One of the first things I teach in my two day Fluff & Stuff machine quilting class is ditch quilting. If done correctly, quilting right in that seam should give your piecing (or applique, if done right off the edge) dimension without the actual stitches showing. Monofilament thread seems to be the best way to accomplish this so that the piecing may be accentuated without any imperfections showing up quite so much. The brand I use is Transfil, a nylon monofilament from Amann-Mettler Group. Mettler is known widely and deservedly for their various weights of cotton threads, but I think the Transfil should be discussed as an essential part of a machine quilter’s tool box.
When we think about how a quilt is constructed, as we are piecing we are most likely pressing the seam allowances to the darker fabric so that they don’t shadow through. Because of this, most “ditches” appear on the lighter fabric. That is the reason that I use about six spools of clear Transfil for every one spool of the smoke color. A quilt has to be pretty dark for me to grab the darker shade of Transfil.
The two pictures below explain that best:
In the picture above, I’ve placed the clear Transfil across an area of a quilt that has both light and dark fabrics. You can see the clear against the dark green but it just disappears into the lighter green fabric. This would be the correct choice when I am quilting in the ditch on a lighter fabric.
This second picture shows the dark (smoke) color of Transfil on the same two fabrics. The reverse effect occurs – you see it against the light fabric but it disappears on the dark. That would be perfect if the pressing dictates that the dark fabric is to be stitched in the ditch. All of those triangles were pressed away from the points and the dark fabric was the ditch fabric in this particular place on the quilt, so I used the dark Transfil here.
Another way I use it is when I do cross hatching, also known as diagonal grid, on a quilt and will be stitching over different fabrics as I go. The picture below shows a variation of the diagonal grid; this is a partial grid in each individual block of the quilt. I chose the clear Transfil because it blended best with the autumn colors in this quilt....
Another question I get a lot: Can I iron over Transfil? Sure can! When I teach, I carry around a stitched sample that has had a hot iron held down on it for 3 minutes! If you are using a different brand of monofilament, I would test it first, but I know that I don’t need to worry about Transfil if I need to iron over it – it’s not going to melt!
I have made a couple of YouTube videos about Transfil – one shows how I use it in machine quilting and the other shows you how to wind a bobbin with it. Enjoy and be sure to ask any questions you have about this!
Oh, and before I slip away from my desk – I have 20 spools of clear Transfil to give away! Do you want some? Like us on Facebook or sign up for our Newsletter and you'll be entered! We'll draw the winners next week!!