How to Select the Best Thread for Thread Sketching – Quilting Daily

Do you see everything around you? Really see it?

If you follow Susan Brubaker Knapp on Facebook, as I do, you will be familiar with her almost daily photo posts she calls, “Beauty on my morning walk.” The breathtaking images of bees’ wings, flower petals, veined rocks, ice crystals and the like lead someone, every few weeks or so, to comment that Susan must live in an especially beautiful area.

And Susan invariable responds, “You will be surprised at how unremarkable it is. You just have to seek out the beauty that is around you, wherever you are. It is there.”

Really seeing the beauty around her, in every detail, helps Susan choose the threads and fabrics she uses to thread sketch her quilts. In her new Quilting Arts Magazine series “Thread Sketching for Beginners,” Susan starts by answering the most frequently asked questions about her specialty.

Here is some of her advice on how she selects thread:

What weight and type of thread do you use?

If you don’t want to hoop your work when you thread sketch-and I personally hate to hoop!-it is critical that you use lightweight thread. I always use AurifilTM Cotton Mako 50. It is a strong but lightweight cotton thread with a good amount of sheen (rare in cotton thread). If you use heavier thread, you will experience more puckering and draw up, and the thread will build up very quickly, so you may not get the subtlety you desire.

agave quilt with thread sketching by susan brubaker knapp
‘Agave’ by Susan Brubaker Knapp. Susan’s thread color choices affect the shading and contours to make the plant come to life.

How do you decide what thread color to use?

In most things in nature, there are subtle color shifts. Most things are not a solid color. If the base fabric is red, for example, but the subject has tones of orange in it, you should add shades of orange and yellow thread. Add dark red thread where the color needs to go darker.

Why not use variegated thread?

There are times that I use it in thread sketching, but usually I don’t, because I can’t control where the color will shift.

What do you use in the bobbin?

I use the same type and weight of thread as in the top. Using heavier thread in the bobbin makes it hard to get the tension balanced. I either match the color, or use a similar value in the bobbin as the top thread.

Now that you’ve gained lots of thread-sketching knowledge, put it to use capturing the beauty you see every day.

There were so many that we couldn’t fit them all into the August/September 2014 issue of Quilting Arts. So we’ve included the rest of Susan’s thread sketching advice in this free downloadable PDF.

P.S.  In what common places do you find beauty? Leave your comment below.

Featured image is ‘Joyful,’ by Susan Brubaker Knapp, which features thread sketching on the petals.

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Comments (2)

  • Diane S

    There were so many that we couldn’t fit them all into the August/September 2014 issue of Quilting Arts. So we’ve included the rest of Susan’s thread sketching advice in a free downloadable PDF in our Online Extras (under the Free Resources tab) on
    I tried to access your “Online Extras” mentioned above so I could download the rest of Susan’s advice, but had no luck.

    Can you help me with that? It appears that the website may have been re-designed.

    June 24, 2018 at 4:21 am
    • Tiffany Warble

      Thanks for letting us know about that issue with the extra content link. I’ve tracked down the real PDF and updated this blog with the correct link to Susan’s Thread Sketching Advice so you can download it. Let me know if you have any further trouble.

      The Quilting Company Team

      July 18, 2018 at 11:11 pm

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