Do You Ever Go Invisible?

by Nicole

Back in July of last year, my guild, the Triangle Modern Quilt Guild, issued members a challenge: grab two pieces of fabric from two paper bags – one bag had prints and the other solids – and make something with it. During the selection, no peeking was allowed! The only rules were that you could only add one neutral solid or solids from the same color family as the original solid you picked.

I grabbed a blue and an large-scale orange print fabric. Luckily for me these colors actually go together.

Paper bag1

The reveal was back in October so you could say I’m a little late with the finished product. But, it’s about process, right?!? Well, I finally got the process underway a few weeks ago and started making something happen.

I took the challenge literally and made it a real paper bag challenge. I randomly cut pieces of fabric up and stuck them in a bag. I pulled two pieces out at a time and stitched them together. I’ve worked with this technique before and love it for the randomness that results. See this post for another way I’ve used the paper bag in my sewing.

I kept sewing pieces together randomly until I got big chunks.

Paper bag2

Then I continued to piece the big chunks together until voilà! A quilt top was born!

I decided to go with straight diagonal lines to keep the quilting simple. I started quilting with white thread. I got about half way done with the first set of lines and was bothered by the white thread on the blue fabrics. I considered grey and beige threads, but they still looked too light on the blue. I also considered blue thread, but knew I wouldn’t like it on the white.

Then it occurred to me: invisible thread!

Look at the difference between the white and the invisible!

Paper bag3

I like the invisible lines much better. They are more subtle than the white thread. Even though it was a pain to rip out all the lines with white thread, for me it was worth the effort.

Paper bag4

I’ve heard from some folks that using invisible, or monofilament thread, can be a bit of a challenge. I think there are two keys to using it successfully: (1) dropping the tension on the machine way down (I change my tension from 4 to 1.5) and (2) using cotton thread in the bobbin.

What about you? Do you ever go invisible? If so, when? If not, why not? 

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sandiqltr January 8, 2014 - 5:16 am

I use invisible thread often when I have the same dilemma you just had. Another time I like to use it is when I am using the stitch on my machine that is referred to as "Hand Quilting Stitch". This is a 3 stitch process and when finished, it looks like a hand stitch quilting stitch.

Razzle Dazzle Quilter January 8, 2014 - 6:12 am

Yes I do go invisible. I think invisible thread is the new machine quilters best friend. Like you I drop the top tension and make sure I have a grabby thread in the bobbin.


Debbie January 8, 2014 - 6:41 am

I've never thought to use it quilting, so something to think about!

Liz January 8, 2014 - 7:55 am

Oh I have just quilted with invisible thread and HATED it. Not the look – I needed something colourless and that was great, but it kept snapping and I needed a certain tension for the stitch I was doing (the fake hand stitching sandi refers to). I was going to investigate whether there is better quality invisible thread – perhaps your readers can help. I was using Gutermann.
Love your quilt btw!

Megan January 8, 2014 - 8:32 am

I have wondered about using invisible thread and have just bought some to try – thanks for the tips. Your quilt looks great, your paper bag technique works really well!

DeborahGun January 8, 2014 - 8:58 am

it is amazing 🙂 I have never used invisible thread – but it looks fantastic

Annabella January 8, 2014 - 9:12 am

Firstly, I love the result of your challenge! I have exactly the same problem with the back of a quilt which is a mixture of neutral and blue solids and funnily enough I just decided to use invisible thread…it will be a while until I get to it but I think I at last have the solution – your tips are really useful.

Adrianne January 8, 2014 - 10:26 am

I've never used invisible thread myself, although I do love quilting that blends it. What I don't love about invisible thread is the shininess it can add. Yours looks quite matte though – do you use a particular brand? Your project looks great – can't wait to see it finished 🙂

Denise Russell January 8, 2014 - 4:33 pm

Oh, I am so proud of you! Going thru the pain of undoing those stitches… I quilt with monofilament all the time. Sometimes my tension is on Zero… and I find that if you have a little thumb on your bobbin, putting the bobbin thread thru that thumb also helps, particularly if you decide to use monofilament on the bobbin, too. The quilt looks great!

Terry@ a quilting blog January 8, 2014 - 5:19 pm

Thanks for the great tip Nicole…will have to give it a try!

Beth January 8, 2014 - 6:05 pm

I have used it used and in some cases love the look it gives but many times I have issues that I can not resolve and give up on it. Yours looks wonderful on here!

Jeneta January 8, 2014 - 11:58 pm

I haven't used invisible thread in years! And never on a quilt – it looks great on yours.

Tamie January 9, 2014 - 1:06 am

I haven't gone invisible before but looking at your quilt makes me think that there is definitely a time and place for it. Love your randomness.

Kathy@KayakQuilting January 9, 2014 - 1:59 am

Love the paper bag design approach! I have had very mixed results with monofilaments…tension issues, breaking thread, etc. But I have a Sweet Sixteen machine now and a quilt that would really benefit from the invisible thread so I am going to try again!

LethargicLass January 9, 2014 - 2:03 am

I haven't used it because I use my iron on one setting, hot as heck! And I figure I would melt invisible thread lol

Stacey Napier January 9, 2014 - 8:07 pm

I have been on the hunt for the "perfect" monofilament. Luckily I live close enough to Houston that I'm able to go to the International Quilt Festival and I searched high and low. I feel like Goldilocks – the first one was too wiry and stretched and broke. The next one is too brittle and got jammed up in my machine. I purchased two new ones at Festival but haven't tried them out yet. Certain projects just lend themselves to monofilament, and I hope to give my new purchases a try very soon. Thanks for the tips!

Katy Cameron January 9, 2014 - 10:30 pm

Love the random piecing, and great idea with the invisible thread :o) I have some of the Aurifil monofilament and never had to change my tension, but my machine is very forgiving!

M. E. Stephens January 9, 2014 - 11:12 pm

That looks like it was a really fun project.
Seems like I used invisible thread putting trim on something, but I don't remember exactly. It would have been something other than a quilt, I know that much. And, I don't remember my experience with it, so I assume it wasn't particularly difficult. We seem to have a way of remembering the really bad projects. 🙂

quiltytherapy January 24, 2014 - 8:23 pm

Love using a paper bag to create randomness in a quilt. Looks great.

Cynthia@aquilterbynight January 31, 2014 - 10:48 am

I have almost always used monofilament thread in the needle for machine quilting – and for invisible machine applique as well. I don't like a real thready look and the monofilament lets the quilting line show without a thready look. Harriet Hargrave pioneered this years ago. She taught my grandma, who in turn taught me. I now use YLI but used to use something else that was more matte and now isn't produced anymore – I can't recall the name. For predominantly dark tops I use "smoke" colored monofilament. 50 or 60 weight cotton in the bobbin. The quilts I made in the mid 90's have held up beautifully through hard use and many washings!

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