What thread for quilting?

For about the first year I was quilting, I was a bit unsure about thread choices when it came to actual free motion quilting. It was actually the scariest thing to figure out because I didn’t want to ruin my brand new quilt top. If I had multiple colours in a quilt, which was the right one to choose? If I chose white, wouldn’t that show up and overpower my design? In the end I had to just try some things and see what happened.

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COTTON OR POLYESTER?
I had read around the Internet that you had to match the type of thread to the material it was being sewn into so that the strength matches, so cotton thread for cotton fabric, etc. After doing a couple of Craftsy classes and a bit more reading I discovered that whilst this might be the case for piecing (the thread that holds it together shouldn’t be stronger and able to cut through the fabric under stress), it didn’t hold true for quilting. The quilting holds the layers together, but the actual two dimensional surface is the bit that is important- all those seams provide a lot of opportunity to open up, but you don’t need to worry quite so much about your backing coming away from your wadding, etc.

So yes, I use polyester thread regularly (but not always) when quilting, I particularly like to use a polyester like The Bottom Line in the bobbin if budget allows. It’s thinner so you get more on the bobbin and also the tension seems to be better on my machine. I have also had some success with a much cheaper Coats Moon polyester throughout.

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COLOUR
This was the main thing I couldn’t get my head around. I thought variegated with all the fabric colours might be best but then you can’t predict where that colour will ‘land’. In the end I just tried it, with surprising results. On most colours, a natural/ecru thread disappears pretty well. I didn’t expect that! I’m a bit more relaxed about the whole thing now. Do you remember that quilt I showed you from Quilt and Stitch Village earlier in the year that was black thread on a white wholecloth (below)? That actually looks really good, but you’d have to be so precise with your stitching. If you’re like me and less neat, a matching-ish colour or ecru is better whilst you develop your skills I find.

To find a matching colour, choose the predominant colour in your quilt and lay a bit of unravelled thread on it. It’s easier to see how it will blend than comparing it with the whole spool and will be a bit more accurate in terms of the amount of light on it will make it look lighter on the spool, but when not all bunched up with a load more lustrous thread, it will look more subtle and darker and more forgiving too.

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Above is an example where there’s a lot of contrast and thread choice would be hard to choose. You could quilt the different fabrics in different colours but I just quilted sections in good old ecru and it still looks just as I intended it to.

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WEIGHT
Here’s the thing, I use both 40 and 50 weight threads and I can’t say I’ve noticed much difference. The theory is that the lower the number the thicker the thread, so of course 12wt is going to look chunky monkey. But between 40 and 50 I’m really struggling, so as long as I keep the thread consistent throughout if I empty a spool, I don’t really worry too much. Does anyone else feel the same way?

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