Can I Use Monofilament Thread on My Longarm?

Posted by on October 2, 2017



There may be times when it is desirable to create the texture of quilting without seeing the actual stitches.  An example may be when outlining an applique on a quilt.  Monofilament thread is a good choice for this application.  Monofilament thread is basically invisible because it is very fine at 100 wt. and usually a low sheen.  One caution is to make sure you are choosing a polyester monofilament.  Nylon monofilaments are likely to melt or weaken when exposed to heat.  Usually, monofilaments are available in clear or smoke colored for darker fabrics.

While Monofilament threads are desirable for many applications, they also have characteristics that may be challenging if the correct procedures aren’t followed.  Since monofilament threads are fine, I use a size 14 needle.  The groove on the size 14 needle is small and accommodates the fine thread.  Monofilaments like to bounce and stretch.  Use a thread net or sock to help control the delivery into the first thread guide.  I use a safety pin in the first thread guide.  Then thread the monofilament through the spring end of the pin.  This keeps the thread captive so it won’t “jump” out of the guide.  When the monofilaments stretch they intermittently pull the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt.  To resolve this problem, loosen the needle tension.

The Monofilament thread may be used in the bobbin as well.  I like using pre-wound bobbins since it is difficult to successfully wind a bobbin with the stretchy thread.  This will require a looser tension in the bobbin as well.  Some quilters set a bobbin for monofilament threads and reserve it to use only with those threads.

There can be happy quilting with Monofilament threads.  Use the correct tools and settings and you are set.

by TL18 Educator Myrl Brienholt


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What Needle Do I Use?

Posted by on September 18, 2017

I was sewing for literally decades before I knew that there is a groove running down the front of every machine needle!  What is the groove for?  It is where the thread “hides” when the needle is moving in and out of the fabric.  The groove protects the thread from friction, which is a big culprit of breaking thread.  Often, we say that a thread is weak when it actually is experiencing too much heat from friction.  Each size and style needle have different size grooves.  For instance, when using a top stitch needle, it is assumed that you will be using a heavier thread.  Both the eye and groove of the top stitch needle are larger to accommodate the thread size.  The larger the number on the needle size such as 70 or 80, means the larger the needle diameter and groove.

If the groove is too small for the thread, the thread will experience friction and break.  It the groove is too large for the thread, the thread will wiggle around and out of the groove and also break from friction.  If the groove is the correct size for the thread it will glide along and stay cool in the groove.




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Thread Weight or TEX?

Posted by on September 6, 2017

When using different threads in the needle and bobbin we stand by the rule of using the same or lighter weight thread in the bobbin as is being used in the needle.  Following this rule helps the quilter achieve the best tension.  Since a 40-weight cotton thread has more drag because of the exposed fibers than a 40-weight poly thread I like to refer to the drag a thread has rather than just the weight.  So, a 40-weight cotton thread in the bobbin combined with a 40-weight poly thread in the needle would make good tension more difficult.  It is good to be aware of the fibers in the thread being used as well as the thread weight.

The most common weight of thread is determined by how much thread it takes to weigh a gram.  So, the finer the thread, the larger the number since it will take more fine thread to weigh a gram than a heavier thread.    The thread weight will be noted on the label with a # or wt. followed by its weight, such as #40 or 40 wt.

The TEX system of thread weight askes the question, “How much does 1000 meters of thread weigh?”  So, the heavier the thread, the higher the number.  This is the exact opposite of the weight measurement.  This will be noted on the label as TEX 30, or whatever the TEX measurement happens to be.  TEX 30 and 40 wt. are nearly the same.  TEX measurement is most often used on industrial thread labels.  Some companies note both measurements.

For best tension, consider the drag and the weight of the thread being used in the needle and bobbin.  Happy Quilting!


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Things That Can Influence Your Quilting

Posted by on July 24, 2017

Huh?  What?  Are you saying there are more things to think about than what thread I use and what design I quilt?????


There are so many things that come into play when we’re quilting.  The basics are the fabric, needle, thread and batting, and there are sooooo many considerations just with these basics, but then you go into other things like paint on the surface, embellishments, etc.

So, let’s start with these basics.  Thread I won’t go into in great detail, since last week’s blog article was an in-depth article on threads and which needles to use and how to adjust tension for different types of threads.

Needles: The composition and sculpture of the needle is paramount.  At TinLizzie18, we use the Groez-Beckert titanium needles.  They have a scarf that is a bump and a very long groove.  The bump spreads the fibers of the fabric and the batting, paving the way for the thread to pass through with less friction (thus less tension).  The groove protects the thread, also from tension and friction as it passes through the fibers because the thread can nestle in the groove. Less friction means less tension AND less heat.  These needles go up and down through the quilt sandwich thousands of times and they can get hot.  The titanium helps keep the needle cool too.  You should change your needle every 8 hours of quilting time, or sooner if you start hearing it “pop” through the fabric.  That is the sound of a dull needle. Dull needles can cause skipped stitches, poorly formed stitches, fraying or breaking thread and they can even create a “run” in your fabric by pulling a fiber rather than penetrating it.

Batting: Polyester is fluffy and makes it easier to form a stitch within the batting.  It generates less heat, so it is good for metallic and rayon and trilobal poly threads.  100% cotton is thinner and harder.  It is much more challenging to get good tension with cotton because there is less “forgiveness” than with poly.  Remember that tension is a tug of war between the top and bottom threads and ideally, they meet in the middle of the batting, with neither thread showing on the other side of the quilt. Blended battings (cotton and poly, cotton and wool, silk, bamboo, recycled bottles, etc.) are common blends.  They are usually 80/20, 70/30, 60/40, etc.  meaning they are perhaps 80% cotton, 20% poly, or whatever their label says.  It is easiest to get good tension with a 60% cotton/40% poly batting, or a 100% bonded poly that is NOT high loft (a whole other set of problems with that).

Fabric:   The influence of the thread count in the fabric is huge!  Count pertains to the threads per inch in the fabric weave.  Most common is 60 threads x 60 threads woven in each direction.  Batiks are usually 200 x 200 threads, so your needle doesn’t last as long and they cause more drag on your thread, so tension may need to be a little higher.  Also, you’d think a #18 needle to spread those tight fibers and keep the thread cool, but a # 18 on Batik leaves very large holes that are harder to close up unless you wash the quilt.  I typically use a #16 needle, but everyone has their own preferences.  So, the higher the thread count, the tighter the weave, the higher your tension and the faster your tension will get dull….oh my, is it worth it to use batiks???  (YESSSSSSSS, Yes it is!)

Paint: The influence of paint on the surface of your quilt is that it causes the thread to pull harder, so more tension is needed to create the stitch within the batting.  Remember that a larger needle will pave the way for your thread, but it will also leave large holes, so you must pick your battle.

Thread:  Okay, I said you should read the post on thread from last week, but I’ll do a quick summary here:

  • 100% cotton is fluffier, less tension
  • Poly threads are usually lighter, so more tension
  • Slippery threads require more tension
  • Metallic tread on top, loosen top tension and use a smoother thread in the bobbin (poly, but not trilobal)
  • Slippery top thread should have a rougher bobbin thread to hold the stitch
  • Slippery top and bottom threads, consider tying and burying your threads because they will work loose.
  • Always use equal or lighter thread in the bobbin than top thread.  EG King Tut on top & So Fine in the bobbin are a perfect combo, So Fine on top and King Tut in the bobbin, presents a tension challenge.  Doable, but a challenge.
  • Thread should come off the cone according to how it’s wound.  Cross wound comes off the top while stacked should come off the side.

Bobbins: TinLizzies have an M size bobbin.  Aluminum runs smoothly, and is light so it causes less tension and stays cooler.  The backlash spring in the bobbin case is there to stop the bobbin from coasting in any direction, so it prevents backlash, thus it’s name (backlash spring).  USE THE PIGTAIL in the bobbin case!!!  Using the pigtail causes the thread to come off the bobbin in the same direction consistently, regardless of which direction the machine is moving, and you don’t get that wonky stitch when you change direction.  Remember, equal weight thread or lighter weight in the bobbin than on top for the most successful results.

I hope these tips help you along your quilting journey.  Thanks for joining me here at TinLizzie18, where we’re committed to helping quilters of all levels realize their quilting dreams!


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Threads: The long and short of it

Posted by on July 10, 2017


Hello and thank you for joining our blog!!  These articles are written by our education team members in an effort to enhance your TinLizzie18 quilting experience (“Quilting Without Tears!”) because we at TinLizzie18 are committed to helping quilters of all levels realize their quilting dreams!

Thread is a huge and very important element in quilting, yet I am constantly surprised when quilters tell me “Oh, I just use the same thread all the time.” I assume because of the price or the lack of breakage, or because (they think) it doesn’t matter!!

Quilters, you have spent a great deal of time and money on your quilt tops.  Not using a complimentary thread to finish it off is like going to Tiffany’s, then wrapping the gift in newspaper with string. Really???  I agonize over my choice of thread just as much as I do over my quilting design, or as I did for my choice of just the right fabric, and you should too.  I am not promoting or recommending specific brands of thread, but I am naming some that I am familiar with so that you have something to compare other threads with.  So….here is the basic skinny on threads along with a few tips on tension and needles:

  • Long fibers are less fuzzy (use more tension)
  • King Tut is fuzzy (use less tension)
  • Permacore and Polyester threads are less fuzzy (use more tension)
  • If using Metallic threads on top, loosen top tension and use a smoother thread in bobbin (poly or tri-lobal poly or rayon)
  • If using Slippery top threads (tri-lobal polys or rayons), they are best paired with a cotton or a wrapped poly bobbin (rougher texture, less slippery – So Fine is a good choice).
  • Use thread nets with slippery threads both on the top cone and on the bobbin winding cone.
  • If using Slippery top thread with Slippery bobbin, consider hand tying & burying knots, or taking 7-8 tiny or overlapped stitches to start & stop, otherwise threads will slip until they become loose.  I have experienced even small overstitched starts and stops coming undone when machine washed.
  • Bobbin threads should always be equal to or lighter than the top thread.  Never heavier unless you are doing “bobbin work”.
  • Thread must come off spool or cone according to how it is wound.
    • Cross wound thread should feed up and the off top of cone/spool,
    • Stacked thread (most spools) should feed straight off of the side. You can purchase adaptive products that attach to your Tin Lizzie thread tree and allow the stacked thread spool to unwind properly.
  •  REMEMBER: Slippery threads paired with rougher threads are the best combination.
  • If specialty threads break too often and tension is good, consider using the next larger needle to reduce friction.
  • Make fine adjustments to tension with thread nets and by using extra holes in thread path.


  •  USE # 14, 16 OR 18 NEEDLES, BUT TEST FIRST***
  • TOP THREAD TENSION SHOULD FEEL SAME AS ANY OTHER THREAD WHEN PULLING FROM NEEDLE (Have thread above foot.  Foot down.  wrap thread around forefinger and hold thread directly behind eye of needle.  Now apply pressure to thread with thumb.  Needle should deflect very slightly and tug of thread should feel same as any other thread.
  • Other threads can create a “channel” in the eye of the needle, causing SLIPPERY THREADS to fray, so always use a fresh needle for SLIPPERY THREADS.

*** TO TEST NEEDLE: Before putting needle in machine, cut a piece of thread 2-3 feet long.  Thread one end onto needle.  hold one end of the thread up and the other down.  Needle should slide freely along thread.  If it catches at all, or doesn’t slide easily from end to end of the thread, the needle eye is too small or it could have a burr.  Either way, try a different needle.

And last but certainly not least!  Following is a handout given in our TinLizzie18 classes.  This handout was compiled by our head of Education, Myrl Breinholt and is published here with her permission:



Spun: these threads are made with little fibers tightly twisted together into long strands and then two or more are twisted together to form the thread.  Most common are cotton and polyester.  Cotton fibers are short.  Polyester fibers are very long and must be cut into short lengths before the spinning takes place.  Mettler™ all-purpose polyester, Maxi-Lock™ and Gutterman™ are example of spun threads.

Filament threads: Silk is the only natural filament thread.  All others are man-made.  These fibers are all very, very long and can be made round or in other shapes.  These need little twisting to keep them together. YLI™ Ultra sheen is a good example of continuous filament threads.

Monofilament threads: are made with a single strand of fiber that is stronger and bigger than single strands used in the filament thread.  They are usually clear. Wonder Invisible Thread and Sulky’s™ invisible thread are good example.

Texturized  Threads are also filament thread, but rather than being twisted they are treated with heat and chemical to give them texture and bulk.  Woolly Nylon™ is an example of Texturized thread.

Core threads are combination of filament thread and spun thread.  These feel soft, but are made strong.  Dual duty™ and Signature™ are examples.

Laminate threads are multiple layers of polyester and are bonded together in sheets.  They are cut into tiny strips and wound on to spools forming a flat, shiny thread.

Metallic threads are a combination of materials bonded together for form a bright, colorful decorative thread.  Japanese have been making metallic thread for hundreds of years.  You can tell a good metallic thread by the way it drapes instead of twisting back on itself.

Trilobal Polyester: are extruded through what is called a spinneret.  It has tiny holes in it that the fibers are forced through.  The shape of the holes determines the shape of the thread.  Trilobal thread has three sides that catch the light and make for color filled with luster.  It keeps it color well in heat, light and is not affected by detergents and body oil.  Magnifico™, Fantastico™ and Glide™ are examples of trilobal threads

Weight refers to how long the piece of thread is when it weighs 1 gram.  A thread that weights 1 gram and is 30 meters long is considered a 30 wt thread.  A longer thread, maybe 40 meters long, that still weighs only 1 gram is considered 40 wt and is thinner than the 30 wt.  Weight sizes = the bigger the number, the smaller the thread.

Tex size refers to the weight of 1000 meters of thread.  If 1000 meters of thread weighs 25 grams it is a 25 Tex.  This means that if a thicker thread is 1000 meters it will weigh more, maybe 60 grams.  It is a 60 Tex thread.  Tex size = the bigger the number, the bigger the thread.

Although it is never printed on labels, thread twist is measured by the number of twists applied per meter. Why is this important? A loosely twisted thread requires less total fiber content, takes less time to produce, and is less expensive to manufacture. “Regular” cotton thread may have as few as 150 twists per meter. (Think of a budget thread that can easily be untwisted by rubbing it between your fingers.) King Tut has almost 7 times as many twists per meter, resulting in a smooth, consistent surface.

If stored correctly, thread will last many years.  Keep your thread out of direct sunlight and away from open windows.  Sunlight is a thread’s worst enemy.  Too much can make it dry and brittle.  Dust and dirt can build up on thread stored too close to an open window.

As a rule, filament thread, flat thread and metallic thread need much less top tension than cotton.  These threads are much more fragile and many of them have quite a bit of stretch to them as well.  Reducing the top tension on your machine will reduce the number of thread breaks and allow the thread to float on top of the quilt, rather than being pulled too tight.

Soft: only died and lubricated.
Mercerized: treated in a solution to increase is bulk and affinity to receive dye.
Gassed: Passing cotton thread through a flame at high speed to reduce the fuzz.
Glazed: cotton thread are treated with starches and chemicals under heat and then polished to a high luster.
Bonded: treating continuous filament nylon or polyester with a special resin that encapsulates the filaments.  It is a tough smooth coating that adds to the thread’s strength.

Helpful resources:
A Thread of Truth
Needles and Threads and Bobbins, Oh, My by Nancy Goldsworthy

I hope this article enhances your quilting experience!

Lynn Bell
TinLizzie18 Educator





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What did I stitch on that quilt? Quilt Documentation

Posted by on June 20, 2017


Have you ever been in this position?  Someone says, “I really like the quilting pattern and the thread you used on Susie’s quilt!  Can you do that on mine?”  You think you remember what Susie’s quilt looked like, but you’re not 100% sure what quilt pattern was used and have no idea what brand or weight of thread was used.  This happened to me a couple of times when I first started quilting and had done some close family and charity quilts.  You notice I said a couple of times….

There are some basic things that I have found to be important to me for quilt documentation in case I want or need to duplicate a quilt stitching design look.

1.  What are the dimensions of the quilt?

  • Comparing quilt dimensions helps me determine if a re-create is feasible.

2.  What quilt stitch pattern did I use?

  • Is it free hand?  What style of free hand stitching; meander, swirls, loops, etc.?  What did I use for reference marks to keep the free hand stitching evenly spaced and sized?
  • Is it a paper pantograph?  What is the name and size of the panto?  Where did I start the panto; was it a full stitch out in the first pass or did I do a partial row stitch (stitching off the top/bottom of the quilt)?  How far did I start and end off the side edges of the quilt?  How many rows of design are down the quilt?
  • Is it a digital stitch design?  What size is the individual design?  How many repeats?  What is the spacing between the repeats?  Where did I start the design – off the side edge, over the top edge?  How many rows of design are down the quilt?
  • Is it an edge to edge pattern or a block by block pattern?  Are there borders?  If multiple borders, is each one stitched differently or were they combined?

3.  What thread/threads were used? (Defining information for the top and the bobbin.)

  • What brand of thread was used?
  • What type and weight of thread was that brand? (Cotton, poly, silk, metallic, 40, 50, 100, etc.)
  • What needle brand and size were used with that thread set-up?

There are several ways to document this information.

4.  It can be done digitally.  Create a document form to write in all the information and also add digital pictures.

5.  It can be documented by hand in a notebook.  Include all of the written documentation and add a sketch of the quilt design.

  • If print pictures of the quilt design they can be added to the notebook.
  • Clear, plastic 3-ring binder sleeves can be used to store quilt documentation notes and printed pictures.  The 3-ring binder size can grow with your documentation or you can use divider tabs to section your creations into years or categories.
  • I often sketch stitching designs on graph paper and I like to include those sketches with the quilt documentation.  The plastic sleeves work well for this.

The documentation process doesn’t take that long once you decide what information you want to have for reference.  And, it can save time and frustration if you want to re-create a previous masterpiece!


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