an incident with my sewing machine the day before. I had been machine quilting this donation quilt.

Anyway, when I started the machine quilting for this project, it just so happened that I already had the perfect colors in my collection of threads. These threads had been used before on some other project, so, I chose a couple of light pink spools for the front, and a couple of spools of medium pink for the bobbins, just to make sure I’d have enough thread for all of the quilting. Everything was going along smoothly. I’d already used up the first spool of each of the pinks and was on to the seconds. I’d been quilting again for a little while, when, my top thread kept breaking! “What in the world is going on here?”, I thought. I re-threaded my machine. Thread broke again! Got my sewing machine manual out and checked the Trouble Shooting section on thread breakage. Adjusted my top tension. Broke again.  (See, I’d had this problem once before, and the culprit ended up being lint collection in the bobbin housing, bobbin case, and under the throat plate.) It couldn’t be lint, I’d already quilted two-thirds of the quilt and had very little lint accumulation. But, I’d already done everything else they’d suggested to fix the problem and still the top thread was breaking.

I opened the doors to the bobbin housing.  What!!!????   I couldn’t believe how much lint was in there!  Apparently, the second spool of the chosen bobbin thread, though identical to the first in color and brand, was MUCH older than the first. I removed the bobbin, wrapped some around my right hand a couple of times, and pulled the bobbin with my left hand with a decent amount of force. Snap!


Well, since I only had about one-third of the quilting to go, I decided to go ahead and finish it with this thread in the bobbin.  I did, however, FREQUENTLY clean the lint from the bobbin housing, bobbin case, and every place in there I could get to where lint could possibly be.  The thread never broke again.  When the quilting was done, the little remaining thread on that bobbin, I unwound and threw away.

This brings me to …..      the rest of the story.

The sewing machine I use for quilting, has two spool holders on top. The spool for the top thread is on the left (pictured on the right here), and I keep the spool for the bobbin thread on the right (pictured left here). Since I knew I wasn’t going to use the thread on that spool again, I removed the thread from the bobbin winding guide and left it dangling up in the elevated thread guide. 

Well, I was just quilting right along, when, suddenly, the bobbin thread spool jumped right off of the little spool spindle!

The dangling thread had somehow found it’s way over to the hand wheel and gotten wrapped around it. Snugly! Oh, good grief!

I cut the thread and started unwrapping it thinking, “Just a few wraps around a couple of my fingers should remove it.” Well, a few wraps became a few more. Then, I started wrapping it around all of my fingers, because that would take up more thread and get it off faster, right? Each time I thought, “Surely I’m going to come to the end of it any second now.” Nope. By this time, my fingers are so wrapped up in thread, (different combinations of fingers wrapped together), that I couldn’t just pull the wad off! I’m right handed, the hand wheel is on the right side of the machine, so of course, I , brilliantly, used my right hand to wrap that blasted thread around. Duh!

Well,  so, my hand is now wrapped up in thread, which is still connected to the thread wrapped around the hand wheel. And, I can’t just pull it to break it because it might just break off inside the hand wheel where I can’t reach it again. 

Ever try to cut something with right-handed scissors, but, using your left hand?


After several ridiculous minutes of  pinching, twisting, and eventually achieving a reasonable facsimile of clipping threads, I was finally freed from this self-inflicted thread hell.

Luckily, no, Thank God! I was able to  remove all of the thread around the handwheel. Then, I took that blasted spool of thread and, joyfully, threw it in the trash! I spent that evening watching TV and testing all of my wound bobbins. I was surprised, no SHOCKED, at how many of the threads had become old and broke. I unwound many.

I shared all of that with you, as a way of introducing today’s “Tip”.

Break your thread! Or, at least, try to.

Some of these threads, I’ve had for a very long time. Evidently, a whole lot longer than I’d realized! Though I’ve known it for a long time, I just don’t often think about my spools of thread and about when the end of their “shelf life”, if you will, has arrived. But, that day does come. 

Maybe I’ll make thread testing part of my “Spring Cleaning” plan. Regular thread breakage testing, at least on a yearly basis, would have saved me a great deal of aggravation!

Today is a good day to “break bread” with a friend. And, a good day to test your thread!

Happy creating!


8 thoughts on “Tips And Tools Tuesday – Some Breaking of Bread, Some Breaking of Thread

  1. Monique says:

    Oh my goodness Diane, that was quite a quilting adventure! I have to admit I was laughing as I was reading because it sounded like an I Love Lucy episode! Anyway, I’m glad you figured out the problem and thank you for the advice. Btw, you made a beautiful quilt and I’m glad you still have more blocks to piece with your friend.

    • lookoutmountainquilter says:

      I love Lucy. Yep, that’s exactly how it was! I’m glad you like the Drunkard’s Path quilt. I love the versatility of that little unit! Have a great day!

  2. Cindy Holcomb says:

    I was cracking up laughing at your story. I have a lot of old thread as well. Thank you for the tip. I definitely will be checking my thread 😁

    • lookoutmountainquilter says:

      You’re welcome. 🙂 Hey, if something stupid I do can help others to not go through that, I’ll gladly share it. 🙂

  3. Dora says:

    I have a machine like that with 2 thread holders on top. I will now try to remember to put ONLY one spool on at a time! Thanks. Beautiful quilt too.

    • lookoutmountainquilter says:

      Thank you! The two thread holders are useful, I just won’t leave any threads dangling from them in the future. 🙂

  4. Roseanne says:

    Hi again! Well, who the heck knew that?! That was quite a wad you pulled off the hand wheel. I can just picture you doing that, and it MAY be from first hand experience or something very similar. ~smile~ Roseanne

    • lookoutmountainquilter says:

      Hi Roseanne,
      Well, they say everyone has a twin. Perhaps not look-alikes, but, maybe twin-ish experiences! 🙂 Yes, that experience was just too funny to keep to myself! I’m glad it gives others a good laugh. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.