Bobbin Quilting

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 Detail from “Missouri River” my first piece based on Patsy Thompsons’s excellent videos and books for feathers!  I used Bobbin Play with the thick green metallic thread on the outside feather design

Bobbin Play, Bobbin Quilting, Bobbin Drawing… it’s all FUN, and it all means the same thing essentially:  you must wind a thick thread (the threads that cannot go through a ‘normal’ needle in the top of your sewing machine).  They are loaded  onto a normal sized, empty bobbin, and then inserted into a specially loosened bobbin case.  The quilting and/or decorative stitching is done from the BACK of the quilt, or fabric item.  You are basically stitching “blind” to a certain extent… but there are little guides you can give yourself to help with placement… like stitching a circle around your fused or appliqued piece first…(as in the “Flowers for Mac” piece) and oh!  In that piece, around the flower centers, I added 3-4 rounds of stitching for BOLD effect!  (Yahoo Magoo!) What a beautiful surprise you have when you turn the fabric piece over  to see what a pretty creative touch you have added!

Detail of flower from quilt: “Flowers for Mac” — I used black Razzle Dazzle for the center threadplay around the center of the flower, quilting three circles, one next to the other.  My guide?  I had already done the silver metallic ‘herky jerky’ buttonhole-like stitch, from tehe FRONT of the quilt…so I had ‘defined my space’ and could see from the back of the quilt exactly where I wanted to place those stitching lines.

This is how to begin:  1. Choose a high quality thread, like Ricky Tims “Razzle Dazzle” or YLI candlelight (two of my favorites).  Slow down the speed of the bobbin winder (if you have this feature on your machine) when winding these threads… you may have to skip one of the top tensioners, and another tip I teach and use is to apply pressure with my forefinger in order to control, and/or make it a bit slower during the winding process.  2.  I highly recommend you purchase a separate bobbin case; (it’s SEW worth it!)… one that has been specially loosened (righty-tighty/lefty-loosey – if you are hesitant to do it yourself, take it to a good quality machine repair/dealer); this is for those of you who have a machine with a removable bobbin case.  If you don’t, but have a drop-in type of bobbin, then you will just bypass the tension spring in the case for those types of machines.  3.  Adjust your top tension; making it tighter, or in Bernina Land, you will go to a higher number, (up to even a 9.0!) which is generally true for most machines.  4.  Go slowly, and in free motion, I try to make a bit longer of a stitch.. staying in one place too long will result in a big knot very quickly.  In non-free motion, you might like to start with a more “open” type of decorative stitch… or if you have a “long stitch” function  (as in the in higher end Bernina machines), use it, and get creative and/or SPUNKY!  5.  Choose a top thread that plays well with the mate in the bobbin!  I like to use a 40 weight Iscaord polyester, but have had good success with the Masterpiece ELS cottons also, which are 50 weight.  (Made by Superior Threads). I always try to match the weights of both top/bottom threads as best suits the stitch and/or application I am playing with!  Remember… this is CREATIVE!  As far as colors in choosing a top thread… I like to blend both colors… but don’t forget that choosing a contrast may be a color effect you will love! A contrasting top thread will SHOW on the bobbin thread on top, which can be very spectacular! The key thing to remember:  this is not a “normal” stitch in which the two threads meet in the middle, usually in the middle of a quilt sandwich or fabric item… the top thread will “loop” to the top, and stay on top of the bobbin thread/thick thread you are using in the bobbin!

The best thing you can DO:  START!  Experiment!  PLAY!  And most of all… pursue it to excellence… and kick the perfection police out the door!  EnJOY!  Here are some samples of projects I’ve made showcasing some bobbin drawing.  Remember too… a little bit is a great textural and visual delight, and goes a long way!

Detail from table runner “Sunshine & Satin” Bobbin play with
YLI Pearl Crown Rayon in white

“Thankfully Yours” Table Topper

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