For this month’s Thread Matters, we’re thrilled to introduce you to HollyAnne Knight of String and Story. Like me, HollyAnne is passionate about free motion quilting with Aurifil thread. You’ve got to love fellow Aurifilosophers that find free motion quilting fun! HollyAnne outlines some helpful tips for your free motion adventures in addition to detailing some awesome neutral color suggestions.
Thanks for sharing your love of Aurifil with us, HollyAnne. We’re excited to have you as an Aurifilosopher and an Aurifil Artisan!
If you missed the January introduction of Aurifilosophy and this fun new Thread Matters series click here to read more. Consider scheduling an Aurifilosophy Program for your shop, group or guild – learn more here.
Karen L. Miller ~ Redbird Quilt Co.
Let’s be honest: I first bought Aurifil 50wt thread because of the colors. I was a new quilter and head over heels in love with Alison Glass’s Sun Prints collection(s) when I saw a little set of 10 spools of 50wt thread that coordinated with Alison’s fabric. Looking back, I’m not sure where I scraped up the money for nice thread (I was seriously sewing on the cheap at the time), especially since I barely knew enough about quilting nice thread to recognize it when it showed up right in front of me, but I knew Aurifil 50wt was the real deal, and I never went back!
Beyond the gorgeous (and extensive) range of colors, I quickly fell in love with 50wt thread all over again for three more technical reasons. It just so happens that those reasons are also some of the most common questions I get about why I love this thread so much. I’m excited to share these tips with you!
First, one of the initial hurdles of free motion quilting is achieving consistent tension. Many new quilters don’t realize that thread choice is important for tension, and 50wt thread is my favorite for consistent, lovely stitches. My machines (vintage Singer 66, modern Singers, TinLizzie 18 longarm, and Juki J-150 QVP) all LOVE this thread. It runs through the guides smoothly, is strong enough for quilting at high speeds, and, as I mentioned, it holds tension consistently. With all other threads, I feel like I’m constantly “fiddling” to get even, clean tension on my stitches. When I’m working with 50 wt, though, especially on the longarm and the Juki, I feel like I don’t do any fiddling at all. I check my tension when I get started, and I find that it holds all the way through the project.
As a result, my final product is better and my happiness level is much higher (because, really, is there anything more frustrating than spending all the time you thought you had to work on quilting just fiddling with tension??). If you’ve been struggling to create beautiful free motion quilting stitches, I highly recommend Aurifil 50wt and a size 12 needle (I prefer universal or ball point).
Second, 50wt thread is the secret to my passion for dense quilting. Free motion quilting is my “thing,” so I’m a bit “more is more” when it comes to this step of my projects. Nearly all of my quilts are meant to be used, though, so I want to be able to quilt the life into them without having to snuggle under cardboard at the end. What I’ve found is that Aurifil 50wt thread is so fine and soft that I can quilt and quilt and quilt and still have a lovely, drapey result.
Think about it: our fabric is cotton, so it is going to layer best with other cotton or natural fiber products. I use all natural batting (Hobbs Tuscany Supreme 100% Unbleached Cotton and Hobbs Tuscany Cotton Wool are two of my favorites) and fine, cotton thread (aka 50wt), which results in a soft quilt. Bulk (thick thread) and synthetic fibers (which result in a literal “plasticy” feeling) will stiffen the quilt, but natural fibers and a good wash yield a supple, snuggle ready, life-quilted-in quilt. If you’ve ever finished quilting to find your gorgeous work stiff as a board, or been frustrated by the “plastic” feel of poly threads, avoid both by using 50wt cotton thread and a 100% natural fiber batting.
Finally, back to color! I first fell in love with 50wt because the colors of Aurifil threads have a glow and shine that I haven’t seen from any other thread. While it is lots of fun to use allll the colors (and, trust me, I do!), I know there’s value to having a few favorites that “go with everything.” For me, 2600 is the world’s most perfect gray, and is always my default color for both piecing and quilting. If you prefer creams for your neutrals, my dear friend Kristin Esser swears by 2311 as a perfect beige. And the fabulous Heather Givans of Crimson Tate swears up and down that 6724 is the best go-to around. If white always feels too light and black always feels too dark, take a look at these shades– you just might find your new favorite!
For more information about thread tension or getting started with free motion quilting, check out my free, online class, Intro to Free Motion Quilting.
Pattern shown is Dogwood Blossoms.
PS – There is one other question I get fairly often– to find the “tail” of your thread, pop the flat end of the spool off to set the thread end free, then just pop the spool end back on! Happy Quilting!
HollyAnne Knight is a wife, mama, and quilting educator who lives in Duluth, GA with her Hubster: John, little boys: Jem and Ian, and two overly social cats: Moby and Felicia.