Not all thread is equal

I have NOT written about thread as in brands, twists and weight and how it affects seam allowance in piecing. It does, so I’m writing about it now.

I have to write about this.. I really do! I’ve written previously about how you choose your needle based upon the fabric and then you choose your thread. I’ve written about thread weight and how it looks and how it affects tension in the longarm (and the regular sewing machine. I have NOT written about thread as in brands, twists and weight and how it affects seam allowance in piecing.

THREAD MATTERS AND AFFECTS piecing big time!

Also some thread is linty and some wears your needle out faster.

So far, I have found using the three biggies (as in popular brands) in the quilting world the following.

Some thread is lintier.

Lintier, I’m not sure lintier is even a word. But there it is, I don’t like to clean out my bobbin area every time I switch out a bobbin especially when I”m in a quilt piecing frenzy. I’ve found from the cleanest (top of the list) to the lintiest (bottom of the list):

  • Cleanest
  • Superior Masterpiece 100% cotton 50/3
  • Aurifil MAKO NE 50/2
  • Mettler 100% cotton 50/3
  • Coats and Clark
  • Lintiest

Thread isn’t the same thickness

Thread affects my quarter inch seams. I sew almost always with Superior Masterpiece 100% cotton 50/3, so my eyeball is trained to “see” the amount of fabric to the right of the needle to give me a quarter inch seam. When I use a different thread.. it always affects my seam. I am pretty sure it is because the thread takes up some space. So thicker thread needs to be sewn with a “scant-ier” quarter inch seam than my normal seam. Mettler, even though it is 50/3 (like Masterpiece), is a bit thicker than the Superior Masterpiece 50/3. I’ve learned that to get the same finished size of a block with Mettler I have to sew a scant quarter inch and with Superior a real quarter inch. Aurifil acts more like Superior thread than Mettler, yet it still in between the two other brands. No one sees your seam allowances so if you switch thread (or machines) sew a quick test to make sure your finished blocks are the same.

Thread takes up space on the bobbin

Yes, it should be obvious. But somehow I just didn’t think about it much. You can’t wind as long an amount of thick thread as you can thin thread. I’ve taken to using Superior Bottom Line in my bobbin for just this reason. It’s super strong and it’s THIN! Yipee, I don’t have to change bobbins as often. I don’t get caught in the middle of a long seam because I didn’t think to check if my bobbin is going to run out. Talking about the threads I’ve mentioned above, here is a list about how long my bobbin lasts when wound with each one.

  • Lasts longest
  • Superior Bottomline 100% polyester  60/2
  • Superior Masterpiece 100% cotton 50/3
  • Aurifil MAKO NE 50/2
  • Mettler 100% cotton 50/3
  • Lasts not very long (have to wind bobbin more often)

*I quit using Coats and Clark because it’s just too darn linty. So I don’t remember how it is in the bobbin, thus it isn’t on the list about bobbin changing frequency.

As to why each thread is a different thickness, I’ve posted about thread weight 50 vs 60 etc. Thread weight isn’t very accurate when comparing different brands of thread because there really isn’t a standard system. So in my examples above, at first glance, it doesn’t make sense that the Aurifil Mako NE 50/2 is thicker than the Superior Masterpiece 50/3. However the differences I’ve experienced seem to be the truth of it.

Superior has a great article about thread weight here. UNDERSTANDING THREAD WEIGHT

So why would I use the lintier thicker threads? I want the effect they create sometimes. Sometimes I need a specific color and the nearest shop doesn’t have the brand I want. Sometimes I just got a sample, or a free spool. Sometimes, I just try something new. I do a lot of couching on the surface and I buy a lot of different threads for that purpose and I might need a specific color that I don’t have in my preferred piecing brand.

 

Longarm Lesson – Backing Too Short

Stuck with a quilt back that is too short? This is how I solved the quilt backing too small but already mostly quilted on my longarm problem.

One late afternoon, the machine was humming along and everything was going really well. I’d already finished two charity quilts. Everything was perfect, I had enough backing provided in the quilt packages and I was racing through the third charity quilt I’d promised to do. Suddenly, disaster struck!

Oh NO!

Always measure your backing or you will be sorry.
Moral of this photo: Measure your backing even if a customer has always given you enough. Always measure!

Oh NO! NO! NO! NO! The quilt backing provided was too short! I literally slapped myself up side the head. How many times had I admonished new longarmers to measure everything provided before you even put a quilt on your machine?! How many times!?!

GEEZ! NOW WHAT DO I DO!?

I called my friend Carol and put on my thinking cap. After sitting and pondering together for a bit and after a refreshing glass of _______. (iced tea?) I had an epiphany. I could solve this without taking the quilt off the machine, without having to go through the agony of getting it straight again, without having to take the several hours it seemed this disaster would need.

The solution turned out to be hilarious and my friend Carol took a video. The simple solution was to take off just the bottom of the quilt and leave the top attached.

I had a tea cart that set a small sewing machine on and just sewed a strip onto the bottom of the backing. It was a quick and easy matter to just re-attach the bottom and quilt on. Watch how I did it.

Sayl Chair Makeover

Sayl Before

Auctions can be a great place to find inexpensive sewing room luxuries. Take a look at this dirty drab brown worn chair.

These Herman Miller Sayl chairs are comfortable. The arms lower pretty far and will not get in my way when sewing. They have adjustable lumbar support and are curved just right to support my back and hips. Brand new these Sayl chairs including the tilt, height adjustment, lumbar support, and tilt lock brings about a $700 price tag.

First a brisk cleaning with soap and water. Second tightening loose arm rest bolts. Then, a little upholstery fabric in a cheery color perks up that boring chair.

My total cost (not including the tools) for this $700 chair was about $30. Score!

Sayl After

What is a guild Bee Keeper and Queen Bee

In the Texas Tea Stitchers I was nominated to be the Bee Keeper. Well, actually I was asked to be the Bee Coordinator but I thought that name was kinda boring, thus I became the Bee Keeper. My role is to keep track of our guild’s bees not to run them. As a Bee Keeper I am a kind of central repository or resource to find out about current bees. I will try to keep up with the folks who are in the guild bees. I hope they notify me when they start or end a bee. That sure would help.

As Bee Keeper I’m to keep track of the Queen or King Bees. Basically the ‘host’ of a bee. Some guilds call these people Momma or Poppa Bees. Generally, the Queen or Kins is the person generally in charge of the bee. Typically their responsibilities include:

  1. compiling all participants and making a list of email addresses, blogs, flickr names & mailing addresses
  2. setting up the schedule of months
  3. deciding on the “rules” of the bee
  4. facilitating communication between members (sending out emails, facebook posts, twitter tweets, phone calls, etc.)
  5. answering any questions from bee members
  6. organizing meet ups online or in person.

And if it is a monthly block echange type of bee or a round robin duties can also include:

  1. helping keep track of who’s month it is, and if fabrics have been sent out, and recieved.
  2. keeping track of blocks made/returned
  3. deciding how to address conflicts within the bee (fabrics or blocks lost in the mail, members dropping out, tardy blocks)

What to do with an old stool?

My Grammy’s wooden stool holds a lot of memories for me. I remember sitting inside the legs pretending it was a house, a fort, a jail, a treehouse and a dozen other wonderful hideouts. Grammy would pretend she couldn’t see me when I was under that wonderful old stool. I’m sure it was a great play toy for my cousins too. I remember the day I could no longer fit inside the legs of the stool. Grammy laughed and laughed until I started laughing too. We both had tears streaming from our eyes. Those were great times.

That stool moved with Grammy from home to home until she moved in with my parents. She gave me many of her things as I was a young adult and starting out on my own. The stool was one of them. And through my own moves and life changes I have kept that old stool. I’ve used it in all my kitchens just like Grammy did. At 50 plus years old, the stool finally started having issues with staying together. The hard oak wood is still sound, but the joints, just like my own, are a little loose and the legs and cross pieces would come out of their joints. Glueing helped temporarily but within months the joints would come apart again. I want to continue to use the stool. What to do?

I took string and wound it around the base of the legs to keep pressure towards the center and the stool stayed together. So, like me, that old stool just needed a little help. The string wasn’t very pretty.

I was shopping at the Antiques Week in Texas and north of Roundtop I found a place selling upcycled useful things. I bought some giant balls. Long strips of cut up sari’s double plied and made into beautiful colorful balls of twine or yarn. The balls could be used for decor or for crafting. I wanted to use the twine for Christmas wrapping. I didn’t and the balls have been sitting in a kettle by my fireplace.

That sari cord! Yes, the perfect thing to use on the stool. After securing the base I spent three evenings trying to figure out how to wind and secure all four side at the same time. I needed to create inward pressure on the legs in order to keep the stool together.

I did figure out a way to do that, but felt that I couldn’t continue the pattern until the legs were completely covered. I did decide to go ahead and cover the legs completely. I also figured out how those rush seated chairs are woven in the process.

I’m not finished with the stool yet. But I have one side done. I think it looks I interesting and it will definitely give this chair another few decades of use.

Sharper is always better!

Sometimes I forget my own rules. Usually it’s intentional when I am in an improvisational mood. Sometimes, I am lazy and just don’t want to go find something or go to the store. Sometimes I’m just not thinking. Brains are in our heads for a reason! We should always use them.

Last night as I was cutting just two layers of fabric and my rotary blade was requiring a lot of pressure and making a loud noise as I was cutting. It was taking forever to cut the fabric. I was only about 10% of the way through all I needed to cut. Hubby came in the room and blurted out, “wow, that’s loud! How tough is that fabric?”

I set the cutter down and slapped my forehead. DUH!

Usually I have to change the rotary blades because I nick them and they don’t cleanly cut. Apparently this blade was immune to my propensity to leave needles in fabric and escaped the usual nicks. It was cutting cleanly so it didn’t occur to me that the blade was dull.

Changed the blade and was able to stack my fabric in five layers and cut the last 90% in half the time it took to do the first bit. And, it cut like butter.

The really interesting part was… after cutting I looked at my cutting mat. The dull blade made deeper wider grooves than the sharp blade. Good cutting mats are expensive.

Moral relearned: sharper cutting blades (scissors, knives, blades) are better! Safer! More accurate! And save money!

Perfect Mitered Binding

Mitered corner sewn on the machine.

I have long admired the teaching skills of Ricky Tim’s. His way of explaining this makes it easy for me. Though he uses a very special and useful tool, I find myself using any square ruler with a corner to corner line in it. Here is a video someone posted that shows the technique.

Ricky Tim’s Quilt Show Mitered Binding

1880-1900 Linen, Hemp, Cotton Textile Cleaning

Finding a huge lot of old unused and well used textiles was probably my score of the year. These poor things had been in some European abandoned attic for a hundred years. Talk about dirty! They are tough though. A hundred years of roof leaks, rodent piss, and who know what else hasn’t done much to this wonderful stuff besides make it ugly and smelly. It is still intact, still sturdy and usable. I am trying different cleaning tactics and have abandoned the washing machine with agitator for the coarser hand woven items.

Several soakings in sodium mono carbonate for two to four days is really getting the years of crap off the textiles. I plan to follow up with a final wash with some actual laundry soap to ensure the animal leavings are completely gone.

These fabrics are destined for pillows, table runners and art projects. Maybe I’ll make an apron using leather harness straps too. I have a design in mind reminiscent of an old blacksmiths apron.

Grain sacks and antique toweling first soaking in cleaning solution.Antique grain sacks and linen flax and hemp textiles submerged for cleaning

Dye Class at Houston Quilt Show 2017

I took a gradations dying class from Cindy Lohbeck. Her class was all about creating color value. I have been learning a lot this past year about value which is basically lightness or darkness of colors. In Cindy’s class we used dilutions just like I did in chemistry class back in college. We made six values from light to dark of seven different colors. It was awesome to make 42 fat quarters of these rich colors. It is something that I am going to keep in mind when I dye in the future.