Thursday, June 30, 2016

THREAD--It Matters

While making the Southern Star quilt I wrote about here and here, I used black Mettler 100% cotton 50/3 thread.   For the last several years I have pieced exclusively with Superior's Masterpiece 100% cotton 50/3 or Aurifil's MAKO NE 50/2 thread.   I also have a supply of inexpensive cotton thread sold on large spools:

Here is what I learned from the experiment I didn't know I was doing:

1. Thread size matters--the Mettler thread is thicker than the Masterpiece or Aurifil

2. With thicker thread I needed to make my seam allowances smaller, just a bit

3. Masterpiece and Aurifil create less lint in the bobbin area

4. Masterpiece and Aurifil put much more thread on the bobbin, less refilling of bobbins

5. The accuracy of your piecing is determined by the size of your units--not the size of the seam allowance--no one sees your seam allowance.  When using different thread, check each seam as you create the units--you will find out quickly if the seam allowances need to be adjusted.

6.  It is possible to use different machines on the same project.  I sewed at the Retreat on my Ruby Red Singer Featherweight and at home on my Bernina 630.  Just check your seam allowances between machines to be sure they are the same.

7. While this top was not paper pieced, I know from prior experience that I want to use ONLY the finer thread, Masterpiece or Aurifil, when paper piecing.  The added thickness of heavier thread really distorts the finished product when sewing on paper as well as two layers of fabric. And use a small stitch, 1.5 or so, when paper piecing.

8.  And a big tip I did not follow this time but will in the future:  when sewing primarily Black fabrics, use Navy Blue Thread.  When sewing Navy Blue fabrics, use Black thread.  When you have to "unsew" and we all do some time on each project, right?, it is oh, so much easier to see the navy thread on black.

9.  When sewing very light to very dark fabrics, use the darker thread color, or close, like navy on black, not the lighter fabric color.  If you must sew using a light thread on a dark fabric, make your stitch length shorter than normal--you don't want to see the stitches in the seam allowance from the front of the quilt.  This was a Judge's tip I learned when assisting a judge.

10.  I'll use the inexpensive thread for basting, maybe machine quilting charity quilts, or other uses where precision is not important, like string piecing.  And I will have to clean out the bobbin area at least with EVERY bobbin change, it is very linty!

All in all, like with most things, you get what you pay for.  As good thread is now about $13 a spool you don't want to waste it.  Use a "thread kitty", a "starty/stoppy" or a "leader/ender" project to save thread.  I wrote a bit about that here.  More on that another day.

NOTE:  because I use Masterpiece primarily, I buy it on large 2,500 yard cones:  that's more than 4 times the 600 yard spools.  Most quilt shops would be delighted to order cones for you, just ask.  If you don't support your local shop, don't be surprised when it's gone--just ask any quilter who doesn't have a shop within a two hour drive, but who used to.  They are sad.

Let's Quilt!



  1. Excellent tips! Especially appreciate numbers 5, 8, and 9.
    I started quilting decades ago just using the old Coats and Clark. Don't even keep it in the house now. Then I went to Gutterman, which is a step up, but is a thicker, heavier thread. I still use it on occasion for an all over stipple when I can't find the color I need in anything else.
    Next I moved up to Mettler and noticed right away how much more lint it produced, but it is finer than Gutterman. Finally, as I became more involved in making minis, and in machine quilting, I became an Aurifil fan, for all the reasons you mentioned.

  2. Loved adding all of your thread tips. Like You I have evolved in my thread preferences and use Aurifl for my "good projects" and keep using up the other threads for the "other projects".

  3. I enjoyed your blog. Navy thread is a great tip for working on black fabric. . .brown is another good one! I'm an Aurifil fan for piecing. I find the Masterpiece on the big spools is great for machine quilting; but, for piecing it isn't as nice as Aurifl!--Terry

  4. Excellent information; going to share with my guild sisters and brothers ;-) Linda

  5. I use Superior So Fine for piecing. It's not linty at all. There are so many thread choices available today, it's good to know what others have found out. Thanks for your tips.

  6. I really like the 60 weight bottom line Superior Threads for piecing as the seams are much flatter. Agree with the comments on lint with some brands. Use Aurifil 50 weight for most of my long arm quilting and love not having to clean the bobbin frequently.

  7. I also use Superior's Bottom Weight 60 for piecing. I got tired of the regular thread I was using using up my seam allowance and things not matching. I really like the idea of navy and black and visa versa. Will be giving that a try. I have made small leader ender quilt as well

  8. I make a lot of charity tops (finished by our church ladies) and receive a lot of fabric and thread donated for these projects. I have many spools of off-brand thread that just do not do well in my machine -- knots, tangles and breaking continually. Rather than throw them away, I discovered that they will work in the bobbin so I can still use them and use the better thread in the upper part of the machine. I also use mostly Superior threads for my good projects.

  9. Her information is not actually correct...50 weight is 50 weight no matter if it is 3 ply or two ply.
    Aurifil and Superior simply use a tighter twist.
    Mettler is not thicker..just not as tightly twisted.