Sunday, June 16, 2013

Learning to Work With Exotic Threads

On Saturday, June 15th, I had the pleasure of learning from Sarah Ann Smith - author of ThreadWork Unraveled.  She is the invited speaker at our Guild meeting this month and is giving two workshops over the weekend. Saturday was Tame Fiddly, Fussy Threads for Machine Quilting and Sunday/Monday is Quilting Design (which unfortunately because it is a 1.5 day class, I'm not able to attend).

The first part of the day was spent preparing the fabric for our project.  I chose to use the leaves provided in the class handout and to work with a blue/green colorway. We traced designs onto freezer paper and cut out the stencils then used paints to embellish the square for later quilting.  While the paint dried, Sarah discussed the importance of matching needles and threads and sorting out the tension.

I also learned a new cutting technique.  Using an 18 mm rotary cutter with the end tucked in my right palm, with my left index finger resting on the cutter above the blade to act as a break, it is possible to smoothly cut the stencils.  Clearly a picture would make more sense here, but that will have to wait a bit.

After lunch we started practicing with the threads to set the tension.  For each of the four threads, I marked in my lesson journal where I set the tensions. We used a 40 weight rainbow, a 30 weight solid, a silver metallic and a glitter. 

The silver and the glitter had the added challenge of being quite fine and easy to break.  Take home from the practice piece - if the tension is balanced and the thread still breaks, then the tension may be a skosh too tight.  We also learned about the effect of the fabric/needle friction on metallic threads.  When stitching for long periods of time, the needle heats up. This can cause the metallic thread to snap.  An easy fix it to take out the warm needle and set it aside (if it is not making a thunking noise then it is still a good needle) and replace with a cool needle.

Thread breaks can also be a function of using the wrong size needle with the chosen thread.  We reviewed the types of needs - Quilting, Ballpoint, Universal, Sharp, Topstitch etc.  Blown up on a large screen it is much easier to see the difference in the size of the eye.

Driving to class, just past the "point of no return" in terms of being able to turn back and get forgotten items from class, I realized that I didn't pack extra bobbin (inspiring me for future classes to make up a class kit with sewing basics), so I wound our bobbin threads in small amounts onto my one bobbin and tried to use them up - thus the extensive testing on my sample square.  I also tried out some leaf motifs.  Finally, I had to bite the bullet and push past my fear of not being perfect and start stitching.

I outlined and embellished the aqua leaves with the silver metallic thread and doodled with the glitter thread, until I ran out of bobbin thread - which coincided with the end of our class.  The glitter thread is mylar and VERY fragile. And a total pain to try to thread as it holds onto the curl from the spool.  Some rethreads were easy, others nearly impossible.  When it breaks it resembles a curly ribbon - so some has to be trimmed off.

I will outline and embellish the green leaves with blue thread and then add some leaves with the variegated thread and probably background quilt a bit with black.  Bobbin thread is polyester as that plays better in the sandbox with the glitter and metallic threads.

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