Fine Tuning Fabric Art Projects: Threads

As many of you know I love decorative threads and I love using them with appliques and in all kinds of machine embroidery and other uses in the course of my fabric art making.  Sew I decided to write a little bit about my favorites and how I like to use them.

First of all, for general success be sure when you thread your machines to run the cross wound threads off the top  and the stack wound threads straight out.  Most machines have instructions in their manuals for how to do this.  Also, if using a cone, be sure to use a cone net to make it work evenly.

Perspective in Threads, one of my earlier pieces that, except for the borders, is a whole cloth piece using four different thread weights.

12 weight threads:  These threads are wonderful to use when you want your stitching to show.  Since I am currently on a wool kick, I will start with wool thread.  Wool thread makes beautiful accents for wool appliques, machine embroidery, or Spanish Moss hanging from the trees.  I like Aurifil’s Lana wool blend threads.  I use 100/16 top stitch titanium coated needles by Superior with it and Aurifil’s 50 weight cotton in the bobbin.  These threads are a bit linty, since wool is linty, so you have to clean out the thread path and the bobbin area after every couple of hours of stitching with it, but it provides such a wonderful result.  I also set the top tension lower with this thread and stitch more slowly than I usually do because it has a tendency to break, though not bad if you do these things.  I’m sure these are the reasons thay added the acrylic in an effort to control the downside of wool as a thread.

The Spanish moss in the quilt below were all stitched on my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm with Aurifil wool blend thread that I bought in the large 383 yard spools.

Night on the Bayou
59″ x 31″
Inspired by a painting by Disney artist
Joel Christopher Payne
       used  by permission.

 

So I did a lot of testing and find that for stitching with my two domestic sewing machines that a lot of different brands of 12 weight cotton work just fine for feed dogs up sewing, but the one that works the best for me for free motion stitching is Sulky 12 weight cotton.  It has less knotting and other problems as long as I use the same 100/16 topstitch needle and slightly lower the upper tension.  I use Superior Bottom Line 60 weight polyester in the bobbin with 12 weight cotton at the default setting although for heavy decorative patterns or in the hoop embroidery I tighten the bobbin tension one click to the right in my Bernina 880 plus.

Kanazawa Memories, Completed August 2015
Sashiko designs stitched with 12 weight Sulky cotton. Appliqued with Monopoly.

When I am sewing on my Bernina sitdown longarm Q20, I frequently use Superior’s M Style prewound bobbins, which are also Botton Line.  They are so evenly wound and work very well.  I just make sure I am putting them in the right direction (I usually write Bernina on the right side) and just use them exactly as if I were using a Bernina bobbin I wound.  For my Q20 I set the bobbin tension at about 180 for Bottom Line.

40 Weight Threads: 40 weight embroidery threads are wonderful and they are the thread I use the most for embroidery and quilting.  I use them in both the top and the bobbin when making a show quality quilt, although I also often use Superior Bottom Line in the bobbin too.  For the most part, I use two different 40 weight brands.  I use an 80/12 or 90/14 Superior topstitch titanium coated needle with these threads.  These needles stitch much longer than most and if you are stitching through fusible webs, they don’t seem to attract as much of the glue on the needle.  For the most part, default tensions work with these threads.

  • Superior Magnifico poly, Fantastico variegated poly, which are basically the same thread except Magnifico is solid and Fantastico is variegated.
  • Superior King Tut cotton which is matte finish and usually requires the larger 90/14 needle
  • Isacord poly.  I started out embroidering with this thread.  It is very good, but not as shiny as the Magnifico or Fantastico.  It does make a nice quilting thread.

Stitched with Magnifico in a goldish color.

Monopoly

I only use Superior’s Clear Monopoly or black Monopoly It is so thin and strong, and it does not show up shiny like some monopolies.  I understand there are others that are reportedly just as good, but I know this is a successful monopoly.  I use it for stitch in the ditch and applique when I want to hide the stitching.  This works best for me with a 70/10 or 80/12 universal Schmetz needle, which is larger than recommended.  The reason is the point of a universal is not as sharp and if it “steps” on the thread it is less likely to break it than a sharp pointed needle.  It took me a while to learn this one.  Your machine may prefer a different size needle, but I encourage you to use a universal needle.  You have to be a little careful with this thread as it is so very lively and can wrap itself around things in the bobbin and so forth.  It is so very hard to see, but it provides a wonderful result and once you get your machine set up right it sews very well.  I set the top tension really low, even down to 1.0 or 1.5.  I do not put it in the bobbin, so I use Bottom Line with it.  I do not cut it with the machine cutter, but rather pull it out a little further than usual so it doesn’t pull back out of the needle when cut, which I have found it often does otherwise.  I do a little back stitching to tie it off.  You can’t see any thread buildup in that case and it holds it better even than a hand knot.

Metallic Threads

Metallic threads are so beautiful and I confess it has been my greatest challenge in getting it to work well, but I decided to apply the same set up for metallics as I do for Monopoly only I use a 90/14 Superior top stitch needle for success.  I was told to use a Metalic thread needle, but I did not find that as successful.  It may be the way I sew, who knows.  In any event after some testing I find I prefer Superior Metallic threads and I run it through the path on my machines that allows me to use the Bernina thread lubricant, or I just use a thread lubricant on the spool before stitching.  It is really important to test things on a test piece before using any of these threads on your project.

Light Weight Threads

When I don’t want to use a Monopoly for one reason or another, I like to use a 100 weight thread.  These threads make wonderful quilting threads especially when you want to have the quilting sink into the background, do microquilting, or are appliqueing so it looks like hand applique.  My favorites for these techniques are Superior Kimono 100 weight silk thread, and Superior Microquilter 100 weight poly.

I have already mentioned Superior’s 60 weight Bottom Line for bobbin work, but I also have successfully used it as a top quilting thread, a piecing thread, and even to make clothing.  It is strong and pretty.  It also sinks nicely into the background, but spreads a little more color than 100 weight when you are doing microquilting.

When using these threads in the top, I use a Superior 70/10 top stitch titanium coated needle and lower the top tension to about a 1.75 for the silk or 2.25 for the poly.  If you start having trouble with breakage, you might try an 80/12 top stitch needle.

So I made a chart some years back for use with my Bernina Q20.  I just updated it this week, and thought I would include it here.  Yes, I am aware there are differences from previous versons of this chart, but I have continued to make adjustments as I learned more.  Your own machines may need adjusting, but the point is that threads of all kinds may need their own special settings for optimal results.  So do some experimenting and testing.  I encourage you to create your own guides and have fun with those fabulous threads.

Sew happy everyone!  Go forth and create something wonderful or just have some fun in your own studiois.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Fine Tuning Fabric Art Projects: Threads

    • You’re welcome. I love my Q20. I hope have as much fun with yours as I do with mine. Scroll through my blogs. You may find others that are helpful or fun…they go back a fair ways. Cheers.

      • Karin says:

        Yes, thanks…started doing this already before I actually got the machine. Stitches like a dream, only need to get up to speed with the needle choices. I used a different brand Midarm before.

      • That’s terrific. Please feel free to ask a question or suggest a post if you want. I’m always trying to figure out good blog posts people would like to see. I have had my Q20 for four years, have been quilting for fifteen, and sewing for much longer. Cheers.

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