The very basic function of machine quilting thread is to securely hold your quilt layers together. Thread use by quilters varies by personal preference, intended use of the quilt, thread attractiveness and other factors. I want to give you some encouragement to learn about machine quilting threads and get you started with some information on types of threads, brand names to look for and thread weights. As you learn about threads, you will be able to make knowledgeable choices about the thread you want to use for machine quilting.
There are a wide variety of threads you can use to finish your quilt. Your machine quilting thread can either contrast with your quilt top fabrics or blends with the fabrics. Thread choice, along with choosing a quilting design, can be a challenge.
If your fabrics are busy and eye-catching, you might want to use a thread that blends into the surface design and color, or a portion of it, so that the viewer's eye will remain focused on the fabric and design of your quilt. Alternatively, quilting designs and machine quilting threads can be a focal point for your quilt.
Threads are made of natural fibers like wool, silk, cotton, flax, and jute. Some threads are regenerated from cellulose and others are made from synthetic fibers, such as metallic, polyester, nylon and elastic.
Cotton, metallic and rayon are among the most popular threads used for machine quilting. While metallic are in their own special class with their own special features (and sometimes their own special frustrations) rayon and cotton threads come in different weights and sizes.
Types of Thread You'll See When You Shop
- Bobbin thread
- Cotton thread
- Cotton Wrapped Polyester
- Embroidery thread
- Fusible thread
- Glow in the dark
- Hand Quilting (coated, not for use in a sewing machine)
- Invisible or monofilament
- Silk finish cotton
- Water Soluble
More about threads used to make a quilt.
Common Thread SizesThread becomes heavier as weight designations decrease. Thread weight is usually stamped on the edge of the spool or printed on the top or bottom of the spool.
- 50 weight, such as 50/2 or 50/3; the small number refers to the ply of the thread -- a 50/3 is a 3-ply. 50 weight thread is very thin/fine.
- 40 weight
- 30 weight
For thread that shows up more on your quilt, use a heavier weight thread. A 40 weight thread is a popular weight for quilting. A 30 weight thread will show up even more, while a 50 weight thread will blend with the background of the quilt.
Thread weight is only one of many factors to consider. Is it the right color? Does it feel like a good thickness for you. Do you want the thread to disappear or blend in with the fabrics on your quilt top, or should it stand out and shine as part of the design?
Consider whether you prefer the matte finish of a cotton thread, the shine of a rayon thread or the glimmer of a metallic thread. Go with what you like, get the right needle for it, and give the thread a tryout.
Experimenting with ThreadsTrying different threads on your sewing machine may require some adjustments to the machine's tension. Adjusting the tension is not something to fear, and can actually make your quilting life much easier if you are willing to experiment. Along with having the proper needle for your thread (and a fresh needle for your project) pay some attention to adjusting the tension.
- When you put your new thread on the machine to test it, make sure your feed dogs are up so that the tension discs in your sewing machine are open. Lowering the presser foot engages or closes the tension discs. As you thread your sewing machine, notice the different places where thread must pass through or over a bar or between discs, all of these encounters create tension on the thread.
- Be sure you are using a needle that allows the thread to pass through it easily, such as a metallic needle with a longer eye for metallic threads, a topstitch or quilting needle (sized 90/14 for 30 wt or 40 wt threads). About.com's Guide to Sewing offers a handy article about machine needle sizes.
- Put your test piece (a small quilt sandwich) on the machine, lower your tension (to begin with) and take some stitches. Then adjust the tension upwards if you find that stitches are too loose. Ideally, your bobbin thread and top thread should meet in the middle of the layers.
- If your top thread shows on the bottom of the quilt, your top tension is too loose. If your bobbin thread shows on the top of your quilt, your top tension is too tight. Keep testing and adjusting until you find the right balance. Make sure you are using the recommended bobbin thread for the quilting thread you are using. Thread makers usually give you that information with the thread or it can be found on their websites.
Popular Brands of Thread
- Coats & Clark
- Robison Anton