As I work through my Bayou quilt, and think about past quilts I have made, I realize how much one needs to pay attention to the adjustments, needles, cleaning, setting, and other requirements for optimum machine performance as you use the varying types of techniques, fabrics, and threads.
Today I am adding more Spanish moss in differing colors of Aurifil’s wool 12 weight thread and additional wool yarn couching using Superior’s almost truly invisible Monopoly.
I was having problems this morning with my wool thread breaking and breaking after hours of working well. So I stopped and did a thorough clean and check of the machine, oiled it, and added a new 100/16 Superior titanium top stitch needle. When I cleaned the bobbin, I found a large bunch of wool fluff both outside in the bobbin casing area and in the bobbin casing itself full, and I blew air through the upper tread track and dislodge additional wool fluff. I like this thread, but it does require frequent machine cleaning, loosening the top tension, and really fresh needles. I doubt it would be possible to make wool thread that didn’t do that, although Aurifil’s is excellent. It is actually 50 percent wool and 50 percent acrylic. I also use a tooth floss threader to thread this through the needle (and the take up lever hole on my Bernina Q20). I haven’t had the same breakage problem since I did the cleaning.
When I am couching using my Bernina Q20, I use Superior’s monopoly. I truly cannot see it well enough to make sure it is always threaded through the machine right. Over the past little while, I have found that this thread works best with a universal 70 needle. I don’t think I could go smaller using this powerful machine, but when I am using my Bernina 830 or Bernina 350, I use a 60 universal needle. I haven’t figured out why it works better with the universal needle, but it does. I have almost no problems with it, though I do lower the top tension significantly on all the machines when using this thread. This thread makes wonderful couching thread when using the machine method that stitches through the yarn or cord. It basically buries itself down in the yarn and disappears. In the past, I have also used this thread to quilt over and around painted, appliqued, or thread embroidered areas of a quilt. I don’t particularly like overall quilting using Monopoly, because I like to see the thread most of the time, even if it is nearly matching and you have to look to see it. I have used it though when I am quilting through an area that has multiple colors and no particular single color or even variegated thread would work right. I actually use a magnifying glass to work with this thread.
Yarns for couching are really another bit of my stash that might end up growing, but I hope to keep it kind of small. Still it is exciting to work with. My machine likes the smoother yarns and cords the best, but I want to use some of the less smooth ones, like the Shetland wool sport weight I am using for the limbs of my trees. I can see this yarn making whole tree trunks and limbs. It has various slubs and smooth sections that produces wonderful depth of character. acrylic yarns are really smooth and even and make wonderful fills. I’m still learning this element of my pictorial fabric work so I will talk more about it later. I have found lots of help in learning this from Bethanne Nemesh’s couching work. She has generously shared much of her techniques on both Facebook videos [only one example…she has several there] and her blogs.
For background work, I often use Superior’s 100 weight Microquilter or its Kimono silk 100 weight. This thread seems to call for a small needle also. I use 60/10 or 70/11 topstitch needle depending on the density of the quilt I’m stitching through. I sometimes have had to go up to 80/12 topstitch needles when stitching through multiple applique areas or heavily thread embroidered areas. This thread also requires a lower top tension, just like the Monopoly, though not quite as low. I am not giving numbers because everyone’s machine and fabrics are just a little different, so you need to do a sample using the actual fabrics and threads you have on your quilt.
Sew for most of my quilting where I want the design to really show and machine embroidery, though, I usually use a 40 weight thread of some sort with an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch needle, depending on the fabrics and threads I am using. Most of the time I use the 90/14 and it seems to make a great general needle. My favorite threads for this are Superior’s Fantastico, Magnifico, and Rainbow (they no longer make this thread but I have a lot of it), and when stitching things like rocks or places I don’t want any shine, I use King Tut. King Tut, a cotton, definitely requires the 90/14 needle. I also like Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton when I need it a little less visible, but don’t want to use a polyester for some reason. I use the 80/12 needle with Aurifil 50 weight cotton.
Isn’t this fun?!!! There are soooo many wonderful possibilities to make your pictorial quilt come to life now…I could work hours and hours and hours on it, except my body demands I stop from time to time and walk or stretch or breath….LOL.
Sew happy everyone! Try out all those wonderful types of threads. Just get the smallest spools at first so you can figure out whether you like them or not and how they might work for you. Then make a sampler.