I Quilt – all about threads


Yay for Thursday!  That means it’s almost Friday :)  And it’s time to link up your quilting process, woohoo!  Last week I opened up a conversation about threads and invited you to join me this week to talk about thread issues.  If you have any tips, tricks or “WARNING! Don’t go there” advice I’d love to hear it!  I’m going to talk all about my quilting threads and related tips and tricks.  Of course you are welcome to join the party even if you aren’t discussing thread issues, just make sure you post contains some discussion of your quilting process <3

i quilt blog button

Last week you blew my mind when 30 quilters linked up!!!!  I’m feeling the love here :)   I’ve also been receiving lots of emails asking for advice on quilting issues or how to get started.  I certainly don’t feel like an expert, I’m just head over heals in love with quilting <3  But thank you and please keep those questions coming, I try to answer people directly but I will also use some of these as themes for my I Quilt posts :)  If I don’t get back to you please don’t hesitate to ask me again.  We are in the midst of packing up for an international move and I have many competing priorities at the moment and some things fall through the cracks…

Last week Jo linked up a fantastic post on using stencils.  Seriously, that girl has quilting T.A.L.E.N.T!  If you haven’t had a chance to pop by her blog please do.  I may be a little biased as we discovered that we own the same machine (Bernina 440QE) but I am in awe of her work!  Her post last week was all about using quilting stencils which is something that I have absolutely no experience with and found really fascinating.  Pop by and check it out when you have some time :)  I hope to feature a quilter each week and I’d love it if you could pop by and say hi to support them and learn from their posts <3

So last week I shared my dirty secret of thread tension issues in my son’s Rainbow I Spy Quilt.  I can live with it but that quilt would come under some scrutiny at a Quilty show and tell I’m sure ;)  This week I’m going to give you some of my tips on how to avoid thread issues.  Sure, the obvious tip is practice and get better LOL  But no one wants to have the first dozen quilts they make sporting thread issues ;)

For perspective the sashing is 1″ wide here

The first large amount of free motion quilting I did was on my middle child’s quilt (you can read about it here).  I don’t remember really thinking about the quilting too much but I went with stippling and I remember finding Elizabeth Hartman’s blog very useful.  I followed her tips for quilting direction and I kept my stippling at about the size she recommends.  I don’t think I’ve stippled since, but when I have a good hard look at that quilt there are no thread issues.  So I vote one for stippling as a good introductory design for newby quilters to avoid thread issues.  I find anything with sharp turns, points or corners can create little knots of thread and stippling pretty much avoids that :)

If you squint you can see the micro-stippling around the cupcakes. To give perspective the cupcakes are about 1.25″ tall

Micro quilting is something that I am a bit enamored of at the moment and as much as I love it I would advise that you get a little practice under your belt before you set your heart on it.  It isn’t tricky (it does require a LOT of concentration) and it does give a fantastic look, but I find that changing directions so frequently can cause thread issues.  The key is to keep your movements smooth, that can be tricky when your neck is spasming and your eyes are crossed because you changed directions every 1/4″!  It’s totally possible, don’t be scared off, just keep you’re fabric moving smoothly :)

I’ve mentioned before that I really believe in using the best equipment that you can.  My first quilting gloves (above) were bought from a quilt shop.  They wouldn’t let me try them on or touch them (for hygiene reasons) and I must say I wondered for about six months why everyone loves quilting gloves.  Ah, my gloves were not so awesome…  So I purchased some machingers (I read some quilting guru saying they are the bees knees so I did what I was told and bought some online) and they ROCK!

Why do machingers gloves rock?  They are really elasticy so they fit nicely on your hands and they breath well.  The grip is on both sides of the fingertips – kind of like they were dipped in grippy stuff) which is better than it sounds.  Be honest, how often do you pick up your gloves and put them on the wrong hand?  With machingers it doesn’t matter because they’re double sided, which is great for someone as absent minded as me.  (And just so you know I’m not affiliated with machingers in anyway and I paid for my own gloves, but if they wanted to come to the party….) ;)

There’s lots of talk about needles and I know some people SWEAR by applique needles or embroidery needles.  I exclusively use Schmetz brand quilting needles.  They’re good for piecing too (I know because I’m absent minded and forget to change needles other than when I change weights of fabric) and for some reason I really like the little green spot of paint on them (I don’t think it actually does anything).  Clever marketing Schmetz ;)  (And again, no affiliation, I pay my way but I’ll always tell you what I love and what works for me.)

You’re probably sick of me telling you how much I love Aurifil, but I really do.  I do think quality thread makes a HUGE difference.  I actually prefer to use my spools on a spool stand (I originally bought it for the large cones that I use but it’s fine for any sized spool).  I think it improves tension and I rarely use my machine spool stands anymore. I just raise the small spools so that the metal pin is inside the spool and there is no chance of the thread catching on it.

Speaking of spools, don’t forget your bobbins!  One of the best sewing and quilting tips I can give you is to wind your bobbins on the SLOWEST SPEED possible (I made that big in case you’re skim reading – DON’T MISS THIS TIP).  When you wind your bobbin on the slowest speed possible it winds looser so your bobbin will feel a tad springy or spongey or squishey.  Try it and I promise you it will change your life (OK, don’t hold me to that, it will not change your life but it will enhance your sewing and quilting experience).  Loose bobbins reduce tension issues (let’s see how much dirty spam I get from that sentence LOL).  If you are getting lots of birds nests at the back of your fabric this may help (it helped me) :)

Another helpful tip is to support your quilt and make your quilting setup as ergonomic as possible.  I was lucky enough to find a sewing cabinet second hand and I quilt with my machine dropped down into the cabinet and an ironing board behind for support.  The weight of your quilt can play all sorts of havoc by causing you to accidentally move your quilt or giving your fabric a kind of pulled look because of the pressure that was on the fabric as you were quilting.

Do you remember that last week I talked about using different colours for top and bottom threads?  Since my crazy go at using a stark white top thread and dark grey in the bobbin I have avoided huge contrast and it’s helped.  I’ve added the numbers of the thread to the photo above for reference, but really this is just to give you an idea of different coloured threads that I have used together successfully in the top and bottom threads (they are lined up in pairs as I have used them).  All are 50wt Aurifil threads.

quilted 241 tote

Another option is to use really busy fabric to hide your quilting booboos (did you know that we use the word booboo in French for when we hurt ourselves a little?  I think that’s a funny linguistic crossover!).  The above photo is of my 241 tote where I’ve used Architextures and it really hides the details of my quilting.  I was actually just going for textures and colours that I liked, but it can be useful to use a busy print on the back of a quilt so you aren’t so worried about your booboos showing :)

Single Aunt mini

I love to let my stitching show, even if it is just a slightly different hue but it does mean you need to not worry about your booboos or be confident that you won’t make any biggies ;)  I suggest you try some quilting designs that have nice smooth curves to them like the design above, it’s repetitive but the lines are intentionally wobbly so if you go off them it isn’t really noticeable.

My current wip, I’ve used threads that both blend in and contrast for a fun effect.

So now it’s your turn!  Link up your post, please remember that this linky is about quilting process :)  Visit two or three other linkers and add my linky button to your post or sidebar (you can find the html code in the top left side bar or right at the bottom of the page if you’re on a mobile device).  Yay for quilting and yay for Thursday!  I’m ready to end the week!!



8 Comments on I Quilt – all about threads

  1. Ms Midge
    October 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm (6 months ago)

    I need Machingers! My quilting gloves look like your first pair…..and have been through the wash lol. But they are certainly better than the gardening gloves I started off with ;) I love the blue and pink aurifil i received today on your advice – just need to find something to use them with! lol xx

  2. Jo
    October 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm (6 months ago)

    Thanks so much Gemma for featuring me. I think you have TALENT. I also use machingers! just need to get me some aurifil and a thread stand and we will be identical twins. Lol

  3. Lorna McMahon
    October 24, 2013 at 10:30 pm (6 months ago)

    Now that was a really great post! I will have to keep referring back to it. There is sew much info packed in there! Today’s lesson: Fill your bobbin on the slowest speed. Thanks for sharing all these great tips, Gemma!

  4. Megan @ Tales of Ineptitude
    October 25, 2013 at 1:08 am (6 months ago)

    This is such a great post! I’ve never heard of the slow-bobbin-winding tip! I’m definitely going to try that! Also, the green dot on the needles is color-coding so you know what kind they are if you have them mixed up in a pin cushion or whatnot. I’m looking forward to next week’s post!

  5. Vera
    October 25, 2013 at 4:30 am (6 months ago)

    That pillow is just stunning. I’ll definitely check her site. I really enjoy your linky. Thanks for sharing all your tips.

  6. Sarah from mila+cuatro
    October 25, 2013 at 8:37 am (6 months ago)

    Thanks for the tip about winding your bobbin slowly – I usually do this as fast as I can because it’s a necessary but tedious task, I’ll take my time when I’m filling a bobbin for quilting in the future. Thanks for all the work you’re putting into these quilting posts, I’m a beginner and these are really helpful. You’re free motion quilting and improv piecing is so inspiring to me.

  7. Lisa in Port Hope
    October 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm (6 months ago)

    Thank you for a very informative post. I use the Schmetz microtex needles for piecing, but I need to experiment with different needles for free motion quilting. I bought some Aurifil (50 wt) recently to try, but I had to put an extension onto my thread holder, which on my machine is at an angle, because the bobbins are taller and they wanted to slide off, so I will have to try making a spool holder to sit behind my machine. The Aurifil was nice for piecing, but I don’t know that I would call it fantastic–I haven’t tried quilting with it yet.

  8. Debbie
    October 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm (6 months ago)

    So much interesting stuff here – thanks!


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