Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tip Tuesday! Thread Color Choices

Welcome to

"Tip Tuesday!" - Thread Color Choices

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give due credit whenever possible.

These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

Whenever we start a new sewing project, be it a quilt, pillow, table runner, purse, etc., we are faced with a number of choices we have to make. What fabrics do I use? How big do I make it? Do I follow the pattern exactly? You know how it is, right?

Well, one choice that I don't often think about is my thread color choice. I tend to piece most of my projects using "neutral" threads like various shades of beige or grey. Every once in a while, if I have a matching thread, I piece with that, but not usually. I save the matching thread for any quilting or topstitching I may do and of course for when I apply binding. So it's not like I don't buy different thread colors. A quilter can never have too much thread or fabric!

Whenever students ask me what thread they should use, I ask a couple of questions before I answer them. I ask if they want to, or like to use matching thread. If they are definite about matching threads, we then discuss the choices they have with them or the choices that are available at the shop. 

I lay out a sampling of the fabrics that are going to be used and then open up some thread and see how all of my choices are going to look. By a process of elimination, I make my choice. 

Usually, the concern is the fact that there are lots of different fabrics used in project and many of them are contrasting. Which color do they try to match? Which thread should go on top and which in the bobbin? Or what about when you are making a quilt that is two very contrasting fabrics like white and red?

If that is the situation, I simply try to find the thread that works best with all of the fabrics and be careful when I'm pressing seams. I do know a few people who change thread quite often while they are piecing quilts. I'm impressed and say more power to them! I just don't have the patience to change my thread multiple times in a single project. 

I am definitely not the Quilt Police when it comes to quilting or thread choices.

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But I kind of have a "rule of thumb" for myself when it comes to thread choices, and it involves pressing and using a correct stitch length. When a student is really struggling with their thread choices, I try to explain my process and reasoning for using a "neutral" thread.        

No matter what thread I use to piece, I should not see it when I press my seams. The thread should only be visible from the back of the two pieces sewn. If the stitch length is too long, there will be gaps or open parts to the seam. Not only will you see the thread, but more importantly the seam will most likely not be as strong as it should be in order to prevent seams from coming apart.

When it comes to pressing, if you are pressing accurately there will be no folds or pockets from the fabric not being pressed thoroughly. If this occurs, the "fix" is easy. Simply press again and make sure that you press from the front and press out the folds. Easy peasy!

Another issue is when seams are pressed too hard and stretching occurs. With proper pressing, there should be no stretched seams that allow the thread to be visible on the right side. Remember, we quilters press. We don't iron.  :-)

The sample below is from a quilt onto which I added the binding. I noticed some thread popping through seams and snapped a few pictures. (I did ask and was granted permission to use these pictures here.) Can you see the white thread that was used?) 

Another issue of over-pressing or stretching while pressing is that the fabrics are often pushed to their limits and are close to ripping apart. Notice the threads peeking through and the stretching that has caused some seams to compromised. 

Unfortunately this quilt had already been quilted when I saw the issues and fixing them was not as simple as just sewing the seams again. For the compromised seams, I suggested she hand stitch over the seams to secure them, just as I would do if I was repairing a quilt that had a hole in it. Regarding the white thread showing on the red fabric, she decided to wash the quilt and see if the "puffing" took care of it. If not, she was going to color the seams with a red fabric marker. 

We discussed how to avoid this in the future, and this quilter has since taken a couple of classes from me. She is much more careful with her pressing now and is amazed at how much more accurate her overall piecing has become. She has also made a change in that she no longer pieces with white thread only. She loves the thread rainbow on her wall and says it makes her smile. I love that!!

Do you use a different method to choice your threads? If so, I'd love to hear it.


Vroomans' Quilts said...

Excellent topic! I love thread as much as fabric, but I use a neutral for a great portion of my piecing. I find a brown works well with reds, browns, greens, and black - so don't do a lot of thread changes. If I have a lot of white, I will use a white. Stitch length is so important and I think a lot of the new machines' pre-set lenth is too long. Since I do a lot of scrap and small pieceing I tend to use a much shorter stitch length (for strength). And a good pressing lesson I think is a must for any class.

Needled Mom said...

Great information. It was interesting to see the threads laid out on all of the fabrics.