Sunday, September 7, 2014

Metallic Thread and the Making of The Family Tree Quilt

When I decided to use metallic thread in the Family Tree quilt, I thought I must be crazy to sign up for such frustration! I did a little research before starting which, in the end, saved me from some more gray hair. Really, the right set up and knowing the ins and outs of purchasing the correct thread will make your life SO much easier!! Here are some tips that made my first foray into metallic pretty painless and wanting to do more! Hopefully it will have you looking for that spool of metallic thread you bought eons ago but never used ;)

1. Watch these two short Youtube videos put out by Superior Threads. Superior Bob (that's what I call him, LOVE this man!) gives some great tips on what to look for when buying metallic thread and tips on sewing with metallic thread. And of course he throws in a few laughs along the way :) Part 1 and Part 2. I am not compensated by or connected to Superior Threads, I am a fan however of their threads. Just wanted to make that clear. :)

2. Set up of tension is key! Bob talks about tension and on the Superior metallic thread spools it says to set tension at 1 and also recommends using a top stitch 90/14 needle. I was dubious  about the tension and I am a believer in trying it out on a practice piece to get it right. Turns out that 1 is exactly what my machine liked. I still think it is important to test in on your machine - machines are all different have have different preferences for how they want to be treated! It will be very obvious when you have hit the sweet spot for tension - your sewing line will look MUCH more metallic.

3. What I found quite by accident is, setting up how the thread is feeding off the spool is key too! Initially I had the spool set on the holder and the thread was feeding UP from the spool. When I was half way through the quilt (yeah, I know, why couldn't that have happened sooner??), the thread had slipped off the top thread holder and was feeding directly off the spool. Before this happened, I was experiencing some thread breakage and had to tap the thread coming off the spool as it was 'catching' and not feeding smoothly. Once I had the right set up, I had not one thread break! Make sure the thread is feeding directly off the spool - not off of the top of spool. If you have a machine that has the spool laying down (mine does have that option) this is not going to work. Typically these machines also have a spot where you can put in a post and set your spool upright, using that feature with metallic thread will make your life MUCH easier! Here are pictures to hopefully make that clearer :)

4.  Bob mentions this in the video and I think it deserves a repeat, use a stronger thread in the bobbin. If the project requires metallic thread in the bobbin, go slow. I used Isocord which is a poly thread in my bobbin. Honestly, it was chosen because those were the spools in my stash that matched the top threads. It worked well but probably not any better than a cotton thread would have.

5. I definitely had to quilt slower than I normally would. I tend to like to quilt at a higher speed and it was not possible even with the poly thread in the bobbin. It wasn't extremely slow, I'd say it was probably about at the medium speed of my machine. I tend to quilt more at the highest speed of the machine ;)

And here is my quilt all washed (I was nervous about washing too but had to due to marking and it came through the wash beautifully!) and blocked.

There are a little more than two 500 yd. spools of metallic thread in the quilt. I think I have conquered my fear of metallic thread!
I used my machine's monograms to put this on the binding. I went REALLY slow and had no issues... Isn't that sparkle cool?? :)

Because I didn't cover this in my first post about the quilt, I wanted to also mention some other construction related items about the quilt. I used a double batting, wool and 100% cotton. I spray basted AND pinned before quilting. . . I wasn't taking any chances! haha 

The quilt finished around 36" x 34". I started with a piece that was 36" by WOF.

I machine bound the binding to the front. I wanted it framed in the metallic thread and figured the quilt would NEVER get done if I attempted such a thing by hand ;) 

I hand stitched a label on the back AND a hanging sleeve! Both are a first for me as I typically put my version of a 'label' on the binding and I've never had a reason to do a quilting sleeve before this quilt. I'm pretty sure that it took longer than it should have but looked pretty good for a first try. 

What would I do different? There are a few things I would do differently, if I were to do this quilt over (which is NOT going to happen LOL). I would quilt the branches less densely throughout. I don't think the branches for the kids needed to be as dark as they are. I was concerned about the names showing up but I don't think that would have been an issue. 

I was trying to maintain a balance in the tree even though the left side of the family has been more prolific than the right (only because that is the 'OLD' side of the tree LOL). I chose to make the grands branches thicker and darker on the right side to achieve some kind of balance. I would probably do the branches as thick but again, probably a little less dense quilting around the names.

The last thing I would have done was set the names coming off the trunk a little further away to enable a little more definition in the branches. This isn't a huge deal, but I think it would look better. 

I had A LOT of people ask me if I would make one for their family and/or say I should make them to sell. My response? . . . You probably can't afford it HA! Material cost is not much for the quilt, under $50.00 but the time. . . oh the time. I figure about 40 hours start to finish. Would the fictional next one take less time? Definitely. And it would depend on the size of the family. I still don't think people understand the amount of time it takes to do something like this. One of my mom's friends who does a good amount of piecing but not a lot of quilting, guessed 6 hours for quilting. . . ummm, no.

One more thing, I was a little concerned about how the metallic thread would come through the wash. It did fine, I used the very slow, intermittent agitation, slow spin and did not put it in the dryer.

If you decide you must make one for your family and you have questions that I may not have answered, email me or leave a comment - I'd be more than happy to share with you :) 

Linking up with Design Wall Monday, Linky Tuesday, Fabric Tuesday, Let's Bee Social, WIP Wednesday and Finish It Up Friday. Check out the parties for some fabulous inspiration and join the fun!

Until Next time, keep on quilting!
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  1. This was really helpful, thanks.

  2. You have some really great tips for metallic thread. When I get brave and try it on a project, I will definitely come back to refresh myself on what to do!

  3. Your quilt is amazing! I can see why people would want one. It truly is a labor of love. I can see me making one someday. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Congratulations, Judy, this is amazing! Especially to think this is s first with metallic thread, and a first whole cloth. I can imagine your whole family being speechless.

  5. This was a quilt class! Thank You for all the information you have discovered and shared here. The quilt is TRULY UNIQUE & AMAZING and I am sure your parents will treasure it forever! I know I will treasure all the tips you have discovered and found along the way!

  6. Wow Judy! That is a magnificent Family Tree! I got a good look at your quilting by enlarging the picture and am So Impressed! I thought it must have taken you weeks and weeks of work. I had a good laugh that your mother's friend guessed "6 hours" .
    Thank you for all the helpful tips about using metallic thread!

  7. What a gorgeous family tree quilt!!!

    six hours, huh? LOL !

  8. Lovely to see someone else using metallic thread. I've recently discovered the joys of metallics, particularly Gutermann Sulky Sliver metallic. The finished effects are wonderful and worth the effort. I also found many of the tips you gave to be true. Both my old Janome sewing machine (which broke recently) and my new Janome machine have an additional spool pin designed to be used vertically as an option for winding the bobbin - I used this spool pin successfully for Sliver/metallics.

  9. I just watched both of Bob's YourTube videos on metallics - very interesting and informative!

  10. Ditto....thanks for the inspiration. I too am wowed over your family tree!

  11. To take an old item such as the family tree and make it so new and interesting. Well done and completely beautiful


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