Thread Matters 2019: The Unsung Hero

We’re super excited about July’s Thread Matters because we get to feature the maker and Master Educator who has been coordinating this whole series from behind the scenes — Aurifil’s own Karen Miller of Redbird Quilt Co. Karen has worked tirelessly over the course of the last year to develop Aurifilosophy, Aurifil’s hot new thread education program that is now traveling the country in the hands of 21 amazing educators. We adore Karen and have so much respect for her, both as a quilter and as the remarkably kind and compassionate person that we know her to be.

HUGE thanks to Karen for all of her hard work and for joining us today for a bit more thread education!

If you missed the January introduction of Aurifilosophy and this fun new Thread Matters series click here to read more. Consider scheduling an Aurifilosophy Program for your shop, group or guild – learn more here.

Happy Stitching!
Erin Sampson, Creative Director for Aurifil

Greetings fellow thread lovers – You KNOW I love to chat about Aurifil’s amazing 100% Egyptian Cotton Thread, but today we’re going to celebrate Aurifil Monofilament: a simple NYLON thread, available in 2 colors, and straight wound on a on a plane-jane white spool and cone.

Monofilament is a multi-purpose thread that is applauded by many and, unfortunately, misunderstood by many more! You may hear these comments from those that have worked with monofilament:

  • “My machine won’t stitch with monofilament.”
  • “The monofilament keeps twisting and knotting”
  • “I couldn’t get my tension right with that thread”

Agreed — It’s frustrating when you’re working with a notion that’s not meeting your expectations. Trust me on this… we’ll have you successfully stitching with Aurifil Monofilament in no time!

Today, we’ll share helpful information about monofilament, specifically Aurifil Nylon Monofilament, so you can add ONE MORE Aurifil THREAD to your creative toolkit.

Let’s start with the definition of Monofilament.  From the web:

Aurifil monofilament is Nylon and yes, it can be confused with fishing line, but that fishing line may only catch a goldfish! 😉 Although there is no published “weight” for Aurifil monofilament, it can be compared to the thickeness of a 100wt silk or cotton thread – VERY FINE. Because it is made of Nylon it will  s-t-r-e-t-c-h. We’ll take this into consideration as we learn to create with it.

First though, let’s Celebrate the Successes of working with Aurifil Monofilament:

Home & Longarm Machine Quilting

  • Monofilament looks spectacular on any fabric quilted with any machine.
  • Your only decision is clear or smoke.
  • For invisible stitches on light colored fabrics I choose clear monofilament.

In the sample above, the stitch length was set to 11 stitches per inch. A longer stitch length allows the monofilament to lay down nicely – it looks fabulous.

Pattern by Edyta Sitar (Friendship Strips and Scraps, Landauer Publishing, LLC, December 1, 2010.) Click here for more info.

On medium or dark colored fabrics select the color that works best for you. Monofilament truly allows you to stitch across a variety of fabric colors without changing thread color! The stitches are virtually invisible on most fabrics.

Aurifil monofilament worked splendidly on these multi-colored quilts made in support of a local veteran’s organization.

Invisible Machine Applique

  • Aurifil Monofilament is ideal for raw edge, needle turned, or fused invisible appliqué.
  • Choose a straight, zig-zag, or free motion stitch to achieve beautiful results.

In the following sample, notice how the clear monofilament takes on the color of the appliqué fabric? Sometimes it looks white, or green, or pink – I love it!

Note: When stitching through multiple layers of fabric, batting, glue, or fusible, you may want to increase the size of your needle. Don’t be afraid to use a 100/16 to avoid skipped stitches or other snags you may encounter under these conditions.



Here’s another example of Aurifil Monofilament being used for invisible machine appliqué:

The silhouette of the Great Blue Heron was stitched to the background with clear Aurifil monofilament. The background quilting was done using threads from The Subtle Sampler.

Do you have a project where appliqué and free motion quilting converge? Aurifil monofilament to the rescue!

On this quilt top, beautifully prepared by my talented sister, there were a hundred tiny appliqué pieces to be secured during the quilting process.

NOT a problem for fine weight Aurifil Monofilament. I chose clear monofilament on top and Aurifil 50wt in the bobbin for quilting on my home machine.

Those lovely appliqué pieces were secured AND quilted in the same step. The surrounding dense machine quilting using Aurifil 50wt & 40wt threads made each piece POP off the background. Read more about the bicycle quilt HERE.

The Bicycle Quilt – Prepared by Janet M. Nykiel – Quilted by Karen L. Miller

Monofilament is virtually invisible when working with these additional techniques:

  • Machine Stitch in the Ditch
  • English Paper Piecing
  • Couching
  • Binding

Now that you have few ideas of what you can do with Monofilament be sure to consider these tips to Celebrate your Own Success with Aurifil Nylon Monofilament:

  • Needle: Use a 70/10 or 75/11 top stitch needle in your home machine. The fine weight of monofilament works splendidly with a small eyed needle. A top stitch needle allows for the thread to ride in the groove of the shaft for ease of quilting or piecing. On the longarm a 3.0 or 4.0 needle is recommended.
  • Bobbin: Use Aurifil 40wt or 50wt cotton thread in the bobbin – no need for monofilament top and bottom – use a cotton bobbin color that complements your backing fabric. If your project requires monofilament in the bobbin, set your speed to SLOW while machine winding a bobbin so the monofilament is not stretched during the process.
  • Tension: Lower the top tension significantly to minimize the possibility of stretching the thread while stitching.  Some makers choose to set their machine tension to zero – personally a tension setting of 2 works fine on my machine. This is something that you’ll want to adjust to your specific machine and project. Grab a practice sandwich and give it a whirl. You’ll be happy you worked through this step before beginning your project.
I’ve had great success using this Groz-Beckert® needle with monofilament on my Innova longarm.

Other general considerations:

  • Because spools of monofilament are straight-wound we recommend mounting the spool such that the thread is drawn from the side. The spool will turn while the thread is drawn from the spool. This approach also keeps tension on the spool and minimizes the risk of the thread unnecessarily unwinding.
  • If you must draw the thread from the top of the spool be sure to use a spool cap that is smaller than the spool itself. No need for extra friction or complications when working with monofilament. In this case consider putting a layer of plastic wrap around the spool to keep unused thread from unwinding.
  • If you’re using a cone of Aurifil monofilament be sure to leave the Aurifil branded netting on the cone and draw the thread from the top. It’s best to NOT remove the netting from the cone – ask me how I know. 😉

Let’s talk melting…

It’s important to understand that monofilament thread of any type (nylon or poly) may melt with direct contact to high temperatures. To ensure quilts prepared with monofilament would hold up to washing and drying, I longarm-quilted a small feather sampler on Moda linen with Aurifil clear monofilament on top, Aurifil 50wt cotton in the bobbin, and using Quilter’s Dream Blend batting. Following the quilting, I machine washed the sample in hot water and machine dried the sample in the hottest clothes dryer East of the Mississippi!!

The results were… perfection! No melting, no issues. I’m comfortable that my Aurifil NYLON Monofilament pieces can be washed and machine dried without issue.

We hope this Thread Matters focusing on Aurifil Monofilament was helpful.  Feel free to leave your questions in the comments or email me directly.

Let’s Create Successfully together !

In case you haven’t heard, Wendy Sheppard and I are teaching domestic free-motion quilting at a retreat this Fall in Hamilton, Missouri! Join us in our self-driving van — it’s detailed with quilting motifs and wouldn’t be complete without that sexy Aurifil bumper sticker and custom license plate. The quilts are piled high inside to share with you at the opening Aurifilosophy Lecture & Trunk Show. Click here for more information. We do hope we will see you there!

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Karen L. Miller is the owner of Redbird Quilt Co., launched to share her love of wool and cotton applique and to demonstrate how free motion quilting (on a home machine) can bring fabric to life!  At Redbird Quilt Co., the Northern Cardinal takes center stage in many of the designs.  The entire Miller family enjoys feeding, observing, and photographing the many Songbirds that grace the North East USA landscape and therefore Songbirds are often found in Karen’s designs.

Karen lives in the Finger Lakes Region of New York where there is a fantastic array of forests, lakes, farmland, and families.  She and her husband share their home with one crazy Yellow Nape Amazon “Cayman”. Their children are grown and they are blessed with 8 grandchildren, many of whom love to sew with Gramma Karen!


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