Which Thread Should I Use

Kimberlee Tanner

Which Thread Should I Use?

There are so many choices to make through the quilt making process that often it can become overwhelming. Instead of stashing your projects away for fear of making the wrong choice, we are going to go over some basics of thread, and how to pick the best one for your quilt top.


Thread Weight

With needle sizes, and thread sizes, and fabric weaves and thread counts, all those numbers can be confusing! With thread, the basics of weight are: the higher the number, the finer the thread.

Not all threads are going to be the same though, the ply of the thread (number of strands), will also play into the thickness of the thread. We highly recommend sewing out a couple samples with different threads to see exactly how they look and which one you prefer. This will also give you a chance to test how the sheen looks and how much lint might show up.

When I am quilting, I usually use 40 or 50 wt threads. Some of my favorite brands are So Fine by Superior Threads and Glide by Fil-Tec. I primarily use Glide on my longarm, as it likes it the best, but we use So Fine for most of our piecing and work on the domestic sewing machine. Superior Threads also makes a 100 wt Micro Quilter thread that is super fine and works great not only for completely hiding the thread in quilting, but for piecing foundation paper pieced blocks. It adds very little bulk to the finished seams and finishes really nicely.

There is no right or wrong answer on what weight to use, it really is your choice, so test some out, see what is available at your local quilt shop, and find what you like best.

Thread Color

After you’ve decided what weight and brand of thread you like to work with, that’s usually a decision that doesn’t need to be remade. Thread color, however, is something that is unique to every quilt.

I personally, will always match the color thread to the background. If it’s a white background, I always use white thread (unless picking a color as a design element). If the quilt has a light or cream background, I have an assortment of cream colored threads or pastels. I’ve found that a light yellow blends really well with lots of different fabrics. I also love Bone by Glide. It is probably my most used color next to white. It’s a light purply cream and matches almost everything. A light gray is also a magic thread that blends well with many colors and shades.

Obviously, a matching thread will blend better, and a contrasting one will stand out. If you use a white thread on a solid red fabric, you are going to see that. If that bothers you, you can change threads out and match each fabric. This takes extra time, so decide what is most important to you. As you gain experience and improve your quilting, you may decide you don’t need it to blend and match quite as much.

How busy your fabric is also makes a difference. If you have a really busy print or prints, the thread color isn’t going to matter as much. The print will help to hide most of it. In my experience, a light thread blends better than a dark thread (unless it’s really dark fabric).

To Change or Not to Change

I mentioned thread changes briefly, and the decision to match all the threads or just use one is really a personal choice. Some quilting plan designs will use thread changes to their benefit and really elevate the plan. I’ve seen some quilts that use thread color in amazing ways to add a wow factor you wouldn’t get otherwise. Other quilting designs don’t need different colors and you are able to get away with one thread on the entire quilt. If you choose one thread color, be prepared for it to show more and less depending on the fabric.

I don’t change my thread color often. I am okay with the thread being more prominent (keep in mind it will blend even more after washing). The more thread changes, the more threads to bury and time spend, so decide what is most important to you, and make your color choices accordingly.

Putting it All Together

So, what does this mean for you? My best advice is to make up a few quilt sandwiches and test out different threads. Look at the weight, check how the color plays, step back a few feet and see how much it stands out. There is no substitute for seeing things in person. When working on a new top, pick some different threads you might think would work and unravel a bunch, then drape this over the quilt top, making sure to hit lots of different areas. This will allow you to see exactly how that thread works with your quilt fabrics. Also, any thread you choose will blend more after you wash your quilt, so don’t let the thread color choice paralyze you. Pick one that you are okay with and get your project finished! The perfect quilt is one you can actually use.

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