Friday, September 30, 2016

Week in Review 2016 - 09/30

The newest threads added to my collection.
Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

Have you noticed that no matter how many spools of thread you have on hand, when it comes time to selecting the ones to use none of them are quite right? What's a fiber artist to do? Buy more thread, of course. 

My thread choice has evolved over the years. Just as my machine quilting started with a basic all over stipple, my first thread choice was to use a clear monofilament. This had the advantage that it worked with most color fabrics since it "disappeared" and all you saw was the texture of the quilting. However, with very dark fabrics when the light hit the thread it would be sparkle and unless that was the look you wanted, it could be distracting. Hence the reason why monofilament comes in smoke - or a dark gray version today.

It didn't take long for me to stumble upon Superior Thread's King Tut line. This is a true staple Egyptian cotton thread that dramatically reduces the amount of lint build up. What drew me to King Tut was the range of variegated threads offered. There are 136 different options and the vast majority are variegated threads. The change between colors along the  thread is very short, resulting in a thread that blends well with multi-colored fabrics.

Detail from Siren's Song. I used one of the
few variegated polyester threads from
Marathon. It is my go to color for sky.
Predominately white with hints of baby
pink and blue. Not only can't your see the color
shifts in the image, but they are hard to pick up
in person. However, a solid white wouldn't
blend as well. It would be too harsh.
King Tut thread is cotton and therefore does not reflect light. It is average in thickness. Not so thick that it stands out above the fabric, but also not so fine that it hides in the fabric. Currently, I've been drawn to finer threads that add sheen to my work. I turned to Marathon Threads polyester and rayon lines. The advantage of fine thread for machine quilting is that you can do a fair amount of "unnoticeable" traveling stitching. In other words if I quilt myself  into a corner I can back track over the thread to get to where I need to go, instead of breaking thread. It simply is more efficient. Since much of my recent work has focused on interpretations of water and sunrises, the sparkle that rayon and polyester threads give enhances the design.

The finest (thinnest) thread of all is Superior Thread's Bottom Line. Love it! This is my go to bobbin thread. I choose something that "works" with my back fabric, and is mid range or so with anything happening on the quilt top. Because Bottom Line is fine, if the tension is set right you can't even see it on the quilt top. 

Most of my studio time this week was spent quilting Siren's Song. I did manage a few other things, as you can see:

1)  Siren's Song:

a) Prep for quilting - Done!

b) Begin quilting - Done!

I was pleasantly surprise how much quilting I actually did get done. I'm finished quilting the lightest sections. I'll be switching top threads next week.

2) Free motion quilting practice - Done!

Siren's Song is giving me all the FMQ practice I need. :)

3) Do some surface design work - Done!

I have started to play with some hand stitching with an eye to embellishing my work with it. I did a fair amount of embroidery, crewel and needlepoint before I turned to making quilts. I'm VERY rusty. I'd like to get my skills back.
4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

Yesterday, I was ready to give up many times over. The top thread was breaking at a annoying frequency, sometimes after less than minute, while other times lasting for 5 - 10 minutes. I'm fairly good at diagnosing the source of a thread break. This had me stymied. The "sound" suggested that the thread was getting hung up. There was "sprong" type noise just before the break. I did my best to stay calm, rethread and begin again, and again, and again... Instinct suggested the issue was with the despooling, what happens as the thread comes of the spool. At first it seemed when the thread came off the lowest section of the spool it was getting caught on the lip of the thread above. I solved this by uncoiling the thread manually each time it reached the lower limit. That worked for a while but then it got hung up no matter where the thread was being despooled from. I was close to the end of the spool and this exposed more of the top portion of the spool. I felt the rim and edges of the exposed spool. My finger snagged ever so slightly. Since there wasn't that much thread left I removed it all from the spool and run it out along the floor of my studio. Genius! I quilted for another 20 minutes until I came to the end and the thread didn't break once.

What thread adventures will I face next week? The reality is that it is always an adventure that has me both cringing when things aren't going smoothly and delighted when they are. Here is next week's adventurous plan:

1)  Continue quilting Siren's Song

2) Free motion quilting practice

3) Do some surface design work

4) Beware of when I find myself shutting down and find a way to stay open.

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.


  1. The quilting on Siren's Song is beautiful.

  2. Love your thread colors. Can you tell me what color or number the copper thread on the far right has? I can see a use for it in some things I'm working on. Is it superior or marathon? I also wanted to thank you again for the left handed embroidery book recommendation. My copy arrived yesterday and it is just great.

  3. I hate thread breakage problems. It causes so much lost time. Glad you found the problem. I was noticing the other day my thread stash is getting thin; I've been using up a bunch of things and I think stocking up at houston is probably in the cards.

  4. first of all the top picture is artistic in and of itself. I have been tempted by marathon but not tried it. The catching thing, brilliant deciphering. LeeAnna

  5. The quilting is turning out beautifully, and the threads array is beautiful too! I can so relate to your annoyance about the technical hiccup - nothing to spoil the creative mood like a breaking thread, great that you managed to solve the problem.

  6. Your quilting is beautiful; I really must stop wishing to be as good, and buckle down and practice! I am a Superior Thread fan -- both King Tut and Bottom Line -- and I like "Masterpiece" for piecing (the Wedding Quilt, for example). The quality of the cotton and the low lint production do it for me. P.S. Do you quilt on a domestic machine?