Friday, July 30, 2010

Bernina 820/830 Threads and Tension

Several Bernina Series 8 owners and I were having troubles with our new machines:  threads breaking, getting wound around the bobbin, warning lights going on too often, etc.  Yes, these are sensitive machines, but they also have amazing features we want to use. Not to mention that I have a quilt I want to finish yesterday!

So, Suze and I went to spend a morning with dear Donna at The Cotton Patch in Lafayette this week. On a cotton quilt sandwich with a batting of similar loft to the Quilters' Dream Cotton I typically use, we experimented until we got it right.

Free motion quilting with a #29 foot, we found the following made perfect stitches without any tension, breakage, or entanglement issues:

  • Top Tension at 3.0, Topstitch 90 Schmetz needle, Single Stitch Throat Plate, pulling about 8" of bobbin thread to the top before starting with a few close stitches:
    • With Superior Polyester Monofilament in the bobbin, wound at half speed, and the bobbin tension TWO CLICKS RIGHT of normal
      • Top threads that worked with this:
        • 40 weight Superior/Hollis Chatelain Living Colors, Nature Colors and Highlights (I have every color these come in)
        • 40 weight Mettler Quilting Cotton
        • 40 weight Mettler Poly Sheen
        • 30 weight Aurifil cotton

  • YLI 40 weight cotton in variegated solid colors -- top and bobbin -- worked for free motion quilting with Top Tension at 1.25 and Bobbin Tension at Normal
  • At home later, I found that with Alex Anderson's Masterpiece thread, I had to set top tension at 1.0 with MonoPoly at TWO CLICKS RIGHT of normal in the bobbin.  Or is it that I stitch faster than Donna was stitching? (The reason I don't use the BSR is because I like to stitch fairly fast.)

    Appliqué with Superior Bottom Line in the bobbin and Superior MonoPoly on top, which we used with a 5.5mm throat plate, foot #20C, and stitch No. 2 or 3, bobbin tension TWO CLICKS RIGHT of normal

    Bobbin Thread Painting worked great with heavy Jeans thread in the bobbin (sorry, the label is gone so I can't state the particulars) and MonoPoly on top, bobbin tension TWO CLICKS LEFT of normal, Top Tension at 3.0, Topstitch 90 needle.

    Still to be resolved, which our genius tech guy (Chris at Cotton Patch) will look into this week:

    • Using Superior Living Colors or Nature Colors or Highlights both on the top and in the bobbin, I still had breakage. 
    • Using Superior's 40 weight Rainbows on top, I had major breakage.
    My thanks to Donna, Suze, Carolie, Cotton Patch, and Created by CJ for getting me to focus in and resolve these questions. I hope this helps others, too!


    1. What a great post Chris, thank you for sharing the results of your experiments!

    2. Hi Chris:
      It was my pleasure to work with you and Suze. I really enjoyed our time together.
      You've done a fabulous job here with the threads / settings etc.
      Thank you for sharing.
      Hope to see you in the shop soon.

    3. I love how quilters help each other! Thanks for your comments, CJ and Donna!

    4. See my Post of 8/13/10 for a News Flash on this subject!

    5. So glad I found this post. I have an 820 and still trying to figure out the ideal settings for free motion quilting. Am I right to understand you use the #29 foot instead of the BSR foot ? Do you use the dual feed foot for straight stitching or a walking foot? Thanks

    6. Does anyone have experience on the 820 with dissolving thread? I'm trying to use the dual feed funtion with dissolving thread in the top and bottom. I've turned one click to the right on the bobbin, but can't seem to keep the thread from breaking on the top, even when I dial down the top tensions to almost zero.


    7. I love you, you have saved the day! So much trouble and just two clickjs to the right and it is a prefect stitch, thank you so much,