Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Threads for machine quilting

My lap quilt is now all ready to quilt.

  I am proud of the fact that I have managed to make the backing from leftover pieces from the front.

However, this does pose a question as to the best thread to use in the bobbin.  I plan to quilt 'in the ditch' and I certainly do not want to be stopping and changing bobbins all the time.  As it is some years since I machine quilted a quilt of this size (it is 62 inches square) I decided I would consult my fellow Contemporary Quilters by putting a message up on the Yahoo site.  I am aware that we have had a lot of new members recently and I thought that some of them would probably be interested in the answers too.

Well, a question like this leads to answers of the 'how long is a piece of string (thread)' variety.  It appears that there are quilters who would never dream of pressing their seams open although I seem to remember learning years ago that that is what you did when machine piecing and that pressing the seams to one side was for hand-stitching.  Not so, apparently.  The seams on this quilt are pressed open and I have never had any problems with them wearing out, not even on the quilt on my bed which has been washed frequently.

The second issue is what thread to use on the bottom.  Obviously I have a problem about colour as light thread will show up on the dark and dark on the light.  I am inclined to go with the person who suggested variegated thread as I know that will blend in a bit better.  I also asked about the weight of the thread in the bobbin.  Originally I think I used to use the same thread top and bottom but then people said you should use something a bit lighter weight in the bobbin so that it disappeared into the quilt and did not migrate through to the top.  (My Bernina can be a bit temperamental about all this.)  Several people have recommended Bottom Line thread by Superior Threads.  This is not one I have tried and I see that it is polyester which I have been a bit snobby about in the past.  I think that was because I was using pure cotton in the top and thought I should be using cotton in the bottom too.  I respect the people who recommended this, at least one of whom said she uses rayon embroidery thread in the top, so I will definitely buy some.

For the top thread I plan to use a variegated thread I already have.  I have quite a range of reels of variegated quilting threads in shades of brown, beige and grey but half the labels have fallen off so I am not sure what they are.  I generally use YLI but a couple of these reels are ones I bought while doing a workshop and I cannot identify the brand..  One person recommended King Tut thread so I looked it up on-line and I think at least one of my unidentified reels is definitely that.  At least I will now be able to work out its weight.  The general advice is to balance the weights.

Some people commented on needles.  One person said she always used a 60.  I would not be able to see that nor to thread it, given that I have never mastered the needle threader on the Bernina and my varifocal glasses have their limitations.  I have only ever gone as fine as a 70 and have to confess to a 90 quilting needle as my default.

This tiny piece of market research has proved yet again that everyone has a preferred way of doing things and that there are many different threads and techniques that people use.  I think the next step is for me to do a few trial pieces but not until I have bought some Bottom Line thread and a new pair of quilting gloves.  The ones in the photo have a hole at the tip of one of the fingers where I had to cut the glove after I had sewn it to the quilt.


  1. First off, it's not so brown as I thought! Like the gloves, are these of the quilting variety?

    I have been following the posts on what thread to use. I come under the category of the old lady who said she used something she bought in the market! I use what I have, and, so far it seems to work. For stitching a 60 or 70 needle, with a bit of white paper behind the needle to aid threading.

    For the backing of the on going quilt I am using a neutral thread, pale grey. At least it blends in and doesn't stand out too much.

    Have fun!

    1. I have now done a trial using some variegated Gutterman thread I already have in both top and bottom. It is fine unless it runs out as I have no idea where I bought it! The gloves are quilting gloves I have had for years. So I think I shall just do what I learnt years ago. All this has made me aware that we absorb techniques and 'rules' without realising it.

  2. I'm a kind of ' go with what i've got' kind of gal when it comes to traditional quilting. So will be interesting to hear what you go with in the end and how it works out.