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Using monfilament thread for top stitching

by Sharon
(Saylorsburg, Pa.)

I use monofilament thread in both the bobbin and the top threads to top stitch runners and placemats because they have two different fabrics and it saves changing colors all the time.

I have been having trouble with the top thread breaking all the time. I have been using the same tension as set by my repair shop, but should I change this?

I notice that the thread gets tight coming through the area before the take up hook. I am using a good quality thread and just changed needles. I also use a walking foot.


Sharon, I so appreciate all the information you gave me in your question. It really helps.

Yes, you should reduce your needle tension setting from what was set by your sewing machine repair person. On my Viking Designer I, I automatically reduce my tension by two full numbers before even testing the thread combinations on a practice quilt sandwich.

There are two reasons for this.

Using a sewing machine for quilting

First, sewing machines are engineered to stitch with the same 50-60 wt thread in both the needle and bobbin. Good quality monofilament thread is even finer--.004 to be exact. So the thread you're using is different than what the SEWING machine is built for.

Stretchy thread has tension already built in

Next, monofilament thread has stretch to it. That stretch creates tension in the thread as it winds its way through the thread path.

An example of a noticeably stretchy thread is elastic thread. As you sew with it, the elastic stretches (creating tension). Once it's created the stitch, the thread contracts back to its relaxed size and Voila! your stitches have made gathers. To a lesser degree, the same thing happens with monofilament thread.

To counteract this, you must dial down the tension setting on your machine.

Add to that, that stitching through the additional batting layer adds resistance as the thread is stitched...all these things add to the need to decrease the preset tension setting.

I recommend reducing your setting by 1 whole number and then testing on a practice sandwich (a small one made from the leftovers from your table runners and placemats). Stitch a little and then check how those stitches look. Repeat until you are satisfied and then go back to your projects.

This should make a huge difference. Let me know how it goes!


Julie Baird

PS Just another thought...most clear threads are on a cone without a notch in it to hold the thread tail. If your thread is on a spool that has a notch on it, make sure that the notch is either on the bottom or to the right so that the thread doesn't catch on it, stretch and then snap.

Comments for Using monfilament thread for top stitching

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Using Monofilament Thread in the top and bottom
by: Jo Goranson "The Thread Lady"

Most monofilament thread is made of nylon and should not be used in the top and the bobbin. There are two companies who make polyester monofilament thread. They are Superior Threads and Sulky. Those are the only two threads you can use in the top and the bobbin. The reason you should not use the nylon threads in both places,(especially in the bobbin) is that nylon stretches while polyester doesn't. Julie is right that you should be using a size 70 needle to sew monofilament thread with. Any other needle is too big. Remember that when you are ironing something with monofilament thread you should be careful not to have the iron on cotton or you can melt the thread, I use Superior's monofilament all the time because it is wound on bigger spools and comes off the spool with less of a twist to it. Superior guarantees their threads also and if you don't like it, send it back within 30 days and get your money back. They are the only company that guarantees their thread quality. Sulky's thread is good also, but it is hard to find the bigger spools and the thread on the small spools tends to twist.That will cause your thread to break.

by: Sharon

Thanks again. Am buying some tomorrow.

by: Sharon

Thank you very much for your answers.

I did notice that the stitching did pucker a little. Also it gets tight in the area that goes between the two discs in the very beginning of the threading.

Should I also be using a different size or type of needle.

Right now I am just using my regular needles.

From the Editor:

When I'm quilting with monofilament thread I use a 60/8 Schmetz Microtex Sharp is a very fine needle with a very small eye. The needle is very sharp and makes a small hole.

The only problem is that because it is so fine...I liken it to quilting with a staple...they're easy to break...and when I'm warming up for free motion quilting, I must admit that I've broken a whole package of needles before I found my rhythm. You shouldn't have that problem with the walking foot...but if you find you are breaking needles, then move up to a 75/11 or an 80/12 in a Microtex Sharp. (I use this same needle when I'm doing the invisible machine applique technique found on the website.)

Singer machines take Singer needles and that would be the only deviation from this suggestion.

Good luck!

~ Julie

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