Which Thread and Needle to Choose for Machine Quilting ?

Hello Everyone… as we prepare for the Doodle Fiesta next week and the sewing up of the doodle groups the following week, a review of which threads and needles to choose for machine quilting is a great topic to cover now. Before I get started, in years gone by sewists often weren’t wealthy people and so the choices they had were limited. Whilst the information below is based on my own experience, at the end of the day, we cut our cloth to fit what we have.. so use what you have and that will be fine 🙂

The first thing to consider is what effect you are looking for. Do you want the quilting to contrast or blend in with the fabrics in the quilt? Where do you want the focal point to be? I tend to sit on the fence. I don’t want the quilting designs to simply echo my patchwork piecing, but neither do I want to take away from the work I have already done with my piecing. Unless I am doing a sample, I tend to use threads which will blend in with my piecing yet add another element to it, rather than dominate it.

There are lots of different types of thread on the market, but the most popular are cotton, metallic and polyester (rayon). Cotton threads tend to have a more matte finish, whilst polyester threads often have a shine to them. Metallic threads glimmer, but can be more difficult to work with as tend not to be as strong as cotton or polyester.  I like shiny thread, so most often quilt with polyester thread.

Thread weight is usually marked on the spool. Sewing thread is thicker as the number decreases. A 30w thread is much thicker than an 80w thread. Whilst a 40w thread is a popular choice for quilting, I have found that 50w or 60w cotton threads blend into the fabric more successfully, but a 40w polyester thread is my best choice (often called a number 40 when relating to polyester weight) as it is shiny and appears far more like a 50w cotton thread weight. Thread size is not an exact science and so a 50w thread from two different manufacturers will often feel different – very similar to clothes sizes from different High Street shops. If you see a weight with another number with it, for example, 50/2 or 50/3 this is the weight of the thread and then the number of ply/strands.

My goto threads are polyester Glide Thread or Isacord (both 40w) for machine quilting (and Aurilfil  28w for hand quilting). Don’t forget, for machine quilting, it is vital that you use the same weight of thread in the bobbin.

In terms of needles, when I can find them, I opt for titanium needles as the thin layer of titanium nitride keeps them sharper for longer and so won’t need changing so often.  The rule of thumb is that the type of needle you use will match the fabric you are sewing. The finer the fabric, the finer the needle should be. In addition, if the eye of the needle is too small for the thread you are using, it will shred, and if it is too big, it will likely leave holes behind in your fabric as the hole made by the needle as the thread isn’t big enough to fill the hole.

For my quilting, I tend to use either a quilting or a topstitch needle. The tapered shape of the quilting needle is designed to stitch through multiple layers which is ideal for quilting. A topstitch needle has a longer eye which allows more air to circulate around the thread as it whizzes through. I find that thread breaks frequently when it gets hot, so would recommend when you are starting out or just practising, that you use a topstitch needle.

For domestic machines, the size of the needle you are looking for is somewhere between 70/10-80/12. The first number is the European (metric) number and the second is the Americal (universal) metric. I do sometimes buy 90/14 topstitch needles, I don’t find the size too large for what I am doing, but I am using them in much larger domestic machines.

So now you are fully briefed…. get set … we are about to start doodling again xx

Photoshoot at GillyMac Designs

Since May it has been on my mind to have professional photos taken for GillyMac Designs. This was never going to be vanity project – far from it – I would rather not have my picture taken at all – however the business here has reach the amazing point of my classes having an online demand. This is brilliant, but brings different challenges. There is every chance that the people I am teaching may never have met me in person, but there is a need for those people to have a sense of me and GillyMac Designs – hence my need for come superb photography.

So that was the brief .. and I engaged a photographer, Liz Carrington, who I had met through a local business community. I could not have gone ahead with this if I hadn’t liked and trusted Liz as much as I did. In my corporate career I had a number of shots done for conferences, brochure and internal sales event, but this would be different. This time I wasn’t representing a corporate role, I was wanting to convey the business I had built.

I rushed out and bought new clothes for the shoot. Only to find that the lovely stuff I had bought has stripes and checks on it which (when I read the brief) were not a good option. So I decided to wear what I felt most comfortable in. I asked a good friend to be my pupil for the day and we were set.

The shoot was easier than I thought it would be and the time went quickly. We covered as much as we could and in all there must have been 3-4 hours of photography. There is always a desire to cram more in – but a core bank of shots was what I needed.

As well as doing the photoshoot, we also reviewed my overall approach to brand imagery. I knew what I was doing up until this point wasn’t consistent, but I didn’t want it to become overly staged. There is always a middle ground, but to find that I needed Liz to help me start producing consistent imagery on my social media feeds.

I now have the photographs back from Liz and they are great. I am also at the VERY beginning of working on my visual strategy.  I have felt overwhelmed this past week with the amount I am taking on in changing up what I do – but the need to adapt cannot be ignored.

I hope you enjoy the shots I have posted … I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

GillyMac Doodle Challenge – Creating The Doodle Book

Hello my lovely doodlers … In this post, I will show you how I created the front of my Doodle Book, which comprises all the weekly sew-ups from the Summer Challenge. From this post, you could take the method and change the design or copy the design. It is completely up to you. Below, there are two videos. One of me sewing up the Doodle Book cover and then a second video which covers the topic of installing eyelets – which for some reason I get confused about every time I do it, so I created a video for it just in case you are also ‘eyelet challenged’ :-).  The eyelets are used to allow a ribbon or cord to bind the book.

To get started with the front cover I marked the piece as shown. My piece was bigger – but below are my suggested measurements if you are sticking with 12″ (black) or if it was the 16″ that I created (red).

The large box in the middle is for an oversized ‘D’ which I used a ruler for the lefthand sized straight part and then the curve on the right side was drawn freehand.  The rest of the letters and numbers were freehand drawn onto freezer paper, cut out and ironed in place. Their size was dictated by the space available. Check the space you have. For 12″ squares and the word ‘challenge’ You will likely use a 1″ wide letter – which you could make up to 2″ tall, but 1 1/2″ tall may look better.  I found that the “2018” needed to be smalled. For the 12″ piece you could abbreviate to ” ’18 “. When you use freezer paper it is shiny on one side. This is the side with the wax on it and you will draw on the other side and then when you iron it onto your fabric, you will iron with the shiny side down – allowing the wax to temporarily sticky to the fabric.  Once stuck down, you can easily draw around the shapes with a chalk pencil or whatever you have to hand to mark the fabric.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you don’t have freezer paper, you could use normal paper, cut out the shapes, used a line of sellotape to temporary fix them and draw around the shapes just as I have suggested above. When you remove the shapes you can complete the lines where the tape has stopped you drawing previously. This method is just as good.

Now with my piece completely marked up I freehand sewed around the large “D” and all the other letters and numerals. It is at this stage the first video starts. (see below)

To complete the book I added the binding and eyelets to every page and then bound it with a spare piece of binding which I had sewn down along the long edge to make it more like a cord. You could use ribbon, cord or anything you like.  The eyelets I used were Prym 5mm eyelets from Amazon, along with the hammer from the small tool kit I bought myself years ago when I felt the DIY was getting a bit sluggish around here… (it worked, the DIY suddenly ramped up as he thought I was trying to do his jobs and make him redundant – this toolkit is now referred to as the Replacement Toolset :-))

OK … my work here is done… The resulting book looks brilliant.

I have missed you all over the past 3 weeks and look forward to getting back to the doodles in a few weeks time.

GillyMac Doodle Challenge Sewing Up Week 6

How amazing … we got to Week 6… and wasn’t this week fun!   Learning the bump back feather is a nice technique and and I think if you have some success with this type of feather, you can practise it over and over, challenge yourself to create it in different shapes, understand the value of seeing how other people tackle feathers in strange shapes (by seeing quilts at shows, or on social media and Pinterest) and ultimately it will give you the confidence you need to try other methods of creating feathers.

The sew up for this week is below.  However, I just wanted to say a few things about this challenge.

I developed this challenge to keep my home sewing ladies engaged with sewing over the school summer holidays because for family reasons I wouldn’t be able to teach or hold my normal summer BBQ for the GillyMac Crew (an often raucous affair that Brian stays well away from).  In the ridiculous heat of the early summer, I filmed the doodles and started sewing them up. I did worry if people would be interested.

The Challenge has given me hours of pleasure. The best thing has been the community YOU have created around the Challenge and the encouragement YOU have given each other. I have roared with laughter at the photos of Jupiter (Lindy’s cat), Billie (Carolyn’s friend’s horse) and Terry (Sue’s dog) all getting in on the action and thrilled that so many people doodled across Europe on holiday as well as being part of the core challenge. Unbelievably the videos have had >5000 views and this is still increasing.

One of you asked me why I did this for free. Well, I did it to try out delivering information by video (thanks for putting up with my learning steps) and I wanted to see if I could build a community.  I hope that if you have enjoyed this, you will naturally tell others or share posts.

A few housekeeping things

  • Doodle badges will be in the post on Monday or Tuesday … if you haven’t sent me your address – please do so…
  • I have posted a survey on our Doodle Challenge Facebook Page – it would be great if you would fill it out (2 mins only)
  • If you feel able to give me a facebook review on the main GillyMac Designs page (no obligation – I love you all anyway) then that would be great

Keep practising the doodles as we will use them in the October Fiesta 🙂 ….

Thank you all soo much for being brilliant…. See you tomorrow at 3.30pm for the final draw and some additional prizes 🙂

Gill x