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.





9 responses

29 04 2014
Threads and tension: Practise before quilting | Rhonda Bracey: At Random

[…] 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 100wt, seem to do best for me through just one […]

29 04 2014
30 04 2014

I always use King Star Metalic threads in my embroidery machine, these have transfered over perfectly to my Sweet Sixteen, I do use a thread net as they are 5000m cones but I might get a one thread break on a whole quilt, I only use one hole but really I have no trouble at all.

30 04 2014
Pam Stalnaker

I have quilted on the S16 with Yenmet metallics. I used quilting cotton top and bottom with Warm and Natural batting and a Superior Threads SuperBob pre-wound bobbin in a bright gold. I backed off the top tension some, but that was the only adjustment. Yenmet is the metallic that I have used on my mult-needle embroidery machine most successfully.

30 04 2014
Community Quilt 138 | Rhonda Bracey: At Random

[…] 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 […]

16 02 2015

Where exactly do you use the sewers aid?

16 02 2015

You run a small bead of it down the thread spool.

18 06 2015
Cindy Kimball

Hi Rhonda, found your site and it is very nice. I just happened to be finishing up a cheater quilt that had bright yellow sunflowers that were outlined in gold. I quilted them with Superior Threads metallic. Inside has Metallic 40 wt, Home machine topstitch #90/14. Longarm MR 40(#18). I used the 3 hole tension and it did not break one time and I had a lot of small spots. Not sure of the cost compared to other brands but well worth it for the Superior. Haven’t tried in my embroidery machine yet, I know when I use Sulky I run into problems and a little piece under the spool helps a lot
I only got my Sweet 16 in November and with the holidays and such have not used it a lot so I am by no means an expert with the quilting machine. Just figured if I could do it with no problems…. you get the picture

1 12 2015

Rhonda, I’m in the SweetSixteen yahoo group, which led me here. I haven’t tried metallic on my new 16 yet, but bobbin thread is critical. You want something “slippy.” I used Superior threads a lot, including metallic and The Bottom Line in the bobbin (which requires tightening the tension on the bobbin case! Have done that…do the spider on a line test). Monofilament (ugh) also works well as a bobbin thread for Metallics.

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