Thread Matters 2019: Hand Stitching with 12wt

June’s Thread Matters comes to you straight from the island of Kauai where Aurifilosopher and Aurifil Designer Natalie Barnes is on holiday. Natalie is an inspiring pattern and fabric designer and the owner of beyond the reef patterns.  We’re thrilled to have Natalie share her excitement about Aurifil 12wt thread and anxious to learn to apply it to  appliqué, binding, quilting, and more. We’re certain you’ll adore the creativity and ingenuity that Natalie stitches into her projects using this luscious heavy weight thread.

Thanks for sharing your love of Aurifil 12wt with us, Natalie. We’re excited to be. do. create with you.

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.

Happy Stitching!
Karen L. Miller ~ Redbird Quilt Co.


There’s something about the saying, “it’s not a quilt until it’s quilted”.

We may take a trip to the quilt shop for fabric, or our happy delivery driver brings our fabric package to our door.  We cut it up with our favorite OLFA rotary cutter and sew it back together again on our trusty Janome sewing machine. Then, that happy delivery driver takes it to the door of our favorite long arm quilter (well, not literally) and  returns it to us, quilted, in a much larger box. We trim our quilt, cut, sew, and attach the binding by machine and call it done.

HOLD ON A MINUTE THERE! There’s something more I’d like you to consider.

Aurifil certainly makes wonderful 50 weight piecing thread. And now, appliqué thread. And quilting thread. And even floss.

But there is also a thread that I think deserves just as much attention… it’s that family of 12 weight thread. ‘For machine quilting,’ you’re asking yourself? Nope. For that hand stitching that connects us to our projects. For the finishing touch. For the stitches that bind us together.

Let me offer some suggestions.

Appliqué with Aurifil 12wt
If this is too much to imagine, start with a 28 weight. Compare the two and see which ‘look-and-feel’ you like the best. During the ‘make do’ era, many American quilts were appliquéd using a running stitch. This has become my favorite way to appliqué. Baste pieces to your background, needle turn the edges, and use a running stitch to secure. Want to be bold? Choose a variegated thread.

Hand Quilt with Aurifil 12wt
When I was first taught to quilt, the saying was, ‘the smaller the needle, the smaller the stitches’ and everyone counted how many stitches they could get into an inch. These days, I am happy to use a large needle and a big stitch. Aim to make your stitches as even as possible, but let them show!  And the thread… that big bold beautiful variegated 12wt Mako thread. Yum.

Appliqué Over a Pieced Top 
Do you have a UFO quilt top in your closet? Something maybe that you are not quite happy with as a finished project? Get it out, cut up some appliqué motifs, baste them down, get that big lush lovely 12wt variegated thread out, and appliqué those motifs down using that running stitch. Do you feel that same way about a finished quilt? Do you want to update a runner that you’ve had for ages? Do the same. Yup. Use your big stitch appliqué technique to quilt your pieces right on to that finished quilt!

Hand Quilt A Finished Machine Quilted Quilt
When we talk about quilting, we talk so often about contrast. Add some contrast to the quilting, too. When the happy delivery driver brings back your machine quilted top, look for some areas to enhance with hand quilting.

Once upon a time, I asked Teresa Silva, Quilting is my Bliss, to leave a whole square un-quilted. When the quilt returned home, I sat down, got my needle and thread out, and hand quilted that square. I connected with that project. And there was contrast in the texture of the quilting.

Embellish the Binding with Aurifil 12wt
Finally, attach your binding to the back of your quilt, flip it to the front and quilt your binding down. It’s that same big stitch you used for applique, or hand quilting; the very same running stitch. You don’t have to go all the way through the quilt, just stay close to the binding edge and grab enough of the quilt to secure your binding. You’ll have that same lovely 12wt thread that you quilted with, on the edge of your quilt.

So, the next time you go thread shopping, treat yourself to some variegated 12wt Aurifil thread! Look for the red spool. You’ll find yourself using that thread more than you could ever imagine, and you’ll be making a personal connection with your projects.


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Founded by Natalie Barnes, beyond the reef began on the island of Kauai, one rainy morning on a lanai in Hanalei. The first pattern was sold to the Kapaia Stitchery and now patterns are sold through Brewer, Checker, EE Schenck, Petersen Arne and United Notions. 

Natalie Barnes is a pattern and fabric designer, working with and alongside companies like Windham Fabrics and Aurifil. She thrives on creative expression and lives to inspire and motivate. For beyond the reef, she is the shipping department, the bookkeeper, the graphics department, the IT wizard, the file clerk, and the switchboard operator. You might find her vending at a quilt show, giving a lecture, teaching a class, attending a trade event like International Quilt Market, or showcasing at a distributor’s event. Most of her days are spent designing new quilts, searching out inspiration for fabric design, pattern writing, illustrating, and editing. She truly feels that life couldn’t be any better!


  1. Thank you for the inspiration! I’m digging projects at of the closet to try hand quilting again but with the 12wt thread. I love the look of it in your photos.

  2. So great ideas here Natalie. I have been making a quilt wthat with have some appliqué and I think I will try this technique. Now to go buy some thread! Hope you’re having a great holiday.

  3. Finding a good quality thread for that heirloom quilt is so very important. Love following the suggestions of beyondthereefpatterns.

  4. You never cease to inspire! I definitely need to try some big stitch quilting and I have just the right quilt to try it on!

  5. I love the look of hand quilting, with beautiful thread. Thank you for the helpful tips! I am definitely going to try big stitch hand binding very soon!

    1. I think you’ll find a lot of use for it, in your library of threads. And the colors available from Aurifil are divine!! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note….

  6. I am excited to be introduced to new techniques. I have just the quilt to try it on when I get it back from the quilter. Thank you for the inspiration!!

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