Choosing Thread Colors for EPP

Kitty Wilkin of Night Quilter shared the stunning hues of her debut Aurifil collection, Color Crush, earlier this month in Color Crush Nature Hike. It was such a treat to admire the colors in their natural habitats and we adore Kitty’s style (not to mention her breathtaking photography)!

Today, we’re delighted to welcome Kitty back to Auribuzz for a bit of EPP education. Settle in and enjoy!


English Paper Piecing (EPP) is a quilting technique that uses fabric wrapped and secured around paper or cardstock templates and hand stitched together to create intricately pieced designs of all shapes and sizes. Many people find hand stitching both meditative and relaxing, and paired with its portability, EPP is a quilting technique that is gaining the spotlight more and more, growing from its century-old roots.

As with most types of quilting, there are many different ways to EPP and different tools and materials used for each. Today I am going to talk a bit about choosing thread for your EPP piecing, and encourage you to embrace ALL THE COLORS to help your EPP projects shine.

It likely comes as no surprise that I choose Aurifil thread for all of my EPP. The 100% cotton and huge library of colors makes it an easy pick. But should you use 50wt or 80wt? After much experimenting, I’ve opted to use 50wt thread since it’s a little bit thicker and stronger, but still thin enough to blend right in. 

One common lament from those first getting started with hand stitching EPP–or even those who have been stitching for decades–is that their stitches are visible. To be honest, when I first began sewing, I also celebrated when I succeeded in somehow making my stitches seemingly disappear. However, as I have been sewing more and more, and stitching hours of love and mindfulness into my EPP projects, I’ve come to the realization that this handwork should be celebrated! If the stitches are completely invisible, a large part of your handwork is also invisible. Now, I aim for consistent and small stitches, but don’t fret so much when they are visible.

That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to set yourself up for success in making your stitches blend in with your project as smoothly as possible. My number one tip for that is: match your thread color to your fabric!!!

With Aurifil’s huge selection of thread colors, I have not yet had a fabric that didn’t have a coordinating thread color. Cutting your Aurifil thread color card apart will help with easy color matching so that you know exactly what color of thread you need. You can read more about cutting your color card HERE.

When I was curating my Color Crush thread collection, I had my Pollinate EPP quilt and my love of vibrant rainbows in the forefront of my mind. I aimed to include all the threads you’d need to hand-stitch your rainbow quilt projects and have your stitches blend right in with your fabrics.

When you’re using whip stitch, coordinating thread helps make your stitches blend perfectly. The whip stitch is the most commonly used and strongest stitch, and consists of passing the needle and thread through the edge of both pieces in the same direction. Stitches should be about 1/8” or 1/16” apart and should catch only 2-3 threads from each fabric, and not pass through the paper template. Whip stitch is quick, but may show a little bit on the front. I use this stitch when I have the perfectly coordinating thread color, or when I don’t mind seeing proof of the hard work I put into stitching it!

What do you do if you have two different colors on your fabric pieces, or if you’re joining two very different colored fabric pieces together? There are two different routes I take. One, if the color difference is stark, I sometimes will change threads halfway through so that the colors match the fabric! As long as you secure your threads, there’s no rule that says you can’t switch threads mid-seam.

The second route I take is if the color transitions are not so clear, or when I have two very different colored pieces being joined in a place where I don’t want the stitches to be visible. In this case, I use the flat back stitch. Flat back stitch is similar to whip stitch, in that you pass your needle in on one side and out the other, repeating with the needle going in the same direction, but instead of holding the pieces right sides pressed together, you hold them flat. You can even use a small piece of tape on the right sides to help hold the seam together while you get started. You do not stitch through the papers. With shapes held flat, it helps ensure you are taking fabric only on the wrong side of the seam so that when you turn it around, the stitches are completely invisible. I still try to match the thread color to one of the fabric colors, but it doesn’t matter as much since the stitches really are virtually invisible. You can watch a full Master Class on the flat back stitch by Karen the DIY Addict HERE.

It’s also okay to use two different stitches on one seam! Say what!? I often will use whip stitch with coordinating thread on the portion of the seam where the fabric matches, but then switch to flat back stitch to stitch areas that do not coordinate. As you can see on the block above, I used whip stitch with 50wt Turquoise thread to secure the outermost part of the seams where the fabric is turquoise, but then switched to flat back stitch when I got to the darker blue and gold section.

Here you can see how the stitches are basically invisible from the front.

Here’s another block sewn with both whip stitch and flat back stitch, where I used dark blue 50wt thread and whip stitch in the outer dark blue section, but switched to flat back stitch for the center pink. You can also get a look at flat back stitch in a highly contrasting color (white!) in the bottom right hand corner of the photo, where I was too lazy to switch thread colors as I moved from white to the darker purple! Hah. Your degree of precision and color coordination is entirely up to you. But isn’t it fun to match your thread to your stitching whenever possible?

There are some thread colors that manage to blend really well with a wide range of fabric colors, and the Dark Grey-1246 is one of them. Here you can see that I’m using the dark grey to sew a dark grey piece to an orange piece, and with nice, neat, consistent stitches it will totally work.

My favorite trio of all purpose neutrals are Dark Grey-1246, Dove-2600, and Natural White-2021. I’ve found that together, they will work with alllllll the ranges from your lightest to your darkest fabrics. You can find them with the rainbow rockstars in Color Crush.

So grab some basted fabric shapes, some coordinating Aurifil 50wt thread, and an adventurous spirit, and have fun hand stitching to your heart’s content!


ABOUT KITTY
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Kitty is a stay at home mom of three littles, wife, sewist of quilts and other beautiful things, runner, gardener, photographer, and all in all lover of life. With three little kids, her only sewing time is after bedtime. Thus the night quilter was born. To learn more about Kitty in her own words, visit this post on her blog.

**All images by Kitty Wilkin. 

THREAD COLLECTION DETAILS
Color Crush
12 Large Spools, 50wt (1422yds/spool), 100% Aurifil Cotton
5002, 1154, 5015, 1231, 2884, 1148
2810, 2535, 4020, 2021, 2600, 1246

To view this info on our website, click here. For purchasing, please contact your local Aurifil Dealer.

3 comments

  1. Kitty — thanks so very much for sharing your tips, techniques and wisdom. I’m not an EPP’r but gosh, I feel like I can make a go of it now. Excellent information and amazingly beautiful images too 😉 Thanks again !!

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