I spent the weekend away before the holidays and ended up stumbling upon a charming boutique filled to the brim with locally handmade items. Despite the offerings, I was determined not to buy anything for myself: In a decidedly gift-shopping state of mind, I couldn't be tempted.
Now weeks later, my holiday gifts purchased or made, wrapped, and unwrapped already, something from the store is still haunting me. I'm experiencing that much dreaded feeling - the aversion to which causes many of us to buy more fabric than we often “need”: Buyer’s Remorse’s cousin, Buyer’s Regret.
The item was a beautiful, heavy quilt with a crinkled cotton texture and clean linear piecing. The jewel of the crown was lots of simple but chunky hand quilted stiches in a contrasting colour. Something about the expertise with which it was made combined with its cozy vibe reminded me of my Auntie Susan’s quillows. In retrospect, I can’t believe she let us take those camping, and immediately made a mental note to adopt her tremendous chill about her fine work.
Armed with a combination of nostalgia and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I decided to have a go at something with a similar style: A simple quilt that’s all about the stitches. But, instead of making an impact with creative stippling, lots of straight bold lines will let the thread speak for itself.
Knowing this quilt is all about the right thread means it’s all about the right needle, too.
Piecing with a Microtex Needle
For piecing, I usually use trusty Gütermann Sew-All thread (I’m not a natural fibers purist) with a Universal needle. This time, I decided to plan a little bit better (a long standing quilting resolution of mine) and choose something more specialised: Sulky Polylite 60 weight with a size 90 Microtex needle.
Using a finer thread will reduce bulk, which discourages quilt top lumpiness. The Microtex needle pairs well for precise work and super straight stitching since it is slim and extra sharp. For finer cotton, especially at the piecing edges, this combo worked perfectly well and sewed very smoothly, making piecing a piece of cake.
Quilting with a Metallic Needle
Once I had a good look at the completed sandwich, I decided to add some sparkle to the plus signs. They already reminded me of a European pharmacy sign and so I wanted to accent this with concentric plus signs. I used a variegated version of Gütermann Metallic thread, pulling in a few of the main colours in the floral print. The effect was a shiny rose-gold.
For the bobbin thread I chose a quilter’s classic, Gütermann cotton thread. Once I found the perfect neutral-ish colour, I decided to back all the top threads with it.
Since the back pattern is busy, I liked the idea of creating texture instead of contrast. The Metallic needle (size 90) was an obvious choice though I could have also used a Top Stitch. The key is an extra-large eye, which prevents the shredding of specialty threads. Of course, I followed all the rules for successful sparkly stippling.
The main print ended up looking a little bit more babyish than retro, so I pulled from a darker colour for the main body quilting stitches to break it up. Still set on straight lines, I went with a classic crosshatch: some bold, some fine.
Bold Cross-hatching with a Topstitch Needle
Having loved the look of the variegated metallic thread, I opted for another variegated thread in a heavy weight: Sulky 12 weight Blendables Cotton. To accommodate the gauge, I paired this with a size 100 Topstitch Needle.
Fine Cross-hatching with a Quilting Needle
When using a lighter weight thread, like this 30 weight Sulky Blendables Cotton, the quilting needle is an obvious go-to. (I used a size 90) Its sharp and pointy tip is designed to sew through multiple layers without snagging or damaging your fabric while the tapered shaft is low impact on your finer cottons.
When in doubt
Even if you know needle selection is important, it can be tricky to remember which is best for what. Luckily, most needles are named by purpose: A Denim Needle leaves little to the imagination. For more specialty or nuanced quilting needle education – there’s an app for that!
To get your own Schmetz Needles & quality quilting thread, visit your local Canadian quilt retailer.
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