Guest Post: Danielle of Nacho Mama’s Quilt

Today we have a very special treat! Actually every month you’ll get this treat again and again! As you know, I’m doing a Too Many Tops Challenge and since I needed some advice about how to proceed with my quilting, I called my good friend Danielle who has recently become a full time long arm quilter (so naturally I call her for advice about quilting) and as we were talking I asked if she’d be willing to write up a little post each month about quilting. She happily agreed and so this fabulous series was born!  Read on for this month’s feature about choosing thread for quilting your tops!

It sounds official, doesn’t it?  I am here to help Anna and her aweseome readers get those quilt tops turned into finished quilts by imparting all my machine quilting wisdom.  You do not need a longarm to get your tops done– I quilted my tops on my basic domestic machine for 16 years before venturing into the longarming lifestyle, and in those 16 years, I only sent one quilt to the longarmer– my very first quilt, and that’s all.  Whether you are finishing your quilts yourself or having someone else finish them for you, this bit of insight might help you through the process of quiltmaking.

This month, our topic is thread.  Thread choices can be overwhelming because there are so many brands, so many fiber options, and so many colors.  Let’s simplify this so that you know what is the best thread for your project.

Choosing the thread weight

First, determine if you want your quilt to showcase your quilting stiches or if you just wanted it quilted without your stitches being featured.  If you are new to free-motion quilting (FMQ), you probably aren’t ready to showcase your quilting, so you might want to start with a thin thread.  The higher the thread number, the thinner the thread.  I recommend YLI 100 wt. silk thread.  It also comes in variegated options.  This thread is so fine (but strong enough to not break on you!) that you can switch colors half-way through your quilt and put another color on, and when you are looking at the quilt as a whole, you won’t even notice the different thread colors because you can hardly see the stitches.  This is predominantly what I used once I discovered it. 

By the time I had used about 10 spools of this, I was more confident in my stitching and was ready for something a little more showy, which meant I needed a thread that I could actually see.  I picked up a spool of Isacord, which is a polyester thread used for embroidery.  It is a strong thread, but not particularly a thick thread.  Since it is recommended for machine embroidery, you can really sew with your pedal to metal without it breaking, which I love.  Not a whole lot of threads are great for high speed stitching– which is what you are doing when you are stippling.  Isacord is a 40 weight, but since there is no industry standard, that doesn’t mean a whole lot.  What I like about this thread is that it’s a little thicker, but also that you can use it in the top and in your bobbin, whether you are on a domestic or a longarm.  It’s a great thread for a great price that comes in a bajillion colors.  On a downside, it’s a weird size of a cone, so I prefer to use a thread stand with it instead of putting it on my machine’s spool holder.

And then the thread I love the most, right now, today, which is the thickest thread I use is King Tut by Superior Threads (Egyptian cotton).  This thread is fat.  Like, big, juicy, fat baby thighs (one of my favorite things ever) that you just want to chew on.  It’s also phat meaning that no other thread can compare to its awesomeness.  When you want people to notice your stitches, put some of this on your quilt.  If you use this, people will automatically gravitate more toward the quilting than the fabrics or design, and it will definitely be noticed, so don’t use it until you are ready to show off a little.  I do recommend using something a little thinner, like a 50 weight, in your bobbin.  I use So Fine in my bobbin when I am stitching with Tut.

Take a look at one of the quilt tops you need to finish.  For example, here is one I made a year ago.

I would use a 50 weight for the printed areas because I don’t want to take away from the prints.  On the green solid background pieces, however, that’s where I’d use King Tut.  Definitely.  This is also where I’d spend my time making fancier stitches because most of my other stitches on the prints would get lost, but that’s another post. 

Choosing your thread color

When figuring out which colors to use, consider the colors in your quilt.  And pull a few spools (even if they are the wrong type of thread, pull them anyway just to audition your colors.  You can always buy the brand and weight of thread in a shade similar to that one later.

Don’t just look at the spools as a whole.  Lay the actual threads across your quilt to truly audition them.  This is how you learn what you like and what you don’t like.  Feel free to throw variegated thread choices out there, too.

When considering variegated thread, once again, I have to talk about King Tut.  One reason I like it is because many of the variegated colors aren’t too drastic in their changes, say from going to blue, to pink, to something else on the other side of the color wheel.  Instead, they might be from bone to sand to beige to ecru to parchment.  Once stitched, many of them look more over-dyed rather than variegated.  There is a thread that Anna likes to use called Star by Coats & Clark which has a similar look.  It is indeed gorgeous thread, but it is not easily found in person.  Take a look at it, and if you see it, buy a spool and give it a try.  That’s my plan.

Regarding your thread color choices, it’s really about what you like and what you want featured on your quilt.  It’s also about how confident you are with your stitches.  There are some rules of thumb that I use, though.

  • My cardinal rule:  when you are trying to choose between two shades of the same color, go with lighter.  Always. (or it will look like you scribbled on your quilt)  Lesson learned the very hard way.
  • Always audition your threads, though, because it is possible to have a thread that is too light, especially if all the colors on your quilt are pretty saturated.
  • Don’t be afraid to use multiple thread colors or types of thread in one quilt.

One tool that might help is to see if there a color card for the types of threads that you like, when you discover what thread works for you at this stage in the game.  I use my color cards more often than I ever thought I would.

Grab those quilt tops, and then go buy some thread.  Next month, we’ll talk about making your quilt backing (which is much easier to do than selecting thread!)

By the way, I have no sponsors, so neither Superior nor any other thread company has given me anything free or coerced me into saying nice things about them.  I’m a free agent, folks, and these opinions belong solely to me.

Thanks so much Danielle! Now if you enjoyed this post, please stop by her blog, Nacho Mama’s Quilt and say hi!

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this valuable information (especially, perhaps, for a beginner like me) and for giving me the courage to try machine quilting with my basic Singer. I had given up the idea thinking I would surely need a new machine but I might just give it a try now, thanks to you.

  2. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks.

  3. I’ll chime in on the King Tut bandwagon! Awesome thread. I use it the long arm machine that I rent, and I use it in my basic (mid 90s era) Singer consumer grade machine at home.

    It is an awesome thread to use.

    Paul
    http://www.OutnumberedQuilter.com

  4. Karyn Ashley-Smith says:

    Thank you!

  5. What a great post. We are so happy you like King Tut. It is a beautiful thread indeed. Thank you for mentioning it. We truly appreciate it your loyalty.

    Ricci
    Superior Threads

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  1. […] challenge will have a little extra information to help the task seem a little less daunting.  So here is the first one– all about picking your thread. Eco World Content From Across The […]

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