The Free Motion Quilting Project: Bobbin Thread Work on the Grace Qnique Longarm

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bobbin Thread Work on the Grace Qnique Longarm

Ready to add some bling to your quilts? The best possible way to do this is with bobbin thread work - a super cool technique where you quilt upside down with thicker threads in the bobbin. Sound tricky? See how I quilted with thick Razzle Dazzle threads in this new video:

Click Here to find all the videos on the Grace Qnique 14+ I've shared so far. This is a terrific machine for free motion quilting because it's simple, sturdy, and has a 15-inch harp so you have a lot more room to quilt bigger quilts.

Click Here to find the Wonky Christmas Tree free quilt pattern. Dad and I have pieced three blocks together to create skinny wall hangings / table runners for Christmas gifts. Maybe this year I'll be on the ball and have nice handmade gifts ready to give!

Now for the bobbin thread work technique: I set my machine up a bit differently when quilting with thicker threads.

First I stitched in the ditch around the trees and between the edges of the blocks and the border. Last week I received a lot of questions about why I quilted in the ditch on the longarm instead of with a walking foot on my home machine.

The reason is simple - the quilt was on the longarm! I also like showing that you can stitch in the ditch with free motion quilting. You just need to slow down a bit and take your time quilting along the lines.

When setting up for bobbin work, I threaded the top of the machine with Superior Threads Magnifico thread and cranked down on the top tension to pull the thread tight to the quilt.

I wound a bobbin filled with Superior Threads Razzle Dazzle, but I didn't adjust the tension of my bobbin case. I don't like fiddling with my bobbin case tension because I don't have a second case yet for playing around.

It's nice to keep a case set at the correct tension for the thread you use most often so you don't have to keep fiddling and adjusting the tension which can sometimes be a pain to reset.

After setting up the machine, I tested the threads to make sure it looked good on the front and back of a practice sandwich, then I began quilting the Wonky Christmas Tree quilt with the back of the quilt face up.

I did have to remove all the pins and Pinmoors in the area so they wouldn't catch on the machine or table. With the stitching in the ditch I'd already established, I didn't really need the pins in the quilt anymore anyway.

Now a few things I learned:

For the first block I tried stitching right in the ditch along the lines I'd quilted last week, but this looked really weird. I ripped out that stitching and tried again, creating a wobbly line about 1/8-inch to the inside of the ditch and around the trees. That was my second mistake. The wobbly echo is just too busy on an already busy quilt with blingy thread.

I finished that first block and nearly threw the quilt in the trash. I really, really hated that effect!

But I must practice what I preach so I threw more thread at it and tried a straight line echo and that turned out much better.

The only difference here is the echoing line. The designs are the same and filled to the same amount. Which do you like better?

Bobbin thread work is going to be chunky and thick, particularly when you travel stitch over an area more than one time. I was quilting with Swirling Water and sometimes I'll travel stitch three or four times to fill this design into a space and that wasn't a good choice.

A better choice would have been a design like Basic Spiral which has minimal travel stitching and is much more open, plus it's faster to quilt. I'll give that design a try in the next Wonky Christmas Tree quilt and see if that works better.

Quilting is a continually learning, growing process. I could have chucked the quilt in the trash, but I wouldn't have learned anything from the experience. By continuing with the project, I learned more about what I like, more about what I don't like, and how to move forward even when a quilt isn't perfect.

I have three more Wonky Christmas Tree quilts ready for machine quilting so I expect to learn a lot more about quilting with funky threads and interesting designs while quilting these projects!

What do you think of bobbin thread work? Have you ever tried this technique? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Both blocks look great. I can see where a wiggly line might be harder to bounce and travel stitch on. Good job hanging in and finishing both blocks. Love the sparkle!

  2. I so agree with you about learning from mistakes. Some mistakes have even been quite fortuitous...making for a better end product! Some, though, we just learn from...if we pause to think it out. I like your comment about asking yourself WHY you don't like something, and finding a way to address the specific issue. Great job, again, Leah.

  3. I have a HQ sweet 16 rather than the Q'nique, but I was just researching whether reverse quilting with a thread like razzle dazzle was even possible on a longarm and I ended up here. I'm less terrified of trying it now that I know you have, and survived! :) I do agree that the straight echo looks better - the wiggly one looks more like an accident than a design choice.


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