Let’s see some tips for free motion quilting with very thick thread.
After I bought the fabric and thread for a wholecloth quilt I thought that I am ready to start! Actually, I wasn’t prepared at all!
I did not want to wait even one more day and I started the adventure of a wholecloth quilt quilted with Aurifil 12 wt thread.
Click on the picture below to learn more about this quilt.
See above the difference between 12wt, 28wt, and 50wt (all Aurifil threads).
Tips that will help you have a great experience when free motion quilting with thick thread.
1. Make a stable and firm quilt sandwich
- Use a thick cotton batting
I did not have any cotton batting on hand so I used a 80/20 cotton/polyester batting. I like 100% cotton batting best because the top fabric sticks nicely to it. It is a great batting, especially for beginner free motion quilters.
- Quilt top and backing very well starched, especially if you make a wholecloth quilt.Apply starch on one side of the fabric. Let the starch soak into fabric for a few minutes then iron the fabric from the other side. Repeat as many times as you need.I ran out of starch so I found myself quilting in the middle of a flimsy 80” quilt sandwich, with a huge flower ahead to quilt. The top fabric was slipping onto the batting (that 20% polyester counts a lot – I hated this batting for this project!!). Would you embroidery without a hoop and expect great results? That was my feeling!
To achieve a nice quality stitching (with a good balance between the top and bobbin thread) use a thicker thread than you normally use in the bobbin. Aurifil recommends 28wt thread. I did not have this thickness to hand so I stitched with 50 wt. My stitching wasn’t perfect (below there is a picture from the back of the quilt).
Be prepared to see dots of color on the back – especially if you use a thin thread in the bobbin.
The sewing machines stitch best when the same type of thread is used in the needle and in the bobbin. So do not expect PERFECT stitching if there is significant difference between the threads.
The needles depend on the thickness of your thread. For quilting I use only Topstitch needles.
For this thickness, Aurifil recommends Topstitch #90/14. I couldn’t stitch with #100/16 – the thread kept breaking. Maybe a larger needle, #110/18, would have been better.
Needles in the biggest size (as well as in the smallest size) are hard to find. I couldn’t find this size and instead of a Topstitch needle I used a Jeans Needle #110/18 (the needle with blue marking in the picture below) and I stitched PERFECTLY.
I knew that the big eye of the topstitch needle is a big help for quilting and that the Jeans needle is designed to stitch through thick fabric so I was pleasantly surprised how well the Jeans needle stitches with thick thread.
4. Adjust the tension of the top thread and bobbin thread
If you sew with thick thread you need to loosen the tension of the top thread. The tension of the bobbin thread has to be adjusted too – it depends by the thickness of the bobbin thread.
Before you start to adjust the thread tension, write on a piece of paper the current tension settings so you can easily come back to the original setting when you switch to your regular thread.
Make a test sandwich and stitch with different needles and see which one is the best for your machine and adjust the thread tension accordingly.
Stitching with this thick thread produces a lot of lint, you have to clean the bobbin case area more frequently. For some sewing machines that area is not easily accessible (I have to use a screwdriver to remove the stitching plate). I found that it is more important to clean the area WELL than to clean more often.
If the thread keeps breaking check the bobbin area for lint.
- After a few hours of stitching and as I moved from the center of the huge quilt toward the outside edges, the quilting became easier and I almost forgot that I stitch with such thick thread. I stitched with my industrial machine at the highest speed!
- In the future, I want to try this thick thread on a thick fabric. I plan to make a few pillows out of twill or heavy canvas and some bags.
- Don’t be anxious like me and gather everything you need before you start! And start with a small quilt if you are a beginner free motion quilter!!
- Do you know that a wholecloth is the easiest quilt to stitch with thick thread? Just one layer of fabric (for the quilt top), no bulky seam allowances!
I hope you find this information useful. Good luck quilting with thick thread!