Large Array of Threads

Learning to use the correct threads for Quilting and Sewing


While there is not one single thread for Quilting/Patchwork there are some more appropriate than others.  There are many options to choose from, plain cotton, speciality threads and variegated threads. We will guide you through what the differences of threads and what is the best for the project that you are making. I was advised to play with many different threads sizes and types on fabrics to see how they looked and how my sewing machine handled them. Manufacturers information written on each thread spool is important and is your first step to getting to know you threads. We will explain what the difference with threads are and much more.

When I first started I was told to use 50 weight cotton for Piecing (patchwork) as it was easier and as I became more experienced I used different weights for quilting. Ask advice from your local guild and quilting stores are a valuable resource. 

Threads are often said to come in three main groups but in each of these groups there are many different kinds of threads Threads usually come in three measurements, Weight, Denier and Tex.

Cotton Polyester and Specialty threads, but there are many other sorts in these groups. It is important to know what threads you should use for the Product that you are making. Some sewing machines handle some threads better than others. Check your sewing machine manual for this.  

 Cotton

color threads for sewing and quiltingCotton is made up of natural fibre has a large variety of colours in both solid and variegated, and comes in many thicknesses. You will also find cotton thread being called fine or course.  Individual strands of the narrow yarn each called a ply can be twisted together to create a stronger thread. Variegated cotton looks good on plain fabrics of the same colour for quilting.  

Polyester/Rayon

threads for sewing and quiltingPolyester cotton is a synthetic product and comes in many thicknesses and is strong and stretches.  Rayon thread is more delicate that polyester and more often it is used for machine embroidery and other decorative projects but not recommended for quilting. Cotton wrapped polyester looks like cotton and is great for new quilters beginning. Care needs to be taken on using polyester cotton as they can be harsh and cut through cotton fabrics, however polyester cotton is more durable. Nylon is a synthetic thread and can be invisible when machine quilting.  It can melt when ironed with a hot iron. Polyester cotton is best used for polyester/cotton fabrics. Polyester threads are not advised in many Quilting classes that I have attended. Rayon thread is not usually used to sew patchwork. Speciality threads

Metallic threads must be used with a metallic needle. The eye of the needle is coated with a Teflon as it reduces the amount of heat going through the eye. Metallic threads are usually more shimmering and course.  When using these thread it is important to use a needle that is designed for metallic threads. Some people use sewers aid for a good lubricant for threading through the needles.  The metallic needle eye has a Teflon so it cuts down on the heat of the thread. You need to get the tension on your sewing machine just right when using these threads. These threads give a shine to your quilting patterns but can be hard to use as the thread can split.  I have never used them but seen them and they look stunning. These threads are only used for decoration or embroidery and for sewing quilts

Silk cotton

white thread for quilting and sewingSilk/Cotton thread is made up of a combination of both silk and cotton. Both of these fibres are natural fibres. Silk/cotton is used for applique as it is fine and makes stitches disappear and looks good when beads are added.

Natural Fibres

threads for quilting and sewingNatural fibres such as wool and silk thread are often used to enhance Folk Art Quilts and Wall Hangings and how wool can be used to give it a home spun look. These are a thicker yarn. I use cotton thread for sewing wool.

I was taught by a very experienced quilter to follow the rule of using synthetic threads on man made fabric and natural fibre threads on natural fabrics but that is only what I do.

It is important to know that some cottons that are used in Handsewing that are not appropriate for machine sewing/longarm machines and are stated on most reels of thread.  It is important to check this out before you start commencement on your project.

If the eye of the needle is too small for the thread it will strip the thread causing it to break. Always check for correct needle size. I know of some sewers who use hairspray on the thread to get it through the eye of the needle easier.   

 Thread guides

thread guide for quiltingWhen purchasing any thread it is best to read what is on the spool. On it will have the Manufacturer's name, colour number (good for when you want to order more of the same colour) and style, how much fibre is on the spool what fibre it is made from and the weight of the thread.

Smaller number thread means heavier/thicker 

Higher number thread it is more inclined to be thinner/weaker.

You need to check the thread number to ascertain what is best for your project. There are many guides that are available to check either on the internet or at a quilting store.

When doing applique work using 100% cotton is one of the best as it will not shrink on washing.   Silk cotton is also great for giving a contrast look and can also look invisible when same colour used on the same colour fabric.

How to store your threads

storage for sewing threadsAlways remember to store all your cotton in a dry place. I made a sewing box and for when I want to transport them or in a closed cupboard at home.  If using old thread it can become a problem at it is not the cotton that deteriorates but the lubricant that is put on it.  

When sewing you may have to alter the tension of your sewing machine and it is important you get advice with this. I played around with mine and as a learner, I was not getting anywhere, then went to a quilting store and got advice from the professionals now I have the confidence to do my own working out with the tension.

When quilting there really no hard and fast rules on threads. You will get a lot of different ideas from experienced quilters on what to use.  Listen to them all and start experimenting on what suits you. Do not limit yourself to just cotton threads. Be open to experimentation that is how you learn. Just be aware that the thread you are going to use is appropriate.