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 and rayon. Cotton threads tend to have a more matte finish, whilst polyester and rayon 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, rayon 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

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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

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GillyMac Doodle Challenge – Sewing Up Week 5

Only one week left and it is a good time to reflect on what you have learnt through the challenge before you forget it, and before we have some creative fun with feathers.

To start with you need to give each doodle a name – you can make your own up (or you can use my names – downloadable below) and then my suggestion is that you use this grid  (also downloadable below).  The grid has two axes. One is ‘how much you like the doodle’ and the other is ‘how hard it was’.

In the example below I have added in my (pretend) thoughts …So … I found doodles 1. 3. 5. 6. 7. 10. 11. and 12. EASY to Doodle and I LIKED them. I found doodles 4. 8. 9. 13. 14. 19. 20. and 25 HARD to doodle but I LIKED them. I found doodles 2.15. 16. 21 and 22 EASY to Doodle but I DISLIKED them and I found Doodles 17. 18. 23 and 24 HARD to Doodle and I DISLIKED them.  I hope that from this example you can see how you can map your likes/dislikes and how tricky you found the doodles onto this grid. Now you can put your doodles numbers where they fit for you. Everyone’s grid will be different as we all liked different doodles and found specific ones harder than others.

From here it is really easy to make of plan of what to do next !! The chart below shows you what you need to do.

Some doodles you can just forget (bottom left) … others you should actively use now on your sewing to get them nailed in your free motion repertoire (top right), others you can continue to doodle until you find them easier (bottom right) and  then there are some in the top left box that you may find a use for in the future so keep them on the back burner.

You may find that in 6 months time the place you have put the doodles in now has changed. So this is something you may want to revisit.

For now  – here is the Sew Up for this week… My Ullswater Steamer Ferry … I hope you enjoy it … Next week – Feathers …. and also on Saturday (1st September), along with the final Sew Up, I will be announcing how you can get your GillyMac Doodle Challenge Pin and confirming the dates for what is next for those of you who have doodled with me this Summer – to qualify you to need have doodled for at least two weeks of the six weeks.

Well Done All xxx

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GillyMac Doodle Challenge – Sewing Up Week 4

Well done team !!! We are at Week 4 with two more to do. This week’s borders seemed to be welcomed as easier across the board – with a lot of love for the loops on Monday and my ‘lie-detector’ (too much ‘Homeland’) on Thursday.  The sewing up this week reflects that these are border patters, or at least can be used in a linear fashion. I really like quilting borders. I think it means I am closer to the ‘Ta Dah’ moment of quilt completion … and also, typically, quilting the borders is easier because they are more accessible.

So this week I have sewn up the doodles in rows, as I see you using them. Below you will find two videos and a downloadable document.

  • The first one is the video you are now used to with me sewing up our doodles. You can choose how large each of your border rows will be. I started in the middle with the stars row and found something to draw around (baked beans tins are very useful) and then worked my row sizes out from there.
  • The next video is information to help you plan for doodling and sewing up corners.
  • Then there is a downloadable PDF document which goes with this second video to help you plan your corners.

 

Next week we’re moving back to ‘all over’ doodle patterns which culminate in a picture to sew which is great fun. Then in Week 6, I will teach you how to doodle ‘bump-back ‘feathers and I know you will all love the sew up for that final week.

Talk to you all tomorrow when I will be doing this weeks prize draw 🙂

 

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GillyMac Doodle Challenge – Sewing Up Week 2

Well for me, the change in temperature here earlier in the week was a welcome relief. Over the past two days, we have been back up in the low thirties, but we are all ‘fanned-up’ here and ready for it this time!

It is lovely to sit down each evening or catch up during the day with all your doodling achievements. I think there are three main points that have stood out to me this week.

  1. You are all learning what type of doodles you find easier and which are a bit harder.
  2. I can see that you are challenging the things your hands feel they don’t want to do and pushing yourselves a little more to try those more difficult things.
  3. You are all liking and disliking different doodles – there is no one doodle that you all like.

When a sewing machine gets involved, this learning gets all mixed up with the sound of the machine going (as fast as your heart), the thread selection (which needs to be perfect), wondering if the needle is sharp and if the bobbin is in correctly etc. Somebody even told me once that if I used my left foot for free motion it was easier. Instead of laughing, for a number of months, I fully believed that this could be the key! Looking back it makes me laugh out loud, but I really was willing to try anything.

Doodling with pen and paper strips this all back to just you – your hand and your brain. In addition, by concentrating on the doodles you are able to learn a bit more about yourself and your brain before you go near a sewing machine and I am able to see just how diverse you all are in what you like and enjoy. I think it would be useful for you to do a 5-second review of each doodle so far and make a note on each page as to if you liked it or not and if you found it hard, or not.  The ones you liked and found easy will be the ones you will be likely to have the most success with when you sew them, the ones you liked but found hard are ones for you doodle more of before you use them on your precious pieces. The ones you didn’t like you can use as a reference you can go back to – you may warm up to them in the future.

Today’s video shows me sewing up this week. I have changed threads and speeded up bits to make it more watchable. There is NO NEED for you to do the sewing, but if you do, then I would love to see it on the Challenge Facebook group.

Tomorrow, I’ll do a quick ‘live’ on the Challenge Facebook group in the afternoon to draw the winner out of the hat…. and I’ll also show you and post pictures of the prizes for week 3. Week 3 builds on what we have achieved so far, buts adds in some twists on it, then week 4 will focus on designs especially useful in borders.  In week 5 we go back to all over patterns again and then in week 6, we will do some very easy feathering which I think will get you well on the way to understanding one particular method that I think is easiest to get immediate success when trying feathers.

Enjoy the video…. and once again – thanks for taking part 🙂

 

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GillyMac Doodle Challenge – Sewing Up Week 1

A heartfelt thank you to all who are taking part in this challenge. Below is the video of the doodles being sewn up. At the moment the most important thing is that you get secure in your doodles and if you want to practice them on the sewing machine, just ‘have a go’ with no expectations. I am sewing them on my sit down long arm, but only because it makes the videoing easier. Everything I do can just as easily be done on a normal sewing machine.

To sew the doodles up I used a wadding sandwich with a 14″ square drawn in it – which I filled with my doodles. I made my square a little larger however a 12″ drawn square will be a better size for a book if that is your intention for the squares later :-). If you want to copy this, then the picture below will show you the designs I chose. The numbers in the drawing related to the doodle day patterns I used in each section – so a label of ‘3’ means that I used the doodle from Day 3.   The little boxes which are hanging from the tree are for the Day 5 Doodle.

The other picture shows you the Glide and Fantastico threads I used. Any eagle-eyed person will notice the red (for the apples) isn’t in the picture, but it was also Fantastico.

I have speeded up certain areas of the video so as not to bore you or be very repetitive.

Happy Doodling 🙂

I’ll be around on the facebook page to answer any questions 🙂

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2018 Summer Doodle Challenge : #gillymacdoodlechallenge

Did you know that doodling helps people concentrate while fostering creativity? It’s true 🙂 …..

This Summer I will be running two challenges. Both can be completed by anyone (children as well), and neither needs anything complicated by way of equipment. The first one is my GillyMac Doodle Challenge.

What is it? Each weekday for the six weeks from 23rd July to the 31st August I will post a 2-3minute video of a doodle that you should practise that day. Then on the Saturday of each week, I will post a video and some pictures of the doodles sewn out on the sewing machine. After 6 weeks you will have learnt 30 doodles and if you manage to follow on with the weekend doodle sewing then there will be a bonus video showing you how to make these into a fabric book containing 6 pages and one front cover of your sewn doodles. This will be a brilliant reference guide for your free-motion quilting going forward.  There will also be prizes and giveaways each week for those taking part.

What will you need? For the daily doodling, you will need an A5 or A4 notebook with blank pages and a sharp pencil. A notebook is better than sheets of paper, as single sheets can get lost. The notebook needs at least 30 pages in it.

For the weekend sewing, you will need a 12 1/2″ wadding square for each week (backing fabric, wadding and top fabric). It is best if the fabric is not patterned. Anything plain will do. You will also need contrasting thread and a darning foot for your sewing machine.

To make up the book at the end of the challenge,  you will need an additional 12 1/2″ wadding square, 5 eyelets, 75 cm of ribbon (anything will do – about 1/2″ wide) and 1/2m of fabric to bind all the squares.

How do you join? I have created a facebook event on my GillyMac Designs Facebook Page where all the videos will be posted each day. You need to click ‘going’ to the event or you will not be sent each video – clicking interested will not work. Please note that although you will need to click ‘going’ for each day you don’t actually need to be standing by your computer at 10am each day .. it just guarantees you will get the video – which you then have access to throughout the whole challenge.  For those of you on Instagram follow #gillymacdoodlechallenge not to miss a thing! 🙂

 

 

 

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