The Midnight Miracle
by Cozy Bendesky, Lower Gwynedd, PA
(originally appeared in Get Creative newsletter, December 97)
hello, I'm back (I do lurk now and then) and ready to talk. I won't go on
and on, but about metallic thread, I could. Yes, It's a bit of a pain, due
largely to the stretch of the filaments.
Number one, use a needle that has an eye shaped like a slot (or a door) and a deep scarf in the back. This protects the thread from the many ups and downs it has before it finally rests in its new home as a stitch in your work. Needles that qualify are topstitch needles, Metallica and Metafil. Jeans needles are really, really sharp and strong, and have a deep scarf, but I really prefer the hole in a topstitch needle
For fine fabrics,
embroidery needles have the same configuration in a lighter weight.
Number two, make sure it's a NEW needle. I think you already tried that, but with expensive thread, this is no time to get cheap about the needle.
Number three, stabilize, stabilize, s t a b i l i z e! Even under a piece with batting, sometimes a satin stitch needs a piece of tear-away, or dissolve-away, or heat-away stabilizer. Or heavier backing fabric, if that's an option. The "loopies" and skips you mentioned sound like a stabilizer need to me. (Let me hold this modem to my forehead and diagnose your problems, dear. . .)
Number four (everyone hates this, but no-one more than me), go slowly. Sew slowly. Don't go fast. Keep the speed even, not up and down. Go slowly. 25mph zone. Did I mention stabilize and go slowly?
Number five, the Midnight Miracle: This is what I tell my students, if you take a sewing class with me in Williamsburg, you will hear this story: "You know when you are sewing those Christmas pajamas and it's 2 am and you've watched "It's a Wonderful Life" 3 times on cable and your mother and all your old aunts will be there in the morning and the thread keeps breaking, and breaking, and breaking... so you grab it and throw it across the room and start to cry, then you get up and go look at the kids and try to decide if you are going to wake them up as soon as you finish the pjs, or just quick change them in the morning, and then you realize the pjs aren't done yet, you may have to complete the stitching by hand and that means you'll be lucky if they all match for the photos by lunch (and how long can you keep them in pajamas anyway? Don't they have to put on those awful rhumba pants your mother got?), and heaving a sigh, you shuffle back to the machine, find the thread under the lamp where it landed, thread up the machine one last time and IT WORKS!!
You complete the pjs in 20 minutes, hit the sheets by 2:45 and get all the rest you need in just 4 hours... but all Christmas day it nags you... WHY did the thread stop breaking all of a sudden? What if it happens again? Do you have to throw it across the room the strengthen it? Was it the higher humidity from crying? AUGH!!! Why???
(It occurs to nasty old me that I should leave you all hanging and make you sign up for my classes!! Just kidding, really.)
The Midnight Miracle is this: The reason your thread (any one, not just metallic, but it goes double for them) keeps breaking and then suddenly stops is: winding tension! The outer half of the thread on that spool is a little more stretched than the thread wound closer to the spool middle. Manufacturers take care to try to prevent as much of this as possible, but it still seems to happen a bit. Thread under tension breaks. The thread on the inner portion of the spool (which is all you have left by the time you've fussed with it for 6 hours...) is under less tension, less likely to break. That's the Midnight Miracle. Not throwing the spool, not humidity. You can give any thread a chance to relax by getting it farther away from the needle as you sew. I put Sliver on that little Dritz stand, but before that, I just tossed it in a salad bowl across the room. This was in my pre-cat days, that would never work now. It made a racket, but it wasn't as loud as me crying.
Ack! I did go on and on. Well, this was hard won knowledge, and my solutions work well. If you saw the Fairfield garment in Houston that was about my morning coffee, you know I've tamed the metallic beast.
A P.S. from Cozy: She does not use any kind of thread lubricants, mainly because she doesn't want them on her tension disks, which rely on friction to work with all threads.
Cozy Bendesky 1997-2004
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