Greetings Aurifil followers. I’m Karen L. Miller ~ Redbird Quilt Co., Master Educator and Program Coordinator for Aurifilosophy, here to celebrate 2023, the 5th year of Thread Matters – The Aurifilosopher Series with monthly contributions by our wildly talented and creative Aurifilosophers from across the globe!
If your shop, group or guild is ready to take their understanding of thread weights, ply, needles, tension, and technique to the next level, there’s no better time to book an in-person or virtual Aurifilosophy event with one of our certified educators. Learn more and find your favorite Aurifilosopher here.
I’m excited to be kicking off the New Year with thread basics and a giveaway! Let’s get started.
DID YOU KNOW?
Aurifil offers their 100% Egyptian cotton 2 ply thread in 5 unique weights — 80wt, 50wt, 40wt, 28wt, and 12wt. (Additionally, they offer a six strand divisible cotton floss, a luscious 3 ply cotton thread, a nylon monofilament, and a wool blend thread.)
Each unique thread is easily identified by the color of the spool. Learn more about Aurifil’s spool color coding and available cotton colors:
Tip: The best way to experiment with Aurifil’s many versatile thread weights is through practical application. Snag our Aurifilosophy thread set which features one small spool of each of Aurifil’s 7 primary threads (excluding only Forty3 & Monofilament) by checking with your local quilt shop. For online shopping, simply click on the link below.
While each thread has a primary purpose and multiple secondary uses, every creator, maker, and thread addict has their own favorite uses for each. Today I’ll be sharing my favorite uses for each of the Aurifil 2 ply threads paired with lessons I’ve learned to achieve excellent results regardless of the weight I am working with. But first, a little background on “ply” and “weighting”.
Ply Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster
excerpt: ply – noun – b. one of the strands in a yarn
Did you know that thread weight is calculated or “weighted” with a single strand or ply? Yes, it’s true. It is, however, a common misconception that thread is weighted with all ply or strands twisted together. Not so. Learn more about thread weighting here: Thread Matters: How is Thread Weighted? – auribuzz
Let me outline why this is important. Many popular quilting cottons are 3 ply or 3 strands of thread twisted together. Aurifil has achieved amazing strength and a lustrous sheen using 2 ply or 2 strands of thread twisted together for the finished product. Sometimes, less is more – one less ply can make a marked difference in our creations.
Go ahead, grab a 3 ply 50wt cotton and compare the thickness to Aurifil 2 ply 50wt cotton. You’ll fall in love with the difference. You may also fall in love with the fact that a large spool of 2 ply Aurifil 50wt thread delivers 1422 yards of thread compared to large spools of other popular 3 ply threads that generally yield 500 to 600 yards.
Now, let’s talk about my favorite uses for the 5 weights of Aurifil 2 ply 100% long-staple Egyptian cotton.
This 2 ply Egyptian cotton thread is PERFECT for highlighting fine details when used for machine embroidery or machine quilting.
But my 1st choice for Aurifil 80wt thread is Needle Turn Appliqué. If you are a needle turn appliqué addict like I am, rest assured this fine weight thread disappears into appliqué and background fabrics like magic! Working with Aurifil 80wt will make your needle turn (or machine) appliqué projects joyful!
- Use a straw or milliner needle in size 9 or 10. Remember, the smaller the eye the less often you’ll need to “rethread” the needle. Trouble with your thread slipping out of the eye of the needle? Try making a one loop knot at the eye of the needle. Let me know if it helps.
- Use short lengths of thread (about the length of your forearm) to avoid excessive wear and tear or knotting when stitching.
- Take short stitches ending with a gentle tug. The strength of this fine weight 2 ply thread is gained through applying multiple stitches, not just one.
Aurifil 50wt is slightly thicker than Aurifil 80wt thread and, although I love free motion quilting with it on my home sewing machine…
Aurifil 50wt is my #1 choice for Machine Piecing.
That’s right – on top and in the bobbin this 2 ply thread makes piecing a joy. On top, the Aurifil 50wt/2ply helps seams press flat, flat, flat. Less need to worry about achieving that “scant ¼” seam allowance. In the bobbin you’ll be thrilled to load yards and yards of this 2ply thread, resulting in less bobbin changes (promise).
- Use a Microtex Sharp size 70/10 or larger for piecing with Aurifil 50wt.
- With Aurifil 50wt in the bobbin there’s no need to adjust tension when piecing. Choose a smaller stitch length to gain strength in numbers and have some fun!
Aurifil 40wt thread is a wee bit heavier than 50wt. Besides using it for various free motion quilting projects…
it’s my go-to thread weight for Hand Binding.
The added thickness gives this thread a little extra strength when stitching binding down by hand. I love to machine stitch the binding to the front (50wt all the way) and hand stitch the binding to the back with Aurifil 40wt thread.
Side note: Are YOU a Garment sewer? You’ll be thrilled to add this thread weight to your garment construction and detail stitching portfolio.
- A straw or milliner needle size 9 or 10 works wonderfully when hand stitching with Aurifil 40wt thread.
- Use a Microtex Sharp needle size 80/12 or larger for machine work with Aurifil 40wt. Use 50wt in the bobbin.
Prefer to attach your binding by machine? Check-out the Mitered Flange Machine Binding tutorial here: Karen’s Quilts, Crows and Cardinals: Tutorial – Mitered and Flanged Machine Binding
Aurifil 28wt thread is so versatile! Have I mentioned 28wt is my favorite weight overall? We’re talking about a heavier weight thread that can be used for hand or machine work – the options are endless. As promised though, my favorite use for Aurifil 28wt thread is Free Motion Quilting.
One beautiful stitch after another, Aurifil 28wt will allow your free motion quilting stitches to take center stage!! The sheen, the weight, the definition – they come together and steal the show when working with this luscious thread.
- Choose a topstitch needle size to a 90/14 or larger. Consider dropping your top tension to a slightly lower number.
- Continue to use Aurifil 50wt thread in the bobbin.
Aurifil 12wt thread is the master of all heavyweight threads that will feed through a sewing machine. Although I regularly use Aurifil 12wt for hand embroidery and wool appliqué…
my absolute favorite use for Aurifil 12wt is Topstitching.
If I need to achieve a beautiful topstitch I always choose Aurifil 12wt.
Sheen, definition, consistency — everything about using this weight for topstitching is a WIN! The thread just looks fabulous. Isn’t it beautiful when used for a double line of topstitching!? Quilt shown is A Wing and A Prayer, prepared by Jan Manley. See more 12wt topstitching here: Karen’s Quilts, Crows and Cardinals: Summer Vacation – A Wing and a Prayer (karensquiltscrowscardinals.blogspot.com)
- Play with Aurifil 40wt or 50wt in the bobbin. My style requires me to use 40wt, but your speed, tension and stitch length may allow you to use 50wt. NOTE: 50wt is more cost effective, so if your machine likes it, go for it!!
- Choose a topstitch needle size 90/14 or 100/16. Increase the stitch length and consider dropping your top tension to a slightly lower number.
That wraps up a few of my favorite uses for Aurifil 2ply threads. Stay tuned for future posts to learn more about Aurifil 6 strand divisible floss, Aurifil 40wt/3ply thread for longarm use, and Aurifil nylon monofilament thread.
To enter to win the Aurifilosophy 7 small spool collection, please comment below with one suggestion for what you’d like to learn about Aurifil threads OR let us know if something that you read today was helpful. This giveaway runs January 27, 2023 through February 13th, 2023. The winner will be contacted via email on February 14. Good luck!
Love the “This Little Light” quilt block? Karen and her good friend and fellow Aurifil Designer Wendy Sheppard (@ivory_spring) are planning a June, 2023 “Piece and Quilt” Retreat in Quilt Town, USA. You wont want to miss the lessons shared by this dynamic duo. Stay tuned to their social media accounts to catch the upcoming retreat announcement.
Karen L. Miller, owner of Redbird Quilt Co. is Master Educator for Aurifil, USA, an Aurifilosopher, national educator, author, and cheerleader of all things free motion quilting. She launched Redbird Quilt Co. to share her love of appliqué and show others how free motion quilting on home sewing machines can bring their projects to life. Karen plays with all weights of Aurifil thread and openly contributes her knowledge and experience to the greater quilting community. When she’s not home enjoying her family and the multitude of songbirds that grace the Finger Lakes Region of NY, you’ll catch her traveling the countryside sharing her passion for quilting with Guilds and Shops alike.
If you’re interested in learning more about free motion quilting on home sewing machines be sure to check out Karen’s website, programs, tutorials, upcoming events and social media feeds. Subscribe to Karen’s Newsletter here.