Friday, February 18, 2011

Quilter's info-Threads

Image from

The variety of thread sizes, fibers, and styles is truly compounded by the sheer number of colors available!

I sometimes catch myself just staring at a thread display gazing from shade to shade!

In the beginning of my quilting adventure, I kept to cotton thread only for piecing and quilting, using the exact same thread in the bobbin as well.

(yes, I was a cotton-only quilt snob)

There's nothing wrong with this approach! Simple is good as well as cost-effective! There are just so many varieties and once you give yourself permission to try new threads, you will see which ones you like and how the right thread can really enhance your quilts.

Thread sizes are simply this: the larger the number, the finer the thread. Example: a 50 wt.(weight) cotton thread is larger in diameter than a 100 wt. silk thread.

I use Mettler 50/2 cotton (purple labelling) for piecing. I use both the cotton and silk for quilting, but my favorite thread to quilt with is a 40 wt. polyester thread (Isacord and PolyX are the one I have) generally sold for embroidery. I love the subtle sheen and the way it can disappear into a quilt or stand out depending on the color. In my bobbin, I use the same 50 wt cotton in my bobbin with the polyester and use a 60 wt cotton with the silk.

I am always on the look-out for new threads, new tools, like new fabric,  can be a starting point of inspiration!

So, what are the differences?

Well, to me the cotton thread stands out on the quilt top because it is larger. The polyester can blend or shine depending on color, and the silk can become almost invisible since it is so fine. I recommend that use by a spool of each and try them out to determine what you like. I keep all three on hand so I can change the look of my quilting to suit the design of my quilt. I have used all three on a sampler to keep as a tool for matching my thread to my project.

Be sure to use a new needle in the right size for your thread. Thread sizes correspond to needle sizes. Use a small needle with a fine thread, I use my 60/8 needles with the 100 wt silk, a 75 Microtex or 80/12 with both the 40 wt polyester and the 50wt cotton.


All 3 of these, cotton, polyester and silk, are colorfast in my experience. I haven't tried Rayon, but it is beautiful! I really am trying to keep a check on my toolbase. If you use rayon, let me know how it works for you.

Some terms you may see with threads are "mercerized" and "trilobal".

A mercerized cotton thread has been treated to enhance it luster.
The beautiful, rich, lustrous batik fabrics are dyed on mercerized cotton base cloth.

A trilobal polyester thread has 3 rounded sides which will catch the light, also enhancing luster. Variegated thread (like Sulky Blendables) has multiple colors spaced on each spool.

These are not RULES. I offer guidelines, a place to start. Be adventurous and try that beautiful lustrous thread you bought because of the color!

More in depth thread info is available here and here.


Jenny said...

I've used rayon, very potent. The types I've used do not hold up as well in the machine for some reason or another. I always need to reduce the tension.

I do prefer cotton thread, aurifil, both on top and in the bobbin for piecing. Right now, I do have a Gutterman poly for the color. When thread painting or FMQ, I try out other threads unless it's a piece I plan to abuse.

About a MQG, you are always welcome to visit ours. I also remember W-S had a lot of interested quilters over there. I'm surprised one hasn't started up.

Laura said...

My favorite thread for detailed FM quilting is 60 weight YLI Soft Touch, but it's impossible to find locally, I have to order it on-line. I use Aurifil Mako 50/2 for piecing, it costs around $9 per spool but lasts forever. I bought my last one 5 months ago and it seems I wound hundreds of bobbins before it finally ran out. It's also harder to find locally. I also buy Mettler, Sulky and Guttermann threads on sale at Joann's but you don't get much thread on them and I hate to run out in the middle of a project!

Theodora quilts said...

I love your detail info my friend over at the craft shop has just brought in some polyester thread maybe I'll try some and I see you got a post on info of the types of needles I'll have to look at ,thanks for stopping by ,xoxo theodora