Many times finding the right thread, needle, and fabric combination is the key to experiencing non-frustrating machine quilting.
The sample of one of my new "Quilting Whimsy" digitized designs, above, was done on fine cotton fabric ("Gradations" by Caryl Bryer Fallert for Benartex) with #100 silk YLI thread and a #60 Schmetz Microtex Sharp needle.
However, when I decided to do one line of echo quilting with "Sparkle," a YLI thread that combines #100 silk with a strand of metallic, I switched to a #80 Topstitch needle, which has always handled threads that tend to fray or skip just fine. This time it did, but not as well as I would have liked.
Every so often a skipped stitch, oh no. A bit of gold metallic showed through to the backing, oh no. And worse, it would ball up behind the needle and fray to the point that I noticed no gold in the stitch at all, had to stop, re-thread, then continue, which resulted in.......frustration!
After doing some research, one of my students contacted me with the same problem and she went directly to the manufacturer of the thread, YLI. I also did the same, and the answer was something I would never have considered, a JERSEY ball point needle! Who knew! I thought they were for knits only, wrong.
Evidently the friction from going through a pierced hole in the cotton fabric, rather than a nice opening made by the ball point needle was fraying the thread. I bought some #80 SUK Schmetz Jersey ball point needles, put one in my machine, and gave the Sparkle thread a big workout.
It worked perfectly. None of the problems occurred. I did have to quilt just a bit slower, lowered the top tension more, and I took a slightly larger stitch than with plain silk thread. Sometimes it looked a little wobbly when going in directions away from myself, but all in all, very nice, definitely will use this again in a quilt and know I will have good results with the proper needle.
The thread itself is lovely. It isn't a full-on metallic, so for me blends into the quilt well, but shows well too. It is subtle bling, a touch of fairy dust on your quilt. It comes in gold or silver with various neutral silk threads.
The new issue of the AQS magazine Quilt Life has a good article about thread with comments by many in the industry. We do need to keep up on thread information so when we choose something that will enhance our work we can get it to work for us.
Keep quilting! Your work gets better every day.