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.

Bernina 830 versus Janome MC15000

My conclusion, each of these machines has pros and cons. I COULD live with either one. But I am lucky that I can afford both. So I generally piece quilts on my Janome, MC1500, while I appliqué and free motion on my Bernina 830. I will use either machine during embellishing art quilts depending on what stitches or effects I want. I embroider much more on my Janome because of the ease of monitoring and changing thread (nice threader).

I have been a member of the The Quilt Show for several years. Recently we started a thread about machines and features. I felt compelled to write about my two favorite machines. Here is what I posted to the forum on the Quilt Show.

Since a few have posted about their Bernina 830 experience. I thought I would too. I did not get a lemon and I absolutely love my 830. It is a solid workhorse for me. It takes any thread I throw at it even metallic. And I love the huge hoops. I also have a Janome MC15000 and I like it too. However it doesn’t free motion as well. It straight stitches better. However the Janome has a tendency to have nesting thread on the beginning of a stitching line. The Bernina does not.

Here is my experience Bernina 830 vs Janome MC15000

Straight stitching: Janome wins with a beautiful straighter stitch but with the caveat to use a bit of scrap material to start other wise I get a rats nest on the bobbin thread at the beginning of a stitching line. Holding the top and bobbin works too, BUT who wants to do that if they have an automatic thread cutter. You can attain a very nice straight stitch on the Bernina if you use a single hole plate, and carefully match your thread to needle size. But still Janome’s is a prettier straight stitch.

Thread cutter: both machines will cut thread. I think cutting is faster on the Bernina than on the Janome (this is an impression, not measured with a stop watch). Bernina sews without nesting after using it’s cutter. Janome will form nests if you sew after the cutter. On the Janome you will need to use a bit of scrap or pull out and hold the thread tails when you start sewing again.

Freemotion: Bernina wins hands down, no contest

Needle threader: Janome’s is better and more consistently threads the needle. Both machine’s needle threaders work better than my lower end machines.

Heavy or lots of layers : It really depends. Heavy tight weave several layers like quilting on a denim from denim backed with batting, I use my Bernina. Thick tough fabrics like cordura 400 or 600, I use the Bernina. The Bernina doesn’t skip stitches like the Janome can in situations like this. “This” is comparing same thread, same needle, same fabric, same number of layers, and sewing at half speed machine, etc. I do like the dual feed on the Bernina, especially when piecing flimsy or wispy light weight chiffon or silk fabrics. BUT! I like the ease of adjusting the pressure for the dual feed on the Janoma. I think the dual feed on the Janome is better for normal quilting cotton and cotton batting. I go to my Janoma for doing straight stitch quilting in a modern quilt kind of look where you would quilt with lots of straight lines or expanding circles or spirals. Bernina actually recommends an extra walking foot for this kind of quilting.

Embroidery: Both work great. Both do a great job. But due to thread change on these single color machines, I prefer the Janome because of it’s more consistently working needle threader. (though I Think the thread path on the Bernina is easier to do). MC15000 has an extra pro: I like the fact this machine is wi-fi capable.. that I have an app on my iPad that I can ‘see’ where in the process the embroidery is, if thread broke, if the machine stopped, and if i need to change colors. I can run around my home and do chores while doing embroidery without having to check to see the status of my machine. I actually get more embroidery done because of this.

Knee lift: have to put two paragraphs one for each machine explain this one.

Pro for the Bernina is that the knee life is mechanical. This makes doing appliqués more fun on the Bernina instead of the Janome. I can barely raise or take the pressure off the fabric when turning curves or corners and still have some pressure from the foot helping me keep things lined up and it acts like an extra hands. On the Janome, the knee lift seems to actually be an electronic switch, when I use the knee lift, there is no infinite range of lifting the pressure foot, it is either up or down. I don’t like this. So I typically do appliqué on my 830. (I also prefer the double blanket stitch the Bernina has over the similar stitch on the Janome).

Pro for the MC15000 is the knee lift will set to control other things besides lifting the presser foot, you can use it to control stitch width. Yes, really! So for an art quilter, I can use it for neat effects. I also use it when couching lumpy irregular yarns and other items to art quilt while embellishing. It’s very fun once you learn how to control it.

Conclusion

My conclusion, each of these machines has pros and cons. I COULD live with either one. But I am lucky that I can afford both. So I generally piece quilts on my Janome, MC1500, while I appliqué and free motion on my Bernina 830. I will use either machine during embellishing art quilts depending on what stitches or effects I want. I embroider much more on my Janome because of the ease of monitoring and changing thread (nice threader).

Free Motion Troubleshooting Skipped Stitches

Frustration City! Skipped stitches can really make free motion not fun. And it really should be fun. I can’t recommend enough to always test your exact materials and design elements on a test sandwich first before you start on your quilt. Also, fresh needles can solve many problems

Skipped Stitches are caused by a lot of things. But usually the culprit is misthreading or a damaged or dull needle. You might have just put a new needle in the machine and that needle could still have a micro sized burr in a bad spot somewhere. Or maybe you are like me and think you can eke out the whole darn quilt including patchwork and quilting with one needle. Well, that needle is probably the problem. There is a reason that sewing machine makers make the needle so easy to replace.

The needle is easy to replace because we are supposed to do it pretty often.

  1. Are you sewing with your presser foot down? Often new free motion quilters will forget. If the presser foot isn’t down, then the tension discs can’t help form a stitch.
  2. Replace the Needle – needles are the cheapest part of your sewing expenses. Try just changing it out. You don’t have to use them, but I like titanium coated needles. I explain why in this post.
  3. Is your needle the correct size? You choose fabric and thread first, then match the needle to it. Here is more info on Thread Weights and Needle Sizes for Free Motion
  4. Take the thread out of your machine and clean your machine. Be sure to take the bobbin out for good measure too. Clean it, clean the bobbin area, if you can remove and clean the bobbin casing then do it. Take the presser foot plate off and clean under it. Clean lint off the needle holding metal bar thingy (very technical term there). Clean it all.
  5. Rethread the machine properly.
  6. Is your presser foot up before you thread? If you don’t bring up the presser foot, the thread can not get in-between the tension disks. This is a problem as stitches can’t form..
  7. Is your bobbin oriented the correct way (does it spin the right way once it is inserted in the machine)? If there aren’t arrows stamped in your machine, are you sure you’ve seen the manual to know. One friend actually sewed for years with the bobbin going the wrong way. It was okay for straight stitch, but when she finally wanted to learn free motion quilting, it didn’t work well at all and caused skipped stitches.
  8. You can look through my troubleshooting posts on this blog and hunt online for answer. These are collated from personal experience, other free-motion quilters, Superior Thread Company, Schmetz Needle Company, and a lot of other sources. This is all common knowledge stuff, no rocket science here or proprietary info. But I hope it helps you. I use my blog as a resource all the time. I love comments too. Please help if you know something else that should be added, or another solution.

I do have a chart in the works that I promise to post in the near future.