I am this far with the matchstick quilting on Breathe - about 24" done (the quilt is currently about 70" square and the mid point is where the circles meet). I set out to use Breathe to sort out how to use 100% cotton thread on my beautiful Millennium APQS long arm machine.
There is my thread pull. I gathered many of my cotton threads that are whites, creams, light pink, blue, aqua, and yellow. I am thinking of adding in some light purple too and maybe some more blues, I am not sure yet. I won't use them all but I like to have a number of choices and I am changing the thread randomly. I started pulling thread like fabric when I began this cycles series of quilts and now it seems quite normal to me that I pick threads as carefully as the fabrics.
I am winding the metal bobbins that came with my machine with matching bobbin thread. So far that seems to cause me less tension issues than working with a polyester bobbin and cotton top thread, which is how I tried to use cotton thread before on the long arm.
Matchstick quilting on my long arm machine is not hard, it turns out. The machine naturally wants to move in a horizontal line so it many respects it is a matter of not "over steering" like on a car. I am using the stitch regulator as I am just not ready to have to move at a really steady pace to control the length of the stitches myself and I am hand guiding (no computers or pantographs involved) the machine from the front handles. The trick for me is to wobble the lines just enough to keep the industrial textured look you see above. I am just moving top to bottom for each new row of stitches on the quilt for now, being careful that it does not start to stretch or pull out of shape.
The long arm sews very quickly and the cotton thread, despite all the suggestions from the manufacturers, gives off a lot of lint and fluff when it travels quickly through the machine. The lint gets in the workings of the machine and I am guessing it is part of why the thread breaks more often with cotton thread.
So, for those of you who are curious, here are my long arm cotton thread tips so far:
- Oil and clean the bobbin case before each new bobbin. And if the thread breaks or you hear the machine change its sound, clear out the lint and oil again. If in doubt, clean the lint and oil again. This seems to be the key to making the cotton thread work in the machine, at least for me.
- Different threads need different tension adjustments for both the bobbin and the top. Matt even told me different amounts of colour in the thread can affect the tension and I now agree totally with him. So I also check the tension with each thread change. I also found that cotton thread needs a different tension on both bobbin and top from polyester thread. These adjustments are getting easier for me as I do them more.
- I put a new needle in to start the quilting on this project and I am going to change it next time I do more. I am not sure what the recommended length of time per needle is but I know that a new one works better and I am quilting a lot of distance with it. I am using a bigger needle than for the polyester thread, and I think that means that I am using a 4.5 size for cotton and I use 4.0 for poly but I could have those numbers backwards - the bigger needle is for the cotton.
- The worst movement for the long arm is horizontally right to left. The design of the machine and the needle mean that the pull on the needle with this movement is the worst. That affects the machine's ability to make consistent stitches and can even cause the thread to break (that is what I learned from reading about the machine, I did not know it before). So when I move right to left I work to go slowly and at as steady a pace as possible. I also try to add more of the wobbles moving left to right than right to left.
- I am being patient with the thread breaks, rather than letting them make me miserable. Somehow that seems to mean less breaks too, maybe being tense when you use the machine is a bad idea.
Now for the winner of the free copy of my Canvas pattern from my draw last week. Mr. Random Generator drew #24 which is Jules. Jules, I will email you out a copy of the pattern right away. If you missed out and would like to buy a copy of the pattern, follow the links in the My Patterns for Sale tab at the top of the blog.
Thank you all for your support on the release of my first for-sale quilting pattern. It is my plan to get some more patterns from my head onto paper really soon.