Last week we talked a bit more about needles. So what more logical next step than thread? Choosing the right thread for longarm quilting is a skill that develops with experience, but even as a beginner, understanding the fundamentals can greatly enhance your quilting. The thread you select can significantly impact the overall look and durability of your quilt. Thread is a big subject, but I’ll start with 4 things I wish I knew when I was getting started.
Threads can be like candy for quilters. So many colors and types! But we not only want our quilts to be visually stunning, we also want them built to last. After all, the thread we use for quilting is what holds it all together and converts a flimsy into a quilt!
1. Quality Counts
Investing in high-quality thread is crucial for the longevity of your quilt. Cheaper threads may break more easily or cause tension issues or create a lot more lint. Opt for reputable brands that are known for producing durable and reliable threads. While it may seem like a small detail, the quality of the thread can make a significant difference in the final product. Don’t use the thread you found in Grandma’s old sewing basket that was in the attic for a number of years. You know, the spools that have a 29cent price tag still on them. Use that thread for a decorative display in you studio. Or, if it runs in your machine without too much shredding or breaking, use it for your daily practice.
When you purchase good, high quality thread you’ll want to store it under the appropriate conditions to maintain its quality. Three things can have an effect on thread.
Exposure to direct sunlight can cause fading and weaken the fibers of quilting threads. Store your threads in a location that is away from sunlight or use opaque containers to shield them from UV rays. Fluorescent light can also damage threads over time. This is particularly important for threads made from natural fibers like cotton or silk.
Spools or cones stored out in the open can collect dust and it can deteriorate the quality of your threads. Be sure to store them covered. We all like to see all the gorgeous colors of our thread collections, but over time dust and lint will collect and it is not easily removed. So cover those threads. A drawer or opaque airtight container is ideal to protect your threads from both light and dust.
Temperature and Humidity
Storing in a constant temperature and humidity level is key here. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can adversely affect the quality. Aim to store your threads in a cool, dry environment to prevent them from becoming brittle or developing dry rot or mold. Avoid storing threads in basements, garages, or attics where temperature and humidity levels may vary.
3. Proper Delivery
The way the thread comes off the spool and feeds into your machine is important. This seemingly small detail can cause major headaches if done improperly with some threads. The way a thread is wound on the spool or cone is the determining factor.
There are two common types of put-ups, cones and spools.
Cones are typically cross-wound and spools are typically stack-wound (straight-wound).
Thread from a cross-wound cone should be delivered from the top of the cone. On a Handi Quilter longarm we use the built-in cone holder for that purpose.
Thread from a stack-wound spool should be delivered from the side. Placing a spool on the cone holder pin will not accomplish this. To quilt using a spool, you’ll need a horizontal spool pin for your Handi Quilter machine.
Having your cone or spool in the proper orientation will allow the thread to unwind smoothly, without twisting or putting undue stress on the thread. That means less shredding or breaking.
The rust colored cone is on the cone holder, the green spool is on a horizontal spool pin. Note that the spool pin is tilted up slightly. This is the proper position for it. The spool will not slide off with the pin in this position.
4. Experiment with your thread
Become familiar with all the threads in your collection by experimenting with them during your daily quilt play. Create small test pieces by trying out various threads. First and foremost learn to tension the threads, (don’t forget to use the right size needle!). Then try different quilting motifs, straight and curvy, large and small. Try different stitch lengths. This hands-on approach will help you understand how different threads interact with your fabric and give you a better sense of the final result. Once you have tried all the threads you already own, explore some new thread options. Then you will have a reference to look at when you are choosing thread for a project, and it will be easier to get the look you are going for.
More on thread next week, stay tuned!
Quilt Every Day.
by Mary Beth Krapil