Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mastering the vanishing act

My least favorite part of any sewing project is basting. It gives better results but I don't like pulling seams apart nor picking threads out. In a quest for better – read easier – techniques, I tried out Superior Threads Vanish-Lite, a water soluble thread.

This sandwich was basted with it in the bobbin and Aurifil 50 wt Cotton Mako on the top side. You can just barely make out these light lines on the back. I spray misted the back side just like their blog. It got wet enough to shrink up the cottons and seep through to the front side. From the front I pulled out the top basting thread. Yahoo! They came out very easily. Then I left it to dry overnight.

Next morning I ran my hand over it and felt sharp little beads, formed by dried bits of Vanish, along my basting lines. Grrrrh! Didn't want to wet the whole thing again, so I picked these little nubs out. Hmm, must be a better way.

Not ready to give up yet on water soluble thread, I set out to improve my vanishing act. I like a challenge. This time I'm asking for it - I'd basted a piece twice as large.I loosened the tension a bit so the basting thread wouldn't be so buried into a valley. Since the stitching lines didn't get wet enough with misting, this time I used a brush to apply water directly on the stitches. It was soon apparent that that the brush would have to be really wet and I'd have to flood the entire line with water. Else those dang little nubs will once again show up.

What if instead of trying to dissolve the entire line of thread, I leave segments long enough to pick out easily? Working on the same sandwich, I dabbed with a wet small stubby brush at roughly 3" intervals - enough to release the thread on the other side. I easily picked off what was left of Vanish Lite. That the tension was a bit loose helped too. Look ma, no nubbies!

In conclusion, my recommendations:
1. When basting, loosen the thread tension.
2. To remove basting, use a brush to spot apply water at least 3" apart. Those with good eyes can see the Vanish-Lite dissolve.
3. Pull out regular basting thread and pick off remaining water soluable thread segments.
This leaves a quilt sandwich with very few nubbies and keeps it dry.


  1. Thank you for sharing this... I wouldn't have thought of loosening the thread tension.

  2. Thanks for sharing a very helpful hint. I remember your earlier post of frustration about the stiff bead residue and wondered what would work.

  3. Great information! I just got some water-soluble thread a couple of weeks ago and I'm anxious to try it. Thanks for sharing.