Friday, August 05, 2011

Thread Education by Superior Uncle Bob

Superior Threads puts out a marvelous monthly newsletter (aka, "Wise Words from Mother Superior", aka, Bob Purcell, the Thread Professor and self-certified Threadologist, aka "Uncle Bob").  No, he's not really my uncle, but he gives out such wise, wild and woolly advice that he just feels like somebody's comfy/funny uncle.  I'm reproducing below this month's Education portion of the newsletter.  Used with permission from Bob Purcell,  Copyright © 2011 Superior Threads, All Rights Reserved. 

EDUCATION: Common and not-so-common Questions Here are some questions (and our answers) asked recently in quilting blogs:

Q. Are all invisible monofilament threads the same?    
A.  No.  Most invisible monofilament thread is nylon and nylon is not a good fiber choice for thread.  It has very low heat tolerance (400 F compared to polyester’s 480 F).  Nylon goes brittle over time and yellows.  That is why very few threads are made of nylon.  If you like invisible monofilament thread, choose a polyester type such as MonoPoly.
Caution: Watch out for a brand of invisible monofilament thread that is labeled as “polyamide.”  That is the chemical name for nylon.  It is not polyester.

Q. Does Superior have any threads made of nylon?    
A. Yes. Charlotte’s Fusible Web.  It is a fusible thread, meaning it melts at low temperature.  This thread is wonderful for fusible applique.  No more stiff webbing between the layers.  Seven easy-to-follow video demonstrations are available on our website.

Q.  How do I know what needle to use for quilting, sewing, embroidering, and piecing?
A.  We listen to the professionals -- those who do and those who teach.  The majority tell us they use the Topstitch style needle for nearly all applications including piecing (#80/12 needle), embroidery (#90/14), quilting (needle size depends on the thread size), general sewing construction/crafting (usually #80/12).  The only exception is when sewing on knit fabrics and they use a ball point needle.
Top secret revealed: The bestselling brand of home machine needles puts the exact same needle in the Topstitch and Metallic needle package.  It's the same needle.  One needle, two packages = double the sales.  Save your money.  You do not need to buy both.  This explains why we no longer sell metallic needles.  The Topstitch style is the needle preferred by the professionals.

Q.  What determines if a thread is for hand quilting?
A.  Strength.  Hand quilting puts a lot of repeat stress on thread so it requires a strong thread.  Traditional hand quilting thread is coated or glazed with wax or starch which makes the thread rather stiff, slick, and strong.  Our hand quilting thread is Treasure, a coated cotton.  Some high quality non-coated threads such as King Tut are also perfectly fine for hand quilting.
Caution: Do not use a coated or glazed thread in a machine.  The coating will rub off and gum up the machine.

Q.  What’s the difference between a piecing thread and quilting thread?
A.  Size.  When piecing, we want the thread to be fine enough to make a flat, smooth seam. A medium or heavy thread will not do this.  Choose a fine (#50) thread for piecing.  MasterPiece was created as the ideal piecing thread.

Q.  Is it OK to piece with polyester?
A.  Yes, if you are careful when ironing the seam.  A high-heat iron can melt polyester, so turn the iron temperature down to low or medium.  We prefer to play it safe and piece with cotton (MasterPiece) so we can iron the seam on high heat with no risk of melting the thread.

Q.  What thread should I use for quilting?
A.  There are many choices.  Polyester, cotton, metallic, variegated.  Please refer to our Thread Selection Guide.  And, it is perfectly fine to use polyester thread in your quilt.  It will not tear the fabric.  That is the biggest myth in the quilting world.  Here is a good article on this topic.

Q.  What is filament polyester?
A.  Most polyester threads are made of multiple filaments (continuous strands) of polyester twisted together.  If there is only one single strand, it is a monofilament thread.  Most polyester threads have many polyester filaments twisted together.  A 3-ply polyester thread has three strands twisted together, but each of those three strands are made up of many micro-strands twisted together.  A top quality 3-ply multi-filament polyester thread may have as many as 144 strands (48+48+48) twisted together.  A low quality polyester thread may have only 18 strands (6+6+6).  The labels do not state the number of micro-strands.  If you have wondered why you absolutely love a particular polyester thread, it is probably due to the high number of micro-strands.

Q.  My dealer told me that using prewound bobbins will void the warranty.  Really?
A.  Your dealer is wrong. No sewing machine company makes such a claim.  In fact, most sewing machine companies sell prewound bobbins.

        (Comment inserted by me:  The following is MY favorite Question AND Answer!)

Q.  Is it true that Superior is the only brand I should use because other brands cause global warming, the swine flu, and other problems?
A.  Thank you.  This is my favorite question.

I would highly recommend signing up for this newsletter right away ... it is so useful and entertaining ... I've posted only a small portion of this valuable resource.  Don't miss Bob's Superior Joke of the Month, either!  There's a big sign-up button right on the front page of the Superior website.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Quilt Festival at Long Beach, 2011

Memory Seeds by Barb Pozek from the Celebrate Spring! 2011 Special Exhibit
Wow, I just watched the Virtual Tour at the official website of Quilt Festival at Long Beach ... well worth the 10 short minutes.  Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy.  Be sure to check out all the Special Exhibit pictures, too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Masters: Art Quilts Vol. 2

I was excited to receive my copy of Masters: Art Quilts, Volume 2 in yesterday’s mail, and couldn’t wait to review it for you here.

Curated by Martha Sielman, this second volume of “major works by leading artists” has been eagerly anticipated by those of us in the art quilt field, as well as those who collect and appreciate fiber art as Fine Art.

Ms. Sielman is well-known as the Executive Director of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), and has earned her stripes as a professional artist, author, lecturer, juror, and arts administrator, with too many professional credits to name here.  Suffice it to say that she has created another masterpiece with this book.

By limiting the number of artists to 40 (in this 412-page book), Ms. Sielman has been able to showcase a fairly wide range of each artist’s work, along with a satisfying, but not overwhelming, amount of information about each artist and his or her working philosophy and/or techniques.  Each artwork is named and dated, with the size, materials, and techniques also indicated.  (One of my pet peeves about some other books is not being able to tell how large or small an artwork is, so this is a big plus for me.)

The artists showcased here are pulled from a truly international base, and the quilts  reflect the most sophisticated kind of artwork of any genre.  For instance, Emily Richardson’s quilts of silk organza and acrylic paints could easily be mistaken for abstract oil paintings. 

Genevieve Attinger’s graceful portraits and nudes could be straight out of an old master’s studio, with the addition of her delicate stitches.  Pamela Fitzsimons’ highly textured Australian landscape pieces are painstakingly created by hand, from dyeing to stitching. 

For a refreshing take on land- and seascapes, take a look at the collaborations of Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade.  They combine realistic landscapes with unusual framing elements that make you stop and look again … and again. 

Linda MacDonald enjoys inserting humor into some of her environmentally sensitive message quilts.  Although some see her graphic images as similar to comic-book art, they always remind me of delicate wood-block cuts.

In addition to Ms. Sielman’s introductions to each artist, there are short quotations by the artists scattered throughout each section.  One of my favorites is by Laura Wasilowski:  “Fabric scraps are like starter dough.  The possibilities are endless.”

This book is large enough to allow for good-sized images and a few detail shots, without being an oversized “coffee-table” book.  I do wish there had been room for more (and larger) detail shots, but then the book would have had to be much bigger and heavier!  The paper is very high quality, and the photography is superb.  Highly recommended as a gift or for yourself.   Although I often give books away, I’m keeping this one!

Disclaimer:  I received this book for the purpose of writing an independent review.

Pictures are back!

In VinoVeritas, 2008 (SOLD)
Found medical book pages, inks, ceramic cabochon, glass cab, beads, stitching.
Finally ... I found the time to figure out what happened to all my pictures which had disappeared for the past two years of blog postings.  Thank goodness they are all (or at least mostly) back now, and I didn't even have to re-insert them individually like I was afraid of.

Since I don't like to post anything without a picture, I thought I'd just insert "In Vino Veritas" above, since it was one of the few images on my laptop.  Now maybe I can get back to posting again!