Glamour and glitz on the surface of a quilt is the result of using decorative threads. Technically, these are heavier than standard sewing thread. Some decorative threads can be threaded through the needle while others are too heavy and must be couched or drawn up from the bobbin.
For threads that can be threaded "through the needle" use either a size 80 or 90 topstitch needle. The topstitch has a larger eye and can accomodate most threads, including metallics. Other needles can work but the topstitch is usually successful. Try this: take a sewing machine needle and insert it upside down in a pin cushion. Thread the needle with a decorative thread and pull it back and forth to see how easily it runs through the needle; if it snags and the needle tries to tip over, try a larger size needle.
For threads that are too heavy for top threading, use them for couching or bobbin drawing. For couching, load the top thread with either invisible monofilament thread or a neutral fine polyester that will blend with the thread, cord, or yarn that is being couched onto the fabric. A couching foot for your machine will help feed the thread to the surface of the quilt while the top thread zig zags over the top and secures (couches) the thread. (See Machine Quilting Made Easy!, p. 41--Exercise 13: Learning to Couch by Maurine Noble.)
Bobbin drawing uses the same machine set up for the top thread but the heavy thread is in the bobbin. Loosen the bobbin thread tension. Turn the quilt over so the back is facing up. As you stitch and see the top thread, the bobbin thread will be drawn up to the front surface of the quilt.
Decorative threads I've used include: Superior Thread's Razzle Dazzle, Rainbows, King Tut, and Glitter; Yen Met Metallic, YLI Variations, and hand dyed perle cotton, chenille yarn, etc. These can add a special sparkle to wall hangings and novelty quilts. Give them a try!
Copyright ©2008, Sharon Baggs