Archive for the ‘Notions’ Category

Threads for Your Machine Quilting

Monday, June 10th, 2013

blendables_spoolThe question came up again this week about the difference between 30wt and 12wt thread, and which is better for machine quilting. Our initial search was based on a well dispersed but yet unproved rumor that thread weight is a measure of “miles of thread per mile.” [Note: An easily distracted person should not Google “miles of thread per pound” as every noun in the phrase has multiple meaning that call up dozens of hits – very entertaining, but not very enlightening].


We went looking for information again, and found lots of it. Mary Mashuta’s book Foolproof Machine Quilting has a good section on threads and needles for machine quilting, as do several other books on our shelf. From there we went to the thread manufacturers. Some of what we found was facts and some was opinions, of course. had lots of information on these two weights, including suggestions to use the heavier thread in the bobbin, to use the heavier thread in the top, and to use the lighter thread instead. There’s also a link about parallel weights in cotton, rayon and blends

Superior Threads (King Tut) offered a thoughtful essay  on the differences and how you can make an informed choice.
At the risk of spoiling the suspense, we think the last point of the Superior Threads essay is the best suggestion:

“Ignore the weight number on the label. Choose thread based on the type of fiber, look, feel, and thickness and not by the printed weight size. Trust your eyes and fingers more than the label. You’ll get better results and be much happier with your selection. Choose fine threads to blend and medium and heavier threads to show.



Top thread broken, bobbin thread through needle. How?

We’d love to hear from you about your experience with these threads and others. You can comment here, or post your thoughts on the “New Pieces – Get it Done” Group*. We’re all in this together — and there is no philosophy that says that we can’t share each others experience and learn from each others’ mistakes.


*The “Get it Done” Group is an unstructured place to ask advice and show off your product AND your process. Come play with us!

Quilt Patis – A New Take on an Old Skill

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012


Confession: I didn’t expect to like these as much as I do.

Quilt Patis are little templates for English piecing — but made of flexible plastic instead of paper, so they can be used over and over again. The best part may be that they’re portable — you can stick a little kit (some  Patis, fabric scraps, two pins and a needle and thread) in your bag and play with them when you’re waiting out one of life’s little delays.

New Pieces currently has diamond and hexagon-shaped Patis, in two sizes each. The pincushion above was made by Mary Risard Burnett, from the smaller diamond Patis, and there are a few of the larger ones under it. Using the cutting board for scale, you can see how small they are. You can’t see that they’re easy to use. Look for them the next time you come in!


What’s the Difference? (Synthrapol vs. Retayne)

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

We decided to solve this question once and for all. After a diligent Google search, the answer is:

Retayne FIXES dye to fabric and should be used in cases where you are concerned that a fabric dye may bleed. Use Retayne as directed,  as a pre-wash or before putting suspect fabrics into a quilt.

Synthrapol is a special detergent that suspends dye particles so that they do not reattach to fabric. Dyers use Synthrapol as a pre-wash to REMOVE  sizing, oils, fingerprints and other impurities that would interfere with an even dying of fabric — and then they wash the dyed fabric with Synthrapol to remove any remaining unattached dye particles.

Here is one situation that requires further research; I’ll update when I can confirm or deny it:

It’s my understanding that you don’t use Retayne on a completed quilted, because of the possibility that dye might migrate and THEN affix to (the wrong) fabric. The proper procedure in that case would seem to be to wash the quilt with Synthrapol (to remove the extra dye), and THEN use Retayne to affix the dye that remains.

Both products are available at New Pieces, and we have directions on how to use either one. If you’re interested in the chemical reactions that each one employs, please contact Heather (who is interested is such things) at


A Word From Our Sponsor….Nature

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

This has been one of those amazing weeks that featured rain, just when we all thought we were done with all that.

I hope that you all found a way to get beyond soaking wet feet and dubious traction for at least a few moments —  to enjoy some of the beauty of these difficult days. I forget sometimes that it’s the dark grey skies that give the most stunning, saturated colors of green and brown, and bring us the suddenly, wildly overgrown spring flowers. It’s not easy, but it is a joyful part of the cycle — and a great time to be inside sewing, or reading, or just looking out the window at the beauty of it all.

And of course, the view from the windows at Craneway Pavilion/the “Voices in Cloth” (EBHQ) Quilt show is spectacular too.

I don’t have pictures of the Show right now, but it really is wonderful. So many quilts, and such a range of talents and experience. It’s almost overwhelming to think that each one is the product of a unique concept, and a different set of hands. It’s like going to a commencement and realizing that every graduate is someone’s baby. Lovely, and almost overwhelming.

You’re likely to encounter old friends at “Voices in Cloth”,  and you might make some new ones. Go now, if you haven’t been yet – today until 4:00pm. Craneway Pavilion, in Richmond.

Nifty Notions – Little House Pins

Sunday, March 20th, 2011


I opened a new box of Little House Pins this morning and was reminded what a wonderful, small luxury they really are.  Little House Pins are very thin, utterly smooth and really, really sharp.  They are handmade, with tiny glass pinheads that hold up to ironing without melting or scratching. They come from Tokyo, painstakingly sorted and counted into teeny-tiny boxes. Working with these beautiful little pins reminds me that there is true pride in doing a small thing very, very well. In a hectic world, it’s a thought I love to have as I sit down to my day’s projects.

– Heather


Tips for New Piecers – Omnigrid Foldaway

Friday, March 11th, 2011

To get good results, you must start with good tools. There’s no substitute for good quality; some products are a treat to work with.


A quality product I recommend is the Omnigrid Portable Cutting and Pressing Station. It allows you keep two quilting aids in one – close to your machine space. It folds up to travel with you to classes and workshops. It ain’t cheap, friends, but I’ve had one for years and I love it!     – Carol Lee