Aurifil Monofilament Threads Put to the Test

This past weekend, I debuted my new Modern Mandalas workshop.  These starry designs are achieved through a combination of piecing and bias tape applique.  
Modern Mandalas Starry Designs
For the piecing and quilting, my go to is Aurifil 50 wt as it is thin enough to allow my pieced units to lay flat, is strong enough to go through multiple layers and adds beautiful quilted texture.  When it comes to the bias tape applique, I prefer to use a monofilament thread as it is nearly invisible and therefore does not require me to change thread colors as these designs require two or more colors of bias tape.  So imagine my delight when I discovered that Aurifil also makes Monofilament Invisible threads!  I was eager to order some and see whether they lived up to Aurifil's reputation for producing superior threads.

Aurifil's Monofilament Invisible Threads are made of nylon and available in two colors:  Smoke for use with dark fabrics and Clear for use with light colored fabrics.  Below you can see how the Smoke thread (top) blends in with the dark black strips, whereas the clear (bottom) beautifully camouflages against the light white stripes.
Aurifil Monofilament Invisible Threads Smoke and Clear
Monofilament threads have a reputation for being a bit persnickety.  Aurifil provides some helpful tips on their website including:

  • Reduce top tension to 2.0 or lower on a home sewing machine
  • Use a slightly larger stitch length
  • Use a matching color 50 wt thread in the bobbin
  • Use either a 90/14 or 100/16 needle
  • Iron Guides to prevent shrinkage and/or melting (as this is a Nylon product)
Armed with this helpful information, I was ready to test this product with my own series of experiments in preparation for use with my Modern Mandala designs.  

Set Up for Experiments:

I used a 90/14 Top Stitch Needle in my sewing machine and prepared a series of 5 samples (ladders with rungs) that combine 1/2" packaged bias tape (green) as well as 1/4" bias tape that I made using 100% quilting cotton (white) set onto a navy Kona cotton background.

Test Subjects Ready for Experiementation
Prior to stitching down the bias tape, I use Elmer's Washable, No Run School White Glue to glue baste the bias tape into place.  In addition to being safe and non-toxic, Elmer's School Glue is starch based and washable!  I simply put a thin line glue onto the background and then position the bias tape on top.  I hold it in place for a few seconds and then use a dry hot iron to heat set.  If for some reason I need to adjust any of my bias tape pieces, I can peel it back and reposition as needed with additional Elmer's Glue.
Elmer's School Glue for Glue Basting

Experiment #1:  Tension

Initially I started with a tension around 3.0.  While I did use Aurifil 50-wt thread in the bobbin, I purposely chose a contrasting color (Black) which would allow me to easily identify any tension issues.  And as you can see below, I did experience some issues as I stitched along the intersections.  While I am not sure whether it was the fact that I was pivoting or stitching through multiple layers (as it only occurred at the intersections), but there are quite a few stitches where the black bobbin thread is very noticeable.
Troubleshooting Tension #1
On the next sample, I followed Aurifil's instructions and reduced the stitch length to 1.0-1.5, which completely resolved the issue and yielded beautifully stitched lines!
Reduced Tension = Beautiful Stitches

Experiment #2:  Pressing with Heat

My Modern Mandalas do require piecing and pressing, so I needed to see how Aurifil's Monofilament Invisible Threads would hold up to pressing with a hot, dry iron.  Would the monofilament stitches shrink, resulting in the black bobbin threads from resurfacing?  Or would the the monofilament completely melt?!?  In preparation for either scenario, would a pressing cloth help mitigate shrinkage/melting?  Perhaps pressing only from the back, thereby preventing direct contact?  Or perhaps reducing the temperature would be necessary?

So I began with the worse case scenario:  direct contact with an iron on the Cotton setting (which is the highest my irons will go).  I was stunned and relieved to see no evidence of shrinking or melting!! These ladder units laid perfectly flat and the stitches remained beautifully intact.
Pressed and Still Beautiful
So much for all my extra test samples to test the use of pressing clothes or lower temperatures!!  And in case you were curious--I still tested using a pressing cloth and reducing heat--and they remained beautifully flat and intact.

When I went to test pressing from the backside (in lieu of a pressing cloth), I did notice some slight warping but only in the very first sample stitched prior to reducing tension.  So I suspect the bubbling was a result of tension issues vs. applied heat as the other two stitched in 1.0-1.5 layed beautifully flat.
Comparison of Back Side With Tension Adjustments (left and middle) and Prior to Adjustments (right)
I was seriously impressed with how well Aurifil Monofilament Invisible Threads performed!!  Very little finetuning was required and at no point did I experience any thread breaks!  (In the spirit of science, I should note that as I was working with lighter colored bias tape, all my experiementation was performed using the Clear version.  While I do not anticipate any issues using the Smoke version, I will likely do some more testing of tension and application of heat just to be on the safe side.)

And in light of these stellar results, I was ready to use Aurifil Monofilament Invisible thread on my latest Modern Mandala designs!

In Progress Modern Mandala
And here is another Modern Mandala that is assembled and ready for quilting!  I am looking forward to adding some exciting texture...using Aurifil threads of course!!
Assembled Modern Mandala Ready for Quilting!
Many thanks to Aurifil for providing me with two spools of their Monofilament Invisible Thread (as part of my participation in their Aurifil Artisans program).  I can't wait to stitch up some more Modern Mandala designs!!


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