Welcome all! As Master Educator and Aurifilosophy Program Coordinator I’m excited to introduce fellow Aurifilosopher Donna Morales-Oemig of Follow That Thread as the first contributor to Thread Matters 2019 – The Aurifilosopher Series! Donna shares some fantastic insight into using Aurifil thread to solve the never-ending quest to successfully “Quilt As Desired”.
If you missed the January introduction of Aurifilosophy and this fun new series click here to read more. Schedule an Aurifilosophy Program for your shop, group or guild – learn more here.
Karen L. Miller ~ Redbird Quilt Co.
If you only use Aurifil thread for piecing, you are missing out on a lot of fun. It’s true the popular 50wt is great for piecing, but with so many other weights available, aren’t you curious what other things you can do with the thread? This year, a number of Aurifilosophers will share posts on uses for the threads that are dear to their hearts. One of my favorite uses is for the actual quilting of my quilts.
My first introduction to Aurifil thread was 16 years ago at a new machine quilting show. A friend who had a new longarm and I went to learn about the machines and explore threads. She loves a “threadier” look and I like variety. We both bought some Aurifil 40wt and 28wt for quilting. Later, after I opened my thread business and began vending across the country, I started quilting with the other weights. Now, whenever I am at a show, someone will ask me “What is the best weight to quilt with?” My answer is “All of them.”
The decision really depends on the size of the quilt, how densely you will quilt it, and the effect of the thread you want on the surface. Generally, smaller quilts need thinner threads and larger quilts need thicker threads, but it is not a hard rule. Every quilt is different, so you have lots of opportunity to play and experiment. Let’s look at each weight in turn with photos of a commercially available design stitched by an embroidery machine, and samples of quilting from some of my quilts.
Officially, this thread is designed for hand work like English Paper Piecing and Applique. As a quilting thread, it can be effective when you just need a whisper of a thread look on the surface of your quilt.
It can be very effective on miniatures and wall hangings. I do think it is too delicate to use in a bed quilt, especially if you have children or pets that get on your bed. It is worth experimenting with it to add texture and delicate accents to your quilts and small projects. It is currently available in 88 colors on a wooden spool of 300 yards.
Originally, this was the finest thread Aurifil made in the full range of colors. I often suggest it for customers who are nervous about their quilting skills and don’t want people to see the lines they stitch, and for those who like to micro stipple and really add a lot of stitching to their quilts. It is fine enough to hide in the ditch for stitch-in-the-ditch quilting, though for large quilts, this often is not enough quilting to support the weight of the quilt. Use it for smaller motifs, gentle lines, and to let the quilt surface shine, more than the quilting. If you stitch yourself into a corner, you can backtrack over a previous line without excess bulk, too. Compare this design stitched in the 80wt to the same done in the 50wt.
It has a little more visual strength. My Study in Blue quilt, which measures 6’ x 4’ and has over 1500 yards of thread in it, shows the quilting is not overpowering and the fabric is still the star.
40wt is my top recommendation for customers new to machine quilting, whether free motion or walking foot quilting. It provides a little heavier line than the 50, but not too heavy if you are worried about the quilting overpowering the top. The benefit of the slightly thicker line is you can see where you are going while learning new skills. It is a little thick for stitch-in-the-ditch, but pairs well with a quilt done that way with the 50wt. Since the 40wt is the thread weight most digitized embroidery designs are designed for, it is a great weight for quilting with your embroidery machine.
Compare the same quilted design to that done with the 80 and 50 and you can really see the difference.
This is my first choice for hand quilting since it is similar to the traditional 40wt three ply hand quilting thread, and is my friend’s favorite quilting weight in her longarm. She runs 28wt in the top with 40wt in the bobbin to enhance the stitch definition. It creates a strong machine quilted line that can really stand up to a lot of color and pattern on a quilt top and sits well on the surface of napped fabric, like flannels.
With this, it helps to create a slightly longer stitch length so the thread is seen for all its beauty. It can overwhelm a top if quilted too densely, so keep the lines apart a little more than the thinner threads. The embroidery machine quilted piece is a standout next to the thinner threads. My Garden Path quilt in the sample photo usually hangs behind me in my booth at shows. I like how the 28wt thread stands up to all the floral fabrics in the quilt.
This is a newer option in the Aurifil lineup. It is close in appearance to the 28Wt and is available in 3300 yard cones in 50 colors. Some longarm machines handle the rounder profile of a three ply thread better than a flatter profile of a two ply thread. It runs well in domestic machines, too. I have a few baby quilts to make and plan to use the Forty3 on them to play up the quilting designs. In the embroidery quilted sample, there is barely a difference between it and the 28 wt.
This is the thickest thread Aurifil offers that you can run in a machine. The look you get can run from very rustic to very contemporary. It pairs very well with napped fabric, is fun to use in big stitch hand quilting, and looks best when spaced out a little farther so the stitch can shine since it will dominate the top. Don’t think you can only use it on large quilts, however. The extra photo is of my entry to the first QuiltCon where this little quilt won in the Small Minimalist category.
The simple motifs stood out and were the focal point. In the sample done with the embroidery machine, the look is very rich and spaced just far apart enough to still be successful. At shows, this sample gets rave reviews as customers are surprised how nicely a 12wt thread quilts.
I would encourage you to experiment with the thickness of the quilting thread you choose and enjoy the extra design element the thread line gives to your work. As the saying goes, “it’s not a quilt until it’s quilted”, so grab a top from your stack of finished ones and treat yourself to a nice spool of Aurifil thread in whichever weight gives the look you like. Happy Quilting!
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Aurifilosopher Donna Morales-Oemig is the owner of Follow That Thread, an online and traveling retailer and Distributor of Aurifil thread.
The machine quilting by embroidery machine samples are done on the same blue fabric in the same thread color (except for the 80wt, which used a similar color). The design is by Anita Goodesign from the Modern Free Motion Collection. Color was also used to help remind people which weight was stitched, so the 80wt is bound in brown (for wood), the 50wt in orange, the 40wt in green, the 28wt in grey, the Forty3 in yellow, and the 12wt in red.
Thank you for such an informative article & definitive photographs on using different thread weights. For quilting on a domestic machine, what size/type needles and what thread weights do you recommend in the bobbin for the 28wt and 12wt threads?
Most often, I run the same thread top and bobbin with all weights except the 12. With the 12, the goal is to come close for balancing the tension, so I first try the 28, then the 40 if the stitches are too tight. YMMV, so experiment as the result can vary depending on the batting. My first choice of needles are the Quilting style size 90/14 if the top is heavily pieced. With wider open space, 80/12 works well, especially for the thinner threads. Microtex if on batiks. For the 12 wt, I prefer a Topstitch style, size 100/16.
Vert good démonstration that really helps for for choosing the right Weight thread and bobin according to our goals. I live in France , west coast, and have to struggle by myself for quilting but thanks to internet I get lots of guidance. All my orders have to be done by mail. Not easy . Thanks again for these great explanations !
Thank you for your comment. I am glad this will help you choose thread weights when you order them, which should ease the concern of finding the right one for the look you want.