Flannel does pose some challenges when quilting. First, make sure that it is 100% cotton flannel. You can find less expensive blends of polyester and cotton flannel. That's great for shirts and will help them last longer and shrink less, but it is a nightmare in a quilt. She talks about using Superior So Fine thread and was wondering if that was part of the problem. So Fine is a beautiful 50 weight polyester thread and should have worked just fine. Let's look at the issues when quilting with flannel.
The combed fibers that make flannel fuzzy is why we love it--right? Those same fibers cause a drag on the surface of the sewing machine. This means that it is harder to move the quilt around on your sewing surface. So--how do we solve this? I use two methods together. The first thing I do is starch and press the backing fabric on the right side to help give it a smoother surface to slide around under the needle. I love Mary Ellen's "Best Press" starch alternative. You can saturate the fabric and iron it dry with no flaking! The second thing I do is make sure I use a "Supreme Slider' on the bed of my sewing machine. There are several other brands out there and I feel sure they all work the same. The "Supreme Slider' is a Teflon sheet that is placed on the bed of the sewing machine to help the quilt slide around under the needle. You are definitely going to need this to accomplish free motion quilting on flannel with any ease. If I am doing free motion quilting on flannel, I also use quilting gloves to help grip the quilt as I doodle all over it. I like Fons & Porter's cotton quilting gloves. They are lightweight and I can thread the needle of my machine without taking them off.
This is MY flannel quilt. Have you noticed how many quilts we make and never have one to call our own? My choice when deciding on quilting patterns for flannel is to do something pretty simple. The pieced area of this quilt was quilted with all straight line quilting using a walking foot. It has a diagonal straight line quilted through all the red and green squares.
|Stippling on flannel|
On the subject of thread, the thread Rose chose was fine. Any good 50 weight thread will quilt nicely under the right settings. If you wanted a heavier thread, I would suggest a 40 weight machine quilting thread such as Superior's King Tut. All the good thread companies have a 40 wt. quilting thread but I mention Superior's since Rose seemed to have access to that brand.
The old wive's tale that polyester thread will cut through cotton fabric is kind of misleading. It will in 100 years but so will strong 100% cotton thread. I love all good threads. I don't like cheap, slub-filled, bad thread which will simply never work well. The main difference you might see between using polyester and cotton thread (especially on flannel) is that the cotton thread will sink down into the quilt becoming more a part of the background. Polyester thread has a tendency to sit on top of the quilt. Now, that is a very good thing when you want your quilting to be a very noticeable part of the overall design. Keep in mind when adjusting your tension with polyester thread that computer machines have a difficult time "reading" the weight of polyester thread. It doesn't really have a weight like cotton does. The companies use weight just to tell you that this polyester thread is the same size as a corresponding weight cotton thread. That "sinking in" issue I mentioned with cotton thread is why most quilters prefer to piece with a fine cotton thread. The thread will sink into the fabric and become less noticeable--like it becomes a part of the fabric.
The last issue with flannel is that you might want to use a light weight batting for a flannel quilt. The flannel, itself, is going to add heft and warmth to the quilt without adding a heavy batting.
Thank you to Rose for the great question and the opportunity to tell you more than you really wanted to know. I love questions!