Tuesday, November 8, 2016

No Thread for ALL Projects

When I first began quilting I used 100% cotton for all sewing and quilting as that was thought to be the best at that time.  The common understanding was that synthetic thread was not good as it could melt, and it might or cut your fabric because of its strength.  Time, testing and common use has proven that these threads stand up really well without damage to the fabric although nylon is questionable because it yellows and gets brittle with age.  As quilting has evolved the available threads and fibers have exploded.  There are so many brands, fibers, and thicknesses that it would be very time consuming to research them all and even more to test and write about them.  I will narrow this blog down to my own experience.  Caveat:  I am NOT an expert.  I just know what I like.  If you are interested in informative articles about thread go to Superior Threads and start reading.

One important issue is thread weight.  Threads are labelled as #30, #50, #100, aka 30 wt, 50 wt, 100 wt, etc.  The confusing thing is that #30 is relatively thick and heavy and a lower number is even heavier.  A nice piecing weight is #50.  The finest thread in my list is #100 and is often silk, but Superior has just come out with a #100 polyester thread (MicroQuilter) that sounds really nice and is cheaper than silk.   The numbering makes sense when you realize how the system works:
  • #30 means that on a weight scale 30 yards = 1 specific weight unit.
  • #50 means that on a weight scale 50 yards = 1 specific weight unit.
  • #100 means that on a weight scale 100 yards = 1 specific weight unit.
So, all three achieve the same weight, but it takes more yards of the #100 than the #30 to weigh the same.  I don't know if it is yards or feet or whatever.  I don't know whether it is ounces or grams or whatever.  This example is meant only to explain the system because it is hard for newbies to wrap their minds around it.  I also want you to understand when I explain my choices of thread.

Needles, on the other hand, are bigger if the number is higher.  The size of the thread determines the size of needle that you should use.  You would use a larger needle for #30 thread than you would use for #100 thread.

TIP:  Changing needles and threads is inherent in fine quilting.  Get used to it!!

OK.  My choices from start to finish:

Piecing.  My first choice would be Aurifil cotton Mako.  It is 100% cotton, #50 aka 50 wt and is fine/thin for a cotton thread.  It is not linty.  However, I took a class from Harriet Hargrave many years ago and she recommended Presencia 50 wt and it is an excellent thread too.  I bought a huge cone of it, so I use it for all my piecing, but will change when it is gone - if it ever gets used up.  No complaints.  I just like the Aurifil better as it seems thinner.  I use a medium gray for all my piecing.

Ditching.  I do most of my SID with Superior Mono-poly.  It is clear and fine and you don't have to worry about color.  My machine has no problem with it.  My only complaint is that it is shiny.  I see it as I work, but when the quilt is done it is really invisible.  Superior also has a smoky version for use on dark fabrics, but it is also shiny.  Both of these threads blend with the colors of your fabric.  In the bobbin I use Superior's Bottom Line, which is a 60 wt thread.  It is very slightly elastic, which allows it to pull the top thread into the batting when it relaxes after sewing.

TIP:  Check your tension before you start to make sure that you don't have pin points of thread poking out on one side or the other.  The top and bottom threads should meet and loop within the batting.

Quilting the quilt.  The thread for the rest of the quilt is variable and depends on what I am doing.  I love Isacord when I want the quilting to stand out.  It is 40 wt polyester with a beautiful sheen and I am using it to outline a lot of feathers.  Thread buildup really shows so you have to plan in order to avoid too much backtracking with it.  I also am using 100 wt Kimono silk from Superior.  It is dreamy, thin and strong.  I use it where I want texture more than obvious color or where I want to smash down the background to accentuate a quilting design.  The very fine thread buries itself in the quilt leaving texture more obvious than thread.  I used a contrasting color silk for the dark border feathers so they would show a little bit, but not stand out.  I also find it hard to see if I work dark on dark!  I use Bottom Line in the bobbin for both Isacord and silk.

Isacord for feathers.  Kimono silk for grid and border designs.
Turquoise point not quilted yet.

On this quilt I am using the same bobbin color for the whole quilt.  I will talk about quilt backs next week.  They can be a lot of fun.

Sew a happy seam this week.  I wish you fine stitching with beautiful threads.

how the back looks


  1. I love trying different threads. I have two spools of the Kimono silk but haven't been successful using it in my machine (but I've only tried once). What size needle do you use with it?

    1. I am using a #12 Topstitch. I suppose I could use something smaller, but I don't have any smaller at hand. Actually I just looked at Superior's site and they say to use #8. Hmmm! I guess I had better get some smaller needles. They would certainly poke a smaller hole. I wonder if they will go through two layers of fabric and two layers of batting. Time to experiment! I'll try and write a blog about the results.

  2. Great information! Thank you for sharing! :)

  3. So many choices these days for thread, and we all have our favorites!
    Thanks for sharing on Midweek Makers

  4. A most interesting post! Thank you.

  5. Thank you for this helpful information!

  6. I love Isacord but moved two years ago and can't find it locally, so I use Floriani, which my LQS carries. It's basically the same, 40 wt poly with a beautiful sheen. I was a huge Aurifil fan for piecing and quilting until I got a new mid-arm machine that doesn't love Aurifil like I do...I think I'll try the kimono silk thread on my next project.

    1. Have you tried getting Isacord online? I haven't tried the Floriani, but I love the variety of color available with Isacord and can get it easily in the local Bernina store. If Floriani works the same, that is great. There are so many beautiful threads out there that it is impossible to try them all.

  7. I've yet to try Isacord, although I know Leah Day highly recommends it. My current poly of choice was recommended to me by Barb McKie, thread painter extroidinaire. It is Marathon Thread which I buy online. I love it for free motion quilting and it doesn't build up dramatically. It comes in vast array of colors - perhaps 150, plus there are some variegated and metallics in the same line. Thanks for the thread review. Always good to remember what is out there. So different from the Coates & Clark and Sulky were limited to in 1980's. I remember what I deal it was when Gutterman came on the market.

    1. I've not heard of Marathon, but will check it out. Thanks for sharing.