Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Quilting Thread Choices - Day One Fiber Content

As quilters, we have many, many options available to us in fabric, threads and battings. I thought over the next few days I would discuss thread choices. There are several things to consider when selecting your threads. Fiber Content, color, weight and use. Today, let's review fiber content.

A quilter must consider the fiber from which their various threads are made of before they use them. Different threads work well for various tasks when quilting and sewing. I used to believe that I should only ever use cotton threads in the construction and quilting of my quilts. I had been taught that cotton thread would be the best choice, because I almost always use cotton fabrics in my quilts. Cotton thread would be the right choice because stress on the seams in the piecing of the quilt would not rip the fabric fibers like a poly or poly blend thread might do. I believed what I had been told and subscribed to cotton on my threads for the majority of my piecing, Applique and quilting choices. I also learned to avoid waxy coated threads for hand quilting as I found it too difficult to work with and it was so thick and strong that I thought it would rip the fabric where stitched years down the road. Here is one of the few handquilted bed quilts I still have in my possession.

This quilt proved that heavy duty hand quilting thread is not the best choice. When I carelessly tossed a section of it in the back of a car hatchback, little did I know it would be exposed to battery acid. The cotton fabrics melted away but the poly batting and waxy thread stayed intact. It was really strange to see. I ended up redoing that entire section of the quilt and vowed never used waxy hand quilting thread again. For those of you that know me as a machine quilter, yes I can do some pretty awesome tiny hand quilting, but choose to quilt by machine these days.

I love doing invisible machine applique and have found that clear nylon thread works well to hide the stitches and give the appearance of hand applique. Years ago I had taken a mock hand applique class from Harriet Hargraves and she had us use this invisible thread made by SewArt. This pumpkin quilt is one of many applique quilts I have done using mock hand applique, with invisible nylon as the top thread and a lingerie thread in the bobbin. It's next to impossible to find that lingerie thread these days as I used to purchase it from Clotilde online before Annie's took them over. Now they don't stock it anymore. So I substitute white bottom line thread from Superior and it works well. The idea behind the invisible thread on the top is to make almost invisible stitches and the bottom weight thread must be fine and neutral. I found Bottom Line thread to work well, light or white if the background fabric are light, and black or darker grey color if the background fabric is darker. The great think about bottom line thread is that it is a fine weight poly thread and more of it fits in the bobbins as you wind them so, whether you are quilting with it or using it to stitch on your domestic machine, you won't have to change bobbins as often.

When machine quilting my quilts in the long arm, I started out only using Signature 100% cotton thread. I think that choice was due to that was the easiest to find and buy at the time. More recently, I discovered Superior brand threads and realized how much better I liked quilting with them. Signature threads are wonderful, but they shed a lot and cause significantly more lint build up on the machine that the Superior brand. This slows me down as I have to clean the raceway and bobbin area as well as the needle and needle bar and hopping foot every time I change the bobbin. This doesn't happen with Superior. I can go much longer without significant lint build up or breakage.

Now I am slowly phasing out Signature Threads and using those cones as my piecing threads in the home sewing machine, and replacing them with the various Superior threads in a wide variety of colors. Now, if a customer demands cotton threads I will use it and they have a choice of the more expensive cotton King Tut made by Superior or Signature cottons I have on hand.

Another consideration for thread fiber content is the actual quilt itself. When I quilt vintage or antique quilt tops, I will always use a cotton thread choice. I try to select thread colors that would have been available at the time the top was made and will often take my queue from the seams in the quilt top itself. Not always, but its a good thing to consider. Here are two photos of one of the vintage tops I purchased and quilted years ago. I used cotton batting, cotton thread and muslin backing so an offwhite thread seemed to be the perfect choice.

That quilt is well loved, used alot and washed frequently. Its held up beautifully and is soft and lightweight.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 - Quilting Thread Choices, A Color Discussion

#threadfibers #quiltingthreads #myfavoritethreads #threadcolordiscussion

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