Machine Quilting Thread Part 1

I am often asked what kind of thread I use for machine quilting.  It is a straight forward question but that doesn’t make it simple to answer.  For one thing, the threads I use have changed over time; for another thing, I may use a variety of different threads all in one quilt.  The answer is long enough to divide into two articles!  So this week, I will share what I look for in machine quilting threads and what I have enjoyed using in the past; and then next week, I’ll tell you the story behind why I tried some completely different threads in my quilt “Flourish on the Vine”.

My goal with machine quilting is to add texture.  As such, I am looking for threads that blend almost invisibly with the fabrics in the quilt.

It should come as no surprise then, that one of my preferred threads for machine quilting is invisible thread.  The beauty of this clear (or smoke) nylon monofilament thread is its ability to blend with any color of fabric.  This is particularly helpful when the quilting lines cross over different hues and shades or to disguise any “slips” when quilting in the ditch.  As for brands, I have had good success with Sew-Art Invisible Nylon Thread and Unique Ultra Fine Invisible Thread.

Then again, you may be surprised about invisible thread because of the mixed reviews it has received over the years.  I have long admired the machine quilting work of Diane Gaudynski.  In her book Guide to Machine Quilting (American Quilter’s Society, 2002), Diane explains her reasons for using nylon monofilament thread:  “…it eliminates the problem of color matching, it doesn’t cover my quilt top with heavy machine stitching, it allows me to quilt exceptionally fine designs and closely spaced stippling, it permits me to double stitch over a line of stitching several times with no visible build-up, and it doesn’t make my quilt look ‘thready’.”  That’s good enough for me! 

I am also looking for good tension.  With a domestic sewing machine, this often means balancing the weight of the threads in the needle and the bobbin, adjusting the tension settings, or both.  Some quilters match their bobbin thread to their needle thread, but I use the same bobbin thread throughout a whole quilt.  Therefore, it is important to know how to adjust the tension setting for every different needle thread choice.  It is also helpful for the bobbin thread to be available on large spools, especially if the quilt is large and the quilting extensive.

My bobbin thread of choice for many of my recent projects has been Aurifil Mako 50-weight cotton.  It is available in a large spool of 1,422 yards or a cone of 6,452 yards.  There are 182 colors to choose from which is important because I also like my bobbin thread to blend with my backing fabric!

But things change:  styles change; preferences change.  And I am open to that!  Stay tuned next week to find out the threads I used for my quilt “Flourish on the Vine” and the circumstances that prompted me to try something new.


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