The FIVE bobbin sewing challenge

Welcome back! I’ve got something a bit different for you this week. Normally, I go through an in-depth review of a Husqvarna Viking sewing machine. This week, I’m working with the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q and if you’ve been following QUILTsocial for a while, you’ll remember that I did a review of this sewing machine a while back.

I’ll be providing the links to those posts so you can pop over there to get all the details on this fabulous sewing machine.

Day One – reviewing some of the physical aspects of the Opal 690Q

Day Two – some brilliant sewing machine features

Instead of a review, I’ve decided to take the Opal 690Q for a test drive by creating a challenge for myself.

Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q

The Challenge

Even though my studio doesn’t always look as neat and tidy as it could be, there’s a very specific order to the chaos. And one of the things that I’m really trying to make a regular habit of is prioritizing what needs to be done.

And so while the photo below may look totally crazy, this is my priority list – a visual one of what I would like or need to get done in the next couple of weeks.

As I looked at the pile of UFOs, I thought “why not issue myself a challenge and see how the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q stands up to the test?” So that’s what I did. I wound FIVE bobbins of gray thread which is what I use for all my piecing. The challenge was to see how much I could accomplish with those five bobbins.

I’ll walk you through some of the techniques that I worked on, while on others, I’ll let you know what I accomplished and what techniques/accessories I used on the Opal 690Q. I’m going to do a final tally on Friday so you had better stay tuned…

There are loads of tips throughout the posts this week – make sure you catch them all.

My visual “to do” list of quilting projects

The projects

Before I could get started, there were a few things that needed to be done. I started by separating out what I thought I could get done using the five bobbins. No sense having all those other distractions.

A more realistic version of the “to do” list

The tools

I got my box of sewing machine presser feet ready because I knew I was going to need a variety of presser feet. Very handy to have all the presser feet stored in one spot. I have too many feet to fit into the sewing machine accessory box, so this little plastic case works perfectly. Notice there’s a screwdriver in there for when I need to remove the presser foot ankle.

Husqvarna Viking presser feet for the sewing machine

I gathered up some additional supplies, pins, my walking foot, a few extra colors of thread, needles, etc.

Extra supplies for the FIVE bobbin sewing challenge

My scrap basket on the cutting mat is prepped and ready.

Scrap basket for the cutting mat

Prepping the Opal 690Q

Now that I’ve assembled all my tools, supplies and projects, it’s time to get the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q prepped.

I’ve flipped up the lid on the Opal 690Q so I can review the stitches. I’m not just piecing and will need to take advantage of some of those other great stitches.

Four menus of stitches on the flip-up lid of the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q

Let’s not forget to keep the User’s Guide handy. You never know when you’re going to need to look up something.

User’s Guide for the Opal 690Q

Wind those bobbins

Time to wind those bobbins. It’s easy to wind the bobbins and I can place the thread in the vertical position.

Winding the bobbin with the spool of thread in a vertical position

Or I can have the spool of thread in the horizontal position. Notice that in the horizontal position, I’m using a spool cap on the left end of the spool, but when the thread is in the vertical position, no spool cap is necessary.

Winding the bobbin with the spool of thread in a horizontal position

I can even wind the bobbin without unthreading the needle. You MUST use a metal foot if you wind your bobbins this way. Otherwise, you’ll cut grooves in the bottom of the plastic feet. Notice the two long metal bars below the spool of thread. Those metal bars prevent the thread from rubbing on the sewing machine when winding a bobbin.

Yes, I know that is a spool of black thread. There’s a story – wait for it!

Winding a bobbin without unthreading the needle

I’ve threaded the sewing machine with my grey thread that I use for 99% of my piecing. Notice that I’ve placed the thread in the horizontal position and used the appropriate spool caps.

I’ve also added on that extension table. This is my favorite accessory for the sewing machine. I just love that extension table.

Notice also that I have my thread catcher, my snips, a quilter’s awl and last but not least – a seam ripper – just in case. A good day of sewing always includes a little seam ripping!

Can you see my five bobbins?? The other one is in the machine.

Opal 690Q is threaded and ready to sew

OK – I admit that I found a partially filled bobbin and I threw that into the mix as well. Looking at that huge pile of projects (even the abbreviated version), I knew I was going to need all the help I could get.

In this picture, you can see the tools that for me, are absolutely essential for sewing. The snips are easy to use and you don’t have to get your fingers into any finger holes. The seam ripper because let’s face it, as much we like to think we’re perfect, something always seems to end up in the wrong place!  And the last tool is the quilter’s awl. This is an invaluable tool for holding things in position under the presser foot when you can’t and don’t want to get your fingers close to the needle. Let’s not forget my little thread starter! Depending on what I’m sewing, I sometimes find this helpful to start the seam.

Tools and bobbins ready to sew

I’ve installed the Quilter’s ¼” Piecing foot P on the Opal 690Q which is the perfect foot to achieve a scant ¼” seam allowance. What I love about this foot is that it works on all my sewing machines so I can switch from machine to machine with the same project and know that I’m getting the same ¼” seam allowance regardless of which machine I sew on. This scant ¼” seam allowance is dependent on the foot, not on the settings on the sewing machine. A truly ingenious presser foot. A must have for quilters and it comes with the Opal 690Q.

Quilter’s ¼” Presser Foot P


The first task was to prepare some bindings. It seems that there’s always at least one quilt (and often more) that needs binding in my studio. I’m not sure how that happens, but it does. Since I have perfected (more or less), the technique of sewing on the binding completely by machine, this has sped up the process considerably.

I start by joining my binding strips (I like to use 2½”) using a diagonal seam that I’ve pinned and marked. Notice how I leave my selvedge edges hanging over? That makes it easy to see where to stop and start the seam. The selvedges get trimmed off later.

Prepping the diagonal seam for joining the binding strips

I love to chain piece and when I join the binding strips, I chain piece all those small seams. Chain piecing on the Opal 690Q is a breeze. Using the Needle Stop Up/Down function in conjunction with the sensor foot technology means the presser foot pops up ever so slightly whenever I stop sewing. This small lift is just enough to insert the beginning of the next seam right up to the needle which helps to get a more accurate start to each seam.

This is a feature that I really really love. Makes chain piecing, applique and so many more techniques so easy! If you’ve ever had the chance to sew with this feature, you’ll want it on all your machines. Trust me on that one!

The presser foot lifts slightly to allow the next seam to be pushed right up to the needle

Oh yes, let’s check out the settings. The default setting for the stitch length on the Opal 690Q is 2.5. I prefer to sew most of my seams with 2.0. This is one of those things that I change immediately. I could program my own stitch into the machine if I wanted, but I’m OK with reducing the stitch length when I turn on the sewing machine.

Stitch length has been decreased to 2.0

While it might be difficult to see the difference in the photo below, that smaller stitch will provide a tighter seam (for quilting – if you’re sewing clothing, you may want to use the slightly longer stitch length) and prevent the ends of seams from coming apart. This is critical if you’re sewing strips together that you’ll later cut into sections.

Seam on the left is 2.0, seam on the right is 2.5

Even though this was dark fabric, I used my gray thread. If the tension is correct on the sewing machine, you shouldn’t see the stitches. You can see in this sample that there’s a hint of the stitches and that is mostly because of the high contrast thread.

Even with high contrast thread, the well balanced stitches are invisible.

From the right side of the seam, the stitches that were formed using a high contrast thread are virtually impossible to see. It’s such a pleasure to sit down and have to adjust NOTHING and get this beautifully formed stitch.

Stitches are not visible on the right side of the fabric even with high contrast thread

Here’s another great tip. As you’re working, try to keep your work surfaces tidy by putting tools, scraps and other supplies in their appropriate place when you’re finished with them. You can either do it as you’re working or once you’ve finished for the day or finished your project. But TIDY UP!

When I trim those little triangles off the seams to join the binding, I keep them. I know – I’ve hundreds, maybe even thousands of those little triangles. I do use them as enders and leaders when I’m chain piecing. I’m making half square triangles with them, but the supply far exceeds my ability to keep up.

Cut off triangles go into a box waiting to be paired and sewn into half square triangles

When I went through the project pile, I came across a bunch of squares that needed to be stitched together to make half square triangles. This type of thing is also great as an ender or leader when chain piecing so I put them beside the sewing machine to use in my 5 bobbin challenge.

Squares ready to be sewn together to make half square triangles

You can see in this photo that I’ve finished chain stitching the binding seams together (yes – that’s another binding – a brown one this time) and instead of breaking the thread, I’m using one of the little squares to hold the place while I prep the next thing I’m going to chain piece.

Using a half square triangle as an ender/leader when chain piecing

And here’s the first project done. I usually make the binding for my projects even though the project won’t get quilted right away. If I don’t, chances are, I’ll lose the fabric or use that fabric in another project. This project then got moved to the “to be quilted” pile.

Binding is completed for this table runner which is ready to be quilted.

Then I made the binding for another quilt. I told you, I was on a binding mission. There were lots of bindings that needed to be made. This was made using the leftover strips that were used in the quilt. A great way to use up the scraps!

Binding made from leftover scraps in the quilt

And yet another binding. This time, the binding is black flannel. I do make the flannel bindings a bit wider (2¾”). The binding was going on a quilt that was made of fleece front and back with batting so it did need to be a smidgen thicker. Notice that I didn’t change the color of thread!

Black flannel sewn with high contrast thread

Again, the stitches are so well formed with beautiful tension that no stitches are visible on the right side.

The stitches, sewn with high contrast thread, are invisible on the front

In case you’re wondering, I DON’T keep the little triangles of flannel. Nope – those went in my scrap basket on the cutting table.

These flannel triangles went in the scrap basket.

I did have to make an emergency trip to the local quilt shop to get some black thread. For some reason, I had run out and didn’t restock? Don’t tell me that I have misplaced my black thread. Actually, I think my dark thread is a very dark gray and I needed black for my next task. OK – so I cheated on the 5 bobbin challenge a smidgen because I needed to put black thread in the bobbin as well.

Emergency purchase of black thread

There was a good reason, I needed black thread. I sewed the binding onto this quilt which is made from fleece (front and back with batting). The machine stitching is much less visible if you match the thread to the binding color so that’s why I needed black thread.

Binding stitched to the quilt by machine

I’m going to cover the process in greater detail tomorrow so you can see how I stitched the binding to the quilt by machine. I used to hate doing this to a quilt, but now I feel I’ve somewhat perfected the technique and I feel much better about binding quilts using the sewing machine.

Yes, there was ONE more binding to make. This one was from black cotton, again sewn with the high contrast thread which is not visible from the front.

Seam with high contrast thread doesn’t show on the front

Phew, that was a lot of work. I can’t even remember how many bindings I made. OK – if I go back and look at the pictures, I made five bindings and one of them got sewn on the quilt.

The best news, I didn’t go through ONE bobbin to get all that done (yes – I know that one binding I did sew on used black bobbin thread).

However, I’m happy to say that I plowed through those bindings. The Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q did a fabulous job, the tension is perfect, the stitches are so well-formed that they don’t show through even when sewn with high contrast thread. Does it get any better than that?

Well, it does, but you have to wait until tomorrow to see.

My challenge to you is to go through your projects, pick out a couple of things that are urgent or that you would like to get done. Wind five bobbins and get your sewing area set up. Follow along with me as I show you what I accomplished with my five bobbin challenge.

On your mark, get ready, sew!

Have a great day!


This is part 1 of 5 in this series.

Go to part 2: 2 questions before you sew binding by machine

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