How to choose the right thread for your quilting project

How’s the doodling? Isn’t that just the best tip ever? Wait until you get going and you’ll be totally surprised at how easy free motion quilting can be when you know where you’re going. Think of going into a large city and having no idea how to get from A to B. But if you have a GPS (your doodles), you’re way more comfortable.

We’re continuing our free motion adventure using the Husqvarna Viking Designer Topaz 50 sewing and embroidery machine!

Let’s see what’s in store for today!

Husqvarna Viking Designer Topaz 50 with optional extension table

Choosing thread

The thread you use is a very important factor in how the finished project looks. What thread weight should I use? What color works best? Will I have to adjust the tension? Do I have to use the same thread weight in the bobbin and the top? What about the color – does it have to be the same in the bobbin and the top?

The only reasonable answer I can say is “it depends!”

I’m going to focus on quilting a couple of projects and show you what the end result looks like and why I choose the style of quilting that I did and what thread I used in the bobbin and on top. There’s no right or wrong in these choices. It’s what one has on hand at that time or it could be for a number of reasons that those choices were made! And like everything, the more you do, the more experienced you become and you can make better choices.

I decided to make a tote bag from this panel by Northcott. I only want to use the middle section of the panel for this particular project. The top and bottom motifs will be used for other projects. So I started with two panels. It’s from the Artisan Spirit Flight of Fancy collection.

Northcott Artisan Spirit Flight of Fancy panel

I had chosen the variegated orange/gold FabuLux thread from WonderFil to quilt the bag. I knew that I was only going to use the middle section of the panel.

Now you can’t try this in the store, but here’s the ideal way to view how a thread will look on your project. Reel off a couple of feet and lay it on top of the project – does it look OK???

By looking OK – you need to ask yourself – do you want the quilting stitches to show? Will a contrasting thread compete with the main motif? Do I want the thread to blend in and provide only texture?

In the picture below, the variegated thread is too dark to be used in the background of the top motif but I could quilt the motif with this color. Too dark of thread in the background would compete with the motif.

The darker thread would compete with the main motif if it were used in the background

The thread blends in beautifully with the motif in the middle section of the panel. You won’t see the stitches, but you’ll see the texture which is just what I wanted! I’m not sure I would use this in the background as the top part of the background is still fairly light.

The variegated thread blends in with the motif beautifully to provide visible texture

In the example below, I could probably use the variegated thread in either the background or the motif itself to provide visible texture. If I wanted the quilting stitches to show, I would have to pick a completely different color.

Thread blends into the motif and the background in the bottom section of the panel

I’m making a very simple tote bag. The two pieces on the ends will be the sides of the bag and the section on the bottom of the center panel will be the bottom of the bag. I’m making two sections like this. I won’t have the bag completed by the end of the week, but I’ll have parts of the bag made so you can see how perfect the thread color is.

The pieces for ONE-half of the tote bag

I could use several different thread options for this tote bag. Did I want to use a metallic thread? Did I want a matching or contrasting thread? Invisible thread?

Since this is a tote bag, it doesn’t need a lot of quilting and I don’t want the quilting to be the main focus, I want the motif and the fabric to be the focus. That’s why I’ve chosen the matching thread color.

Here’s another example of numerous options for the type and color of thread to choose for a project. I’ve got metallics, cotton, and rayon. I’m going to have to pick one!

Various thread choices for the snowman table runner

I hope to incorporate more machine quilting into my blog posts. That’s how much fun I’m having! So if you have suggestions for the type of project you would like quilting ideas for – let me know!

When I was getting ready for vacation, I came across this embroidered block that was done but not quilted. Hm – what color thread would I use to quilt this one? See how the black thread would just make this a muddy mess. Even the brown thread on the bottom would be too much, but the light beige in the top left works just fine even though it looks dark on the spool. Just goes to show that you need to reel off a length of thread before you can make a call on the specific color!

Thread choices for an embroidered block

In this next example, I want to do some stitch in the ditch around the applique and also to follow the embroidered vines. No need for something thick as I want the texture only and not for the quilting stitches to show. That’s a spool of beige InvisaFil from WonderFil. GASP – beige?

Yes – that’s what I’m going to use. The thread is a 100 weight – 2 ply, so very thin. If the project is quilted carefully, the thread won’t show.

WonderFil’s InvisaFil in beige for the quilting on this small wall hanging

Variegated thread options

Since one of the threads I’m going to use is variegated, I thought I’d spend a moment to chat about variegated threads. It’s hard to tell when the thread is wound on a spool, but an important factor to check is how long the spans are between the variegations. You should be able to find this out on the internet or ask the shop owner if they have a sample on hand.

I thought I’d show you a sample of how these two similar colored variegated threads differ from each other.

Two different brands of orange variegated thread

We interrupt this blog post……..

There’s a moral to this diversion so please bear with me!

It’s very hard to photograph black fabric in my studio so I decided to take it outside to snap pictures on my deck. Next thing I knew, my two helpers (dogs) were jumping around and very excited to be helping ‘mom’ take pictures.

While Lexi created a diversion by stretching and then laying on my fabric, Murphy snatched one of my spools of thread! Wait – come back here with that!

Lexi creates a diversion while Murphy (the thief) hides in the background

When I got the spool of thread back after mere seconds, there were a few dents in the spool. I wound off a couple of outer layers and thinking I’m good to go, I loaded the thread onto the Designer Topaz 50 so I could proceed with my stitch-out.

Spool of thread with dents (from dog bite)

Hmm – I seem to be having some problems with the sewing machine. I changed presser feet, I changed the thread to a vertical position and I unwound some more of the thread.

Turns out that bite went deep and the entire spool of thread was pretty much toast!

Look at what those sharp teeth did to the thread – almost bit through but not quite. Yards and yards and yards of it was like that.

The thread was damaged by a dog bite!

Thankfully she took the spool that was my own and I was simply going to use it for my stitch-out! I’ve put it back in my sample box that I use for teaching.

The moral of this story is – keep spools of thread away from your pets! This is the second spool that Murphy has stolen and destroyed!

And now back to the blog post……

I did manage to get a bit of a stitch out with the damaged thread. You can see that thread on the left side of the sample below.  The color variegates from an orange to a very pale yellow and the variegation is quite long. The sample on the right (FabuLux by WonderFil) doesn’t have as much variation in the value of the color and the variegation is much shorter.

Again, there’s no right or wrong, it’s just knowing that each one is different and stitch outs help to learn how each thread will suit your project. It’s essential to stitch samples of the variegated thread if you’re not familiar with it.

Stitch-outs of two different brands of variegated thread

What did I use in the bobbin? For both types of thread (the damaged thread was a 40 weight rayon thread and the other one was a 40 weight 3 ply polyester), I used the InvisaFil in the bobbin. I also tried a 50 weight piecing thread.

In the sample below you can see the tension is a slight bit off in the left-hand sample. That’s because I was messing with the tension because I thought I knew better than the Designer Topaz 50 did. But alas, I was wrong! I ended up putting the tension back to what the default was and it worked like a charm!

Note to self – don’t try to fix what isn’t broken!

Two different thread weights used in the bobbin

Let’s just say that I learned a few things while writing this post.

  1. Don’t let the dogs steal thread!
  2. Don’t mess with the tension unless there is a problem
I’m very excited about the results of the quilting sample with the Husqvarna Viking Designer Topaz 50. I had used several different thread weights in the top and bobbin and there was no need to change the tension. Imagine sitting down at your sewing machine and being able to just start quilting? That’s what I call exciting!
Tomorrow, I’m going to actually start quilting some of the projects that I have to show you. Make sure you come back for that.
Have a great day!

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2: The power of paper, marker and clipboard for free motion quilting designs

Go to part 4: 6 essential tips for perfect free motion quilting


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1 comment

Diannah Carmichael September 27, 2017 - 7:19 am
It 's always good to have security on hand to protect your work--and just look how happy he is.
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