Bobbin Play – Tying Off

MarveLes Art StudiosBlogs, Tutorial 3 Comments

Begin with your favorite ‘thick’ thread… this happens to be YLI candlelight; a metallic type of thread in a pearly iridescent white.  This was the thread I used in the mixed media art quilt:  “GRACE” which was the focus of a recent post — you can view it again here.
Detail from “There is Nothing Greater Than GRACE”

I chose a white 40 wt. (Isacord) polyester thread for my top thread. Remember… the thick thread is your bobbin case. I chose this white polyester for it’s strength, it’s wonderful smooooothness when combined with a thicker metallic thread. That combo makes for a good marriage…smooth, no friction, and great teamwork! 

This isn’t just a technique for bobbin play, but for anytime you want to tie off your threads.  Remember… you are working from the BACK of your quilt surface, and you still want to pull that bobbin thread to the “top” as you are working on it now.  To do that, hold your top thread in your left hand, keeping a steady grip on it.  With your right hand, reach for the hand-wheel, and sink your needle into the fabric.  Begin to move the needle back up to the top of the surface, and as you do so, holding onto the top thread with your left hand,  “tug” on it gently until the bobbin thread ‘pops’ to the surface…

The loop that forms is what you want to grab to bring up the tail end of the thread.  This is not normally a big deal, except it’s ‘bobbin play’ and you want to make the most of what you have wound onto the bobbin.  

Here is my TIP:  The loop closest to you is the one you want to grab, generally, as it is the one with the thread end. Why does it matter?  Because you don’t want to grab the wrong side of the loop, and end up wasting precious inches of your thick thread.  It takes it off the bobbin, and doesn’t allow you as much yardage to play with!  And… it’s all about playing!  

  A different color of thread is shown below, but the same concept as described above.  The bobbin thread has been pulled to the surface, I grabbed the loop closest to me, and this is the way it should look.  I haven’t wasted much of my precious thick bobbin thread for my bobbin play – playtime!

So… how should the tension & stitches look on the (back) of your quilt?   Remember you are working from the backside of your quilt, so it really becomes the “top” for quilting purposes.  Below you will see the purple thick thread shows just a dot of color… and this is what I wanted as I did not want my top white thread to show against the purple thread on the top of my art quilt, so I added additional top tension until that white thread had enough ‘muscle’ to pull up that purple thick thread to the top surface (which is still the back of the quilt).  Perhaps you DO want it to show against the thicker bobbin thread because it’s part of your creative expression.  That can be a great look too. At this point, it’s truly a personal preference for what YOU like.  I have also raised my TOP tension to about a setting of 5 or 6… as I need to give my lighter weight polyester thread “more muscle” to enable it to have enough strength to pull that heavy bobbin thread to the top (backside).  Raise your top tension as appropriate for your machine, threads, etc. Want to know more?  See my post December 23, 2010 on bobbin play details here.

DRUM ROLL… ‘ta da’ — the finished TOP of my quilt with my beautiful bobbin play.  Beautiful… to me!  This is all about what you like!  And I don’t just like this – I LOVE it!

Don’t know where to start … to begin to learn more about this fascinating technique?  See more information I’ve posted about STITCHING HOMEWORK here. More on Bobbin Quilting here, too!

When you are finished, tie off again, or what I prefer to do is to take just a few – maybe 2-3 stitches in place (yes it will make a slight knot), and then use a bit of fray check on the edge of the thread to keep from unraveling if it becomes an issue for you. Or you can use a tapestry type needle, and by leaving a tail of thread, you can bury it between the layers of your quilt sandwich when you’re all done.

Comments 3

  1. I hope you do try it again, Jean… don't hesitate to ask if you have questions. And above all, have FUN with it!

  2. I am eager to try this. I tried one time but need to go back and set my Bernina on higher tension. Thanks so much.

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