I know I’m not alone in my desire to work with the best supplies I can afford. Each time I meet a quilter I admire, I like to ask after their favorite tools and materials. Although high-end sewing machines and wool battings are a little outside of my quilting budget, the wide array of fabrics and threads available are some of my favorite purchases. With so many options, choosing even a handful of threads can be daunting so I love asking quilters, “What do you think is the best thread for quilting?”
Of course, answers vary from quilter to quilter, but I love the information Catherine Redford shares about which thread she likes to use to piece, quilt, and bind her designs.
A Bit About Cotton Thread
We’ve all stood in the thread section of our local fabric store in front of spools and spools of thread. No doubt, we each have different methods for choosing which thread makes the journey home. For some color is king, yet others favor a specific brand or type of thread.
When it comes to shopping for thread, your best bet is to choose one made of long staple cotton which refers to the variety used to make the thread. The longer fibers, or staples, are ideal for quilting because the way the thread is spun decreases fuzzy, corresponding to a decrease of lint while sewing. Let’s be honest, a lint-free thread is a pipe dream, but you can get awfully close to making that dream a reality by using long staple cotton thread that’s been gassed, meaning the small bits of fuzz are burnt off as the thread passes through a flame.
Thread Size is Not Exact
There is not an industry standard for thread size, similar to the way one size of pants fits differently from brand to brand; the same can be said for thread. What is marked as 50 weight may be thinner or thicker depending on the brand. Unlike clothing, however, the larger the number listed on the spool, the smaller or finer the thread will be.
Oftentimes, you’ll see two numbers on a spool of thread; for example 50/2 or 50/3. Catherine explains the first number indicates the weight of the thread and the second is the ply. Generally, the three-ply thread in this example is stronger than the two-ply.
When to Use What
“What’s the best thread for quilting?” is kind of a loaded question, isn’t it? Different thread weights are best for the various stages of quilting and the wide array of effects we desire.
Catherine suggests using a fine, yet strong two-ply 50 or 60 weight thread for piecing because it allows her to sew a true quarter inch seam. She is also an advocate of using the same weight in the top and bottom while sewing to maintain good tension throughout the quilt top.
Thread for quilting is a whole different beast! Sure, you can use the same spool for the entire project, but if you want bold and bright or subtle and textured quilted lines, you’re going to need to change your thread (and bobbin).
Just want to add texture to your top? A 50 weight thread is nice, but you’ll still see your stitches. If you really want the stitches to settle into your quilt top, try an 80 or even a 100 weight thread. By choosing a value similar to the colors of your quilt top, you’ll be able to add texture without changing the color of your design. Plus, the ultra-thin thread means you can add a lot of quilting including backtracking over stitches without the annoyance of thread buildup.
On the flip side, if colorful quilting is what you desire, you’ll want a heavier weight thread, such as a 30 weight, which will lay on the surface of the quilt rather than sink into it. Adding color is not only a great way to blend fabrics of your top together, but a fabulous way to add another layer of design to your quilt. If you want an even bolder line, try something really heavy like a 12 weight thread.
Catherine’s years of experience shine through in both her teaching and quilting. In my own quilting journey, I’ve turned to Catherine’s instruction early and often in the form of her DVDs and her book Modern Machine Quilting: Make a Perfectly Finished Quilt on Your Home Machine. I’m thrilled to announce Catherine’s online course Walking Foot Quilting: Beyond the Ditch! This start anytime course makes her expertise available to students in the comfort of their home to take when convenient for their schedule. I’m sure you’ll love learning from Catherine as much as I have!
Discover more quilting resources from Catherine!