Hello Everyone… as we prepare for the Doodle Fiesta next week and the sewing up of the doodle groups the following week, a review of which threads and needles to choose for machine quilting is a great topic to cover now. Before I get started, in years gone by sewists often weren’t wealthy people and so the choices they had were limited. Whilst the information below is based on my own experience, at the end of the day, we cut our cloth to fit what we have.. so use what you have and that will be fine 🙂
The first thing to consider is what effect you are looking for. Do you want the quilting to contrast or blend in with the fabrics in the quilt? Where do you want the focal point to be? I tend to sit on the fence. I don’t want the quilting designs to simply echo my patchwork piecing, but neither do I want to take away from the work I have already done with my piecing. Unless I am doing a sample, I tend to use threads which will blend in with my piecing yet add another element to it, rather than dominate it.
There are lots of different types of thread on the market, but the most popular are cotton, metallic and polyester (rayon). Cotton threads tend to have a more matte finish, whilst polyester threads often have a shine to them. Metallic threads glimmer, but can be more difficult to work with as tend not to be as strong as cotton or polyester. I like shiny thread, so most often quilt with polyester thread.
Thread weight is usually marked on the spool. Sewing thread is thicker as the number decreases. A 30w thread is much thicker than an 80w thread. Whilst a 40w thread is a popular choice for quilting, I have found that 50w or 60w cotton threads blend into the fabric more successfully, but a 40w polyester thread is my best choice (often called a number 40 when relating to polyester weight) as it is shiny and appears far more like a 50w cotton thread weight. Thread size is not an exact science and so a 50w thread from two different manufacturers will often feel different – very similar to clothes sizes from different High Street shops. If you see a weight with another number with it, for example, 50/2 or 50/3 this is the weight of the thread and then the number of ply/strands.
My goto threads are polyester Glide Thread or Isacord (both 40w) for machine quilting (and Aurilfil 28w for hand quilting). Don’t forget, for machine quilting, it is vital that you use the same weight of thread in the bobbin.
In terms of needles, when I can find them, I opt for titanium needles as the thin layer of titanium nitride keeps them sharper for longer and so won’t need changing so often. The rule of thumb is that the type of needle you use will match the fabric you are sewing. The finer the fabric, the finer the needle should be. In addition, if the eye of the needle is too small for the thread you are using, it will shred, and if it is too big, it will likely leave holes behind in your fabric as the hole made by the needle as the thread isn’t big enough to fill the hole.
For my quilting, I tend to use either a quilting or a topstitch needle. The tapered shape of the quilting needle is designed to stitch through multiple layers which is ideal for quilting. A topstitch needle has a longer eye which allows more air to circulate around the thread as it whizzes through. I find that thread breaks frequently when it gets hot, so would recommend when you are starting out or just practising, that you use a topstitch needle.
For domestic machines, the size of the needle you are looking for is somewhere between 70/10-80/12. The first number is the European (metric) number and the second is the Americal (universal) metric. I do sometimes buy 90/14 topstitch needles, I don’t find the size too large for what I am doing, but I am using them in much larger domestic machines.
So now you are fully briefed…. get set … we are about to start doodling again xx