When I first learned how to quilt, just over 10 years ago, it felt like I was being baptized by fire! I just kind of jumped in cannonball style and was constantly drinking from the metaphorical firehose, trying to absorb as much information as possible.
I could go on and on and on about all the various types of materials that are fun to use, and heaven knows that the list is endless, but I thought that it would be at least fun to start a running list of my own that I add to quite often when I find a new supply or tool that I like to use. This list originally started when I wrote my book “Hand Lettered Quilting“, in 2019.
For this particular blog post, I wanted to answer one of the most frequently asked questions that I get as a professional quilter. That is, “Karlee, what is your favorite thread?” So I thought I would just talk about that question a little more, and give you a glimpse into my particular journey as a fiber artist.
Now, I want to preface this post by stating the obvious: There is SO MUCH amazing thread out there, and numerous companies who make it. While this post is NOT a definitive list of every single brand, type, and use for all those threads, it is simply my experience of how I got to the conclusions I did, and why I use what I use. Hopefully after reading it, you might find the same joy in my thread choices as I do, or at least cut a few corners in finding the thread that you love.
So, when I first started quilting, the first thread that I had on hand were these very old cones that were from Walmart. When it comes to thread, especially for quilting, you get what you pay for. Not only did I find that this thread didn’t hold up very well, but I often had tension problems while trying to quilt with it. On top of that, it came in very limited colors, and just wasn’t all that… well… pizazzy. It just didn’t make my eyes grow big with excitement to quilt purely because I “just had to try this thread out.” That being said, it was a gateway into practicing quilting, so that when I did get to more expensive types of thread, I wasn’t completely wasting it all.
The next type of thread that I used in my quilting was a 60wt “So Fine” thread. This was very early on in my quilting days, where I learned pretty quickly that I am the type of person who likes to “Quilt it to death.” I found that I tend to do a lot of overstitching, and I mean A LOT. If you are at all familiar with my style of quilting, Graffiti Quilting, (check out the book, yep, I wrote a whole book on it.) It uses a ton of overstitching. I found that while using a 60wt thread, I was just spending a lot more time overstitching than I liked.
This experience led me to start searching for thicker threads. When I first started, I didn’t even know what the heck thread weight even meant. But, here is the gist of it: the LOWER the weight number, the THICKER the thread. So, being the drastic dramatic person that I am, I immediately went out to find the thickest thread I could fit through my quilting machine needle. So, a 12wt thread.
Now, because my quilting did, in fact, include so much overstitching, up to this point I was always winding my bobbin with the exact same thread that I used on top. So you can probably guess what happened when I would wind a bobbin with matching 12wt thread… well, two things happened, actually. The first is that my bobbins were constantly running out! Ugh. The second is that my quilts were crazy stiff because of all. that. thread.
So, I finally learned how to moderate, and I found a 40wt thread. 40wt is now what I have, for years, recommended to all my quilting students. To me, 40wt is the perfect happy medium for all the things that are important to me. It is thick enough that when I overstitch, I get enough of a difference between a single stitch and an overstitch, but it is still a thin enough thread that I can wind my bobbin with it, and it lasts as long as I need it to. Also when using the exact same thread in your bobbin as on top, this means that you can do a project from one type of spool of thread, instead of two, and setting the tension on your machine and getting a good stitch is SO MUCH EASIER. Both he top and bobbin thread act the same way because they are literally the same thread.
Okay, was that totally a mouthful? Because now that you have read all that, I can get to the most fun part of this post: What type of 40wt thread to use. Here is the path that I took with various 40wt threads, all the way to my current (and probably will be my forever) favorite 40wt thread. Also, this list is the most basic run-down, I of course, have experimented with tons of threads, but thought I would give you the straightest point from A to B…
#1. OMNI 40wt thread – Superior Threads: This thread was great because you can get a 6,000 yd spool and it’ll last forever. This thread is strong, but each cone is like $16. So, me being the young novice quilter I was 10 years ago, didn’t have the budget to get all the colors I would have wanted. But, on top of that, this thread isn’t anything really… well, pretty. Like, it does the job for quilting, but doesn’t add any sort of extra sheen to the quilt/project.
#2. Magnifico 40wt thread – Superior Threads: This thread was nice, because it is 40wt AND has a little more of a shine to it. I really like my quilting to almost look like an embroidery satin stitch, so to get a little more shine with the Magnifico while still being a 40wt thread was really nice. The one thing I found, though, with this thread is that I experienced more breakage than I would like. Perhaps I tend to set my tension on the tighter side (both bottom and top) and this thread would struggle with my quilting when I would do a lot of overstitching, or when I would run my quilting machine super fast. (I have a Handi Quilter Infinity, and often run it at maximum speeds. I should write a whole review on my machine, because I just ADORE it. It’s got power AND finesse.) So, Magnifico was definitely a step in the right direction for me, until…
#3. 40wt Rayon – Sulky: Here we are folks. This is REALLY the thread that I have been wanting to talk about. It has ALL the great qualities of the previous threads, and none of the issues. When I first tried out Sulky Rayon, I was hooked instantly! It is my favorite weight, 40, and also has a BEAUTIFUL shine to it. I looooove Graffiti Quilting with it, because overstitching my designs just adds this amazing POP of shine that I can’t get over. Also, you can buy each color in 4 different sizes- Snap Spools (250 yds) King Spools (850 yds) Maxi Spools (1,500 yds) and Jumbo Cones (5,500 yds). This versatility is really nice because there are some colors that I love more than others, and some projects that are larger than others. So I can rally tailor my budget to which threads I want more or less of, and I don’t have to commit to spending a crazy amount of money to get all the colors that I need.
Since discovering Sulky threads, I have started using them almost exclusively, wherever possible. I do have thread in my stash of other brands, that I of course will use until it’s gone. But I am phasing out my stash and refilling with Sulky 40wt Rayon. IT IS JUST THAT GOOD! It is also the thread that I use anytime I create a show quilt. In fact, in 2018, I won 3rd place at Houston International Quilt Festival with my quilt The Royal Huntress. It was really a joy to work with, especially on a project that was such high stress to make sure it was PERFECT.
Here are some other quilts that I have made using Sulky’s 40wt Rayon…
Now, I would also be remised if I didn’t mention my other absolutely favorite thread from Sulky- their Invisible Thread! I use it a TON for a couple different techniques. There are a lot of times where I am commissioned to do quilting for hire, and they want me to do Graffiti Quilting or interpretive quilting on their quilt tops. A lot of times, these quilt tops are super brights and multi-colorful. This is invisible thread’s time to shine! I really love it so much that I bought jumbo cones of both the clear color as well as the smoke color. Each jumbo cone is 24,000 yds and I know for sure that I will use it all. Check out the texture on these quilts that I created using the Invisible thread…
So, with all that being said, this pretty much answers the question “Karlee, what’s your favorite thread?” There are so man good threads, a few great ones, some crappy ones, and then our favorites. Sulky 40wt thread is my favorite. I hope you’ll consider trying some out, and let me know your thoughts. Also, if you have a specific type of thread, weight, and brand that you just CAN’T live without, let me know in the comments below and I will see if I can get my hands on some and give it a whirl.
Be great to each other,