Sewing thread may seem like an afterthought when getting ready to start a project. Maybe all of the choices are a bit perplexing. The right thread for your project will make a big difference in the integrity of your sewing, the life of your sewing machine, and the happiness of the sewist. Here are some common questions.
What kind of thread will I find at my local quilt shop? Which should I use?
Quilts are usually made of cotton fabric. Cotton thread and other natural fibers are the go-to choice for everyday sewing and quilting. Most quilt shops will carry thread for piecing, quilting and hand quilting. Here is the line-up.
50 wt Cotton – This is the basic thread for piecing by hand or machine. It can also be used for appliqué. The weight of the thread refers to the size. This is a fine weight thread that sinks nicely into quilt fabric and is strong enough to make a durable quilt.
40 wt Cotton – This is a slightly heavier weight thread that is used for machine quilting and topstitching. The heavier weight shows more stitch definition than a finer thread would. You want to show off your work!
Hand Quilting Thread – Perle cotton that is used for embroidery also makes lovely hand quilting thread. One big newbie mistake I see a lot in my shop is confusion over the hand quilting thread found on spools. I love the stuff. It is a 40 wt cotton but has a glaze over the fibers to make it glide into your quilt. Your sewing machine WILL NOT like the glaze. Do not put spooled thread meant for hand quilting in your machine. They will not get along. Pull out a hand needle and quilt away…happiness follows.
Fine Silk Thread -This is a lovely thread for appliqué. It is a natural fiber like cotton. It is very strong. It has a slight sheen and transparency to it that make it melt into your fabric and almost become invisible. This makes needle turn appliqué look like it was done by a pro.
What if I am sewing garments or something for my kids?
Garments and kids goods, like stuffed animals and toys, take more abuse than a quilt would. If you are making garments, especially something that stretches, you are going to want to use a polyester thread. It is stronger than cotton and has a little more give to it. It is not as likely to snap with everyday wear and use.
I spent all my money on fabric. I think I will buy cheap thread. That’s a good idea, right?
No. It. Is. Not. Higher end cotton threads have longer cotton fibers. This prevents breakage in your finished product and does not fuzz up as quickly in your sewing machine. Higher end polyester thread is usually made with finer, more consistent fiber that will have the same advantage over cheap thread. You will save time, money and frustration if you stay away from thread at Walmart and the dollar store.
What color do I use to piece my quilt? This thing has every color under the the sun!
Basic colors for your thread stash (yes, another stash) should include neutrals in white, off white, light grey, medium grey, beige and black. Thread should blend with your background fabric or your most prominent lighter colors.
Last of all, always make sure you are using the same type of thread in the top thread and the bobbin. The color does not need to be the same but the fiber and weight need to for sewing. Some fancy pants techniques do exist, but that is a topic for another day!