Jan 11 07

The Skinny on Fat Threads

I get asked a lot about the heavy threads I use on a lot of my quilts, so I thought this might be a good topic for a post. These threads are not threads which were devised for use in the top needle, but they actually DO fit in your top sewing machine needle. For those of you who are starting to shudder and get scared, remember that you can add a lot of interest to your quilts by throwing in more sources of texture and visual interest, and using these threads is a great way to do this. Think of using these in quilted motifs, (or free motion embroidered motifs) which are important or significant to your quilt. Because these threads are so heavy and large, they draw the viewer’s eye to wherever they are used. Let me show you some examples of commercially available heavy threads. The photo below is of some variegated threads from the Caron Collection:

heavy threads

The Caron Collection makes 2 lines of threads that fit in your top needle. The line pictured above is the “Wildflowers” line and it is composed of 100% cotton. It comes in variegated colors and solid colors. To sew with these, hand wind the thread onto an empty spool or empty cone and use a size 100 Topstitch needle. Wind a medium weight cotton thread or even Dual Duty Plus thread on your bobbin, trying to match the top thread color as closely as possible. It is not mandatory, but I usually run a few rows of Sewer’s Aid, a commercial liquid silicone, along the length of the spool, and this allows any type of thread to flow through your machine more easily. (I do this for ALL heavy threads and also for ALL metallic threads). There is a second line of threads by the Caron Collection and this is called the “Impressions” line, shown below:

heavy threads

Notice that I have placed 1 skein of the Wildflowers line as the 2nd skein pictured; I did that so you’ll have a reference point to judge size. This Impressions line is an entirely different animal…it’s composed of a blend of wool and silk and it’s kind of a “fat” thread, much plumper than the Wildflowers. It’s also as soft as a baby’s bum and has a bit of a furriness look to it. I’m telling you this so you’ll appreciate the neat textures it will add to your quilt. Stitch with it the same way as I described earlier, but remember that it has wool in it, so if you plan to launder this quilt…wool + water + agitation=felt=possible heartbreak! You generally don’t see these threads in quilting or sewing stores, so look for them in embroidery stores or cross stitch supply stores, and be prepared for heart palpitations as you walk through the aisles and spot all kinds of other luscious fibers that you could couch down on your quilts! If you STILL can’t find them or just don’t have access to these stores, go to www.caron-net.com/threads.html

Another great quilting thread for use in the top needle is the beautiful hand dyed size 12 pearl cotton available from www.artfabrik.com, as shown below:

heavy threads

These are just a bit smaller and if you are skittish about trying heavy threads, try these first because their smaller size will probably make them easier for you to use. They come only in variegated colors but you will LOVE these scrumptuous colors. Stitch them with a size 90 Topstitch needle and then fall in love with your work!

Now, let’s say that you’re trying to save yourself some money and have a blast along the way, well, that’s when you go and dye the threads yourself:

caron collection-wildflowers

These were dyed using size 12 pearl cotton embroidery thread by DMC, but you can also use 100% cotton size 30 mercerized crochet thread as your base:

heavy threads

I’m not sure that the picture shows this point well, but note that you may use the pure white or the off-white thread as your base as each will dye up into a brilliant and vivid color. Also pay close attention to the finish of the base thread. The DMC has a slight sheen to it whereas most of the others available have a flat or a matte finish. I dye both types because I like to use different threads in different applications. Can you see the deep royal blue and deep purple threads off to the side? I threw those in to let you know that you can also over-dye already colored threads. These last 2 are also examples to show you that size 12 pearl cotton will look different when you compare 1 brand to another. The blue pictured here is by Presencia and the purple is by Anchor and both are FAR smaller than the other size 12 pearl cotton threads I’ve shown. Someday I’ll post the steps taken to dye these threads…it’s much easier than you think!

One Comment

  1. Jan Says:

    Patsy, I’m looking forward to seeing how you dye thread. I’ve recently started dying fabric
    ( ala Melody Johnson ) and really want to go to the next logical step, thread. I’ll keep an eye on your site. By the way, when is the new dvd coming out. I’m going crazy waiting for it ( I check everyday ) Love all of your work. Jan