Today’s post is a part of a series called The Quilt Maker’s Toolkit, showing and teaching about the products I use while I make my quilts.
There are no products in this series that I do not use and use often, though sometimes my opinions may change as I grow and move along in my journey of quilt making. To view all posts in this series click here.
A couple of weeks ago I asked you about thread. You responded in an incredibly helpful way. You mentioned threads I’d never tried before and I feel like I learned an incredible amount. I browsed websites, learned about using particular needles with certain thread weights, and I’m feeling something of a thread obsessed chicky now. It’d be impossible to know everything, but I have definitely upped my thread game and feel like I’ve got more of an understanding.
Here’s how my testing went down: I contacted thread companies to see if they’d send me some thread to test, a few did. Those that didn’t I went on and purchased the thread myself so that I could test it properly. However, it was helpful when they contacted me back because they were a wealth of knowledge. All of my questions were answered. I learned that some thread is for piecing and some thread is for quilting. There is thread made especially for EPP and that thread is virtually invisible for hand sewing.
I didn’t know much of this before. I didn’t test. I didn’t try. And I believe I’m in a minority here when I confess that I have always purchased cheaper thread. I learned that most of you do NOT do that. Many of you told me that when you’ve used cheap threads to quilt with that you found the thread breaking after the quilt was finished. I haven’t had that experienced. The experience I have had with cheap threads is it breaking at my machine, whole spools have been bad before, lint built up and irritation set in.
Apparently, you get what you pay for.
I am a changed woman.
Here’s what we are going to do: I’m going to show the results of my tests, show where you can buy the threads, show you certain features of particular threads and what they are best for, show you how my machines reacted to them and sprinkle the comments you gave me in along the way.
Before I get to those results I wanted to tell you some things I did learn, maybe you’ll find them as helpful as I did.
- Poly makes no lint. Use it in your bobbin. It’s PERFECT for that.
- If you have a thread that you don’t like, use it in your bobbin. Thread doesn’t go through the disks and gears when it’s in your bobbin (where top thread gets tangled when it’s bad thread), this means you can put anything in there and it be fine (though you wouldn’t want a thicker thread as it would show up more).
- Those numbers on thread ( 50/3, 40/3, etc. ), the first number is the size of the thread, and the second number refers to how many threads are wound together.
- Slick wiry cotton thread has been coated. Don’t put this in your machine. This kind of thread is for hand quilting. If you don’t see a bit of fuzz on your thread, it’s not for your machine.
- All good cotton threads are long staple. If it’s not long staple it’s a cheaper made thread.
- The higher the number of the thread, the thinner the thread. If you want your stitches to show, get a low number, if you want them to blend or hide, get a higher number.
- Cotton thread does eventually go bad (after a really long time). If it snaps when you pull it, it’s still in good shape. If it slowly separates instead of snapping, it has deteriorated.
- There’s a thread for every job that you will do as a quilter.
- Change your needle based on the thread you are using, not what fabric you are using (when making quilts!) (I’m doing a post on needles next).
- Thread that comes off the spool and curls has “memory” from it’s time on the spool. The best quality thread does not retain “memory”. This could cause tangling.
I feel certain machines do not like certain threads for whatever reason and that’s an important thing to factor in (although I have heard this is just not the case), so I’m going to tell you what machines I’m using:
- Juki 2000qi – I love this machine and it’s very popular among quilter’s, but it’s fickle about it’s thread. I use this machine for piecing.
- Bernina 550qe – I use this machine for my machine quilting and all decorative stitches.
Thread Testing Results
Let’s start with Sulky. Sulky sent me several spools of their Cotton + Steel 50 wt cotton thread, one spool of their 40 wt
rayon thread, a couple of spools of their 30 wt cotton thread, and I purchased multiple spools of their 12 wt cotton for hand quilting (the colors were too yummy not to).
The Rayon Thread
- Rayon thread is the oldest man made fiber and it’s made with wood pulp.
- The spool I used was 850 yards of thread and the price is $6.99. That’s a good price for good thread.
- I first tried the rayon thread for my English paper piecing. It looked like it could be invisible and it WAS! But because it’s not polyester every time I pulled too tightly it broke, so I had to find a better choice for that.
- Next I tested the rayon out on free motion quilting. It seems to be what it’s made for. Quilting and decorative stitches. It was smooth like butter, no breaking during the whole quilt unlike some metallic threads I’ve tried before. The best part is it gave the quilting a kind of soft sparkle. I used in my Bernina, and it quilted beautifully.
- There is MANY color options.
- Find it here on the Sulky website (more color options than anywhere else), or here on Amazon (I purchase everything I can from Amazon because I get free shipping there, but sometimes it’s hard to find things easily there).
The 30 wt. Cotton Thread
- This thread is noticeable thicker when sitting beside the 40 and 50 weights.
- Price is about 500 yards for $5.99. A good price when compared to other brands
- Neither one of my machines liked it. The Juki refused to piece with it and the Bernina refused to quilt with it. There was constant breaks.
- I tried it with a large topstitch needle as suggested and still couldn’t get it to do it’s thing.
- I’ve heard that it’s much better for hand quilting, so I’m planning on saving it for that. If you like smaller hand quilting stitches, this would be a great thread choice.
- Purchase here on Sulky with lots of color options or here on Amazon (I purchase everything I can from Amazon because I get free shipping there).
The Cotton + Steel Threads
- This is a 50 wt thread and I used it for piecing and quilting on both of my machines and it was like magic butter (yes, magic butter).
- The colors are vast and extremely yummy. Like Cotton + Steel fabric selvedges each spool has a sweet little saying on it. They seem to be designed to lure you with their prettiness which totally works for me.
- If I’m buying thread for colors, this is more than likely the thread I’d want to buy.
- Price is $7.98 for a spool of 660 yards.
- Sulky doesn’t sale these threads anywhere, but at quilt shops. Fat Quarter shop has a massive supply, see them here.
The 12 weight Threads
- I REALLY liked these threads. If you’ve ever played with embroidery thread, they are the weight of two strands once pulled off the six strand skein.
- The best part is that they don’t have to be separated from the skein and come on a spool.
- I’ll be using these for my embroidery work and for my hand quilting.
- I like the tiny spool size and the price which is $1.69 for 50 yards of thread, MUCH cheaper than a skein of DNC embroidery thread and a bit cheaper than my old favorite Pearl cotton size 8.
- Sulky has a vast color selection here on their website, or here on Amazon. I particularly like the sets that they offer on Amazon. I like to buy my embroidery thread in sets anyway and the price of these are really great.
Sulky has an incredible website. Not all thread companies did when compared. They have everything that you need to learn right there at your fingertips. There were charts, guides, classes, events and too many things to name available. I found this guide extremely helpful when choosing a thread for a project. It shows exactly what they offer in every size they offer it.
Each of their spools tells you which size needle you need, so there is no need to guess. I find this very helpful.
I like companies that are there for it’s customers and Sulky has done a great job with that.
I do wish that they offered threads in 8 weight.
- Tanya said she uses the rayon thread for all her piecing.
- Kathleen says she uses the polyester for all her machine embroidery.
I’m ashamed to say that in my thread darkness I had not even heard about Superior Threads and now feel I’ve done all of my quilts a disservice. As soon as the votes for thread starting rolling in it seemed this thread was at the top of the list for quilters (right up under Aurifil for favorite thread from all of you).
I contacted Superior and they generously answered all my questions and sent me thread that they thought would suit my needs. I love friendly nice people and Celeste at Superior Threads was incredibly kind. I cannot say enough good things about my interactions. She was knowledgeable about the huge selection that Superior Threads offers and helped set me straight on my needs.
Superior sent me the following threads: a spool of the Bottom Line, a spool of the 50 wt So Fine, a spool of 40 wt King Tut, their thicker 12 wt called Sew Sassy, the 50 wt Masterpiece and some extra’s, including their titanium coated top stitch needles (said to last 4-6 times longer than a standard needle, and a DVD called Thread Therapy (free on their website). It’s a lecture said to teach you to elliminate 95% of your problems while sewing. Before I heard back from Superior threads, I also went out and purchased a spool of the So Fine and a spool of the King Tut as well.
The 50 wt So Fine
- This is a polyester thread and is supposed to be completely lint free.
- Great for machine quilting and sewing and a great thread for your bobbin.
- I could easily see me using this thread for everything.
- I used it for both machine quilting and piecing and had no breaking and no complaints and I did feel that there was less lint (it is polyester). Both machines liked it as well.
- The quilting stitches (above picture) were noticeably finer than my 40 wt. thread tests. If you want to blend in instead of standing out, that’s perfect.
- A spool has 550 yards and runs about $5.99 in price.
- Find them available here on their website or here on Amazon.. Lots and lots of colors available.
The 40 wt King Tut Thread
- This is a cotton thread specifically made for machine quilting. It’s said to be great for domestic and longarm machines. It appeared that long arm quilters swore by it and found it the best thread on the market.
- I tested it on my Bernina for domestic machine quilting and had zero issues. There’s a picture to the right of my quilting.
- It comes in variegated colors. Some don’t look as variegated as others, but all of them look delicious. If they were food, they’d all be candy.
- One spool features 500 yards and the price is $8.99.
- You can purchase here on their website for the most color options or here on Amazon. Bigger spools are available as well.
- I will definitely buy this thread again.
The Masterpiece Thread
- This is a 50 wt thread, designed for piecing, quilting and sewing.
- Designed to create perfectly pieced seams.
- The boasts of this thread is flatter seams with it’s extra long staple certified Egyptian cotton.
- I REALLY liked this thread. I used it for piecing on the Juki and quilting on the Bernina. It did a lovely job with both.
- There are 75 colors available and a spool has 600 yards for $8.99.
- Find them here on the Superior website for the most color options or here on Amazon.
The Bottom Line Thread
- This is a 60 weight polyester thread designed for applique, bobbins and quilting.
- It’s supposed the be THE thread for EPP, hand applique and binding your quilt. Comes in 55 colors and said to blend well with most fabrics.
- I am extremely pleased with it for my hexagon flowers I’ve been working on lately. I LOVE it. It doesn’t break and as long as I keep my stitches consistent, I’m finding it doesn’t show like the thread I was using previously for English paper piecing.
- There is 1,420 yards on a spool and prices at $8.49.
- Find it available here on the Superior website or here on Amazon.
The Sew Sassy Thread
- This is Superior’s 12 weight polyester thread designed for quilting, art quilts and decorative stitches.
- It’s said that it’s color presence can be seen from across the room.
- The strands feel the size of two strands of standard embroidery skein, but come on a yummy more easily handled spool. I really don’t see myself buying skeins anymore after using the spool. I feel like I’ll use this for embroidery and hand quilting, but I may double up on it.
- One spool holds 100 yards of thread and is priced at $3.99, an incredible value if you are comparing to skeins.
- Find it here on the Superior website in 40 different colors.
If we are comparing websites with lots of help for their customers, Superior would win hands down. Their website is vast with information to help you choose the right thread, more thread types than any other company I tested and I felt their prices were a smidgen better. Each spool of thread also tells you what needle to use. Superior also offers a variety of needles for your machine (which I did test and love) and hand sewing needles. I’d really like to try the hand sewing needles soon.
If I’m choosing favorite threads, I’d have to choose Superior. I like all the different kinds of threads for different parts of my daily sewing. When each thread is specifically created for a certain step of my quilt making it’s much easier to make that step the smoothest and easiest for myself. It seemed that most of the other thread companies did this as well, but with Superior it was so spelled out and made easy for me.
- Isadora loved the So Fine thread.
- Tanya says that the So Fine is on her list of threads to try.
- Camille says that Superior has a monopoly on long arm quilting when using the Omni threads (their longarm thread). She said that So Fine is the thread to use when you want your machine applique to disappear.
- Jessamyn said she the loves the Bottom Line for EPP and hand applique.
- Kaye said Superior has wonderful hand stitching weight threads for hand applique.
- Rachel says she is using lots of different Superior threads and loving them.
- Terry says she loves Superior threads and they’d give Aurifil a run for their money.
I purchased and tested out Aurifil 40 weight thread for my last Good Girl quilt. I have not tested any other sizes from this company.
The 40 Weight Thread
- Both of my machines, Juki and Bernina liked this thread. I pieced and quilted with it. I don’t have any complaints. It was smooth, no breaking and had vast color options.
- According to what I’ve read the 40 weight is for machine embroidery and machine quilting, while the 50 weight is for piecing and applique. I’ll hopefully try the 50 weight soon.
- This was by far the most popular thread choice of all quilters questioned.
- Aurifil does not sell their products themselves, they sale them in quilt shops. Fat Quarter Shop once again had a smorgasbord of options available. Find them here.
- The going price seemed to be $10.48 for a spool with over a thousand yards of thread. So while that is priced more than most spools I tested, it offered twice as much thread.
Fat Quarter Shop also offered lots of sets of Aurifil threads that looked incredibly yummy. Once you get past scrolling through the more expensive ones, there are lots of more affordable options.
One thing I found very interesting was the Aurifil thread Club that they offered. I’m planning on joining. They are smaller size spools and the club is affordable with a new set shipping each month. If you are new to building up your thread stash I think this would be a great way to do so. Find that info here.
- Anna said that on her Brother machine the 50 wt thread constantly breaks. She thinks it’s the machine.
- Isadora said that when she’s sewing on Liberty Tana lawn fabrics she prefer’s the Aurifil 40 and 50 weights.
- Another quilter said she has a Bernina and only uses Aurifil 50 weight.
- Fran said Aurifil is one of her two favorite threads.
- Tanya says that she finds the Aurifil 50 wt. to be too fine, though she hasn’t had any thread breaking while sewing, only after when she has a finished quilt.
- Lara said she is a 50 wt addict and uses it for everything.
- Mandy said she’s a brand new quilter and her Pfaff machine has too much lint after using Aurifil. She’s going to be looking for another kind of thread.
- Camille says she uses 50 wt on her Bernina and has no trouble with link. She did find the 80 wt tangled and broke easily.
- Vicki says 40 and 50 wt Aurifil both purr through her Janome machine.
- Nicole thinks the 50 wt is the most economical spool of thread, and she uses it for EPP. She sews on an Elna machine.
- Kaye said she uses Aurifil 50 wt for everything and feels it produces less lint in her bobbin area.
- Nicolette says Aurifil is her favorite brand and she uses the 40 wt for machine piecing and machine quilting and the 50 wt for hand applique, hand stitching and machine applique. She sews on a Janome.
- Terry says her Pfaff machine loves Aurifil thread and produces less lint.
- Karen says she exclusively uses Aurifil and when she buys it on the cone it feels like it lasts forever. She also thinks each spool is consistent in quality.
- Kathleen says she uses Aurifil for all quilting and piecing.
Coats & Clark Thread
Coats might be the oldest thread company in America. I recently inherited a huge thread stash from my grandma and in it is probably upwards of 300 spools of Coats & Clark threads on lovely little wooden spools.
I swapped several emails with Lynn, a representative for Coats and she was amazing! The customer service was impeccable.
Coats sent me quite a bit of thread: 14 spools of Quilt+, 2 spools of Hand Quilting thread, 2 spools of Bold Hand Quilting thread, 2 spools of Paper Piecing thread, 3 spools of All Purpose Dual Duty xp thread, 3 spools of their cotton Machine Quilting thread, one spool of their Cotton Covered quilting and piecing thread, and one spool of their Secura thread.
The Cotton Covered Quilting and Piecing Thread
- This is a 35 wt polyester thread covered with cotton. It’s more polyester than cotton, but cotton is what you feel when you touch it.
- It is designed for quilting and piecing.
- Since it was a thicker thread, I thought my Juki would probably not care for it. I was wrong, it sewed just fine. No breaking, bad tension or any problems whatsoever.
- It comes in a 250 yard spool and sales for $5.64.
- Found here on Amazon and there is a large selection for sale at Create For Less as well (Create for Less sometimes has massive thread sales. I recently saw a 300 yard spool of Coats on sale for $1.29. If you are building up your thread stash, this is a huge savings!).
- Quilt+ is a newer thread Coats has on the market.
- It is a 30 weight cotton thread designed for quilting.
- It is long staple Egyptian cotton thread.
- I LOVED this thread. It was my favorite of the Coats brands.
- I tested it during free motion quilting on my Bernina and it did a beautiful job without any breaks or complications.
- I really like the 30 weight for quilting, it’s bolder.
- A spool has 600 yards of thread and priced at $5.98.
- You can find the sets available here on Amazon. I have this neutral set.
The Coats Cotton
- This thread is 30 weight long staple cotton designed for machine quilting.
- I tested this on my Bernina during free motion quilting and it did a beautiful job. I will also say that I quilted a queen quilt and the thread ran out just before I had finished. I finished with the Quilt+ and I couldn’t tell much difference between the quilting of the two.
- They do have bigger spools than what I was using available.
- A spool has 350 yards of thread and is priced at $2.37. You can find it on Amazon here. You can also find it at Create for Less here, or your local Joann’s store.
The Dual Duty XP All Purpose Thread
- This is a 35 weight polyester sewing thread.
- Coats boasts that there are more colors of this thread than any thread on the market. As far as I can tell, they are right!
- If you want a thread that can do all the things, then this would be a good choice. I pieced with it on my Juki and it gave me no troubles.
- A spool holds 250 yards of thread and was priced between $2-3 (though other size spools are available).
- I found a big selection here on Create for Less or here on Amazon.
The Dual Duty Paper Piecing Thread
- This is a 60 weight polyester thread designed for foundation paper piecing.
- I LOVED it!
- I tested it for machine paper piecing on my Juki. Bulk is important when it comes to paper piecing, too much can cause points not to align. This thread did exactly what it was supposed to.
- I also tested it for English paper piecing. I did like it for that as well and my stitches were well hidden using the 60 weight. Also, because this thread isn’t “slick”, I found it did not fall out of my needle as much as other EPP threads do.
- A spool has 225 yards of thread and priced at around $6.
- I found it here on Amazon for sale.
The Bold Hand Quilting Thread
- This is a poly/cotton 10 weight thread for hand quilting.
- This is the only thread from one of the big thread companies boasting such a large weight.
- This is my new quilting thread without doubt. I loved it and I cannot say enough good things about it.
- There are 17 colors available.
- A spool features 175 yards of thread and the price is around $8. More expensive than some of the other brands, but I feel worth it for the extra weight.
- You can find it for sale here on Amazon and here on Create for Less.
Obviously Coats knows what it’s doing. They’ve been doing it forever and could my grandma be wrong?
I do wish it was easier for me to find what I want from Coats. The website wasn’t the easiest to navigate. Joann’s, Create for Less and Amazon are Coats’ biggest distributors, but I don’t have a Joann’s in my town and the other two websites didn’t have the thread organized in a way that made for easy shopping. If a big online shop that catered to quilters like Fat Quarter Shop could distribute their threads I think all my issues could be resolved. I want to keep the Quilt+, the paper piecing thread and the bold hand quilting thread in my stash to always have to use, they were my favorites and worth seeking out to me.
One more thing I loved about Coats’ threads was that little opening on their spools that kept the thread from dangling. What a great feature (I’m a bit obsessed with neatness over here)!
- Tanya says she likes the Coats Quilting Cotton thread.
- Linda says she’s tried Coats and had problems.
- Julie has been using the 30 wt Coats cotton for all kinds of sewing and loves it. She said it’s super soft and glides through her Janome.
- Kathleen says she uses the Dual Duty poly/cotton for when she sews clothing on her Janome.
- Alexa says that the machine quilting thread is her favorite thread.
- Carol says she’s a Coats girl!
- Lala says she’s been quilting for 35 years and have used Coats almost exclusively and her older quilts are still holding up. She uses the Dual Duty all purpose the most often.
This testing challenge is the first time I’ve used Mettler threads. I’m testing the silk finish 40 wt cotton. I find their spools adorable. I know that’s silly, but I like pretty notions and these are pretty little spools. Unfortunately, I only tried the one type of thread from Mettler, but I will update this review if/when I try more of their products.
The 40 wt Silk Finish Thread
- This thread has been especially made for patchwork and quilting. It’s been mercerized, making it heat resistant and reducing shrinkage (I later found out this is true of every thread made).
- I tested this thread while machine quilting on my Bernina (see pic to the right). I did have some thread breaking, but once I swapped to an 80 size needle the breaking stopped.
- This spool has 547 yards of thread and sales for $5.98. Shop for it here at Fat Quarter Shop.
- This particular color makes me want to put it in a glass and drink it all up. 🙂 What? I like pretty colors.
- Also available on Amazon here.
Mettler has a pretty great website though they do not sell their threads themselves. Find all of their threads here with details. I particularly like the symbols at the bottom of each of the types of threads that tells you what each type works best for.
- Nicole likes Mettler threads and says they work well with her Elna machine.
What I’ve read about Gutermann, it appears to be another very old company. Their website states they’ve been in business for 275 years. I even found recycled thread on their site, which I find very impressive. I’m always impressed with that kind of thing.
They do have an informative website, but I found it wasn’t the easiest to navigate through. They did however have a vast selection of different types of thread that looked promising, even basting thread which peaked my curiosity.
I did not test Gutermann’s threads as of yet, but I do plan on it and will update this page as soon as I do. My apologies for the delay.
- Linda says the only thread she uses is Gutermann and she sews on a Singer.
- Mandy says she tried Gutermann polyester on her Pfaff and could not get the tension right.
- Snow says she uses Gutermann on her Singer and loves it.
- Fran says she uses Guterman 50 wt for piecing and quilting.
- Isadora says she’s tried the Gutermann 50 wt cotton and it’s one of her favorites.
- Nicolette says her Janome does not like Gutermann 40 wt.
That does it for my thread testing. These were the six thread companies with 99% of the mentions of being loved by you, quilt makers.
Whatever you are enjoying is definitely what you should be using. This post is meant to be a place to learn about different types of threads, what they are used for, where you can get them and what they cost and compare those to each other. It’s not meant to steer you in any particular direction, but just in case you care for my own opinion, here goes:
- I will from now on use poly in my bobbin. No ifs, ands, or buts. The brand for this task if of no real importance, but preferably a 50 weight.
- I want to piece with 50 weight. I found that it did make less bulky seams, especially when there are lots of seams. This is something I’d never thought of before my thread testing days.
- If I’m doing paper piecing, I am going to use the specially made thread for that by Coats. When paper piecing, not having bulk is important, it’s one of the deciding factors for perfect points. Whatever helps me get that result, I’m gonna do.
- I like the 30, 35, and 40 weight threads for my machine quilting. I’m not completely sold on any brand of thread in particular for that task, but I still like the colors of the King Tut by Superior and the Cotton + Steel threads by Sulky even though the C+S are actually 50 weight (I wish they were 40). I can see myself sticking to those just for colors. I really liked Coats Quilt+ 35 weight quilting thread too, it was bulkier and really showed up so very nicely. Plus the price is better on this one than the other two. I just need to find a place where I can view all the colors available to me.
- For English paper piecing, I’m completely sold on The Bottom Line by Superior. It was a noticeable difference and of all the thread testing I did for all the tasks, it was the only true stark contrast from all the other threads.
- For hand quilting, I LOVED the 10 weight Bold Hand Quilting thread from Coats. It’s been made especially for “big stitch” quilters, which is me! I plan on starting a collection of it. I also really loved the 12 weight tiny spools by Sulky. These two threads were my favorite for hand quilting.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed testing and listening to what you have to say.
If you have any comments, suggestions or any replies at all, please leave a comment.
Expect a follow up post to this one all about needles and eliminating sewing issues.