I started out my sewing career thinking “thread was thread”, but when I got my first sewing machine and took my first sewing lesson, I was told they are not all created equal. For our nice, probably-spendy sewing machines we want to take care of them, so in my first sewing lesson I was taught to not use the “cheap stuff” because it sheds more fibers inside our precious machines. The cheap spools are extra sheddy with their fibers which can get everywhere, so even with regular monthly/weekly/post-project cleaning you can run into trouble (and cuss words 😆). Some threads brands to avoid are cheaper ones like Coats & Clark and others you’ll find at “big box stores”.
When I first started sewing I wasn’t particular about polyester vs cotton thread, so I was buying Gütterman—one of the better thread brands—and was happy. Then I came into the quilty world and not only did the quilt shops (or at least my local ones) singularly carry Aurifil, I also needed straight cotton—no poly—thread because I was hoping to make microwave projects (poly will melt), so I fully switched to Aurifil’s wonderful 50wt, 3-ply, long staple thread and haven’t looked back. I also, personally like and prefer the cotton thread for all my projects as I’m not a fan of polyester (aka plastic, a petroleum by-product) although it can have its place, if you’re not particular, in their strength as it’s stronger than cotton. A common polyester quilt-piecing thread is Mettler, although I don’t know much about it other than it’s one I see used a lot in the quilty world.
The Thread “wt” or Weight
Geeky moment… The weight of the thread is actually determined by the length. Weird, right!?! The amount (length) of thread needed to weigh 1 kg is how it’s determined. For example, if it takes 40 kilometers of thread to weigh 1 kg, then the thread is 40wt. This actually explains why a thinner thread has a higher number… it’s thinner, so it’s lighter, so it takes more length to reach 1 kg. Cool! 😃1
The standard measuring system Aurifil uses is based on hanks and pounds. The number of hanks to measure a pound.2
The ply is in reference to how many strands of cotton are spun together to create the thread.3 For threads we want 2+ ply. Aurifil is a 3-ply thread meaning there are three strands spun together to create the final thread. Those three strands make the thread stronger than a 2-ply and definitely better than 1-ply.
Cotton can be grown in many different areas of the world including the US, Egypt, the middle east, Brazil, China, India and many more. The different areas produce different quality levels of cotton. The length of the fibers in the raw cotton Boll (the plucked “fruit” we process and use) determine its “staple length”, the longer the staple the better quality the cotton.2 We want the long staple for our threads as they’ll hold together better than a short-staple thread.
There are lots of threads out there, some are made with one material, others are a mix. I prefer cotton for all my piecing, but I’m a purist in that I prefer my quilts to be made of all natural materials for fabric, batting, and thread, so I use Aurifil cotton thread for my piecing. That being said, I will say my longarmer uses a 100% polyester thread for all of her quilting, unless a customer special requests cotton. And I do know there is polyester piecing thread out there, Mettler makes some well-known to quilters, but I prefer to stay all natural when I can and all of my local quilt shops (LQS) all carry Aurifil, so it’s easy for me to get.
One last thread type to mention is ones with a “core”. The core is one material—typically polyester, giving it some added strength—and wrapped in another material like polyester or cotton, this is a type I haven’t seen in piecing thread, but you never know 😉.3
Here are some great tips to know about Aurifil 50wt:
- Is great for piecing as it “disappears” into your pieces when the seams are set. It’s also great much more than just quilt piecing, so be creative.
- It's wound on the orange spool, for easy recognition—each spool has a different color, for different weight and easy recognition.
- To find the thread’s starting end on a new spool take off the bottom.
- Use a size 80/12 needle with 50wt in the bobbin as well.
- Aurifil has over 270 colors, but I like to keep it simple… to start your collection buy a white cream, and gray (like this set) then add from there based on what you do most—I typically choose my thread color based on the background fabric color or a skosh darker.
Here’s a great printable “cheat sheet” by Aurifil with a breakdown by thread weight including the best suggestions for jobs for that weight, what machine or hand needle to use, and what to have in the bobbin! 😃
Always pull your thread out the same direction it’s threaded in… via the needle area!
Here’s why: The thread is wound a certain way and intended to move forward always, so when changing thread or troubleshooting trim the thread at the top of your machine where its journey starts and pull it through at the needle area. This prevents more fibers from being caught in the mechanisms of our sewing machines and gumming up the “guts” (and swear words 😅).
A Quick Note on Old Thread:
Did you know thread can “go bad”??? It actually can 😲! So if you have your mother’s or grandmother’s old spools hanging around don’t use them for your quilting projects. You can repurpose them… use them in other not-so-significant projects. Use them as décor (I LOVE old things, especially the antique wooden spools and would decorate with them if I had enough to do that with) check out my Pinterest board for some amazing ideas on how to use the old beauties… in a jar, make a wreath, keychains, ornaments, place card holders, etc. The last and least favorable option is to use them is send them to the “round bin” 🗑️ or donate them if they’re vintage, as sad as that is, they aren’t super useable and I’d rather you didn’t have them around at all if they could cause you to want to use them 😔.
One Last Thing… Storing Bobbins:
Oh! A friend and Quilty Club member asked how to keep bobbins and thread spools together, which I do prefer as well. Here are a couple links…
My personal favorite the, Bobbinis Bobbin Holder by Gypsy Quilter.
These Bobbin Toppers look like a great option as well.
Bobbin Thread Buddies Set is a complete set to keep your thread and bobbins from unravelling, as well as holding the bobbin and spool together.
If you prefer to keep your bobbins all together instead of with the thread these would be my suggestion and something similar to what I have, a thread boat.
Please let me know if you have any questions about your threads or anything really!
Warmth & Love,
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