My buddy my pal, Ann Fahl

I first met Ann Fahl years ago in a group I belong to here in the Midwest called PAQA. We have remained friends and colleagues over the years and share an interest in gardens, flowers and sons.

I asked Anne to share a few tips on the threads she uses and why. Anne has been doing thread painting for years now and has several great books out there to help all of us be better quilters.
Egyptian Garden by Ann Fahl

Ann you have machine quilted all of your wonderful quilts.
Hi Frieda, I have been exclusively machine quilting since 1988. Much of my work before that was done by hand!

What threads have you used that you really like to work with? And why. What is your favorite type of needle to use with these threads and why?
Wow, I just love thread. It makes more of a difference in the surface of your quilt than one would think. Once I discovered Sulky Rayon threads, I have been sold on using shiny decorative threads that are both Rayon or tri-lobal Polyester. Each stitch is beautifully highlighted by just a little shine on the surface of every stitch. Cotton doesn’t give this highlighting effect, it also is not as flexible as the synthetic decorative threads are. This makes for more clumsy turns and sharp curves, starts and stops. I want all my hard work to shine!

I use thread from the big 4 companies: Madeira, Superior Threads, Sulky, and YLI. When it comes to my most favorite variegated threads there are two: Superior Rainbow Thread and YLI Variations.

It’s important to use a fine thread in the bobbin. Either 60 wt. The Bottom Line or 50 wt. YLI Soft Touch. This way, your bobbin is full and will last much longer then when a 40 wt thread is used. These products will also leave less lint in the bobbin case.

You create your own quilting designs where do you get your inspiration from?download
Now most of the motifs I use just happen. This wouldn’t be the case for new machine quilters. So I recommend that all quilters keep a folder or notebook that include all the different quilting designs or motifs that they like. When you need an idea, the notebook will be a handy resource.

Long ago, I found that I didn’t like using just one motif for the quilting designs, over and over again. It looks too mechanical. I like a quilting style that appears to be organic and just grows out from the subject and eventually fills the background. Essentially, I mix up all the motifs that I can easily stitch.

Can you tell us about that?
Coneflower Fiesta close-up by Ann Fahl

The more motifs that you have thoroughly practiced, and you can do in your sleep, the better you will become at free-motion quilting. An area that is a certain shape will suggest that you do one thing, and when you continue quilting you’ll find yourself in a situation that calls for a different pattern. Practice is the key. Hours, days and years of practice.
You are so right with that Ann!!

What kind of problems have you encountered with machine quilting on your quilts?
Most of the frustrations I’ve dealt with have to do with thread issues. When you can’t figure out what is wrong you want to sit down and cry or toss the machine out the window. Working alone in my studio in the 1990’s until about 2004 I’ve spent an enormous time solving my thread issues. This is why I first wrote Coloring with Thread about embroidery, Dancing with Thread about machine quilting, and now; a booklet Mastering Metallics about sewing with metallic thread. These books should make sewing with the beautiful decorative threads much smoother and more problem free! And thank you for that!

Explain please.
Every now and then, I run into a problem, that I just can’t figure out. I’ll spend days trying to solve the issue. I was getting little thread nests on the top of my quilt. Since I’ve written so much on thread, I figured I could work it out. Eventually, I took my machine in for repair. And guess what? There was a bur in the hook race. No more birds nests for me!

What else would you like to talk about related to thread?
I could talk about thread forever. It makes my embroidery and quilting look so beautiful. How could something as little as a spool of thread make such a difference in a quilt’s surface? But it does. For all of your readers – practice – make placemats or something. Go to your machine shop that carries lots of thread types. Purchase threads of different brands and styles. Experiment with each one, take notes, you’ll be surprised at what you discover. This will make big improvements in your work over time. Be a kid, have fun, and play with your thread. Collect it, store it in a drawer, out of strong light and in a relatively dust free area and it will last a long time.

You can visit Anne at her website

or I encourage you to follow her on her blog at

Thank you Ann for your generosity in sharing with us your experience with thread. I know I do many of the things that Ann does and the one thing that makes all the difference in your machine quilting or thread painting is to practice and take the time to experiment.

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