Thread weight matters, find out why

thread post image

Thread has a weight, even if you think it’s as light as a feather, it can be measured, and it relates to the thickness, really. Much like humans….

The thread that you use on your project does make a difference to the result. The stitches could disintegrate after a few years, or it could last generations. Some will give a beautiful decorative effect, but fall apart after the first wash. Some are super cheap, while others require a mortgage. You get the idea that good quality thread is important, right? I mean, the Chinese do make some good stuff (I can hear you giggling), and I use a tripoly thread that is manufactured in China (Colorful). But some thread should just be avoided, especially on a quilt.

Superior, but pricey

I have fallen in love with the monopoly from Superior Threads – but it costs a fortune. That being said, I’m not changing back to YKK or whatever other brand is around these days. At the time of writing a 9000m cone (I’m not even going to go down the smaller cone route, that’s gonna blow my annual fabric budget!) costs around R500. That’s around 5c per meter. This baby doesn’t give in after 1 year (as long as I’ve now used it….I know not exactly a lifetime, but it is Superior Threads…). I use it for couching – it blends into the yarn and I don’t have to change thread colour, which is of course ideal on a variegated yarn.

cotton thread
Photograph from Superior Threads

If you happen to be a parent to a Handi Quilter, you’ll have gotten a few Superior Thread samples with your machine (Superior Threads is a baby company of Handi Quilter). I’ve nursed those babies let me tell you, but the So Fine! is really oh, so, fine. I had a chat to Claire, who owns Handi Quilter South Africa (at the time of writing) , and she can get So Fine! for you if you ask, but suggests using Glide 60wt.

Hold the bus, what’s this 60wt thing? And why does my cotton thread say 40wt? That is the weight of the thread and is where the dreams and nightmares keep company.

Thread weight

Weight of thread is determined according to how long a piece of thread is needed to weigh 1kg.

40wt means 40km of thread weighs 1kg

30wt means 30km of thread weighs 1kg

20wt means 20km of thread weighs 1kg

Can you see that the smaller the number, the heavier the thread? Because you need less of that to weigh a kilogram, which means it’s thicker.

Yup, that number tells you how thick the thread is.

If I take my example of So Fine! which is a 50wt and Glide 60wt, Glide is thinner. Why would you want a thicker or thinner thread? It gives different effects you see. A thinner thread will sort of disappear into the quilt, but a heavier thread will rest on top of the fabric.

silk thread
Photograph from Superior Threads

Machine Embroidery

I use my machine embroidery thread for quilting too. Colorful is a 40wt that also has a sheen (obviously, it’s machine embroidery, duh), and works like a charm on my Infinity. Most embroidery designs are digitised for a 40wt thread. If you then use a 30wt, your design is going to stitch out very dense and may causing jamming issues, shredding and general malcontent. If you want to use a thicker/heavier thread, you need to use a different needle perhaps a 100, so that it can easily move through the eye of the needle and sits nicely in the groove (read about needles in this blog post). You will also benefit from reducing the density of the design, and increasing the stitch length.

Butterflies in my garden has machine embroidery and quilting both using Colorful, a trilobal 40wt thread.

Quilting thread

Similar to machine embroidery, if you’re going to use thicker thread, use a different needle size. Use a 90/14 for 40wt and 100/16 for 30wt. I use my trilobal, Colorful, which you can get directly from the distributor in South Africa. It used to be the preferred brand for Bernina, but they’ve since moved on to Glide, which is the current brand of choice around the country. I’ve used Glide on my quilts, but not for my machine embroidery. It seems to shred quicker on my embroidery machine, but my Infinity likes it, so it’s good for my quilts.

Metallic thread will give you a brilliance but personally I’ve not had much success with it, and I haven’t tried the more expensive brands and thus cannot comment. I do know that it looks great though, so you may want to experiment and let the rest of us know ?

A lovely close-up of stitching on Blooming Stripes Tutu Fruti, all with Colorful 40wt thread. Read the series on quilting this quilt here.

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