Thread Weights Look Like What?

Lots of science boils down to this: 

Higher wt number on thread means it is skinnier and will kind of hide so the fabric is more emphasized. The lumps and bumps are more emohasized. 

Lower wt thread is thicker thread so the thread shows more. 

Choose your thread weight by the effect you want to get out of your quilting.  

Of course, if you want to break the rule of thumb, then pile on and paint with the skinny thread to show up more like Libby Lehman does it. 

And think about this, if your freemotion or longarm pattern requires a lot of traveling over previous stitches, a thinner thread won’t pile up as much as a thick one. 

On Long Arm Quilting with Monofilament

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.

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.

Needle Size

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.

 

Drought, Improvisation

The entire process has been interesting. I started with the intent to improvise, to use my ugliest fabric, and to enter a show. I also planned to apply color and design theory and stay rigidly within a complementary color scheme.

I succeeded in those goals. It was butt ugly. Really it was. At first.

The ugly brown fabric I chose was one I bought in bulk with a lot of other bolts. It languished on the shelve for three years. At a quilt guild meeting, I heard several others talking about their ugly fabric challenge. I thought it was a great idea, I knew exactly the fabric I would base this on. At least now I had a challenge to use it up. This fabric was so bad, no one wanted to swap for it and I couldn’t give it away. Being raised frugally, I couldn’t just toss it.

Amazingly I also had in my stash a blue which was exactly opposite that brown on the color wheel and it was also an ombre.

Now this was improv, with no pattern or plan. So I just started by layering the two fabrics and cutting big swaths in mild curves. I sewed those matching curves together, of course with big chucks I ended up with things that wouldn’t lay flat. So then I chopped up into blocks  that would lay flat and decided I would just sew them together. It looked like a muddy mess with no life to it. It was the sleepiest boringest most awful quilt I had ever made. Now what? CMYK color wheel to the rescue. I realized I needed some pop. but what? more blue.. na, more brown, na.. but what? Would I need to change my complementary rule? Well, turns out on the CMYK color wheel that orange is really brown that isn’t diluted. how wonderful! And I just happened to have a yard of the perfect orange in my stash. So I began layering and slicing orange into the most boring blocks. I ended up with something much more interesting, now the blocks had fire! I realized. Muddy browns, Sky blues and fire.. the name of the quilt came to me at that point.. Drought! We were living it for real and this quilt was being born in the middle of drought made of the colors of drought.

For me 100% improv is impossible. I compulsively have to add rules as I go, I have to build a framework or I get “stuck” and go nowhere. I have found that 4-7 rules is the right number to get pleasing results. A few rules give structure, too many rules and the improve quilt will look plain boring. Limiting the number of rules encourages experimentation and flexibility when “issues” arise in the process.

I had been in a stubborn Dr Seuss mindset regarding quilting during this period of my life. This could have been my mantra:

I’m not going to do straight lines,
I don’t like straight lines,
I will not do them, no I won’t,
I will not do them,
It’s not a joke.

My rules for this quilt were:

  1. Must use the single absolutely ugliest fabric I had in my stash.
  2. Must stay in a complementary color scheme using the CMYK color wheel.
  3. Keep the idea of a “modern” quilt in mind especially negative space, scale, contrast, and incorporate illusion depth of field ideas.
  4. Let the quilt develop. i.e. Build each stage as I go without pre-planning the next stage… Worry about the blocks first, then figure out the layout, then the quilting plan, then figure out the binding.
  5. If it gets a few wows from people, enter it in a couple of shows.
  6. My Reward if I do all the above: (not really a rule, but a goal
    If I do all this, Get a new camera. (see one has to set fun goals especially if one is using ugly stuff to create new stuff. I had a goal even if the project stayed ugly and got boring. I believe in rewarding oneself at the end of onerous tasks. And my old camera, was really old, and had white spots where pixels were burnt out, and needed replacing really badly)

(if you want to know… I got all the way through number 5, so I had to get the new camera so I could submit the quilt to the shows. YAY!)

Gravity Quilt – Top Completed

Two hours later and Gravity is pieced together. Wow! What a great learning experience. Julie at Jaybird Quilts did an excellent job writing this pattern. Each colored block quilt upon skills learned in the previous block. I learned so much that I will use in future quilts. And it was fun! It is not complete yet as I still have quilting and binding to do. Here is a photo of the pieced top. 

gravity quilt  pieced top
Gravity quilt pieced top ready to quilt and bind.

Gravity Quilt – background

Since Sassy Southern Sewing, I continued working on Gravity. The grey monotone background was very fast to cut. The kit provided generous amounts of extra fabric so recutting a mistake was no problem. In fact, i cut extra triangles, diamonds and hexagons with the left overs. I plan to make pillow covers with them. 

 

Photo of grey background pieces and blocks
Grey background pieces and blocks for Gravity Quilt cut out very fast. Pictured shows the layout for one section.
 
Putting the colored blocks and grey tone blocks together took me about 10 hours. Ten hours at a retreat with some of my favorite women in the world with good food and sangria. I could have done it in less time, but at retreat is so much more fun and I worked on it in two days instead of hours spread over weeks. 

Shrink Test

Important to know about the fabrics we use, if we will be washing it. Inhave somemlines she didnt test that I want to. Anyone else do any shrinkage tests like this?

That's What She Sewed - Sew Modern Blog

shrink

To pre-wash or not to pre-wash? That is totes the question today! Do you do it?? Personally, I so rarely pre-wash, especially if I’m making a quilt (shhh, don’t tell, sometimes even with a garment). Pre-washing adds in a lot of steps to a project and if I am feeling inspired to make something I want to do it NOW. I know some people always pre-wash, it’s like second nature to them. As soon as their fabric comes home it goes straight into the wash. This got me curious about how much I’m really risking in my act of defiance/laziness. How much is my fabric really going to shrink? So I took a swatch from each of the fabric manufactures we carry at the shop and gave ’em a whirl in the washer. The results were kind of shocking and not all results were the same.

I started with a 6 1/2 inch…

View original post 569 more words

Gravity QuiltnBlock 9 – Voyage

#Gravityquilt has been a blast so far. I’ve been at a sewing conference, Sassy Southern Sewing, this week. At night, I sew on this quilt. This block webt together really fast. It has been a nice break from the more complicated blocks 7 and 8.  Here is block 9.  

 

Gravity Block 9 – Voyagr

The colorful blocks of #gravityquilt are done now. Block 9 was easier than block 7 and 8. Jaybird has planned this pattern really well. After this I need to do all the grey monotone background area. Boy, do Inhave a lot of strips to cut now. 

I changed the order again. Look at the color values of the blue and orange. You’ll see how a simple change of the light to dark values really change the appearance of the block.

  

Gravity Block 8 – Eclipse

The Eclipse block of #GravityQuilt builds upon a previous block that had one Y seam. It looked hard at first, but I followed the instructions step by step and it just went together. I did reverse one color pair and decided to leave it. Of the pair, I think I like that block better. What do you think?

  

Gravity Quilt Block 7 – Cosmic

Volunteering at a sewing conference means I don’t get to sew, except in my room after dinner. The Jaybird Gravity Quilt pattern is plotted out very well. The skills you learn build upon the previous blocks. I am finding the instructions have been really well done. And, I am learning a lot. #GravityQuilt is not a boring kit, it’s actually fun. 

Here is block 7.