By Sue Moats and Evelyn Byler
These tips are from two professional Long Arm Quilters who are graciously allowing us to learn from their vast experience. Do you have any tips or tricks for Long Arm Quilting? If so, please leave them in the comments.
While all Sulky threads can be used on longarm machines, some may need special handling. Some of the most important things are: Sew more slowly; use a soft, smooth thread in the bobbin; and use a needle with a larger eye, even when the thread seems very thin, like Sulky Original, Sliver™ and Holoshimmer™ Metallic Threads. It is not unusual to need to adjust the top tension on LA Quilting Machines when using decorative threads.
Needle numbers for longarm machines are usually given as 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, (smaller to larger eye). Adjusting tension is more challenging on LA machines than Domestic Sewing Machines since there are often no numbers or notches on LA machines. To simplify it, keep a log of how much you have turned the top tension either up or down (1/8, ¼, 1/3, etc.) so you can find your way back to the setting you prefer when using what is your normal sewing thread.
Position and use Sulky Jumbo Cones in the normal way. However, if you are using small or king-size spools of Sulky threads, use the small spool holder on your machine. The thread should come from the back of the spool, over the top, forward to the tension area. (Hold spool vertically to bring either Sliver or Holoshimmer off the back of the spool and then put it on the horizontal spool holder on your LA machine). I find that chilling the spool in the refrigerator sometimes helps too! Lengthen stitch size and sew more slowly.
Sulky PolyLite 60 wt. thread adds numerous creative possibilities. In addition to being a breeze to work with, there are a range of solid colors, and tantalizing variegated and multi-colors. Your choice can blend into the background, or sing its own solo, adding further interest to your design composition. These fine, strong threads work well at high speed, are lint free, require a 3.0 or 3.5 needle and tension is easily adjusted. Very few problems with the “pokie” blues here, even running threads with contrasting colors, top and bottom.
Sulky 40 wt. Rayon is available in 333 Solid Colors and 55 Variegated and Multi-Colors. You can use Sulky 40 wt. in the bobbin when you use Sulky Metallic, Sliver or Holoshimmer thread on the top. You may also use Sulky 40 wt. Rayon in the needle along with Sliver or Holoshimmer to help them work better. Or, you can run Sulky Polyester Invisible along with any of these threads, too.
Washing restrictions for Rayon: While rayon threads are colorfast in warm or cold water, do not use bleach or detergents with whiteners or optical brighteners. (Sulky PolyDeco™ 40 wt. thread is good for quilts that will need frequent washing or bleaching.)
Sulky 40 wt. PolyDeco: Available in 138 Solid Colors. Works extremely well on long arm machines in both the needle and bobbin. If you are having trouble with metallic threads, etc. in the needle, try PolyDeco in the bobbin. PolyDeco is excellent in both the needle and bobbin because it is smooth and strong. Use needle size: 3.5-4.0.
Sulky Invisible: Works well in either the needle or bobbin, or both. Sulky Invisible is a very fine .004 continuous filament thread. Many quilting teachers have recommended Sulky Invisible for years because of its excellent runability. You may need to lower either needle and/or bobbin tension. Wind bobbin very SLOWLY and NOT completely full. Use Needle size: 3.5-4.0
I usually use a 4.0 needle with Sulky Metallic Threads. Lower the top tension and sew slowly. I like to put metallic threads in the refrigerator for a while before using them. Lengthen the stitch. Sew for a shorter amount of time. Avoid quick motions and designs that cross over.
Original Metallic – Available in 36 sparkling colors. While I have used this in the needle by itself, I usually combine it with Sulky Invisible, Rayon, Poly Deco, etc. to lower the possibility of breakage. It is possible to use Sulky Original Metallic threads in the bobbin.
Sliver™ Metallic – Available in 24 shimmering colors. I usually run Sulky Invisible, Rayon, Holoshimmer, or PolyDeco along with Sliver through the needle. Some LA Quilters use Sulky Sliver in the bobbin.
Holoshimmer Metallic – Available in 24 brilliant colors. Works extremely well on LA machines. Run Sulky Holoshimmer by itself or in combination with any Sulky threads. Put a soft/smooth Sulky thread in the bobbin. Since both Sliver and Holoshimmer are flat threads, it is important that their thread come off the spool so the thread stays flat, without twisting. This means turning the spool on its side so it turns while the thread pulls off.
30 wt. Cotton Thread – works well in either the needle or bobbin, or both together.
12 wt. Cotton Thread – also works well in either the needle or bobbin, but not well in both needle and bobbin at the same time. I usually have 30 wt. running in the bobbin with 12 wt. on top. The heavier 12 wt. is great for bobbin work (with 30 wt. in the needle).
Use at least a 4.0 needle with 30 wt. and 12 wt. Sulky Cottons. If you experience any thread breakage in the needle when using 12 wt. on the top, try changing to a 4.5 or 5.0 needle.
Lengthen the stitch, especially for the 12 wt. and use it for smooth quilting designs with few points so that there is no issue with thread build-up at the points. Clean the bobbin area frequently when using the 30 wt. or 12 wt. cottons. All cotton thread “fuzzes”, even the most high quality cotton threads. Also, it may help to lower your machine speed a little if needed.
- Loosen your needle tension and check the bobbin tension as well. Both should be looser since these are heavier threads than you might normally use.
- If using a small or king-size spool, put the spool on the small spool holder in top middle of machine. Mount the spool so that the thread comes from the back, over the top of spool, toward the front of the machine. If you have the new threading mechanism, I suggest that you just come straight forward to the 3 hole guide and not go backwards into the new tensioner.
- With some of the Sulky threads, I just make one pass across the quilt, then tie off and go back to the beginning for the next row or section of free-motion.
- Avoid pantographs that have a lot of sharp points where the thread can build up. Try for smooth easy movement of the machine.
- Try putting the thread in the refrigerator or freezer for a while. Any threads like to be cool and moist.
- Do not quilt for too long a time, especially if you are having problems. Take a break and have your favorite beverage; put your feet up; let the machine, needle and most importantly YOU, cool off before trying again.
- The Sulky Blendables have 126 great short-run color combinations, changing colors mostly every 2 ½” to 5″, so they blend in or accent your quilts beautifully, and are very forgiving.
- Use Tear-Easy™ to make quilting designs to stitch over instead of marking the quilt. Or print them onto Sticky Fabri-Solvy, if you’re okay with wetting the quilt afterwards.
- Totally Stable™ may be used the same way. These quilting designs can be “attached” to the quilt with either Sulky KK 2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive or pins. You want an even, controlled medium length stitch with these stabilizers. A very tiny stitch length may grab fibers.
- Regular Solvy® is good for designs to see through to quilt. Solvy and Super Solvy generally pull away without any residue. Any bits remaining can be released with a damp Q-Tip.
- Ultra Solvy™ is great for stitching lace, appliqués, constructing faux “designer” fabric for garments and scarves, etc.
- Fabri-Solvy™ – This NEWEST water-soluble Sulky stabilizer has the firmness and feel of fabric, but it washes away. And now there’s a sticky version (mentioned above).
- Soft ‘n Sheer™ Cut-Away – I have enjoyed using Soft ‘n Sheer as an inner layer in several of my quilted garments.
- Sticky+™ can be used to make templates of designs to stitch around by layering several pieces together.
For answers to other questions about Sulky products, check out our FAQ page on Sulky.com.