Do you have a love/hate relationship with metallic thread? Does your metallic thread break after 10 minutes of sewing? Does it cause you to scream, tear out your hair, or throw your sewing machine out the door [place check mark in front of applicable quantity ___ one of these, ___two of these, ___ all of these]? You may be experiencing what is known as UNREASONABLE BREAKAGE!!!
When someone mentions using metallic thread, I already know the question that will be asked, how do I keep it from breaking? Occasional breakage is to be expected, even if you hold your mouth just right.
For years, I’ve been collecting suggestions from various workshops I’ve taken, magazine articles and websites. My thread breakage is under control now, so I’d like to share the tips that have helped me when using metallic thread for quilting.
-- Use a vertical thread stand.
-- When using a Darning Foot (freehand work), expect more breakage. When using a Walking Foot, the sewing machine provides more consistent tension control and less breakage.
-- Select the correct needle, this is imperative.
A large-eye sewing machine needle reduces the friction on metallic thread. I usually use a jeans needle, size 100/16, or a top stitch needle, size 90/14 or 100/16. However, there are needles specifically designed for metallic thread.
-- Machine speed should be REDUCED. To determine the best speed, start at the lowest speed setting your machine will allow, and slowly increase the speed until the thread starts breaking. Slow the machine back down to the point of good performance, i.e. a reasonable balance of speed versus rate of thread breakage.
-- Use a longer stitch length.
-- If unreasonable breakage continues, loosen the TOP TENSION down a half step at a time until the breakage is reduced.
If you are still having unreasonable thread breakage, you may have a very fragile metallic thread. This does n0t mean you cannot quilt with it, you just have to put it on the bobbin.
"Bobbin work" is sewing with the BACK side of your quilt UP. With the metallic thread on the bobbin, there is less stress on the metallic thread.
Wind a bobbin using a slow speed, if your machine has that feature. Otherwise wind it by hand. Metallic thread is thinner than regular thread, so start by filling your bobbin only half full. If the thread breakage problem is reduced and you run out of thread too often, then try winding a bit more on the bobbin.
I know some of you are wondering "how can you see to quilt from the back when doing bobbin work?" Here are 2 methods I have used.
I pick a backing fabric with a large print and sew along the outlines of the back side design. This gives a wonderful overall design on the front of the quilt in metallic thread.
-- Use nylon thread for both the top and bobbin threads. With the FRONT of the quilt UP, stitch over the front design with a stitch length setting of 2 (10-12 stitches per inch). Note: Use the same method to wind nylon thread on the bobbin as you did for the metallic thread. Winding nylon thread tightly on a bobbin has a tendency to destroy the bobbin!
-- Change the bobbin to a metallic thread wound bobbin and the top thread to a regular sewing thread of your choice. With the BACK of the quilt UP, stitch over the previously sewn nylon stitching lines. The nylon will blend with the metallic thread and not show. If you missed the nylon stitching line you can pull it out. That is why we didn’t use a short stitch length.
Here are two more things to consider if you are still having unreasonable thread breakage.
-- Make sure your batting isn’t too think or too dense. This can cause unwanted friction and, therefore, the thread breaks.
-- When working with metallic thread, try to use soft materials and natural fibers.
If all this sounds like just too much work:
-- go get your car keys
-- drive to your nearest Moore’s store