As promised, what follows in this new set of blog posts is an accounting of info I found on machine stitching with specialty threads as applied during the creation of “Bright Delight” – with a few extra tidbits thrown in for good measure.
Interested? Read on!
Who hasn’t been tempted to buy a spool or two of those lovely specialty threads?
Such eye popping glittery glam about the size of a lipstick bursting with promises of inspirational fantasies yet to be created:
Metallics cry out to be used!
If the price is right – say, a 2 for 1 sale – they fairly leap their way into a quilter’s shopping basket ready and willing to be experimented with once brought back to one’s sewing space.
And then again, who hasn’t been foiled* by those very same enticing spools?
Machine stitching with these beauties ain’t easy, but they can be tamed for use by everyday quilters like you and like me with a few tricks and tweeks.
It all starts with an understanding of the basic properties of these specialty threads and then progresses towards mastery of their usage.
*yep, pun intended!
All threads consist of fiber strands wrapped around a central core. In specialty threads, the core determines the stretchiness of the overall thread itself.
- Rayon core metallics – no stretch
- Polyester or nylon core metallics – various levels of stretchiness
In general, metallics are made by wrapping slivers of metal foil or tinsel around one of those core types. As a final product, metallics aren’t very strong and break easily.
In addition, metallics have a greater propensity towards curling, twisting and tangling than other threads. The basic drape of a thread as it comes off the spool can range from straight, slighty wavy, tangled, or curly like an old-fashioned landline telephone cord! Different manufacturing methods, brands and quality of workmanship all contribute to these variances in threads – affecting specialty and metallics to a significant degree.
Interestingly, the diameter of the spool on which the specialty thread is wound is the most determining factor in the amount of ‘thread memory’ affecting ease of use. ‘Thread memory’ refers to the thread’s permanent wave that tends towards twisting when coming off a spool.
Because metallics ‘keep their coil’ they sew better from a larger spool than from the more tightly wound skinny spools commonly sold in retail stores. And yes, the photo at the head of this post is of several skinny spools of metallic threads I do indeed possess! However, I used an ‘old’ spool of copper metallic thread from my thread stash on my Bright Delight African wall-hanging here recently. Of unknown origin & brand, it also happened to be wound on a larger diameter spool…here’s to the wisdom of the 1990s!
Now quilters, as thrifty, recycling types, I know you are wondering what to do with all those ‘bad’ skinny spools of metallic threads. Seems counter intuitive, but they can be used in the bobbin! ‘Bad’ metallics work well in that application since tension and twisting are not an issue in the bobbin. Furthermore, they can be used with most any type of upper thread.
Of course, rule #1 on sewing with these threads – whether in the bobbin or as an upper thread – is to Sew Slow.
In any case, a special machine set-up for sewing with metallics and specialty threads is essential for successful stitching and will be discussed in greater detail in my next installment: Working with Metallic Threads 2.
(For a nice recap overview of metallic thread characteristics go here)