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Spotlite: 6 tips for quilting with metallic thread on a domestic machine

by Allison Spence

Welcome to a week of shiny, sparkly thread! This week we’re focusing on WonderFil Specialty Threads Spotlite. I’ll show you some projects I’m working on and give you lots of tips for using this thread on a domestic and a longarm machine.

Spotlite is a 40wt rayon based metallic thread that requires a few little tips and tricks for trouble free stitching. Let’s look at 6 tips for using free motion quilting with the thread on a domestic machine.

If you’ve never seen WonderFil Specialty Threads Spotlite, here’s a brief video that introduces it.

Spotlite – Introduction – YouTube

Introduction to Spotlite by fibre artist and quilter Lucy Garvin

WonderFil Spotlite, MT8831, Ice Blue

WonderFil Spotlite, MT8831, Ice Blue

1. Thread Path

Spool on vertical spool pin.

Spool on vertical spool pin.

Using metallic thread requires some careful consideration and the first thing is how you thread the machine. WonderFil recommends that you don’t use a horizontal spool pin on your sewing machine and just use a vertical spool pin. On a horizontal position the thread is too close to the tension guides and doesn’t have much time to relax. You’ll find that the thread will twist on itself and get caught. So, give it a chance to relax and come off the spool smoothly.

Don’t forget to use WonderFil’s Wonderguard wraps to keep the thread coming off the spool smoothly. If your machine doesn’t have a vertical thread guide, investing in WonderFil’s Thread Tamer is a very good idea. WonderFil also recommends skipping the last thread guide before the needle to prevent any shredding.

2. Needles

Topstitch needle and Universal needle

Topstitch needle and Universal needle

Spotlite is a wrapped thread. The metallic strands are wrapped around a rayon core. To keep the thread from shredding, use a needle with a larger eye. Topstitch and Quilting needles have a larger eye and a deeper groove than a Universal needle and allow for these threads to run smoothly. I generally stay with a 90/14 size needle for working with metallic threads.

3. Bobbin Thread

WonderFil DecoBob in bobbin for perfect tension.

WonderFil DecoBob in bobbin for perfect tension.

When working with a specialty thread in the needle, I recommend using a fine thread in the bobbin. WonderFil’s DecoBob is an 80wt cottonized polyester thread. This fine thread doesn’t stretch and helps to give you a perfect tension on the front and back sides of your project. Because it’s so fine, it doesn’t cause any bulk when the two threads wrap within the fabric and cause any tension issues.

4. Sewing Speed

Be very aware that metallic thread isn’t as strong as a polyester thread and if you sew “pedal to the metal” you may have a few issues!

Slow down either by using the speed control on your machine or using less pressure with your foot on the foot control. I tend to sew at half speed on my machine’s speed dial.

5. Stitch Length

More shine from a longer stitch length.

More shine from a longer stitch length.

Metallic threads contain metal. Compare a strand of Spotlite with a strand of polyester thread. The polyester thread is softer and will bend smoothly for a perfect stitch. The metallic thread doesn’t bend as easily. When sewing, this will show as tension issues. So to prevent these issues, sew with a longer stitch length.

This week I’ll focus on free motion quilting so you cannot set your machine’s stitch length. You’ll need to keep in mind how fast or slow you move the fabric under the needle. I aim for a longer stitch length than my piecing stitch length to maximize the effects of the thread.

Another reason to have a longer stitch length is to allow the shine to show! A shorter stitch length will not reflect the light and shine as much as a longer stitch length.

6. Tension

We’ve finally come to the point where we’ll have the most problems working with specialty threads like WonderFil’s metallic Spotlite, the tension.

I’ve already mentioned using a finer bobbin thread to help with the tension, but you may also want to reduce the needle tension to keep those threads looking great!

My rule is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I usually load a bobbin with fine thread and thread the upper guides of the machine with my specialty thread, in this case the metallic. I’ll start stitching on a test piece of fabric similar to my project and see what my tension is. I’ll then make the necessary adjustments to make everything perfect.

If I’m getting little bits of the needle threads showing through on the underside of my quilt, it means that either my needle tension is loose and the thread is showing on the back or my bobbin tension is too tight and is pulling my needle thread to the back. I’ll run my finger nail over the threads to see if I can feel if the bumps are tight or loose.

If the threads feel tight, I’ll loosen my bobbin tension. If the threads feel loose, I know I need to tighten my needle tension.

Don’t forget to check the front side of the quilt too! If the bobbin thread is showing on the top side, loosen the needle thread tension, it’s pulling the bobbin thread to the top.

Another sneaky trick for tension is to match your bobbin thread to your needle thread. Any little tension issues will show less this way.

WonderFil's Spotlite MT8831, Ice Blue

WonderFil’s Spotlite MT8831, Ice Blue

Follow these 6 tips and you can be assured of a good sewing experience with WonderFil’s metallic thread, Spotlite.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some tips for using these threads on a longarm machine.

Shiny spools of Spotlite metallic threads

Shiny spools of Spotlite metallic threads

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.

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