10 tips to successful bobbin work

Welcome back! Now that your space is tidied up and you’ve way more time to sew, did you make some square in a square quilt blocks from yesterday’s post?

Today, I’m using the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q to do some bobbin work. Since the bobbin is used every time we sew, what is bobbin work? Essentially, it’s working with thick threads in the bobbin to get some very interesting texture in the stitches. You’re going to love this.

Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q

We’ve been told by our dealer and our instructors to never touch the tension on the bobbin case. Right? I tell my students that all the time.

However, if you do want to mess around with the bobbin tension or you want to do bobbin work, then what you need is a second bobbin case. Husqvarna Viking has a Specialty Bobbin Case that takes all the guesswork out of using heavier threads in the bobbin. If you don’t have one, I suggest you put it on your wishlist.

This bobbin case is white, compared to the standard one that comes with the Opal 690Q. There can be no mistaking which one is which. You’ll notice it has the same metal tension mechanism on the front of the bobbin case as does the standard bobbin case. So if you need to adjust the bobbin tension for whatever reason, do yourself a favor and play with the tension on this one. Keep the black one set for the tension used with your piecing threads.

A standard black bobbin case and a white specialty bobbin case

What’s so special about the Specialty Bobbin Case? At the back of the bobbin case is an opening that allows those thick threads to flow freely off the bobbin, completely bypassing the tension.

You can also run specialty threads through the tension mechanism at the front by playing with the tension.

In the photo below, one of the red arrows is pointing to the opening in the back of the bobbin case, while the second arrow is pointing to the standard tension mechanism in the front.

The opening in the back of the bobbin case is large to accommodate thicker threads

TIP 1 – Choosing your threads

Did you know thread comes in different sizes referred to as thread weight? The different thread weights are identified by a number from the very thick (less than 10) to the very thin (100).

If the thread you want to use is too thick to fit through the needle, there are two options. The thread can be couched to your work or you can use the thread in the bobbin. These two techniques produce different looks. Today, I’m putting the thread in the bobbin and will be working from the back of the work. This method is called bobbin work.

Here’s an example of some various thread weights. If you’re not familiar with thread weights, you should learn about the different weights and what the threads can be used for.

Various weights of thread

TIP 2 – Wind the bobbin

Wind the bobbin in the opposite direction that it gets wound when using the sewing machine.

Wind the bobbin evenly and carefully by hand.

Wind the thick thread in the bobbin in the opposite direction

TIP 3 – Use a matching thread on the top

If you think of bobbin work as upside-down couching, the needle thread may show through to the right side of the work. Use a matching or invisible thread in the needle.

Wind the thick thread in the bobbin in the opposite direction

TIP 4 – Pull the thick bobbin thread to the top through the stitch plate

Using the same technique that you would use to pull up any thread in the bobbin, pull the heavy thread through the hole in the stitch plate. How do you do that?

Hold the needle thread in your left hand (straight from the needle – not under the presser foot). Touch the Needle Up/Down function twice and tug on the needle thread. The bobbin thread will come through the hole in the stitch plate.

You can see in the photo below, that the needle thread is looping around the bobbin thread in preparation to pull the bobbin thread through the stitch plate opening.

The needle thread is catching the bobbin thread in preparation of pulling it through the hole in the stitch plate

The bobbin thread is now pulled through the opening in the stitch plate.

The bobbin thread is pulled through the opening in the stitch plate

Note: I worked with several different thread colors. The photos weren’t necessarily taken in the sequence shown here. When I stitched, I ensured that the needle thread matched the heavier thread in the bobbin.

TIP 5 – Use stabilizer

Lay your work right side down on the bed of the sewing machine. Place a layer of stabilizer on the wrong side of your work. Inspira Tear-A-way works well.

Place the work face down on the bed of the sewing machine with stabilizer on the back

TIP 6 – Slow down

I used the lowest speed level on the Opal 690Q. This is important to getting good quality stitches.

The red arrow indicates the lowest speed setting has been selected

I used the Start/Stop Function on the Function panel of the Opal 690Q to ensure an even speed for the line of stitching. It was too easy to unconsciously speed up if I didn’t use those functions.

Let the built-in functions of the Opal 690Q do the hard work for you. You just need to steer the work.

Use the START/STOP Function instead of the foot pedal

TIP 7- Hold those threads

You should know by now if you don’t hold those threads at the beginning you could end up with a thread nest.

Imagine what would happen with that thicker thread. Oh yes – you want to hold those threads – at least until you have one or two stitches formed. Then it’s OK to let go of them.

Hold the threads at the beginning of the line of stitching

TIP 8 – Work from the back

Yes – you’re working from the back of the work. If you need to stitch in a specific spot, you must mark the stabilizer to ensure that the decorative (bobbin work) stitches end up in the correct place on the front of the work.

Before you load the thick thread in the bobbin, stitch a line of stitching (in a thread color that matches your heavy thread) through the top and the stabilizer. You’ll be stitching on the front of the work in this step. That line of stitching is your guide when working from the wrong side of your work to do the bobbin work. Alternatively, you could draw a line directly on the stabilizer.

Stitching with the right side touching the feed teeth

TIP 9 – Experiment

This is one of those techniques where experimenting is necessary. The stitch length and width can vary the outcome enormously so one must play to find the desired look.

I just about gave away a huge bag of crochet cotton. I need that bag to do some bobbin work.

TIP 10 – Choose open stitches

Use open stitches. Tight stitches can result in jams, which aren’t fun.

Start by using the straight stitch and then experiment with some of the more open stitches. Play with the stitch length and width. How does that change the look on the front?

What I love about this technique is you can’t see what the good side looks like until you’re finished the row so be sure to experiment before you start your good project. That’s critical.

The other thing to keep in mind is you can’t put a lot of thread in the bobbin so I’d start with shorter rows.

I’ve got some samples to show you. I’m showing you the back and the front in the same photo so you can more readily see the front and the back.

The front and the back of the work using open stitches

Notice how the width and length of the stitches can vary the look on the front. I found a width of 5 and a length of 4 worked well, however, it depended on the type of stitch I had chosen. I used crochet cotton for all the thick thread.

The front and back of more open stitch samples

More open stitches

Where would you use bobbin work?

It’s one thing to be able to do bobbin work, but where would you use it?

I’ve used bobbin work with free-motion stitching and created a finished edge to some applique circles.

Once the circles were appliquéd to my quilt top, I stitched around each circle with a matching green thread (don’t forget to add the stabilizer) so I would know where the circles were located when I turned the piece upside down.

I put Perle cotton in the bobbin and matching green thread in the needle. I stitched small figure 8s using free motion. The resulting texture is gorgeous.

Free motion bobbin work used as a finish for raw edge applique

Those green circles give a nice pop to the scrappy purple background.

Circles were appliqued using free-motion bobbin work

Fidget quilts are becoming very popular and recently, I read that texture is a great thing to add to the fidget quilts. Bobbin work is a great way to add texture. Who doesn’t have spools of crochet cotton or Perle cotton in their stash? The texture is gorgeous and you can’t help but run your hand over the rows of stitching.

Use bobbin work for embellishing a crazy patch block, decorating a zippered pouch, trim on a bag, or children’s clothing. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s an example of the side of a zippered pouch I’m working on. I’m experimenting with long rows of stitching. The start of a new bobbin isn’t quite perfect, but I’ll get there.

Bobbin work as a decorative element for a zippered pouch

I hope this gives you a good idea of what bobbin work is and how easy it is to do. I love bobbin work but we get caught up in doing the same old thing all the time.

It’s time to get out your Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q and your Specialty Bobbin Case. Dig up some of the thick threads that you know you have in your stash and try this technique. It’s so much fun. I went to bed with a vision for a textured quilt in my head. When I got up, I pulled one more ball of crochet cotton out of the bag I’m giving away!

Tomorrow, I’ve got a couple of things to end off the week, including sharing the pattern for the Square in a Square wall hanging.

Have a great day!


This is part 4 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 3: Tips for sewing the perfect square in a square quilt block

[shareaholic app=”follow_buttons” id=”23735596″]

Related posts

Adding piping AND an invisible zipper to cushions

Making piping is a breeze with the Welt Cord Foot

How to sew a Flat Felled Seam

1 comment

Peggy July 25, 2019 - 7:12 pm
Love your blog..so much informative quilting info
Add Comment