What’s the Best Thread to Use for Machine Quilting?

Penny: With the metallic and variegated thread, along with all the other wonderful materials, you can really get some fun and unique thread. Does it really make a difference which type of thread you use? If that’s the case, what brands make the most reliable threads? I’m going to guess that you kind of mentioned something about using a different thread on the top and the bottom earlier on, and I was wondering if you could also throw in something about invisible thread.

Pam: Ok. Invisible thread is not a technique that I recommend for beginners. It leaves the tail in an awkward position on the spool, where it can be difficult to manipulate. On the other hand, if you are daring and want to give it a shot, by all means do so. But if you are just starting out, I would recommend choosing a thread that has a solid reputation. Another thing you’ll notice as you work on your machine quilting project is that you’ll end up with a lot of lint underneath and around your bobbin case, as well as up above where the needle moves up and down. Everything just piles up in there. Therefore, I began searching for threads that were the long Egyptian Cotton staple and did not contain a great deal of that fuzzing stuff. There are two threads in particular that I use the majority of the time. The first is of the brand Signature, and I purchase it from Quilted Rose, which is also where I buy my machine quilting supplies. The other brand, King-Tut, is one that I really enjoy using, and Superior Thread is where I buy it. The Bottom Line, which is a blend, is the thread that I use for the bobbin when I am working with the King-Tut. It contains poly, but contrary to the long-held belief that everything in your quilt had to be made of cotton and that using polyester would cause your quilt to fray, this is not the case when it comes to the different types of threads. Both the Signature and the King-Tut are great, and depending on the project you’re working on, you can choose from a wide range of wonderful solid colors as well as fabulous variegated ones.

Finally, the bottom line is that I purchase pre-wound bobbins, which are capable of holding a considerable amount of thread. If you plan on winding your own bobbins to match your thread and you plan on using the same thread throughout the project, you should plan on winding anywhere from six to ten bobbins in order to complete a lap-sized quilt top. And as a result of this, it takes time, and each time you have to stop and start with your bobbin, that is going to require additional work with pulling up threads and starting, stopping, knotting, and burying your threads again. You are going to have a lot more spare time on your hands if you are able to reduce the frequency with which you have to perform that task. Therefore, the pre-wound bobbins are a nice convenience. All that needs to be done is for you to have the tension adjusted.

As a beginner, you really want to get the hang of your technique, and that’s where you want a good thread that isn’t going to be breaking all the time, which is something that has a tendency to happen with metallics. Now, the metallics are lovely, and they are wonderful for accenting a variety of different pieces. As you get really experienced, then go for it. But as a beginner, you really want to get the hang of your technique. In addition to this, you will need specialized needles, and even then, working with them can be difficult.

Penny: Yeah. I am aware of how challenging hand quilting can be. You are aware of this because I frequently employ very brief pieces. Because I’ve never machine quilted or machine stitched with metallic thread, I didn’t even know how the processes worked, but they are very cool nonetheless.

Pam: Yes, they do. Quilting is now one of Diane Gudinsky’s favorite hobbies, and she always uses silk thread when she works. Because silk is a finer thread than Bottom Line, it is imperative that you use it when working with silk. I have done that a few times, and during those times, I discovered that the thread I was using was really, really wonderful to work with. Therefore, the effect that you are going for will determine the type of thread that you want to use. However, in most cases, you will want a number 40 thread because you want your stitches to be visible. That is the main reason why you are engaging in that activity.

Penny: You are correct.

Pam: Do you know what, in addition to what I am going to tell you about what I discovered? Do not use dark thread on a light background when you are first learning how to quilt; doing so will make your stitches appear sloppy even if they aren’t actually sloppy. This is not necessarily the case when you are an experienced quilter, but it is important to remember when you are just starting out. If you have a dark fabric, you could put a light color on top of it and it will look fabulous. However, it is much better for you to use a light thread or one that will blend in with your background. However, a quilt with a cream background and a dark colored thread, such as dark blue, dark red, or dark green, causes the quilt to “pop,” which means that you will be able to see every single mistake that you make. If you are a beginner, I believe that you will be disappointed, just as I was. I’m just providing you with some pointers to help you feel more confident about your turn.

Pam: However, I did want to make a note of one thing that I wanted to discuss, and that is if you use thread that is wound onto a cone. This is something that I do because I purchase it in large quantities. You need to have a thread stand even if your machine does not have a built-in thread stand because the manner in which the thread comes off the cone will have an effect on the stitching that you do. You don’t want any snags and a lot of times that’s one of the reasons that if your thread will break if there’s drag on it. Therefore, the majority of the time, I’ll put it on, raise it up onto the thread things that feed it across into my machine, and sometimes even I’ll end up putting the cone itself in a glass 4-cup measuring cup so that it can tumble around in there freely and the thread comes off the top and then will feed into your machine from the stand, and then that should also provide you with a good result.

Penny: Halgren and Pam Bauer of www.how-to-quilt.com contributed to this article.

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