This week on my facebook longarm quilt group, a member asked about using monofilament. I mentioned monofilament in a blog post https://wordpress.com/post/freeformquilts.com/626 a while back. Now that I have experimented more with monofilament I need to save my observations here.
I want a monofilament that sews like regular thread but “disappears” into the background fabric so that the quilting and fabric are emphasized instead of the thread lines. After many combinations and brands of monofilament, I finally came up with a repeatable easy solution that works every single time for me. I use Superior Threads Monopoly in the top and Superior Threads So Fine in my bobbin.
Thread Chemistry affects stitching
I tested several clear monofilament threads. Mono filament thread is a single continuous strand of fiber of polyester. Polyester seems to be stronger than other monofilament thread types.
Nylon monofilament threads stretched more and I didn’t like using them, even when I had all the tension loosened way up, they still stretched. I didn’t like how it formed stitches and I liked even less how much they could pull fabric up and warp it.
Quality of thread manufacturing also affects the stitch out. A single strand that is made to exacting thickness will give a consistent result. In a multi fiber thread, slight variations of thread thickness are compensated by the multiple fibers. In a mono filament, a thinner section of thread can cause breakage and malformed stitches.
Once I got my machine setup to form beautiful stitches Superior’s Monopoly did not break. Monopoly also comes in both a clear and a smoke color. Monopoly is matte finishe and so you don’t see a “sparkle” when looking at the quilt from an angle. The smoke is also clear but smokey looking which is great on darker fabrics as light reflectance is minimal and this thread really disappears on dark backgrounds. Due to its matte finish and strength and consistent stitching, I greatly prefer Superior Threads Monopoly.
What is monofilament?
Keep in mind any mono (one strand) filament thread is going to be weaker than a two strand or three strand thread, to compensate that one strand is going to be a little thicker than the single strand of a multi-strand thread. It’s worth mentioning because you might observer that the thread is a little thinner than what you would normal consider for a specific needle size. In face Superior is only .1 mm thick! Needle choice will have a BIG impact on stitching with monofilament. Try first what the manufacturer of that thread suggests. It really does matter.
Superior recommends a #14 needle. I generally use a #14 needle but may go up to a #18 needle in certain cases. If it seems the needle flexing is causing the monopoly to break, go up to a bigger needle size. This is more of an issue when freemotion quilting with monopoly. A thicker/bigger needle is stronger and going to flex less.
Threading path changes
If I am having the monopoly break, I check my threading path. I thread through the only one hole in the top guide post instead of the normal winding around through both holes on the top guide.
Tension really matters
The key to beautiful stitches with Monopoly is your thread tension balance between the top and the bottom. You will need to loosen your top tension. On my Innova two to three full turns to loosen the top tension knob are required. Exactly how much depends on the thread I choose for the bobbin.
Bobbin Thread Affects Stitching with Monofilament
I have found that using monofilament in the top and bobbin really doesn’t work. Monofilament, because it is only one strand of fiber, is very slippery. The monofilament will not “grab” onto another monofilament thread and so the stitch doesn’t form and hold. Sometimes the stitches even skip completely. To get a good stitch formation, I have found that using a multi filament thread in the bobbin is a must. The multi-filament thread will grab the monofilament and form a better stitch.
I choose my bobbin thread based up on the effect I want to see on the back of the quilt. If I want the bobbin thread to have a disappearing effect, I will choose a bobbin thread such as #60 bottom line by Superior and very closely match the color to the quilt backing. Bonus to this combo is that Bottom Line is very thin and a LOT of yardage fits on a bobbin. Less bobbin changes is a very good thing in my mind. I often use #50 weight of many types such as cotton or trilobal polyester. I rarely go to a thicker thread, but have successfully used #40 weight polyester thread too.
Bobbin Case and Tension
The key to the bobbin thread no matter the thickness, is to have consistent tension.I keep repeating this because it is just that important. I have a TOWA bobbin gauge and that has made all the difference in my long arm quilting. GET ONE!
Summary of What I Do to Set Up for Monopoly
For Superior Threads Monopoly in the top and Bottom Line (or any thread in the bobbin) in the bobbin. I use the TOWA tension gauge to set my bobbin case to a value of 180. I loosen my top tension knob about 2.5 turns. Then I test on the edge of the quilt sandwich set and adjust only my top tension knob either looser or tighter to get a perfect stitch. I also test after each bobbin change or whenever I feel the stitch isn’t right.
Problem Solving Tips
- Pokies on the top = loosen top tension and/or check bobbin tension with gauge
- Pokies on the bottom = tighten top tension and/or check bobbin tension with gauge
- Shredding thread.. quilt fabric and batting tension might be too tight. Bop it and see how it bounces. I have a habit of making this too taut.
- Refer to my troubleshooting notes.
4 thoughts on “On Long Arm Quilting with Monofilament”
Since someone asked about that Towa gauge and the tension number. I aim for 180 on my machine. I have it from other longarm quilters that they like anywhere from 170-200. I think it depends on your particular gauge and your particular long-arm machine. It depends on the springs and how old or worn they are. Superior threads has an excellent education guide on how to use the Towa.
Is it possible to use a nylon thread on the bottom and monofilament on top?
I haven’t tried. I think it would depend on how “grabby or slippery the nylon is. Try it and let me know. I don’t have any nylon thread because of its low melting point. I like to iron.
I think you could. But, I really don’t like nylon thread, it has a very low melting point. So ironing can be an issue as well as washing in hot water if it were say a baby quilt… I really avoid nylon thread. Polyester can be non slick and non shiny looking so there really isn’t any reason to use nylon at all (at least for me).