Sewing Summer Garments with Aurifil Forty3

We absolutely adore Aurifil Artisan Alum Bhiravi Rathinasabapathi of Strawberry Creek Quilts. We had the pleasure of working with her for 2 years and loved seeing all of the creativity that she poured into each and every project.

Bhiravi took our challenges and created magic, from quilts and embroidery, to pouches and apparel. We were delighted when she reached out to inquire about using our Forty3 (40wt 3ply) in garment construction. We knew it would be an incredible opportunity to share Bhiravi’s experience with all of you and she was kind enough to agree to a guest post. She has all sorts of tips and a slew of fabulous info, so without further pause, please welcome Bhiravi to Auribuzz!

While I mostly make quilts these days, I try to make myself a couple of special garments for each new season. Today, I’m sharing two gorgeous cotton tops for summer, sewn with Aurifil Forty3 cotton thread!

When I was picking a summer project, I knew I wanted to make a couple of breezy tops in cotton. The Helen’s Closet March Top had been on my to-make list for months. The pattern comes with four different views, and I picked two of them. I paired the pattern with a crisp cotton poplin for a sleeveless version, and a thin, floaty cotton lawn for a puff sleeved ruffle peplum version.

I wanted a strong, beautiful finish for these tops. After all, they are going to get worn frequently and tossed in the wash often. So, I decided to use Aurifil’s ultra-strong, pure cotton Forty3 thread in both my sewing machine and my serger. The Aurifil team sent over 4 cones in two colors for me to try out.

Below, I’ll share details on both tops, why I chose Forty3 thread for this project, and my best tips for sewing with a serger!

The Finished Tops

Black Cotton Poplin March Top

The fabric for this top was gifted to me by a friend, Ella at Handmade Millenial. It is a crisp and airy black cotton poplin. The thread is Aurifil Forty3 in 2692.

The pattern is the Helen’s Closet March Top, View C in size 18. I hacked it to make it sleeveless which you can find instructions for on the Helen’s Closet Blog here. Leaving the sleeves off created a boxy, dolman-like shape.

I also skipped the yoke interfacing, since I felt that two layers of the poplin created enough structure in the collar and shirt front.

This top was a great way to practice with my new-to-me serger. It used lots of straight seams, and came together quickly. I loved knocking out a quick make that I’m sure will become a wardrobe staple. After all, black cotton tops and jeans are basically my summer uniform!

Chartreuse Japanese Cotton Lawn March Top

I made this top out of chartreuse cotton lawn from Sevenberry, a Japanese brand distributed by Robert Kaufman. I picked up the fabric at Stonemountain and Daughter, my local fabric store. This cotton lawn was flowy, swishy, and gathered well for the shirt’s puff sleeves and peplum. I paired it with Aurifil Forty3 in 5011, which I used for assembly and topstitching.

This is the Helen’s Closet March Top in View B. I don’t end up wearing cropped-length tops too often– I find them tricky to style with the other pieces in my closet– so I lengthened the peplum by 2 1/4 inches. It ended up being the perfect amount of extra length for my frame.

The serger-finished gathered seams are what I’m most proud of with this one. The guts of this garment are pretty and they were effortless to sew– something that just wouldn’t have been possible without a serger.

I absolutely love the topstitching details on this top, too. Aurifil Forty3 brings the shine, and even in a neutral color, it makes the top look polished and chic. This top features topstitching along the sleeve cuffs, front yoke, and neck tie, so it’s worth investing in a thread you really love for these details.

Thread Tips & Tricks

Why Use Aurifil Forty3 for Garments?

Aurifil Forty3 is a 40-weight cotton thread, plied with three strands for extra strength. While it was originally designed for today’s high-speed longarm machines, I suspected that it would do well in my serger. (And it did!)

Looking at Forty3 and feeling it in my hands, I could immediately see that it was much stronger and sturdier than the normal Aurifil 40wt and 50wt that I was used to. The strength was comparable to many of the poly threads I work with for garment sewing, even though Forty3 is 100% cotton. And, as I’ve come to expect from all Aurifil threads, it was silky smooth and left far less dust in my machine than poly.

Forty3 only comes on cones right now, which can make it more of an investment, especially if you’re using it on a serger. However, this thread is a huge upgrade from most other threads I’ve worked with. If you’re sewing garments, I think it’s worth investing in a single cone for your sewing machine, or a set of 4 cones for your serger.

If your sewing machine doesn’t have space for thread cones, you can purchase a cone holder separately. Bonus — buying cones of thread is often more economical in the long-term compared to buying smaller spools.

Choosing a Thread Color

When selecting thread colors for garments, I often recommend having two neutrals on hand– one light, and one dark.

For your dark color, I recommend black, navy blue, dark brown, or charcoal grey. The color you pick will depend on your wardrobe and what you choose to sew. I work with a lot of black fabrics and the occasional navy, so I went with color 2692 for my dark neutral. This was a perfect match for my black poplin March Top.

For your light color, you might be tempted to choose white. While this is just fine, I find that a light grey, beige or cream works better on my projects. Not only will these threads blend into a wider range of fabric colors, I’ve also found that they are less likely to show through on thinner fabrics than a stark white. I chose color 5011 for my light neutral, which worked well for my chartreuse lawn March Top, and even made for a great topstitching color.

If you’re working on a pattern that requires topstitching, remember– the higher-contrast your topstitching thread, the more mistakes or wobbles in your topstitching will show. Because I knew stitching around my March Top sleeve cuffs and neckline would be tricky, I stuck with thread that matched my fabrics. Luckily, Aurifil threads have a ton of shine, so topstitching looks great even in a neutral color.

Garment Care Instructions

You can absolutely machine wash and dry garments made with Aurifil Forty3. As someone who spent years making garments with only poly thread for durability, this surprised me. Just be sure to follow the washing instructions for your specific color of thread, here.

If you want to be ultra-safe, follow the gentlest care instructions for all of your cotton thread garments. Launder without bleach, machine wash cool, and tumble dry with low or no heat. Iron at a low temperature.

Serger Tips & Tricks

I’m new to using a serger for my garments, but it has quickly become one of my favorite ways to finish a seam. I use a Brother 1034D. I sew my seams normally on my sewing machine, then use the serger to trim and finish the seam allowance.

Winding Extra Bobbin Thread

Sergers require cones of thread, and these can be an investment. To avoid over-ordering thread, I like to have just 4 cones of any given color for my serger, and wind extra bobbins from these cones to use in my sewing machine.

Before I begin a project, I wind 2-4 bobbins of each thread color. I mark the bobbin with a fine-tip Sharpie, so I can remember the thread weight or color later.  I’ll use one as my sewing machine’s bobbin thread, and another as the needle thread.

Threading Your Machine

If you’re new to a serger, threading your machine might be daunting. There’s no way around it — you do need to thread your machine, and going step-by-step through your instruction manual is the best way to do it.

But here’s a nifty thread trick taught to me by the person who sold me my serger. To load in a new color, simply snip the threads on your machine just before the thread holders. (See where I’m skipping threads in the photo above.) Slot in the new cones. Tie the end of each old thread to the new thread, using a tight double knot. Trim the thread ends around the knot.

Slowly stitch along a spare scrap of fabric. The new thread will pull in and your machine will be threaded with the new color!

Disclaimer — this trick works for me about 50% of the time. The rest of the time, I do end up rethreading the machine normally. But, this trick still saves me a lot of time, which is why I’m sharing it here!

Finishing Seams with the Serger

I like to sew each seam normally on my sewing machine. Then, I finish the seam with the serger, which trims away extra fabric and encloses the raw edge.

Serging is the fastest garment seam finish I’ve used, and it was especially helpful when making my March Tops. The sleeves and peplum of my long sleeved March Top were heavily gathered. Normally, I would have struggled with binding these seams, which takes forever and sometimes looks messy on the garment. But with a serger and some Forty3 thread, the seam finishes were fast, clean, and not at all bulky. For me, this alone made it worthwhile to pull out the serger for this project.

I hope these tips help you navigate your next garment sewing project! Forty3 makes a great all-purpose garment sewing thread, and I encourage you to give it a try.

About Bhiravi

Bhiravi runs Strawberry Creek Quilts, where she makes and shares quilts, home decor, and clothing. She also creates patterns and resources for makers, and accepts clothing commissions on her website. 


  1. What a wonderfully informative and inspiring post Bhiravi – thank you for sharing with us!!

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