My last blog recounted the fun I had in deciding which designs to use on a fantastic appliqué wall hanging made by my friend, Janet Huenink. The next great debate that I had with myself for several weeks before I started work on this quilt involved thread - a decision that I have found to be of equal importance to the quilting designs. My usual choice of a 50-wt. thread means that the design will nestle itself into the fabric and generally provide some texture to the quilt top. The color choice is determined by a couple of factors. First of all, I decide whether I am using one thread over the entire quilt or am I willing to change thread colors.
Janet and I had chosen a thread color from my collection of Superior Threads So Fine #50. I felt that the neutral color would work well on the linen-colored backgrounds and pastel appliqué fabrics but I was not entirely comfortable with the 50-wt. because I knew that thread could look heavy around the appliqués. After wrestling with that thought for several weeks I finally took the plunge and ordered some spools of Bottom Line - a 60-wt. thread - and Microquilter - a 100-wt. thread - additional lines from Superior Threads. I was also fortunate enough to find some spools at an estate sale that was held at this same time. Now I had four neutral colors of two different weights of thread with which to experiment. Surely one of those would be the perfect thread for this gorgeous quilt.
I was mentally prepared for the need to do some adjusting with the tension in order to make the thinner thread work correctly. So after loading a practice piece on my frame I gave the Microquilter #7003 thread the first try. I experimented with all three of my threads in the bobbin - Microquilter, Bottom Line, and So Fine #50 - and discovered that the 50-wt. thread worked the best. The smallest needle that I had was a #16 so that is what I attached to my machine. That was also the needle size recommended on the spool. I really liked the fine stitching that the Microquilter produced and the color blended well. I felt this thread would be my best choice to produce the results that I was looking for. Everything seemed to be working fine.
When I began stitching on the wall hanging I had issues with my thread catching - something that I had never experienced before. I tried rethreading my machine and lowering the tension in both the top thread and the bobbin. Nothing I tried worked. A phone call to Country Traditions in Fremont - the store from which I purchased my machine - resulted in a couple of possible fixes. One possibility was to use a smaller needle - a #14 or # 12. The other option was to check on the workings of my machine. Either fix necessitated a trip to Fremont - at least three hours of lost sewing time. I was anxious, however, to get the issue resolved and get back to work on this awesome quilt.
When the repairmen - yes, two of them - took a look at my machine it naturally stitched just fine and they could find nothing wrong. When I stitched, however, the thread caught again because I was going at a much slower speed. They were puzzled by the catching so wanted a little time to check everything out. In the end they discovered a notch on the thread guide nearest the needle - a relatively inexpensive repair. They also felt that the bobbin hook needed to be replaced. This is a larger part in which the bobbin fits underneath the needle. This was not an inexpensive repair! However, after stitching 35,000,000 stitches in four years - did you see all of those zeroes? - I was not surprised that a problem like this could happen. I also purchased a package of #12 needles as well as a package of #14 needles. Now I was surely ready for any issue that I might encounter.
The good news was that after that trip my machine worked like a dream and I was able to finish the quilt with ease! And I had not only discovered some fun new quilting designs but had added some new thread options to my collection.