Thursday, March 5, 2015

Minky Loves Monofilament Nylon!

Quilting Is Magic!
I'm finally free-motion quilting, untethered by feed dogs and walking feet!  Hooray!  I quilted "in the ditch" around all of the colored patches on this quilt -- the squares and the turquoise half rectangle triangles -- using my walking foot, constantly turning and stuffing the quilt back under the machine while dreaming of a long arm machine on a frame and thinking about how backwards it is to try to draw anything by moving the PAPER beneath a stationary PENCIL, which is essentially what you are doing when you quilt on a domestic sewing machine.

I used SewArt Invisible Monofilament thread in Smoke with a size 60 Microtex needle and 50/2 Aurifil Mako thread in the bobbin for my ditch quilting, because my ditch quilting never stays 100% in the ditch and I didn't want anyone to notice my oopses.  I reduced my needle tension to 2.0 as usual for sewing with monofilament thread on my Bernina 750 QE sewing machine, and put the monofilament nylon on my regular horizontal thread spindle with no net or anything.  All nice and lovely, beautiful stitches, boring quilting:

Wretched, Boring, Invisible Ditch Quilting with the Walking Foot
Speaking of the walking foot -- on the Bernina 7 Series Yahoo users group, there is often discussion about whether one "needs" a walking foot for quilting on a sewing machine that has integrated Dual Feed like mine does.  There are always some who claim to have great results quilting with their dual feed and no walking foot, but there is NO WAY I could do this kind of quilting without a walking foot.  I was twisting and tugging and stuffing that quilt all over the place, and my Minky backing is hellishly slippery and shifty, and the basting spray was probably not holding things together as securely as my violent ditch quilting continued.  Maybe you can quilt straight lines across a table runner, but I can't imagine risking a large quilt that I've put a lot of hours into.  The walking foot is my friend.  It's just really boring to quilt along all those seam lines, and you don't feel like you're accomplishing anything since the quilting really is invisible unless you mess up!

Once I finished the ditch quilting, I planned to switch to using Aurifil cotton thread in the needle for the background fill quilting, but when I tested it on a sample of my black fabric, batting, and Minky backing I discovered that the cotton thread is "grabbier" than the slick monofilament, and no matter what size needle or tension settings I tried, I kept getting some of the Minky backing pile pulling up through the needle holes to the front side of my quilt. 

Cotton Thread Grabs the Minky Pile and Pulls it to the Front
Yuck!  Those white tufts in the stitches are not batting (I'm using black batting for this piece), they are the pile of the zebra Minky backing fabric.  I am so glad I started out with the monofilament, because I don't know if I would have thought to try it if I was having the problem with the pile pulling through right out of the gate.  Anyway, I'm just going to continue on with the monofilament thread, at least for the black background areas.  The monofilament doesn't pull the Minky through AT ALL.  So, note to self -- MINKY LOVES MONOFILAMENT NYLON THREAD!

By the way, I know it's very fashionable these days to diss the meandering/stippling quilting pattern as overused, but frankly this Scarlet doesn't give a damn.  I can quilt that pattern on autopilot and I think it will look good on my baby quilt and play nicely with the Minky batting.  I am also putting little horns and elf booties in my stippling even though stippling is not supposed to have any points, just to annoy any quilt police out there.  ;-)

That's enough typing for today.  Back to the quilting!
Stipplling Like No One's Watching!


Camille Mendel said...

I just finished quilting a Minky backed quilt for my son and experienced the same thing with the pile coming through to the top. I did everything you mentioned to alleviate the problem BUT try monofilament. Next time that will be my go to thread option. I've quilted Minky backed quilts before though with no problem. What do you think the difference is, why it happens sometimes and not always with Minky?

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Camille! When I was researching Minky tips and tricks, I came across a blog post written by a long arm quilter about what she does to ensure success with Minky backed quilts. She mentioned that she recommends choosing a Minky in a color that does not contrast with the quilt top because of the tendency for the pile to pull through the needle holes to the top of the quilt. I know that long arm quilters typically use larger needles than what I was using (I used a 60 Microtex for the monofilament and experimented with the 60 Microtex as well as a 75 Quilting needle with my Aurifil cotton thread). I'm sure that the particular Minky you are using is a factor -- some have longer pile than others -- and maybe some battings allow the pile to pull back through more than others. In my case, I'm using a black and white zebra print Minky for the backing and I'm only noticing where the white pile pulled through. The black zebra stripes must have pulled through as well, but I can't see that against my black quilt fabric. So there are a variety of factors at play. I am sure monofilament is not the ONLY thread that would solve this problem. I might experiment with the polyester or rayon embroidery threads for quilting with Minky in the future. I'm speculating that the little fuzzies along the length of cotton thread are "grabbing" the Minky pile and pulling it through the stitch hole to the front of the quilt, whereas the completely smooth monofilament thread glides through the pile without catching on anything. One more idea -- we've had a cold snap here lately so the heat has been running and it's been pretty dry in the house. When I pull on my Minky-type bathrobe in the morning, I see static electricity sparks. It's possible that static electricity is causing the Minky pile and the cotton thread to cling together more. Thinking back to the other Minky backed quilts I've done where I did not have pile pulling through, they may have been quilted in the warmer, more humid months when static electricity is not a factor.

Thanks for stopping by!

Carrie P. said...

I am no quilting expert but I learned this when I was doing a machine quilting challenge. One of the instructors uses a top stitch needle. Wonder if changing needles might help?

Jenny K. Lyon said...

I agree-the stipple is perfect for this quilt since you already stabilized the quilt with SID.

You don't really want a long arm do you?? Noisy, noisy, and you have to run big ole honkin needles. Then it becomes such an "industrial" process.

You are brave to do Minky girl! I've had nothing but trouble with it.

As to the tension, my experience has been that when I am in a particularly difficult tension situation, the new/higher end machines with electronic tension cannot get perfect tension. I pull out my 153 with a manual tension dial. With micro adjustments, I get perfect tension. The electronic models only give you 4 choices between numbers and sometimes I need infinite control. This quilt is fabulous!!

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Carrie. A lot of machine quilting teachers do recommend topstitching needles, but they typically are talking about needles for use with heavier weight threads such as the beautiful variegated or plain 40 weight "machine quilting threads." Those thread weights are similar to the heavy topstitching threads that topstitch needles are designed to accommodate with their larger eye and the larger hole they create (I believe the smallest size topstitching needle is size 80/12?). But I'm using much skinnier, lighter weight thread -- a 2-ply, 50 weight cotton -- and I would expect to have even more Minky pile pulling through to the front of the quilt if I was creating larger needle holes with a big topstitch needle, holes much too big for my thread to fill. I use a size 70 Microtex or a size 75 Quilting needle when I'm piecing with 50/2 Aurifil and I wouldn't want to go larger than a size 75. I think it's not so much a matter of one needle type being the perfect choice for ALL machine quilting -- it's more about having that perfect marriage between the needle and thread who were made for each other. But thanks for the suggestion -- I did experiment with other needles before I switched back to the monofilament.

Barbara Sindlinger said...

Stippling is so hard for me. I have a hard time keeping it the same size and I have points and all the stuff you shouldn't. Glad you didn't have any problem with the monofiliment thread. I'm always afraid to use it.

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Barbara. Monofilament thread is nothing to be afraid of -- you just need to lower your top tension way down because the monofilament thread stretches, and use a tiny little size 60 needle. I have an earlier blog post full of tips and tricks for monofilament thread success;

As far as the stippling "rules," I've decided to just ignore them and do my own doodle. If the quilt police says it doesn't count as stippling, I'll call it STUMPLING instead! :-)

Thanks for stopping by!

Camille Mendel said...

Rebecca, Thanks for taking the time to answer my post question. I really appreciate the information you gave me. I should have mentioned in my post that I'm a longarm quilter, so my experiences with Minky are on the longarm. I pay special attention to using the correct size needle for the thread type and I always use a new needle on each new project. I really enjoy your blog and when you began talking about this quilt, I got really excited about both the pattern and the color choices. It's fabulous. Thanks again.

Rebecca Grace said...

Ooh, you're a longarm quilter, Camille? I'm so JEALOUS! So, what kind of needle do you use with monofilament thread? When my Bernina dealer was showing me the new Bernina longarm she said one of the great features was that you could use regular needles in any size, and she said that is not true with other longarm machines. Which did not make sense to me because I don't see giant needle holes in longarm quilts in shows. Which machine do you use?

Anonymous said...

Rebecca, this was very interesting, especially SID with the walking foot. I too have a 750QE and will be quilting a large quilt with lots of seams. Did you consider going FMQ using your BSR or just the FMQ foot to do your ditch stitching? You mentioned how you manipulated your quilt while using the walking foot. I'm not all that accurate (maybe 80%) when SID, but it seems it would be easier to do FMQ than using a walking foot. The blocks in my quilt are stars and snail's trail--that's the one that goes all over. I also appreciate all you tips on Minky and the invisible thread.
Laura in Wyoming

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Laura. I have tried stitching in the ditch via free motion quilting, and it is possible to do it that way but I find that I have to go VERY slowly, and I still get straight lines that wobble and stray onto the seam allowance side more frequently when I try to do SITD with FMQ. The walking foot and feed dogs keep my stitching lines much straighter and I'm able to do the job much more accurately that way, but you may be better at FMQ than I am and if so, your mileage may vary! :-)

Camille Mendel said...

Rebecca, I'm sorry that I never responded to your last comment directed at me so very long ago now. I'm not sure why I didn't see it. Yes, I'm a longarm quilter and I use a Fusion Handiquilter machine. I use needles that are specific to my machine and always use the size that is appropriate to the weight of thread. I use a new needle every time I start a new project (client quilt). I have a Minky backed quilt on right now from a client who chose a red longhaired cuddle to go with a red and white quilt top. I am having fits keeping the backing where it belongs. If I had been the one to choose the backing, I would have gone with a white cuddle fabric. I am using a slippery glide thread, but still have problems. I still enjoy following your blog. Merry Christmas.