A lesson I learned from quilting my car quilt is the importance of using the right materials. Even though I already own plenty of thread, I bought a multi-color polyester thread specifically for this project. Knowing that my machine dislikes linty cotton thread, I decided to use polyester. Silly me.

Car Quilt #1 by Kit Dunsmore
(yes, I’ll be making more of them)

I started with simple wavy lines so I could use my walking foot, which is often recommended for beginners. Unlike a free-motion foot, a walking foot helps pull the fabric forward and requires less control on the part of the quilter.

Even with the walking foot, however, handling the quilt was most of the challenge. The bulky layers got caught on things and caused the quilt to jerk instead of moving smoothly under the needle. The thread even broke a few times.

One of my test blocks for choosing my design, made with the polyester thread.

Then I switched to free-motion quilting for the blocks. I got the sample to work, but as soon as I started on the quilt, the thread broke. Twice in as many minutes.

I swore and took a three-day time out.

Breaking thread while free-motion quilting has always been a problem. By changing needle sizes, adjusting tensions, and cleaning out the machine, I can improve things. But the thread still breaks occasionally, and I didn’t want to deal with that. So I took some time to think.

Old thread is prone to breaking, but I just bought this spool. I picked the thread out because it was pretty, and I had used the same stuff — with the same results — in the past. Should I be using a different thread?

I found an article that declared polyester The One And Only Thread To Quilt With. I grumbled but kept reading. After lambasting cotton as an old-fashioned, inappropriate machine quilting thread, the author mentioned that for domestic sewing machines (as opposed to a profession long-arm machine), cotton works best. While I have a sewing machine designed for quilting, it’s still a domestic machine.

I laughed. I looked in my drawers and found some cotton quilting threads. I even had a multi-colored thread in a colorway that woulr work with my quilt.

It took me about ten minutes of adjusting tension, rethreading, and testing, before I got the machine working with the cotton thread. Once I did, it sewed smoothly. Easily. Without the thread catching or straining.

Gray fabric with a red-orange-yellow stitching, including a messy tangle of loose threads.
You would never guess from this rat’s nest of thread made while adjusting the tension that this cotton would work much better for me than the polyester did.

I quilted four blocks in a row without a single thread-related problem. All it took was changing threads.

Suddenly I remembered: I like machine quilting. It’s fun. Until that moment, I was frustrated and reluctant to work on the quilt. Using the right thread for my machine made all the difference.

What change in material has helped you with a creative project?

2 thoughts on “Why The Materials You Use Matter”

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