What color thread should I use for quilting?
March 2, 2012 8:11 AM   Subscribe

What color thread should I use to quilt this quilt?

That picture shows it on my floor (at a slight angle). I have since filled in the side pieces with dark gray so it looks as if the blocks are floating on the dark background.

The back will be the dark purple tiny print (if it's not obvious, all the fabrics are tiny prints). It was suggested to me by the quilting store person that I use purple thread to do the quilting, but when I got home I realized (duh) that that would put purple stitches all over the front. Will that look horrible against my lighter color non-purple blocks?

I've made a few quilts in the (distant) past and I've always used white thread for quilting. Will white look too obviously, um, white on the dark purple back of the quilt?

Any suggestions for what color thread to use highly appreciated.
posted by DMelanogaster to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
Most of my quilts are quilted in white, but for this, I'd use a medium-light cool gray. It won't stick out as brightly on the back, and won't be too colorful on the front.
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 8:15 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you hand quilting or machine quilting? If you are machine quilting I believe you can thread one color on the bobbin and the other through the feed so that you have purple thread on the bottom and white on the top.

I was also going to suggest grey if you are hand-quilting.
posted by muddgirl at 8:16 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

That is a beautiful quilt! I think that purple would clash with the orange. I would use a medium gray or khaki color.
posted by Ostara at 8:17 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would go with a variegated thread, either rainbow variegated or cool tones (grays, purples). I always agonize over this, and then remember all over again that the more the quilt "quilts" with washing, the less of any kind of attention or contrast there is to the color of the quilting thread, unless that was a planned part of the design. I'm thinking variegated mainly because variegated thread is a contemporary choice and your quilt design has a contemporary feel. Nice work!
posted by rumposinc at 8:29 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you are using a sewing machine, yes, you can use two different colored threads very easily - just wind one thread on the bobbin and use a different color on the top, and quilt a couple test pieces on fabric scraps. If the wrong color is 'peeking through' between stitches, a sewing machine shop can adjust the tension until you get a clean stitch with the colors only showing on the intended side.

If you are hand quilting, there is clear nylon thread, though I don't know how easy it is to work with.

What about a metallic silver?

People are going to be looking at the front, so I'd choose colors that work best with the front. If you use different colors for different blocks, you will create a neat 'shadow pattern' on the back...kind of a ghost image echoing the front pattern. You could even play it up by quilting the outline of each of your blocks and then free-form within the blocks, making the back pattern even better defined. You know, if you can't fix it, feature it!
posted by Ausamor at 9:04 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry I forgot to mention I am quilting by hand. Love the suggestions of gray and "shadowing."

thank you!
posted by DMelanogaster at 9:58 AM on March 2, 2012

In what pattern are you quilting it? If you're following the seams of the tumbling blocks, I'd do each set of blocks in a matching or complementary color—the layout would then carry through to the back. (I also like rumposinc's suggestion of variegated thread.)
posted by ocherdraco at 10:14 AM on March 2, 2012

We used to use a "colorless" silk thread - it's kind of the color of nude pantyhose. I just went through the etui and I can't find a spool, but I think it was made by Coats & Clark. It's heavy duty and doesn't break as easily as nylon thread does. Also machine washable and dryable, and can be dry cleaned. It slides through fabric and batting like a dream when you are hand-quilting - I could take twelve stitches on the needle and pull it through effortlessly.

Oh, and don't use it for basting - it disappears so well you can't find it to pull it out...
posted by halfbuckaroo at 11:16 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooh, this is going to be a pretty quilt! I'd suggest grey as well, maybe the same grey as the background you used? Or a little lighter, if the contrast with the light fabrics would be too stark with a dark grey. What color are you planning on using for the binding? Since the binding is usually chosen to work with all the colors in the quilt, you could use the same color for the quilting as well.
posted by amf at 1:04 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the compliments. I just bought a dove gray. I didn't want to buy thread in all color groups. I don't think I'm going to quilt all around each cube. Maybe a zig-zag down the sides of the cubes (I'm slightly lazy). I think the light gray'll be okay on the front. Thank you!
posted by DMelanogaster at 2:04 PM on March 2, 2012

oh, and halfbuckaroo, thank you for introducing me to the word "etui."
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:13 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

DAMN I just started to quilt and the stitches are so large! (hand quilting). I looked up how to quilt on YouTube (haven't done this in 19 years) and I can't believe I ever wore a thimble and rocked a needle to and fro. I seem to remember "just sewing", like a tiny running stitch, but my running stitches are so big! like 3 to an inch.

Is this that I can't remember that I really *did* rock my finger back and forth? I just remember sitting on my bed with the quilt on my lap (or what there was of a lap -- I was nine months pregnant) and sewing as per "normal." I didn't even have a hoop.

I am: confused.

What's the easiest way for me to quilt this sucker? (sewing machine is in the shop and I don't know how to quilt by machine anyway - I think that would make a bigger mess of puckers)
posted by DMelanogaster at 9:00 AM on March 4, 2012

I've been hand-quilting my first quilt ever for the past few months. I do the thimble and "rocking" method, but as I'm just learning how, I'm doing it one stitch at a time, not trying to stack up several stitches on the needle. I've been getting something like 7 stitches per inch lately.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:29 AM on March 4, 2012

That's great. I've done a LOT so far today. I figure: some quilt, while others: baste.

oh boy.

I did remember that 19 years ago I TIED the quilt rather than quilted it.

Even one stitch at a time there is a 1/4-inch spread. I think if I had opted for the flat batting instead of the pouffy batting I'd be in better shape right now. My quilt is so THICK that's it's impossible for me to make tiny stitches.

Oh well, next time.
posted by DMelanogaster at 11:21 AM on March 4, 2012

I think the you are right that the batting you chose is too thick to get a good small stitch. As you continue quilting you will be better at it your stitches will become smaller. Also, if you are using a hoop, consider having having the quilt be less taut (with more give--someone once told me it should be as if your cat had taken a nap on the hooped quilt--it should sag) or try not using a hoop at all.
posted by QuakerMel at 3:39 PM on March 4, 2012

I was accustomed to hand quilting on a very large frame that had a lot of give, and also freed up both hands to do the thimble and rock stitching. We used dressmaker's pins perpendicular to the stitch line to "clamp" down thicker batting.

Maybe you should try a stitch where you take a full stitch and then start your next stitch in the middle of the first stitch, like a running backstitch in embroidery?
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:05 PM on March 28, 2012

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