Sew Many Variables, Sew Little Time
As part of Use-Up-Your-Scraps month*, I decided to focus on the different types of stabilizers, needles, and thread that are stuffed in drawers in the studio. I got all of these notions in one fell swoop when Mom decided to pass them on to me – I think it’s been seven years now! She took classes and knows how to use them all, but I don’t. To find the best choices for free motion quilting and for satin stitch, I had to just sit and sample.
I spent today practicing with:
- 2 types of batting – a midloft polyester and Warm & Natural
- 2 stabilizers – Sulky lightweight tear-away, and Sulky permanent non-woven nylon
- 2 different bobbin threads – Mettler polyester and Gutermann cotton
- 7 top threads – Sulky rayon and metallic, YLI cotton, Gutermann cotton, Gutermann polyester, Coats and Clark rayon, and Mettler cotton.
- 7 types of needles – different sizes of quilting, embroidery, microtex, and topstitch needles
- 2 different feet – darning foot and satin stitch foot
I did about 50 different samples, and documented them.
Some things just didn’t work for me. For example, this is a Sulky metallic sliver – it’s very pretty, and I think it would make a great trim of little Christmas lights, but even though I used a special needle for metallics, the thread broke continually. I’m not willing to spend the time to perfect a stitch with it, so I will just save the thread for another application.
All of these next samples were to find the best combination of top thread and bobbin thread for free motion quilting. The colors are much better in real life.
Some of them created a thicker line that seemed to float on the top of the cloth and call attention to itself, and some created a much more delicate line, that allowed the layers of the quilt to puff up. They seemed to emphasize the pattern of the quilting instead of themselves. Today, I think I like the thinner thread better – but on another day, or with another fabric, I might decide the thicker thread will provide the right touch.
I concluded that I prefer polyester for the bobbin thread. As far as which needle to use, they all seemed to work fine. I can’t tell a difference between one and the next. That’s reassuring – I can use up all the needles I have; I don’t have to leave a bunch in the drawer while I go out to purchase a certain kind.
For the satin stitch, I was using some tips from Kathy York, from the first issue of InStitches, an e-magazine put out by Interweave Press. (They are up to the 9th issue, and I am just now trying techniques from the first issue. Sigh.) I used two layers of stabilizer, set the thread tension to 2, and tried different threads. The rayon is shiny and gorgeous, but I was more successful at filling in the line evenly with the YLI cotton thread. Still, I have scads of rayon, and scads of really nondescript, boring cloth – putting the two together will give me some designs cute enough to live with.
The only thing I actually used up today was one spool of thread, but I think the time I spent getting familiar with lots of different materials will be valuable as I continue quilting. One whole day of disciplined practice isn’t bad every seven years!
Next on my list of things to practice – how to use the settings on my phone!
* I heard about Use-Up-Your-Scraps month from Lucie the Happy Quilter. I jumped on board and am very happy with how organized I am getting!
*whew* I feel a bit better knowing I’m not the only one can’t always tell the difference between these various types of needles and threads. Also, glad that people like you take the time to test them, because I just grab and go, and hope it works — relying on advice I get from people like you! 😉
Yeah, that’s how I am too – I would rather just make something than figure out if I’m making it the best of all possible ways. I didn’t compare any stitches with “universal” needles – maybe they’re not as effective for quilting as the others. But I think any of the needles with larger holes for the thread work fine – embroidery, top stitch, or quilting.
I like your idea of spending a whole day practising something without having a specific project to complete, particularly something that you wouldn’t normally get to do, or something that perhaps takes that little bit of extra discipline.
I started out as a weaver, and some weavers are really disciplined about sampling – it carried over and I always felt I should sit down and try it in quilting. It only took me 7 years to get to it!
Metallic thread has always given me fits, also. Here are a few tips that people have given me. They work better…but thread still breaks on occasion. 🙂 Stitch slower. They say that keeping the thread farther away from your machine helps. By that I mean, if you have one of those independent thread stands, use that. It allows the thread to unwind better. On your machine, it comes off the spool really curly. When you use a stand, it allows the thread to relax a little bit before it hits the needle. I hope this makes sense. And I’ve found that Superior metallics break far less than others I’ve found. Just my observations. And yes, I still get a little breakage. Just not every ten stitches.
I had heard that, to put the thread further away. But I thought, first I’ll try it on the machine – oh, it’s coming through fine, I’ll just leave it. But you’re right, it would be better to give it more room to untwist. I will try Superior – it has been a revelation to me that there are different brands of thread out there! I love trying them – every time I buy a spool of Gutermann that says “made in Greece,” I think I am doing my part to help their economy! 🙂
Great Post, and thank you for the info, along with Lucie’s Link. Best, Mtetar
Dear Textilranger, I always enjoy reading your blog, so I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award: http://e1preininger.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/liebster-award-part-2/. Feel free to join or to ignore it. Greetings from Vienna, Austria.
Thank you so much! That is so kind of you.
By the way, I have been to Europe 5 times, but not to Vienna – YET. I really want to go someday.
I would like to meet you, if you ever visit Vienna!
I would like that too! I would love to plan a trip where I went to the home towns of the bloggers I follow, just to see the great things they write about for myself.
I’m sorry for the slow delay to your remark – sometimes I look at my comments on a tablet, which is not easy to type replies on, and then I forget to answer on my desktop computer!
I really wish I was half as organised as you are! 😀
I think you have too much on your mind – like if your glasses are on your neighbor’s face, or what insurance category your latest mishap will fall into!
Just kidding – but your post listing all of your accidents was hilarious – not that they happened, but the way you viewed them.
We need to laugh about these things (it’s better than crying!) 😀
How wonderful it would be to know the ins and outs of all the materials in my home. Hats off to you for making a dent!
I enjoyed your post from April where you experimented with gels and pastes – I could work for a few days from the inspiration I got there! So thanks! Sometimes it seems like testing materials will be boring, but it sparks so many ideas.