Saturday, November 12, 2016

Needle Nirvana and Beautiful Backs

Needle Note
I got caught out of school last week.  One reader asked me what size needle I use for Kimono silk.  I must confess that I was using a #12/80 Topstitch.  Then I went to the list of articles compiled on the Superior Threads site and found that I was not using the optimal sized needle.  I  went through my bucket of needles and found one #8, which they recommend.  My needle threader broke it in half!  I don't know if the needle was defective or if the threader is too vigorous, but I will be purchasing some more #8 needles.  Meanwhile, I pulled a #10 Microtek out of the stack and used it.  Oh my gosh:  It was like sewing butter.  I love the finer needle for the silk and my FMQ (free motion quilting) is so much smoother with the smaller needle.  It goes through all the layers of the quilt sandwich without a hitch.

TIP:  Never stop learning!  Use the right size needle for your thread.  You will be so happy.  In my case  the #12 was OK and didn't cause problems, but the #10 works so much better.  Maybe #8 will be better still.

Create a Beautiful Back
1.  Make sure the backing of the quilt sandwich is firmly secured as you compile the layers and pin them together.  It should not be stretched super tight, but it should not be loose either - just firmly smoothed out and fastened down with painters' tape or clips until pinned.  This will avoid nasty tucks on the back.  Grains must be straight on both top and backing.

2.  Using a small sandwich of the same materials as your quilt, work out your optimal tension.  This may vary from quilt to quilt.   You don't want "pokies" of bobbin thread showing on the front or top thread showing on the back.  You don't want weird lines pulling at rounded forms.  You don't want thread loops snaking up.  Continue to check the tension periodically as you work on your quilt. Sometimes the tension slips or maybe your bobbin case needs cleaning.

Here you can see red "pokies".  They are bits of bobbin thread
showing because the top tension is too tight.

3.  If you are new at FMQ or still not confident with your ability, choose a busy fabric as backing.  The stitching irregularities will be less obvious in the confusion of a noisy design.  Practice will ultimately improve your stitching competence.

Busy fabric obsures the quilting to some extent.

4.  Eventually you will find that using a non-busy fabric and colored bobbins will make the back look like a similar, but different quilt.  I began using top and bobbin thread the same color so that "pokies" would be obscured (note:  it is smarter to check and adjust your tension!).  Imagine my surprise when I turned the quilt over and discovered how pretty the back looked.

My first step out of obscurity.  My stitching is not always the greatest, but I got
lots of practice on this 72 x 72 in quilt.  Even lacking perfection it makes 

interesting texture accentuated by thread color.

Continued practice brought confidence.  
Back of "Butterflies in My Garden."  See front.

Back of "Fenestra Rosa".  See front.

Bigtop (see front) is a spiral quilt where some of the quilting overlay looks hit and miss on the front because the thread color melts into some of the colors of the piecing.  However,, the overlay designs can be seen clearly on the back (seals and clowns - click to enlarge).  I SID-ed the lines of the spiral with gray Bottom Line in the bobbin.  I purposely used the gray instead of black because I thought the lines would suggest the high wires and tightropes of a circus without being a distraction.

TIP: Don't forget that the back of your quilt is an important element and should look just as nice as the front.  Show judges check the back as carefully at they do the front.

Sew a happy seam this week.  I wish you a beautiful backside.



  1. Wonderful tips and fair warnings! Your quilts are absolutely gorgeous!

  2. Gorgeous quilting along with great tips! Thanks for sharing on Midweek Makers

  3. I really like the back of Butterflies! Thanks for the tips.