Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thread, Part 3

As a quilt judge, I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen thread exposed in a seam--and that's not a good thing. People may assume that no one will ever see the thread they used on the inside of a finished quilt--they assumed wrong. Many people like to paper piece. And guess what color thread they sometimes pick? WHITE! That's okay if the whole block is light colored (although I so rarely use white thread that I have only one very small spool--other colors are better choices even on lighter colored quilts). But this is often on a black-based quilt. Guess what happens when the paper is removed? That's right, the stitches become looser. Think about it--you sew through the layers of fabric plus a layer of paper. When you remove the paper, the stitches are now looser because they do not have the layer of paper. When the seams are pressed, the stitches can show.

Think this advice applies only to paper piecing? Think again. Below are samples I made to illustrate what can happen when the wrong color thread is chosen.

First up is a dark green batik pieced with a light gray thread. See those tiny dots of thread in the seam?
The same dark green stitched with white thread. Yes, I do have a death grip on the fabric to show what happens, even if the stitches are balanced. But...I have actually seen people do this to seams on my finished quilts. Do I pay attention to this? You bet. Did I when I was new to quilting? Not always. But when I look at those older quilts now, I wish I had known then what I know now. If you can't be a good example, be a horrible warning. I was the latter, now I'm trying to be the former.

Here's a black fabric pieced with a white fabric. Think thread color doesn't make a difference here? Proof is in the picture. I pieced this seam with white thread. See the white stitches against the black? If I had used black, you wouldn't have seen the stitches at all.

The moral of this story? When choosing thread to piece with, match the darker fabric. I use the same color in the bobbin and in the needle. Do I sometimes have to change threads if the bulk of the quilt is dark but the background is light? Yes. Where the two lights come together I change to the lighter thread. Why? Because the darker thread will shadow in the seam. It's an attention to detail.

I use a lot of gray thread in my sewing. Although I have all (yes, I said all) the 50 and 60 wt. Mettler threads, I buy #713 (taupe), #736 (light gray), #724 (medium gray), #758 (dark gray), and black by the box. But I still need the other colors--because if I am making a brown quilt, I need brown thread.

Jay said he thought I must have thread hidden elsewhere from what I showed you--the answer is that all my 50 and 60 wt. threads are only in those boxes. My quilting thread is stored elsewhere, mostly by brand and sometimes by weight. We'll visit those another day.

Remember on my masthead that it says I am very opinionated. Truth in advertising--I am!

Next up: Needles, both hand and machine.

Hugs to all!


P.S. I am listening to Lost Empire by Clive Cussler. Reading a funny book on dressage, which I know you probably don't care about!

P.P.S. Hi, Laurie! Hi, Mary Ann! See you soon!

P.P.P.S. Janet, I'd be interested in what parts you disagree with! You can email me privately, if you'd like.


  1. Thanks for all this excellent advice! And the great pictures! I agree with you on thread color - I get too obsessed with it sometimes! Can't wait for your thoughts on quilting thread.


  2. Hi Sharon,
    Love the tips on thread. Catching up on your posts. Can't wait to get sewing again after spending 2 weeks in Texas.
    See you soon at Applique!

    Mary Ann

  3. Sharon, I have discovered an interesting way to "read" while sewing.(I love doing 2 things at once - it's like adrenaline to me)... Audible books. I subscribe to and play the book on the computer in the sewing room while I'm sewing. One I just finished "Chosen by a Horse" by Susan Richards. Great book. Wonderful Narration.

  4. I can disagree in public...but in fact, I agree with almost everything you've said.

    Most of the time I use 100% cotton thread. It's all I use for piecing. But for applique, and any quilting application that doesn't involve stress on a seam I really think alternatives to cotton are okay. I like using silk thread for applique. It blends into the applique nicely and I don't have to have a lot of different colors on hand.

    If I had a close, local source for 60 weight cotton thread I might change my tune, but I don't. So I have my 5 spools of 100 weight silk thread.:)

    I don't do a lot of machine quilting, but according to Bob at Superior Thread, polyester makes a great choice for machine quilting. The reasoning is the same - no stress on the seam so it won't cut the fabric.


  5. Hi Sharon,
    Happy New Year!!!!
    Now that the holidays are over, I hope to settle down and get busy on my applique. Looking forward to our next class. See you soon.

  6. Wonderful tutorials!!! Pictures are worth a thousand words. I am curious about silk thread, as someone recommended it to me when I started my Grandmother's Flower Garden Hexagon crusade, er project, some years back. This was, of course, before I became emlightened. Since I have several HUNDRED sewn, I can't go back, lest there be bloodstains...LOL, but should I switch to cotton? These are all the feed sack reproduction fabrics,but I wanted to give it to my daughter as something special.

    HUGS and miss you BUNCHES!!!!

    PS Have you ever considered a mail order applique class??? I HAVE WITHDRAWLS.....


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