Author: Stacy McDougall
What kind of quilting
thread should I use? This is one of the most
common questions we hear. The answer is simple,
and difficult, at the same time.
The first thing to decide is
what fiber to use. Rayon, polyester, cotton,
silk, or metallic?
All have their pros and
cons, but basically it comes down to personal
preference. I believe in using whatever
quilting threads work for your project. If it
works well in your machine, and you like the
effect you get while using it, then don't
hesitate, enjoy it!
Don't let the quilting "police" tell you what
you should or should not use in your project.
As odd as it sounds, sewing machines have
preferences too. So experiment, and don't be
afraid to use a particular thread just because
it's not "made for that".
100% cotton thread is the
traditional choice for quilting. A 50wt cotton
thread is still the most popular choice for
quilt piecing. Cotton is a natural thread that
gives a soft, matte look.
Cotton quilting thread is
available in a wide range of weights, and is
suitable for most sewing and embroidery
projects. 40wt and 50wt are the most common,
but cotton threads range from 8wt to 100wt.
Cotton thread does not
stretch a great deal, and will break if pulled
too tightly. Cotton threads will fade with the
sun, and shrink in the wash, so treat them as
you would cotton fabrics.
Most cotton threads sold now
are mercerized. This is a chemical and heat
process that increases the luster of the
thread. During the mercerizing process, fuzzy
threads are burned off, creating a smoother
surface. This smooth surface reflects light,
increasing the luster of the thread. It also
has the effect of increasing water absorbency,
making the thread easier to dye.
Long staple cotton is finer
and stronger than regular cotton.
Most high quality threads are made with long
staple cotton, creating a softer, stronger,
higher luster thread. Long staple threads tend
to have fewer slubs, lumps of lint spun into
the cotton threads.
Silk is an elastic, though
very strong thread, and is among the most
beautiful of natural fibers. It has a high
sheen, and creates a distinctive look when used
in embroidery projects.
Pure filament silk is the
highest quality silk, as the fibers do not need
to be spun, they come naturally in long strands
from the silkworm.
Spun silks are made of
shorter fibers. They come from broken cocoons
or the beginning and end of cocoons.
Thinner silk threads are
ideal for hand appliqué, the stitches tend to
sink into the fabrics and "disappear". Silk
threads are used in many high quality sewn
Silk thread, and projects
created with silk thread can be gently washed
in the washing machine with a mild soap.
Bleaching agents should not be used as they can
damage the threads.
Polyester quilting thread is
very strong and economical.
Polyester thread won't fade or shrink in the
The luster, or sheen, of
polyester thread falls between that of cotton
and rayon. A medium luster thread, it is
suitable for almost any quilting project.
Polyester threads do have
some give or stretch to them.
Polyester quilting threads
are available in a wide range of solid and
variegated colors. Like Rayon, the most popular
thread size is 40wt, but 30wt and 50wt can be
Rayon threads perform
consistently well in sewing machines with very
little breaking and fraying. Rayon is a high
sheen thread, and often used as a lower cost
alternative to silk threads.
Most rayon quilting threads
are available in 40wt, though 30wt can be found
without effort. A wide range of colors and
shades are available, including variegated
Though some brands can be,
rayon threads are not generally colorfast. It
is best to avoid using any bleaching agents,
including those made for colors.
Rayon threads do deteriorate
over time, so attention should be paid to how
it is stored. In low humidity regions, rayon
threads can be stored in the refrigerator to
extend thread life for a long as possible.
In most cases, when it comes
to quilting thread, you get what you pay for.
Good quilting thread will stand up to
high-speed machines without breaking or
shredding. Bargain bin threads are inexpensive,
but of poor quality, and will cost you in time
Have fun, and don't be
afraid to experiment with thread.
About the author:
Stacy McDougall's company, <A
Rock Threads</A> sells quilting, sewing
and embroidery thread online. View the <A
Thread</A> that Red Rock Threads has to