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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Threads of Many Colors and Fibers Too!

Which is the right one to use when and why do we offer what we offer?

We have always heard and still agree that using 100% cotton thread is still the best thing for cotton quilts. However, now with quilts being used in more ways, we find quilters are willing to use other threads for a variety of reasons and so are we. Quilts are no longer used just for bedding, so not every quilt made has to endure many washings and hard use. The silk, polyester and rayon threads allow us to get new elements into the quilting, but they aren't for every situation. Decorative stitching can be added to make the quilt prettier, more interesting or fun or a piece of art. Thread painting and machine embroidery has become very popular among crafters and artists alike.  Below we only hope to offer you a guide for the selection of thread in relation to its use.

In general, we almost always use cotton for piecing, whether by hand or machine.

However – again depending on the quilt’s use, wear and tear – if there are lots of tiny pieces, like there would be in Paula Nadelstern's Kaleidoscope blocks, then we love our 100% Cotton Fine Thread (120 weight) for machine piecing. It reduces the bulk in the seam allowance.
For piecing quilts with larger pieces or quilts that will receive more wear, i.e. a baby quilt, we love 100% Cotton Silk-Finish Mettler - 50 weight 3-ply. We carry the twelve most popular solid colors and all 54 variegated colors.  All Mettler silk-finish cotton thread is mercerized which creates that beautiful silk-like sheen, high breaking resistance, color fastness and optimal elongation.

Sidebar:  Variegated colors are ideal for machine quilting, machine embroidery and other special thread effects. We especially love the Mettler Silk Finish 50-weight variegated colors because the colors change at regular 1” intervals, therefore creating that lovely variegated look.  Aurifils variegated thread changes color more spread out and more randomly in length, therefore the effect might appear more “stripey, or bunched,”   for lack of better term. So in truth, as a more decorative look, it just depends on what you want.

The 100% Cotton Aurifil 50 weight 2-ply is good for peicing too, but it is a 2 ply so it isn't as strong as the Mettler 3-ply. To us, Mettler, is still the utilitarian thread.

However, that being said – we do tend to recommend the Aurifil 50-weight 2-ply thread as a universal thread.  Though truthfully consideration should be given to how much wear and tear the quilt will receive. And because it is only a 2-ply thread, it will reduce seam allowance bulk, it is great for wall-hangings, heirloom quilts, hand and machine appliqué, as well as machine quilting.

When we took a thread painting class locally, we noticed the Aurifil had the ability to absorb more light and therefore produced more beautiful motifs. It was far superior to any of the other cottons being used which were duller, but, of course, even it doesn't have the brilliance of the rayon and metallics and NOW gorgeous trilobal polyesters - the newest addition to our thread family - more below.

The Invisafil polyester thread is whole new generation. When Harriet Hargraves introduced Heirloom Machine quilting – over 25 years ago, some quilters didn't take to it right away because of the monofilament thread.

Now, with Invisafil, we see a whole new generation of machine quilters as well as hand and machine appliqué because it takes very close inspection to find it at all. Invisafil is a 2-ply 100-weight soft polyester thread.  It can be ironed.  It will disappear into the fabric.

Another use for Invisafil is to use it as the bobbin thread for machine embroidery. By its nature embroidery thread produces bulk, therefore if you use Invisafil in the bobbin will make the end result much lighter and softer. Or stipple with it to enhance your finished quilting work.  And it is taking the machine and hand appliqué world be storm because it virtually hides into the fabric.

We thought we would see it replace monofilament altogether until we discovered Madeira 60 weight Monofilament – smoke and clear – and the thread of choice for art quilter Barbara Shapel. Oh my, it is nice. It too has been added to our thread family.

And last but not least – Kimono Silk thread.  This is a 100-weight, 2-ply filament silk thread, and the finest Japanese thread made.  Because it is silk, it naturally has a lustrous sheen and excellent strength.  There are 80 colors available which gives you 20 more choices in color for machine or hand appliqué than the Invisafil thread.

When all is said and done, it all does come down to your own preference.  And if you do think about how the quilt will be used (wear), or the effect you wish to create, then hopefully the information above will guide you towards the right direction.

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