My friend Anita is working through learning how to get the best out of her new Bernina 480. She is doing really well making a charity quilt using quilt-as-you-go blocks with sashing joining and some really pretty bits of Japanese prints. Her free motion quilting is really beautiful, but she was trying to use up her leftover threads and kept having problems with it breaking with one kind of thread and leaving fluff behind in her machine for another. So we talked about it.
She told me she is using 40 weight rayon Sulky threads for the quilting and that it was breaking and shredding frequently. She thought it was her machine. Well no, almost certainly not. Even high-end quality rayon threads are a specialty thread that I use only when I take particular care to pass it through my thread lubricant device on my machine. She doesn’t have this for hers yet. There is one for it, however, that is easy to install. So I recommend that she put aside the rayon thread, which makes beautiful decorative stitching, but require special attention and turn to the other threads in her stash for now. But here is what one should know about using threads:
- Rayon thread is very prone to breaking, but it is really beautiful. I never use it for construction sewing, except I have on rare occasions used it for quilting when I wanted a particular look. It must be lubricated in some manner, stitched using a topstitch needle andwith a little lighter top tension to make it work well. Her B480 needs this thread lubrication unit (not expensive) for sewing with both rayons and metallics. If your machine doesn’t have this option, use a silicone thread lubricant by running a line of it down the side of your spool and rubbing it into the spool with your hands.
- Cotton is what many traditional quilters think should be used when quilting. A high quality cotton thread is good, although one must realize that even high end cottons tend to leave behind fluff in the bobbin area, especially, and requires more frequent cleaning. It’s just the way it is. Some brands are less fluffy than others. I like Wonderfil in all their cotton weight threads, in particular, because they treat it so it has less fluff than most and it’s beautiful. I also like Sulky 12 weight, but not other Sulky threads as much. Aurifil is considered a high quality thread, and it is, but it does fluff more than some others.
- High quality polyester threads give the least problems in sewing, quilting, and embroidery. I particularly like Wonderfil, Superior, and Isacord 40 weight polyesters and have a lot of all three brands. They don’t fluff as much, break as much, or shrink or bleed when washed (and yes, thread can bleed, just like fabrics).
- Silk thread is so lovely, works really well, but is more expensive than other threads. I particularly like Superior 100 weight Kimono silk thread for micro-stippling and other delicate quilting.
- Metallic threads are a specific challenge, but are worth it. Treat them much like rayon threads, but if you use them, try to have a way of feeding the thread that gives it a path to relax before entering the thread path…my Bernina 880 plus and my Q20 both have tall telescopic thread feeding that makes the metallics work well. Anita’s B480 needs the Multi-Spool Holder that Attaches to the back of the machine and allows the use of threads on cones (cheaper by the yard) and has a telescopic threading rod that also helps manage the metallics and other difficult threads (like rayon). If your machine doesn’t have these options, an independent thread holder can do the job both for metallics and for using cones (which seem expensive to buy but are really cheaper by the yard).
- 50 weight thread is what most machines are set for at the manufacturer, and consequently there may be some need to adjust the top tension for different weights, though 40 weights seem mostly ok with the default settings. If you want to sew clothing, both 50 and 40 weight threads in either polyeter, cotton, or a combination thereof, work well with an 80/12 universal needle.
Sew, I know that threads seem expensive. The initial investment to establish a thread stash can be a bit of an outlay, but if one picks out six or eight basic colors of 40 weight polyester cones and 100 weight cones of threads of either silk or polyester, then they can usually answer the needs for the most part, and other colors can be added a little at a time. Just be sure to store them out of the sun and in a dry location. If they are good quality to start off, these will last for years through lots of projects. Cones do need an accomodating thread stand or holder if your machine doesn’t come with that.
My best advice is, don’t buy cheap threads!!! And don’t try to use up your stash for inappropriate uses even if you are making charity quilts. But do build a nice little stash of threads and replace the colors when they go empty. Also use the right needles. All of this will help preserve your machines and keep down your sewing frustration. In the long run, it also saves you money in machine repairs, thread nests, and valuable time.
Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio!!!