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  • Superior Stars: Kathy York

    Kathy York

    Today we are pleased to share with you a beautiful art by Kathy York!  Kathy is a terrific quilt artist who enjoys allowing fabric to express life experiences.  Her work is known for its bright, fresh colors and bold, crisp graphics as can be seen in her IQF Houston 2014 Honorable Mention, Suburbs.

    Suburbs

    Suburbs

    Suburbs

    Kathy started working on Suburbs in 2010.  At that time a monstrous fire was raging in Texas, threatening and destroying many homes.  Kathy’s inspiration came as she thought of rebuilding the communities on top of the charred black soil the fire left behind.  Each home has a unique color and quilting design to represent the individuals in the community, but the form of the houses are identical to symbolize how they come together as a community. 

    We appreciate Kathy’s art and that she has allowed us to share her work with you today.  Kathy’s quilting has won numerous awards including two first place awards at Houston International Quilt Show.  She frequently contributes to Quilting Arts Magazine and has appeared in several quilting books.  To view more of Kathy’s beautiful work, check out her blog:  aquamoonartquilts.blogspot.com.

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  • Superior Stars: Margaret Solomon Gunn

    Margaret Gunn

    Mother.  Engineer.  Gardener.  Figure skater. Educator. Professional quilter.

    Thirty-five years ago Margaret Solomon Gunn learned how to embroider and to make clothing and pillows.  In college, she made her first bed quilt and has never looked back (and we’re so glad!).  Her talent astounds us as well as the judges at many quilt shows.  We are excited to share Springtime in the Geisha's Garden, won 1st Place at Road to California 2015 and IQF Houston 2014 Judges Choice awards.

    Springtime in the Geisha's Garden

    Springtime in the Geisha's Garden

    Springtime in the Geisha's Garden is mostly hand-stitched and all applique is turned edge.  Margaret astoundingly finished this quilt in just one year.  One of Margaret’s favorite parts is designing and then seeing the vision come to life.  She likes to use subtle prints and incorporates embroidery to build texture in the quilt. 

    In Margaret’s words,

    “The quilt is about the piecing and applique, so the lines of the quilting only needed to be textural.  I used Kimono silk.  The silk is a nice touch that not many quilts use and I didn’t want the quilting to conflict with the prints.  I use SuperBobs exclusively in my bobbins, even if I happen to sneak a few other brands of top thread into a quilt.  I stopped winding my own bobbins years ago because the SuperBobs are a consistent tension.  It makes life easier.”

    Springtime in the Geisha's Garden

    A big thank you to Margaret for sharing her talent with us.  To view more of her amazing work visit www.quiltsoflove.blogspot.com.

    Images courtesy of Jeffery Lomicka Photography and Margaret Gunn

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  • Adjusting Tensions on a Longarm Machine

    Bobbin Tension

    Hurray!  You have loaded a new quilt onto your longarm machine and you’re ready to quilt a beautiful design into the fabric. As you thread the machine, you realize just how many places the cone of thread comes into contact with the machine. With nearly a dozen or so contact points, this can add quite a bit of tension on your top thread. Let’s go through a few quick and easy steps on how to achieve excellent stitch quality by making a few adjustments to your machine’s tension settings.

    Unlike a home sewing machine, there are no automatic tension settings on a longarm machine.  Some of the brand new Handi Quilter longarms reflect a number on their digital readout to place a value on the top tension, but all other longarm machines do not have any system in place to display the amount of tension which is placed on the top thread. A home sewing machine will either have a digital or analog method of displaying the top thread tension. It may take some extra practice to get the feel and flow of proper tension settings for your longarm.

    Adjusting tensions on a longarm is simple, here’s how:

    1. Tensioner – Remember this sentence: righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.  Don’t be afraid to loosen your top tension by turning the tension knob several revolutions.  If  my top thread is snapping, chances are my tension is too tight. I crank my tensioners several revolutions to the left, almost to where the knob falls off, and then start tightening it as I stitch until my stitch quality is perfect.
    2. Contact points – each instance thread touches the machine (via threaders, tensioners, sensors etc.), friction and drag is increased. We know that the more friction which is added to a moving object, the more resistance the object will face. This means that thread will have a greater chance at breaking, the higher the number of contact points the thread is passing through.  Decrease the number of contact points to decrease tension.  My favorite place to do this is at the three hole tension plate.  I usually pass the top thread through two of the three holes but if I’m working with a more sensitive thread (like MonoPoly or Metallic) I  pass the thread through only the center hole.
    3. Handy Net – This is a great notion which helps keep slick threads on the cone. Trilobal polyester threads are high-sheen and with that sheen comes slickness. Fantastico, Magnifico, and Monopoly are examples of slick threads. Place a Handy Net on the bottom half of the cone to keep the thread from puddling down.  Watch our short video on how this works here.
    4. Bobbin Tension – It’s fun to mix up bobbin thread when quilting.  When switching thicknesses in threads, it may require adjusting bobbin tension.  If you bobbin is too lose you may see your bobbin thread collecting in a large gob on the underside of your quilt. This is called a  birds nest. If  your bobbin thread is too tight, your threads may break.  You can see a video on adjusting bobbin tension here.

    My recommendation:  learn to tame your tension with ample practice and not being afraid to try reducing the contact points, top tensioners, adding a Handy Net, and adjusting bobbin tension.  Once you are confident in adjusting your machine’s tension, you can run any quality thread through your longarm.

    What are you rituals for successfully using a wide range of threads in your longarm?

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  • Superior Spotlight: John

    After watching our Quilting Anonymous Video John decided it was time to come clean.  He wrote to us telling us that he went from wood working;  to making large stained glass windows; to rebuilding 1850s furniture and reupholstering the pieces; to QUILTING!  He said some of his friends laughed at him until they saw the results of his first quilt, which he designed.

    Many YouTube tutorials and 250 hours later, the finished 48” x 78” twin quilt was ready for his first grandson.

    John's Quilt

    John has not stopped there.  Here we show off a little of his applique work.  He plans on branching out to paper piecing and thread painting.  We look forward to seeing more from John!

    John's Applique

    John's quilt

    Do you have a spouse that loves to quilt?

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  • Superior Stars: Janneke de Vries

    We are excited to highlight Janneke de Vries’ beautiful 1st Place Art-Abstract, Large Houston International Quilt winning quilt, Hurricane.

    Hurricane is a vibrant, colorful, and emotional quilt that took Janneke 2,100 hours to complete! To put that into perspective, that amounts to 87.5 days.  Phileas Fogg went around the world in less time that it took for Janneke to create this fantastic, work of art.

    Hurricane

    Janneke describes her quilt in her own words: 

    “I hope that viewers can feel the emotional force of a hurricane in the quilt. It took a lot of work to make sure the colors were in harmony and achieved the right balance and contrast.  I’m often asked if my quilts are painted, but I never use paint in my quilts.  My favorite part about Hurricane is the waves and the colors in combination with the wrinkled fabric.”

    Janneke’s gorgeous and powerful Hurricane was completed with the use of Rainbows, Tiara Silk, Metallic, MonoPoly, and Living Colors

    We are thankful Janneke allowed us to share her beautiful and inspiring work.  Her final word of advice to quilters is to always find pleasure in quilting.  To see more of Janneke’s pieces, including Poor and Rich, visit her website www.jannekequiltstudio.com

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  • SewGlow Upholstery Thread

    SewGlow™ is the first-of-its-kind, patent-pending glow-in-the-dark thread for heavy-duty sewing applications, such as upholstery, outdoor gear, sports equipment, and more. 

    Made from a proprietary blend of bonded polyester and secret sauce, SewGlow is very strong and can be stitched through heavy fabrics, vinyl, and leather with ease. What looks like standard white thread when exposed to light, becomes a radiant, glowing green when there is an absence of light (darkness). Because SewGlow is solution-dyed, the glow-in-the-dark pigment is impregnated into the fiber, which eliminates the risk of having the glowing agent flake off when sewing. SewGlow is a size #138 (Tex 135) thread which is ideal for bold stitches that stand out and offer fantastic contrast.

    Check out our newest video highlighting SewGlow!

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  • Superior Winners: Gail Stepanek and Jan Hutchison

    We are pleased to showcase the amazing Stars on Mars by the dazzling duo Gail Stepanek and Jan Hutchison!  These two are amazingly in-sync for living hundreds of miles apart.  Gail and Jan met on the internet and collaborated for years before actually meeting in person.  When working on a quilt together, they plan out all the details of the quilt before starting and share work frequently as they progress.  Jan recommends if you work with a partner to get in writing details such as who submits the quilts and which partner pays for what.  Luckily, Jan and Gail work so well together they have never needed that.

    Stars on Mars

    Stars on Mars

    Stars on Mars

    Gail designed the paper pieced pattern and spent almost two years making the top and Jan spent three months working full-time to finish the quilting.

    Gail used Kimono Silk for the applique and found that it was stronger and didn’t fray as much as other silk threads she had used.  Jan used inspiration from the quilt’s name, Stars on Mars, to quilt this master piece.  Jan used Superior Metallic Silver on the top and in the bobbin (to make the back pretty) to mimic Martian plant life.  For the background quilting she used MasterPiece #155.  The border was quilted with So Fine! #50 color #409 and the stars were quilted with various MasterPiece colors.

    Gail and Jan’s beautiful Stars on Mars won Best of Show 2015 at AQS-Albuquerque, Best of Show AQS-Lancaster, and IQA Master Award for Machine Artistry 2014.


    Images courtesy of Jan and Gail

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  • Superior Stars: Lea McComas

    Lea was practically born using a sewing machine, sewing her first garment at age 6.  By 16, she completed her first hand-pieced and hand-quilted quilt (and never did that again!).  After years of experimenting with quilting techniques and styles, Lea had a moment of clarity in her studio.  She felt like she’d never be a painter, but that she would strive to achieve a similar level of artistry using thread in the place of paint.

    We are grateful for Lea’s talent and are pleased to show off her fantastic 1st place 2014 IQA Superior Threads Master Award winning piece, Bike Boys.

    Bike Boys

    Bike Boys

    Look at the detailed shading with the thread.

    Lea and Bike Boys

    This beautiful piece of art was inspired by a photo from a 1896 Denver bike race.  This ambitious piece took 8 months and 13 miles of 144 different threads to create.  Lea loved using OMNI (172 color choices) because of the variety of color and value (light vs dark).  To keep her piece from looking flat and cartoonish she used variegated colors of King Tut (136 color choices). 

    Lea has recently published her book, Thread-Painted Portraits:  Turning Your Photos into Fiber Art and teaches nationally and soon to be internationally.  To see more of Lea’s breath taking work, check out her gallery at LeaMcComas.com.

    Images courtesy of Lea McComas

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  • Questions about Silk (Part 2 of 2)

    Superior Silk

    Silk is a fiber which connotes luxurious sheets, deep colors, and finesse. In the thread world, Silk is treated as the ultimate delicacy for applique, clothing construction, and quilting. Silk offers durability and long-lasting strength combined with lint-free luxury.  This gorgeous fiber may be intimidating for first time users, which is why today we are answering several of the most common questions we receive about our silk threads.

    Q. What is the difference between filament and spun silk?
    A.  Filament silk thread is made from a continuous strand of silk which is twisted together to create the final sewing thread. The silk cocoon is unwound to form one long continuous fiber and then tightly wound around itself to create a multi-filament silk thread.  Spun silk thread consists of "tails" or sections of the silk fiber which were broken from the single continuous filament fiber and then spun together.  Filament silk is the premium silk. (All of our silk lines are filament silk)

    Q. Are Superior's Silk Threads machine washable?
    A. Yes! Our Silk threads are colorfast. They will retain their color and not bleed when washed with proper care.

    Q. Because #100 Silk is a very fine thread, will it break in my sewing machine?
    A.  If you are using the proper needle (we recommend our Topstitch #70/10) needle and have adjusted your tension accordingly, it will work wonderfully. We are able to successfully sew with our Kimono Silk thread in our large collection of home sewing machines and all major longarm machines. For a guide on tension settings and proper needle sizes, please view our Reference Guides.

    Q.  Can I use silk threads on my long arm?
    A.  Absolutely!  Many quilters love to use our #100 Kimono Silk.  This extremely fine thread blends incredibly with fabric, adding texture to any design.  You can see a beautiful example of this in On This Winter Day.

    Q.  When I use silk, should I use it on the top and bottom?
    A.  Choosing top and bobbin thread is determined by your project, the desired end look, and user preference.  If you prefer to have silk on top and bottom, go for it!  Otherwise you can mix fiber types and use either a cotton thread, like MasterPiece or a polyester thread, like Bottom Line.

    If you haven’t used silk on a project yet, we encourage you to try it!

    Do you have other questions about silk?  Please let us know, we’re happy to answer!

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  • Questions about Silk (Part 1 of 2)

    Silk

    Silk is a fiber which connotes luxurious sheets, deep colors, and finesse. In the thread world, Silk is treated as the ultimate delicacy for applique, clothing construction, and quilting. Silk offers durability and long-lasting strength combined with lint-free luxury.  This gorgeous fiber may be intimidating for first time users, which is why today we are answering several of the most common questions we receive about our silk threads.

    Q. I was told that Silk is really strong and it can tear through my cotton fabric.  Is this true?
    A.
    Nope! Silk is the strongest natural fiber which is spun into a thread however, this is all relative. If you are using a flimsy, cheap, loosely woven fabric, any strong thread has the possibility of tearing through this type of fabric. As long as you’re using quality fabric and thread, there is no risk of tearing.

    Q. Do I have to match the fiber of my thread to the fiber of my fabric?  For example, a silk thread with silk fabric, cotton thread with cotton fabric?
    A. There is no official rule that states you must use the same fiber. In fact, most of my quilts are made with cotton fabric and quilted with polyester thread. Something to keep in mind is the need to use the proper needle size based on the thickness of your thread. (See our Thread Reference Guide for this information)

    Q. Why would I use Superior's Silk threads instead of a fine polyester or cotton thread?
    A.  It comes down to personal choice. I really like a few of my quilts that are quilted with our Kimono Silk. They tend to be more intricate and detail quilted.  Here are a few properties of silk:

    • Smooth and lint-free
    • Strong
    • Colorfast
    • Washable
    • Vibrant colors
    Return tomorrow for more answers to your questions about silk thread!
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  • King Tut Giveaway Winners

    Win King Tut

    Thank you to all who participated in in King Tut Giveaway!  Our 10 winners of King Tut Egyptian-grown extra-long staple cotton thread are Denise Z, Janice R, Sharon A, Cyndee D, Linda W, Nancy E, Ceil J, Kathleen B, @mrs_sew_sew, and @ajmonger28!

    We loved the jokes submitted and will share a few of our favorites!

    - What do you call a boomer rang that won't return??? wait for it ......... a stick

    - What do you call a camel without a hump? Humphrey

    - On the other hand, you have different fingers

    - Did you hear about the hungry clock? It went back 4 seconds!

    - Ole and Sven are at a funeral. Suddenly it occurs to Ole that he doesn't remember the name of the dearly departed. Ole turns to Sven and asks: "Sven, could you remind me again who died?" Sven thinks for a moment and says, "I'm not sure," Sven points at the casket, "...but I think it was de guy in de box."

    - Did you hear Willie Nelson died?  He was playing on the road again!

    - A man counted his cattle in the pasture, he had 196, after he rounded up there were 200.

    - Did you hear about the cross-eyed professor who had no control over his pupils?

    - What does the Easter Bunny get when he makes a basket?  Two points like everyone else.

    - What do you call a guy with a rubber toe?  Roberto!

    - Why did the TV cross the road?  He wanted to be a flat screen.

    - What do you call it when a blonde colors her hair?  Artificial intelligence.

    - How does King Tut's secretary answer his calls?  "He can't talk right now, he's all wrapped up."

    - Do Mummies enjoy being mummies?  Of corpse.

    - I told my dad to embrace his mistakes. He cried. Then he hugged my sister and me.


    Hope you got a chuckle like we did!

    #superiorkingtut

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  • Best in Show: On this Winter Day (part 2)

    Linda is an incredible quilter.  As you may remember, Linda won Houston Best in Show for her amazing work in 2009.  Last year, she made a powerful come back with Nancy Prince to win Houston’s Best in Show 2014. 

    Linda had never quilted realistic landscapes.  She and Nancy both wanted the thread do the work of creating the finished image as possible.  Linda spent a lot of time drawing and doodling before she actually began working on Winter’s Day.  She used Kimono Silk, changing the thread quite frequently, so it would create depth and detail in the scenery.  After two months of quilting, the masterpiece was complete!

    On This Winter Day

    On This Winter Day

    On This Winter Day

    Her talent is inspiring, and her story even more so.  

    “After winning with Circles of Life, I was diagnosed with a degenerative bone condition.  In 2013, my spinal column in my neck collapsed, and trapped my C5 nerve.  After spinal cord surgery, I awoke with paralysis on my left side.  I spent the next year in a lot of physical therapy regaining the use of my left side.  During this time, I was not allowed to go near any sewing machine.  No one expected me to be able to quilt again or at least at the level that I was before surgery. 

    I had been back to quilting only a couple months when I started this project with Nancy.  The excitement for me was that I didn’t lose any of my skill, only my stamina.  I am unable to work for long periods at a time, so I stop and start a lot. 

    The excitement of winning was beyond my wildest dreams.  This meant so much to me to prove to myself and to others that I can accomplish such high recognition with two different quilts.  Especially since the surgery and paralysis was between the two and no one expected me to quilt again (at least at the level I had been).”

    We are so grateful for Nancy and Linda's quilting talent and for giving us permission to showcase their piece!  To see more of Linda’s work, visit lindafrench.com

    Images courtesy of Nancy Prince and Linda French

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  • Best in Show: On this Winter Day (part 1)

    Congratulations to Nancy Prince and Linda French on their incredible Best of Show Quilt, On This Winter Day, at the International Quilt Festival at Houston 2014.  This nostalgic and romantic winter collaborative piece enchanted attendees and judges.   On This Winter Day took almost 7 years, over 2,000 hours, 75,000 yards of thread and over 7 million stitches to create (whew!).  The large horse and sleigh took over 300 hours and 6 months of work!

    On This Winters Day

    On This Winter Day

    On This Winter Day

    We asked Nancy a few questions regarding her Best of Show quilt:

    What was the inspiration for your project?  Years ago I made another winter quilt and it was successful not only at the shows but more importantly with the attendees at the shows.  There is something about the bright colors on the figures’ clothing against the white background that made all the thread stand out.  I based the design of On This Winter’s Day from some of the memories I had as a child growing up in the mountains of North Carolina and my love of period clothing. 

    How did you choose a fabric?  The background fabric was painted in Photoshop and then commercially printed on fabric.  The background was designed such that I had three natural breaks in the drawing, so it could be printed on three 90” long pieces which I used MonoPoly to applique the pieces together.

    How did you choose thread?  I bought at least 50 spools of Kimono Silk colors because I didn’t know what colors I would need.  I wanted the silk color to change every time the background color changed.  I use Superior Threads because of their quality and reliability of the threads, the education they provide, and I really enjoy working with great people.

    What did you learn from this quilt?  Any time I start a new competitive quilt I always want to try some new techniques.  I incorporated punch needle for the fur on the ladies coats.  I used Kumihimo (a fun braiding system) to hand make the horse’s reins.  I tried some new thread painting techniques to give the garments a “tweedy” look.  I don’t like repetition and trying something new keeps the fun in a new project.

    How did you feel after you found out you had won?  I can’t speak for Linda, but I was shocked.  I had so expected to win Superiors’ Thread Artistry award because no on puts as much thread into a quilt as I do.   I didn’t know which awards followed Superior’s award because I had zoned in on that one so much.  Winning at Houston, in my perspective, is the highest award that anyone can win in the quilting ward.  We are very fortunate to be one of only 39 others that have won this prestigious award.  Houston was a very special week and one that I will remember forever.  Since Houston, On This Winter Day, has won the Masterpiece Award at Road to California, 2014.

    Nancy is a fantastic quilter and great friend. To see more of Nancy’s quilts, please visit her website,  nancyprince.com.

    Visit us tomorrow for Part 2 of On This Winter Day, for our interview with the quilter, Linda French.

    images courtesy of Nancy Prince

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  • King Tut Giveaway!

    Win King Tut

    Have you been looking for that low-lint, strong, and all-around gorgeous cotton thread to finish your quilt with? Search no more! Learn what makes King Tut cotton quilting thread so good and enter for a chance to win some of nature's finest thread. Once you experience the smooth stitching that King Tut offers, your quilting will never be the same. Jennifer used King Tut, and you can see some of her beautiful work here

    We know that you will LOVE quilting with King Tut and to jump start your new quilting addiction, we're giving away 10 spools!

    To win one a spool of this beautiful thread, visit our King Tut page and view our 136 variegated, tone-on-tone, and solid color choices. Then post a comment using the hashtag #superiorkingtut on our Blog, Facebook Page, or Instagram consisting of the name of the King Tut spool you would like to win along with a funny joke. We will announce the winners next Friday, February 20th.  Good Luck!

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  • How do I differentiate between quality cotton threads?

    Superior Cotton Threads

    Sewing a perfect seam is the goal of every project. Many factors must work together in harmony to obtain the desired result. The machine and needle must be in good condition, the thread must be able to lie smoothly and evenly in the fabric, and the tension must be set properly to accommodate the thread type, size, and any differences in the top and bottom threads. We will assume the machine, needle, and tension setting are all OK and therefore focus on the thread. 

    The finer and smoother the thread, the better the seam will appear. Some piece with polyester because it is so smooth and free of lint. The risk of using poly is ironing the seam and melting the polyester thread.  Cotton is a safer choice for piecing. Hold up some cotton piecing thread to the light and examine a few yards of it. If the thread is very fuzzy or has "slubs" which are clumps of excess lint spun into the thread, it is not a high quality thread. The amount of fuzz will affect the quality of your seam. On the other hand, if the cotton thread is extremely smooth with absolutely no fuzz, that is NOT a good thing. The only way a cotton thread can be free of fuzz is if it is waxed or glazed with a coating to cover the fuzz. Some such threads are labeled "glazed" but unfortunately, many others are not. Glazed threads are OK for hand work but are not good for any type of machine sewing. The glazed coating will rub off in the tension disk area and everywhere the thread makes contact and will gum up the machine. If you can see some fuzz on the cotton thread, it most likely is not a glazed thread.

    The higher grade the cotton, the smoother the thread and the lower the fuzz. Cotton is classified by the length of the staple, or fiber. Labels on most cotton threads do not specify the staple classification because the majority of cotton thread is regular, or short staple cotton and that is nothing to brag about on the label. Long staple cotton and Extra Long Staple (ELS) cotton thread will be prominently labeled as such because they are premium threads. You will be much happier using the highest grade cotton. Although it costs more, it is well worth it. An extra long staple cotton will have very low lint and will be a much stronger thread. This means a cleaner sewing machine and less breakage, frustration, and down time. 

    A low grade cotton thread that is not consistently smooth and has excess lint will not create the best seam. The "slubs" and excess fuzz in the thread will create lumps in the seam. They also get caught in the tension disk and the eye of the needle and cause breakage. On the other hand, a high grade extra long staple cotton thread will create a very smooth and even seam. A fine, smooth thread does not add bulk to the seams. It creates a much flatter seam which is especially important when sewing blocks which contain a lot of points. It is easier to use, will keep your machine much cleaner, and your finished project will look much better. We spend thousands of dollars on the machine, hundreds on the fabric, and it will be well worth it to spend an extra dollar or two to get the best quality piecing thread. You and your machine will notice the difference.

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