Community Quilt 138

30 04 2014

This big quilt offered its share of challenges. It was nice and square, which was great. But the cream fabric used for the sashings and border was very hard, thick, and stiff as it was impregnated with gold flecks — I suspect it wasn’t a ‘quilting cotton’. As a result, all the needle punches through the three layers created fairly large holes, which I hope will close up and ‘self heal’ over time.

How to quilt it? Well, the rich colours of the fabrics in the blocks and the gold flecks in the cream fabric lent itself to gold metallic thread, but I ended up only using that for the outer straight lines around each block as I had trouble with the metallic thread. So I used an ‘old gold’ rayon thread for the in-the-ditch stitching, the inner straight echo lines for each block, and for the cross-hatching inside the centre of each block, which followed the cross-hatching in the pattern of this centre fabric.

I decided to leave the rich paisley fabrics unquilted, instead stitching the sashings and borders in a fairly dense spiral motif, in a matching cream thread (though it’s called ‘Khaki’ on the thread cone!).  That way the blocks ‘pop’ and add a little puffiness to the quilt.

While I was quilting this quilt, I set up my suspension system and it worked a treat in reducing drag.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)






Threads used:

  • Top: Robison-Anton (40 wt, rayon, ‘Old Gold’ colour 2201; used inside the blocks including the cross hatching in the centres of each block); Fil-tec Glisten (metallic, ‘Gold’ colour 60088; only used for the outer straight lines around the large blocks) ; Fil-tec Glide (40 wt, trilobal polyester, ‘Khaki’ colour 24525; used in the sashings and borders)
  • Bottom: Fil-tec Magna Glide pre-wound bobbin (white)

Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here:

Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen: Working with metallic threads

29 04 2014


I don’t have a good history with metallic threads. They are oh so pretty, but many’s the time I’ve wanted to throw the thread in the trash as it just won’t work for me in either my domestic sewing machine or my Sweet Sixteen. I follow all the rules and guidelines, and occasionally… just occasionally, it will work. And then there will be several months before I’m willing to try it again, knowing that there will be frustration and that angry words will be spoken 😉 I’ve watched Helen Godden demo HQ machines at quilt fairs and she often uses metallic thread and she seems to have no issues with it so I figure it has to be tamed somehow.

My latest foray into metallics was using a Fil-tec ‘Glisten’ metallic thread in gold. It was such a pretty thread and the quilt top begged to be stitched in gold… I had Fil-Tec Magna Glide in the bobbin.

But I went crazy trying to get this metallic thread to work without snapping every inch or so or stitching.

Here’s my litany of frustrations and what I tried, as I emailed to my dealer:

Top thread settings and things I tried:

  • one hole only in the 3-hole thingy
  • loosening top tension to the point that I had to unpick as I had scrunchies on the back
  • horizontal spool holder and upright (it’s a cross-wound spool), with and without a thread net.
  • slowing down from 50% to 25%
  • Size 18 Groz-Beckert needle set at 5:30 and then 6:30 position (I have very little success with ANY threads at 6:00 position). HQ’s website says the size 18 needles ‘work well with metallic thread’.

I’m trying to use it with a ruler but it keeps snapping. If I’m lucky I get to stitch about 2 inches, then SNAP. Changing from 5:30 to 6:30 helped a bit, but not for long.

My test piece worked fine – no ruler for that though, and it was only to check tension. However, I need to use the ruler as I need to get straight lines around 18 blocks. I haven’t even finished ONE block after nearly an hour….

I don’t have much luck with monofilament either, but that’s not today’s issue.

While I was waiting for her reply, I checked the archives of the forum I’m on and found that some people had luck with putting a few drops of Sewer’s Aid onto the spool of thread. I had some of that, so I tried it and it worked SO much better. Not perfect, but a LOT better, though not enough for me to continue with the metallic thread after I’d finished the outside stitching around each block. By dribbling three drops of Sewer’s Aid onto the spool, I was able to complete the ruler lines around a block without a single break – it took 2 minutes instead of the hour of frustration for the first block! I put another two sets of three drops in total for the rest of the blocks, so this isn’t a one-off fix — you do have to reapply it. But it worked so much better than doing nothing.

My dealer also got back to me with these suggestions:

I quilt all the time with metallic both FMQ and with rulers.  I don’t have any troubles.  Here is what I do:

  • Use a thread net.
  • Reduce the tension in my bobbin slightly so that I can back off the tension on the top
  • I usually quilt at around 35-45% depending on what I am doing.
  • I will use either size 16 or 18 needle (whatever is in usually suits)
  • Mainly I use 2 holes (but have gone to 1 if thread performance is questionable)
  • I don’t look at my needle position – whatever position it is in is fine.

Recently at Helen’s workshop she demonstrated in metallic.  Of course everyone wanted to sew with that.  Most people had trouble.  But honestly the thing that will tame metallic thread is a thread net!!  It is an essential when using metallic in my book (cannot be used on horizontal spool holder though).

The thread net will add tension however, so you will have to compensate with the tension and reduce it a little.  If you are getting looping underneath, then back the tension off on the bobbin case.  You can tweak this a fair bit.  Each wrap in the 3-hole guide will also add tension, so you might find that with all of the above you still have to drop back to threading through one hole.

Also, you must consider wadding types.  Thread performance is also affected by different types of wadding.  Was your sample piece the same as your quilt you were working on?

After all that.. I am out of ideas.  I would have to sit and work with the thread myself to get it going… Sometimes – the thread just has to be filed.. in File 13 (trash!)

I have no trouble with monofilament either – but see if the abovementioned helps you to use mono as well.  All the same principles apply.



Improvise! Bungee cord system to hold up quilt

27 04 2014

One of the ladies on my quilting forum has designed a system for holding up quilts to prevent drag when the quilt falls off the edge of the table, as any large quilt will do unless you have a HUGE work area. You can buy her system from here: However, because the shipping costs for such as system to Australia would be HUGE, she’s also suggested that we develop our own. So I did.

I remembered that we had an old portable hanging rack that we’d dragged around from previous houses, and that had been very useful in the day. But I didn’t know where it was as we’d either given it away or stored it after we last moved some four years ago. But my husband said that it should be in the shed (I’d looked) if we hadn’t given it away, and he thought we might have dismantled it. After some hunting around in the shed, I found it in pieces on top and behind a couple of storage racks. He also said we had bungee cords in the stuff for the bike rack, so I found those too, and grabbed two of the clamps I use on my basting table, and voila! I had a suspension system for my large quilts made from stuff I already had.

Here’s my setup after I’d finished putting it together (30 minutes to find the stuff, 10 minutes to put it together).




The only downside is that I had to move the table out from the wall about 6 inches to accommodate the legs (my Sweet Sixteen is in the main living room). I’ve yet to use it, but will report back once I have. If it doesn’t work for me, then I’ll just dismantle everything again and put it back in the shed 😉

And yes, that’s an Eagles ‘Hotel California’ poster on the wall. And note the 1980s grey of the hanging rack 😉

Update later the same day: Well, these are brilliant! I didn’t realise how much drag I had put up with, as I thought I puddled my quilts pretty well. But once the drag was taken away, the quilt moved effortlessly across the table top/sewing bed without much shoulder/neck/arm movement and no death grip grabbing and pushing/pulling. Yes, I had to reposition the clamps every so often, but I had to reposition the ‘puddle’ much more when I was doing it that way. This is a winner!!


Threads and tension: Practise before quilting

26 04 2014

On the Yahoo! Groups forum for the HQ_Sit_Down_Model, J asked for some advice on what sort of threads (top and bobbin) I use in my Sweet Sixteen, and how I get the tension right. She also wanted to know whether I used the same size/colour/weight thread in the top and bottom threads.

Here’s my (long) reply… You might want to get yourself a coffee…


I know that the purists say to use the same colour top and bottom, and even the same thread top and bottom. But I wasn’t taught by a purist and I didn’t know ‘the rules’, so I do what works for me. The bottom line (no pun intended!) is that I use whatever thread I want in the top and whatever thread I want in the bottom. I always stitch on a small practice sandwich first to make sure the tension is right, and then off I go.

So with that said, here are some of the things I do when deciding on a thread to use and then testing it out:

  • I pick one or more colours for the top thread. I don’t really care what brand – it’s the colour I’m looking for. I tend to favour the trilobal polyesters over cotton (far less lint!), and favour Glide and Isacord over other brands. But if the colour I want to use is only in a rayon or cotton, then I’ll use that. I’ve even used DECADES OLD overlocker/serger thread in the top! See also: Threads I’ve used in my Sweet Sixteen
  • Most of my top thread stash is 40 wt thread, no matter what variety.
  • I’m lazy so I don’t like winding/changing bobbins too often. So I’ll try to use either a pre-wound Magna Glide Classic (no cardboard sides) bobbin (made by Fil-Tec; 60 wt, size M), or a bobbin filled with a lighter weight thread (a bobbin takes a lot more light weight thread than 40 wt, for example). I’ve used these sorts of threads in the bobbin – Deco Bob (80 wt) and Invisifil (100 wt) from Wonderfil; Bobbinfil (70 wt I think); and 40 wt threads as per the top. My preference is the Magna Glide Classic pre-wounds (I only have their ‘white’, which is really a light creamy colour when you look at it; part # 12445), followed by Bobbinfil, followed by Deco Bob and then Invisifil. I’ve never used Bottom Line in my bobbin as it’s hard to get where I live and is very pricey compared to the others.
  • Mostly, my top and bottom threads are totally different in brand, weight, and type – as I said, I’m not a purist.
  • My top and bottom threads often aren’t the same colour either. Depending on the quilt, I may try to match the bottom thread with the backing fabric. But I find that except for really dark backs, the white Magna Glide Classic pre-wound just disappears into the backing fabric and is hardly noticeable. Then again, I’m not quilting show quilts, so I’m not so fussed about the colours being slightly different.
  • If I’m using a dark thread on top and the top is also dark, I might use a darker bobbin thread (e.g. black Bobbinfil), but only if the bobbin thread starts to show on the top.
  • I ALWAYS drop-test my bobbin thread tension before threading the top of the machine. I use Jamie Wallen’s method and it works every time for me. Once I have the bobbin tension adjusted, I rarely, if ever, have to change it for that bobbin.
  • I thread the machine using 1, 2, or 3 of the holes, depending on the thread. Cottons and trilobal polys seem to do OK through 3 holes, but the rayons mostly do best through just 2 holes. Metallics, monofilaments, or fine threads like 80 wt or 100 wt, seem to do best for me through just one hole.
  • I use a thread net over the cone/spool for fine threads and metallics to help prevent them spooling off too quickly and getting tangled.
  • I brush out the bobbin area at every bobbin change, and put one drop of oil in the bobbin area then too. But with the Magna Glide Classic pre-wounds, there’s not a lot of lint in the bobbin area.
  • I try to change needle with every quilt I do (but if I have a couple of small quilts, I might use the same needle for a while).
  • I mostly use a size 16 or 18 needle. I have 14s but I only use them for very fine thread.
  • I usually have the needle in the 5:30 position – that seems to work best for my machine; 6:30 position sometimes works too, but I don’t have a lot of luck with the 6:00 position.

Once all that’s done (hopefully I didn’t forget anything!), I grab my practice sandwich and:

  1. Stitch a couple of loops and points at the speed I’m likely to use on the quilt.
  2. Pull the sandwich away from the needle and turn it over to see the back – I’m looking for looping thread and eyelashes at this stage. Looping thread (see 2 and 3 in the photo below) and eyelashes (1 in the photo below) mean my top tension is too loose, so I turn the top tension knob at least one turn (depending on how much loopiness/eyelashes) to the right (away from me) and test again. And repeat until I can’t see any top thread on the back (actually, that’s not quite true – I use a cream practice sandwich mostly, so if I see tiny pinpricks of the top colour, I’m OK with that as my practice sandwich is a usually a little thinner than the actual quilt)
  3. Once I can’t see top thread on the back, I’m pretty sure that everything on the top will be OK, but I look at it anyway. If the top is puckering or I can see more than a dot of bobbin thread at the points, there’s a good chance that my top thread is too tight, so I turn the knob a little to the left (towards me) to lighten off a little. And test stitch again. And loosen. And stitch. And look at the front and back. And adjust the top tension knob in smaller increments until I have stitches that lay flat on both top and bottom and that don’t pucker the quilt.

And then I’m ready to put the quilt under the needle. Even so, I start stitching on the quilt and after a few inches, I stop, lift the quilt to see the back and check my stitches (it helps if you have excess border fabric etc. to do this test stitching in). If the top thread is looping/eyelashing on the back, then I tighten the tension knob (and if it’s bad, I pick out the stitches and start again), and start stitching again. And then I check the back and front again to make sure it’s all lying flat. Once I’m happy with my test stitches on the quilt, I’m off and running.


Yes, all this sounds an awful lot to check/test, but in reality it might take me just a minute or so.

That’s not to say that I don’t get frustrated with tension issues at times, but the worst of those have usually been related to something else, like the timing going out as a result of a needle breakage/jam, and thus the machine can’t make a proper stitch.

When nothing seems to work, I try a new needle, different thread top and bottom, and switching the power off and walking away for a while. Wine helps too 😉

If all that doesn’t work for you, can you take your machine back to your dealer and get them to use it (in front of you) and you use it in front of them to see if it’s you or the machine. Sometimes it’s the machine! And it may need a service or the timing adjusted.



Community Quilt 137

21 04 2014

I loved this quilt! If you’d told me about a quilt in aqua/teal blue and tans, I’d have said ‘Yuck!’, but I just loved how these colours played so well together.

It was a big quilt, with lots of rectangles of various sizes, and multiple coordinating fabrics, some of which were curvy lines with dots/circles in them. That became my overall theme for quilting this quilt.

Because the edges were all so straight, I decided NOT to use any rulers for any of the quilting. Even the so-called ‘straight’ lines in the sashing strips are wonky free motion lines. That was a deliberate choice. I wanted the quilting on this quilt to be organic and not to rigidly follow the straight lines of the blocks. I quilted a different motif in each block — some with wonky lines, some with circles, some curvy lines, some with a combination… I repeated some motifs (e.g. the rectangular spiral), but avoided two motifs the same in any one block or two the same next to each other. I used the same soft blue thread throughout.

For the border, I did big loopy things, sort of like figures of eight/infinity symbols, but without any crossing lines.

It took me about 10 hours to quilt this quilt, running at 50% speed on my Sweet Sixteen for all the stitching (and with very few thread breakages – that might be because I used a new size 18 needle). Had I been using rulers, it would’ve taken much longer.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)






Threads used:

  • Top: Robison-Anton (40 wt, rayon, colour: ‘Sprite’)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Glide pre-wound in white

Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here:

Community Quilt 136

13 04 2014

This small dark quilt was a challenge. How to quilt it to enhance the depth of the colours, while not overpowering the quilt with the quilting?

The first decision was what thread to use. I didn’t want a very dark thread as that would’ve hidden the quilting, so I opted for a variegated thread in rich orange, copper, ginger, red, and peach tones.

I started by doing straight line quilting from the piano key border into the adjoining row of blocks, following the existing seam lines of those blocks. But when I looked at the other side’s piano key border, it didn’t marry up with the seam lines of those blocks, so I had to abandon that idea for the other side. What to do?

I’d seen quilts that blended one motif into another but hadn’t tried it myself, so I sort of did that. The motif I used for the blocks next to the straight line blocks was a curved open headband motif with squared off edges, and then the one for the blocks and piano key border adjacent to that was a full circular spiral design, thus varying the quilting from one edge to the other from straight lines to circular lines.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

quilt136_04 quilt136_03



Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here:

Community Quilt 135

13 04 2014

I loved the colours in this quilt! And as soon as I pulled it out of the bag, the cream centre just screamed ‘McTavishing!’ to me, so that’s what I did. I also stitched around the main parts of the appliqued flowers in the centre to make them ‘pop’ even more.

I left the dark green borders unquilted, and did my quick and easy cathedral windows motif in the checkerboard borders using a variegated orange/copper/pink/ginger/peach rayon thread.

I was really pleased with how this quilt looked after I’d quilted it.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



quilt135_02  quilt135_05


Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Glide ‘Cream’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 20001) and Wonderfil Mirage (30 wt, rayon, colour SD31)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Glide pre-wound bobbin (white)

Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here: