Threads for Your Stash

threads 2


Many of my quilting and sewing friends have often expressed the wish that a local fabric store would carry the threads they like to use.  I was asked yesterday to provide a fabric store in the area that currently only carries Gutterman, Mettler, some YLI, and Isacord with my suggestions for threads I wished they would carry.  Now I realize my own needs in threads may differ from others, but I don’t use any of the ones they carry except for Isacord because of the way they perform with my machines.  So I have been doing a bit of a survey on Facebook and The Quilt Show and by direct contact to find out how my own choices in threads match theirs.

I have several theories of thread use that I have developed over my many years of sewing and quilting. There is much to know about threads and my thread stash is almost as large as my fabric stash these days. Here is what I provided them and what they are best for.  There is still time to make adjustments to this if you all have suggestions.
For piecing, some machine quilting, and several applique methods one needs a very thin strong thread that does not leave a lot of lint in your machine and the colors are sure not to run or fade.  These also work if you are a hand piecer, quilter, and appliquer.  For quilting thread choice depends on what you are trying to achieve.  For all of these, there are some great threads, and no way could any single store carry them all.  I put an asterisk in front of the ones I think are most important to add at first.
Aurifil:  *50 wt. cotton…neutrals and colors as much as  you can stock
                40 and 30 wt cottons for embroidery and decorative stitching  in colors.
    *60 wt. Bottom Line…polyester…for bobbins, piecing, quilting, heirloom sewing, machine applique  as many colors as you can stock.   
    *50 wt. MasterPiece…cotton…for piecing, quilting, heirloom sewing
    *50 wt. So Fine…polyester, in as many colors as you can stock..for piecing, quilting, and fashion sewing (most popular in my survey)
    40 wt. King Tut…cotton…colors for quilting and machine applique when you want it to show
    40 wt. Magnifico colors for shinier embroidery  and quilting when you want it to show
    40 wt. Rainbows for quilting, embroidery, and machine applique  I use these a lot
    100 wt. Kimono silk
    12 wt. Sew Sassy…for redwork, quilting when you really want it to show, and decorative stitching
    Razzle Dazzle..for couching and bobbin work..I use this a lot
    Metallics  just the basic golds, and silver
    *Monopoly extra fine polyester low lustre clear.  Try it you’ll like it.
Fil-Tec 40 wt. Glide…a large percentage of professional longarmers recommend this.  I have never used it.
Wonderfil also has a great reputation and is used by some leading quilters, but I have not had much experience with it except for their metallics, which work in my machines much like Superior’s.   They do have an 80 wt polyester that I have one spool of and it seems to do well for bobbins and in place of silk.
And my favorite hand quilter, a leading hand quilter in the country and a great quilt historian, highly recommends Presencia threads.  I use the thicker ones of this for bobbin work, couching, and hand embroidery and they are wonderful. 
I have had a terrible time using most monopoly threads, and generally don’t like the way they look because I can see the shine and it looks like plastic to me, but Superior has come out with one I really like…the only problem I have with it is seeing it well enough to thread the machine (you have to hand thread the needle).  That is Superior’s extra fine polyester clear.  It sews really well in my 830 too if I use a 75 needle and lower my top tension.  A lot of quilters like monopoly because they don’t have to worry about color choices.  I only use it when I need to hide my stitching as much as possible (stitch-in-the-ditch), for machine applique when I’m trying to look like hand applique and don’t have a matching color in 100 wt silk,  and when I have to cross a lot of colors and don’t want to compete with the design.  I use it in the bobbin also when I do this.
Metallics have always been problematic for me.  I have tried nearly every brand, and there are only two I have found work well for me…those are Superior Metallics and Wonderfil, which perform about the same.  I have also used Finca Metallics with success, and they are really beautiful.  The tension settings make a huge difference in how these work.  I found, contrary to everything any of the thread people say, that INCREASING the top tension is necessary to make it work well in my 830, and REDUCING the top tension in my 350 and 1230 and using polyester in the bobbin.  Cotton bobbins will not do with metallics hardly at all.  I do not use any other metallics, because they just are miserable in their performance in any of my machines.  Some recommend Yenmet, but I have not been happy with it, and I have some of it in my stash.  It seems to work ok in my old Bernina 1230 and my little B350, though, but my Bernina 830 doesn’t like it at all.
I do use Isacord a lot for my machine embroidery.
So there you have it.  I really appreciate the excellent responses I got on my questions.  Wouldn’t you love a fabric store that carries these threads?
Sew happy everyone.  Teach someone to sew, or learn a new technique yourself in 2016.


A Visit to the “New” Old G Street Fabrics


This past week my big Bernina 830 (aka Gibbs), decided he would not sew another stitch until he had his spa treatment.  I would say his “annual” spa treatment, but it had been two years since he had been to the machine vet and I had put on about 1.3 million stitches in that time. Last year, G Street Fabrics where my dealer was had closed two of their stores in the area and drawn back to a single store in Rockville, Maryland.  They recently moved to another building in Rockville.  When I took him there, Mei-Ling Huang, the head of their Bernina section and my same dealer that was in a closer store that closed, showed me around.  I decided to take my camera when I went back to pick up Gibbs, which apparently had only some minor things wrong that Lew, the technician wizard, fixed quickly for me and did the “annual” clean and check, upon learning that I have several quilt deadlines coming up fast.  He fussed at me though about taking so long, pointing out that I have about 460 hours on the machine and suggested I divide the workload with a longarm.  Frankly, I was surprised it was that low.  Thank you Lew!!!!!!!

There is kind of a warehouse feel about the new store, but this may not be a bad thing.  It is much like some stores in New York I have been to that have some great fabrics, trims, buttons, and notions.  Two of the most outstanding things about the new location are the Bernina section, which I will talk about separately, and a bunch of classrooms that have windows and light and look fabulous to teach in.  The selection of fabrics is fairly substantial, though not to the level it used to be in its old glory days over a decade ago, but a good place to go when you are starting a project.  They have a very nice selection of home decorator fabrics, which make wonderful bags, coats, and costume segments, by the way.

The Back Wall of Home Dec Fabrics

The Back Wall of Home Dec Fabrics

One of several home dec lanes

One of several home dec lanes

Their quilting fabrics are ok, but I hope that as they pull themselves out of the hole that they will increase this section substantially.  Nevertheless, you can probably find the quilting cottons you need for a nice quilt project.

Quilting cottons

Quilting cottons

They also have a nice selection of buttons and trims, though substantially smaller than the great old store of yore.  Still, if you need buttons or trim for clothing, you can probably find what you need here.

Button wall

Button wall

Sew did I find the general part of the new G Street to be the fabulous, exciting place that it was in its glory days with its stages where the tailoring and the special occasion fabrics were shown in all their magnificent beauty and the quilting section was wonderful?…no.  Is it still the mecca for fabraholics the world over as it used to be?  No.  But I do think it has the possibility of reaching that place again and the class rooms really offer a wonderful possibility for building the future.  This seems a very good move on the whole for the store.  I found that they do not carry any thread brand I would use in the general store…they need to think about that.  Perhaps they don’t realize that some of us really dislike some of the brands they carry.  They have some wonderful fabrics that make one drool.

Most of all, however, I loved the Bernina section, which is still in process after the move.  It is in a separate smaller wing of the building. Mei-Ling and her crew have already given it an atmosphere of coziness and inspiration.  She told me that they are still organizing, so I anticipate that it will be downright fabulous in a month or so.  They run their new owner classes in this part of the store.

G Street 1

Walking in to the Bernina section


Feet and other notions

Feet and other notions


G Street 9

What I really want.

As you probably know, I am trying to sell some of my quilts.  You can see which ones here.  Mei-Ling has generously offered to hang some of these quilts on her walls, so I took three of them there…”Waiting…”, “Quiet Celebration”, and “The Storyteller”.

What do I hope the store will do?  I have a few suggestions:

  • Increase the quilting fabric section, and emphasize it as much as clothing and home dec sections.
  • I didn’t check it out, so I don’t know how this is, but be sure to have a solid and good offering of battings, fusibles, interfacings, and other underpinnings for clothes, quilts, bags, and fabric art of all kinds.
  • Start carrying Superior, Aurifil, and/or Wonderfill a broad selection of weights and fibers.
  • Emphasize the wonderful class rooms and fill them up.  Carry the threads, fabrics, books, and supplies needed for these classes so once someone learns something they can find what they need there.
  • Remember the store’s legacy and try to reach that again, and don’t try to be another Jo Ann’s or some such.  High quality fabrics with proper pricing (not 25 percent higher  than anywhere else, in other words), draw people in.

If you are near Rockville, I hope you will stop by and see what you think of this “new” old G Street Fabrics for yourself.  Be sure to look in the Bernina section and say “Hi” to Mei-Ling and look at my quilts on the wall. This nice store is about 50 minutes away over heavily traveled highways in heavy traffic, making it a little cumbersome for me to use on a regular basis, but I will certainly continue to go there for my Bernina needs.

Sew happy everyone.  I hope you have a good fabric store near you.

A Hawaiian Garden Quilt and Other News

For fun and profit I decided to take the MQX show challenge and make a quilt using an Alfred Shaheen vintage panel as the basis of the quilt.  There are just a few rules…one needs to use the whole panel (after it is squared up), and it can’t be more than 200 inches perimeter after all the additions of borders are made.  I found one for just $12.  It came in wonderful condition and looks wonderful.  Here’s a peak at a portion of a similar panel.  Mine has slightly different greens and blues. I’ll show you pictures of the quilt later.

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Then I ordered three solid colors by matching the colors directly on the screen with the painted colors on the fabric.  They came and are a really close matches to the colors in the pattern.  So I put on two borders…one 2 inches wide and one 5 inches wide with cornerstone blocks from the third color.  I was not planning on spending a lot of time on it, because it is not really a show quilt, except for the MQX special exhibit.  But I do plan on selling it if I can.  So it has to be really good…just as good as a show quilt.  😀

I’ve really enjoyed making this quilt, although it is taking me longer than I wanted.  It’s been fun the whole way.  The only time I got frustrated was when I was having trouble squaring up the panel, but friends of mine reminded me to use my laser square and blue painter’s tape and it helped a lot. The panel is linen with a fairly loose weave and has a tendency to stretch, so the blue painter’s tape helped to keep it from stretching out of shape and I taped it along the laser light, giving it a nice edge to follow when I cut it.  It’s nice and square and the borders and cornerstones went on nicely.  and now I’m quilting, quilting, quilting….

In other news, I’m removing the foundation paper from my Storm At Sea portion of my second in my “Waiting…” series.  My oldest son suggested the pieced portion of the sea and the non-pieced portion might ought to be closer in tones and less busy.  So I decided to over-dye both pieces together, because I agree with him.  The foundation paper I use is Electric Quilt printable, which can stay in the quilt if you want, or can be removed if you want.  It is a little fibrous and slightly more difficult to remove than paper paper, although I really find it wonderful for accuracy.  I spent hours on that piece, and it is a risk that I may end up having to do it again, but it also could be just what the quilt needs.  So I’m going to risk it, It’s an adventure.  😀

Also, I’m working hard on my first book.  I need to start making the samples for that.

In my last post, I asked if you would be interested in a block-of-the-month type of project.  I decided to do one.  It won’t be blocks of course, and so I’m calling it an Art Quilt Techniques Step by Step quilt.  It will be a Japanese Ikebana quilt with a vase in front of a moon in front of a background, and I will provide the flowers for download and printing on your printer. I will include Ikebana concepts for you to arrange the flower appliques in your own arrangement and there will be a selection of vases.

I probably won’t get this started until March after I get back from Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, but I’m already working on the design, and I expect it to be about six techniques/steps, so we should be finished around September or October.  I think it will be fun.  I hope you will be generous with your feedback on these steps. 

Anyone got an idea for a short name for this kind of quilt challenge? 

Sew happy everyone!  In this new year let us love, learn, share, sew, and quilt.  Hugs to you all.