Top Quilting Tips – No. 5 – Nice Threads Man!

In our countdown to classes series here is tip number


Nice threads doesn’t refer to topics on message boards (for the more modern) or the white suit John Travolta sported in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (for those of us more vintage than modern). I’m talking about the myriad thread choices we have when we are piecing and quilting (and hand sewing too). Do we choose cotton, metallic, silk or polyester? And what does weight mean?


Different numbering systems are used in order to specify different sewing threads. Apparently different spinning mills used their own thread sizing systems and there are still several in operation today. Complex n’est pas?

Basically the systems are based on weight. The Tex system was invented to be the standard in the industry. In this system the higher the number the heavier the thread. Unfortunately it hasn’t quite taken the quilting world by storm.

What quilters like are the weight standard  and the number standard. Under the weight system the larger the number the finer the thread. So 50wt is finer than 30wt. Why? Because it takes 50 metres of 50wt to weigh one gram whereas it only takes 30 metres of 30wt to weigh one gram because it’s heavier.

Confused? We haven’t even mentioned plies (the number of yarns twisted together to make a single thread) or the denier standard that embroiderers use! That standard is based on the weight of nine kilometres of thread. Think about that when you’re tying up your roses with your old panty-hose!



There are even formulas to determine thread count which I won’t divulge here but trust me they exist.

Your formula is to use a good quality thread. Personally I like Rasant (a core-spun thread – meaning it has a polyester core and cotton covering.). For general piecing it is strong, robust and reliable. You can use it for quilting too and generally beginners would use this in one of our classes without any trouble. Plus there are lots of colours to choose from.

images4S2S8EI0 rasant


For free motion quilting I really like Wonderfil Mirage (a 30wt rayon) because it is a variegated thread that really pops and enhances the quilting. Of course if you use a finer thread such as Mirage you need to use the appropriate bobbin thread (also finer) such as Invisafil so it doesn’t all end in tears and broken threads.

23-Thread  invisafil

There are videos here from Wonderfil showing what you can do with Mirage thread.

Linen threads are very useful for hand quilting and, if you have hyper-embellishment disorder like me you will favour metallic and silk threads for that extra ta-da element.

metallic  imagesEP78I67U

I think we’ll have a closer look at the different threads and what they can do for your quilting during the year because there really are dozens of options.

When it comes to thread choices, colour is another issue. Did you know that Marsala is the Pantone colour of the year?


It is described as a “hearty yet stylish tone”. Some others say it’s more reminiscent of bodily functions and decrepit buildings. What do you think? Is it outside your comfort zone?

Your task today is to :

Have a look in your stash at what threads you have. Is there an abundance of neutrals or are 80% of them the same colour (I have lots of blue)? Have a look at them again and see if there are some gaps in your choices – either colour-wise or texture-wise. Resolve to widen your repertoire this year.

You’re halfway through your tasks now so you deserve a little reward. Have a look at this video. It’s a little sexist but it made me smile.

 Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting


If you’ve missed any posts in this series find them here:

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