I logged in this morning to find a very thought provoking email. I really had to think about my reply as I typed it, and it occurred to me that it was maybe a good topic to bring up.
The email was from R.E. who is a previous machine quilting client, and now has her own Tin Lizzy and is enjoying working with it. She wanted to pick my brain :c) She writes:
Hey, Bonnie! I was just admiring the quilting on your Cathedral Stars quilt and it is truly awesome! I love how the texture shows without showing a heavy thread. You quilted a wedding quilt for me and I thought it seemed like a different thread, although it's really hard to tell from just the pic of Cathedral Stars. I've been using King Tut exclusively (with MasterPiece in the bobbin), since my Tin Lizzie seemed to like it and I was afraid to take a chance with something else (although the Lizzie web site says she will sew with LOTS of threads). I'm also scared to touch the tension, but that might be a personal problem, LOL!
Anyway, I was wondering what type(s) of thread you use and which you have had the least problems (such as breakage) with. I think I remember seeing a picture (from your old house) that you had a variety of threads. I'm really only interested in 100% cotton threads...no metallics or polyesters, since I'm not a 'glitz'-type person.
And I know I've seen on your web site which type of batting you use to get that wonderful texture, but I can't seem to find the info on there right this second. (I've been using Quilter's Dream, the flattest type - maybe Select. I like a thin batting for wallhangings, but might like to experiment with other 100% cotton battings for larger quilts.) You buy yours by the roll, right? Can you recommend a good (cheap) source?
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I know how busy you are! Your schedule is a whirlwind!! And your quilting is inspirational!!!
And before I give you my reply....Remember, opinions are that...only opinions. Sometimes we hear other people's opinions and take them as Gospel without trying them out ourselves. Just because someone has been quilting longer than you and says "It can't be done, you can't do that"...doesn't mean it is SO! I let all things like this challenge me into testing the boundaries.
If you are "only" a 100% cotton person, you can find yourself quilted into a box you can't get out of. Because some of the results you are looking for don't come with heavier 100% cotton threads combined with the thinnest weight of 100% cotton batting.
When I am quilting with cotton, I like signature threads. I use bottom line in the bobbin. If I am doing a lot of detail filler work and don't want it to look thready, I also use bottom line in the top. It's 100% polyester.
I also will be found using other polys or cotton wrapped polys in the top depending on the effect I want. The more stitching there is, the less I want heavy thread.
Threads with poly are less likely to break when sewing at high speeds.
The thread I'm using on the Cathedral Stars is Tye Dye Punch..by maxilock. Yes. Maxilock.
Bottom Line is 100% poly, so is Maxilock. There is no difference in the "ingredients" just because Bottom Line is packaged for machine quilters...poly is poly. The only difference is in the weight, not the fiber or the performance. Bottom line is less linty, Maxilock is spun to give the appearance of cotton. I don't worry about Maxilock being touted as a "serger" thread. Try it. Give it the tug test....it has about the same breakage point as a 40 wt cotton. Just as strong, yet just as breakable, with a much less thready appearance in my quilting.
I've tried being a stickler to "100% cotton only" and it doesn't work for me. I have better tension, better appearance with the poly's and poly blends. And I don't quilt for "glitz" so what I use is not shiny or metallic. I just want the TEXTURE of the quilting to show, not the thread.
I've been machine quilting for nearly 20 years now, 14 of those years on a Longarm machine. These threads have never cut my fabric, and my quilts are used heavily. I have had vintage machine quilted quilts show where 100% cotton thread has just disintegrated and showed lots of evidence of popped stitches from wear and tear. Which do I want? Let's face it..no matter what we use in our quilting, quilts are most likely to be used and loved and eventually fall apart no matter WHAT you quilt them with!
To show the texture of the stitching, I use Hobbs 80/20 batting in my machine quilting. It has enough loft that the quilting has something to sink into. Yes, it's 80% cotton, and 20% poly.
The lightest weight of Quilter's Dream just does NOT have enough loft for machine quilting to give the look and feel I want.
I do use the Quilter's Dream for hand quilting, it hand quilts beautifully, but that is a one thread process not two, like machine quilting is.
When machine quilting I need the batting to have enough loft that the thread sinks in and doesn't just lay on top, and the batting has enough sponginess (for lack of a better word) to puff and show the texture of the quilting, but not just the THREAD.
I'm neither a purist, nor a thread snob...I quilt with what gives me the detail that I like to see in my quilting. :c)
Hope this helps!