Wednesday 12 April 2017

Hand quilting threads

Wow! There's been a lot of reaction to my last post on Celebrating Hand Quilting - thank you everyone who left a comment, blogged about their own hand quilting or joined the Celebrate Hand Quilting Facebook group.  I guess I've made a small contribution towards keeping hand quilting current in the 21st century.

If you're itching to give hand quilting a go, and don't know where to start, I highly recommend this video by Sarah Fielke - it's how I learnt.  I watched it again and again until I was happy with my own technique.

I going to try to answer some of your questions about hand quilting here and in future posts. My next post will be about the designs I choose to hand quilt on my quilts, but today's post is about threads, needles, thimbles and hoops.

Many of you have asked me what threads I use for big stitch hand quilting.  The answer is - a variety.  I have many colours, thicknesses and types of threads to chose from.  Each quilt needs something different, and I try to make each quilt different too.

I'll explain each thread and then offer a comparison too.

1.  DCM Perle 8. 

This thread is great.  It's probably the most cost effect option in my collection and comes in a wide range of colours.  It's what I used for my first few years of big stitch hand quilting.  Here's a tip - when you get near the end of the ball and the card with the label starts to fall off, write the number inside the reel with a permanent marker.  Then you can buy a new ball without trying to colour match.

2.  Sue Spargo Eleganza perle 8 by Wonderfil

These threads are gorgeous. Sue Spargo developed the colours in conjunction with Wonderfil.  I used these threads for some of the embroidery on my #instastitchwithSue mystery quilt - see here. These threads are the same thickness as the DMC perle 8 above, and can be used for hand quilting.  However, they are justifiably more expensive than DMC perle 8.

3. Wonderfil Razzle and Dazzle 

Wonderfil have made some gorgeous shiny rayon threads that I like to use.

Razzle is perle 8 thickness and it comes in plain or variegated colours (top 5 threads in photo above).  It's quite difficult to control because it's rayon and therefore slippery, but it does give a lovely result as a special feature.  Remember to keep your thread length quite short because it does fray easily. I wouldn't attempt to quilt a whole quilt with it.

Dazzle is also perle 8 thickness and it has a built in sparkle! The great thing about this thread is that the sparkle is embedded and doesn't get in the way as you pull the needle through the fabric. I have quilted a whole dark quilt in a combination of Razzle and Dazzle and it was fine to use.

4. Valdani 12wt and 8wt

Some hand quilters just love Valdani and use it all the time.  It's very expensive in New Zealand, and not many shops stock it, so I only have one tray of 12wt that I bought online.  I like using it, but I'm not rushing out to buy more colours. I find that the 12wt is like a skinnier version of DMC perle 8. (Unlike DMC perle 12 which doesn't feel like a skinnier version of DMC perle 8.)

5. Aurifil 12wt and 28wt

I've saved the best til last! I have become an Aurifil convert over the past year.  I love the range of colours available and the different thread weights. 

I have their thread chart and can lay a true sample of the thread against fabrics to choose the right colours to order.  I started buying the 28wt to hand quilt my la passacaglia.  I knew perle 8 was going to be too thick for the tiny pieces in that quilt, so wanted a thinner thread that came in a range of colours.  

Aurifil's 28wt is very strong, and similar to Gutermann quilting cotton.See the bottom two threads in the photo above - Mettler 40 quilting cotton (black) against Aurifil 28wt (blue).

Aurifil's 12wt (teal thread on red spool above) is the same thickness as Valdani 12wt (pink ball).

I do like Aurifil's 12wt now and use it for most of my hand quilting.


top to bottom:

Wonderfil Razzle and Dazzle - these are the thickest.  Although the state they are equivalent to perle 8, I find them to be fractionally thicker.

DMC perle 8 and Sue Spargo Eleganza - these are both the same thickness - perle 8.

Valdani perle 12 and Aurifil 12wt - these are both the same thickness - perle 12 (thinner than perle 8).

Aurifil 28wt - thin and strong

Mettler 40 wt - thinnest and what I use for sections that won't be seen. 

See the difference? click on the photo to enlarge it if necessary.

So that's the threads I use.  I hope that was helpful.  

As for other hand quilting necessities:

I use a Clover open sided thimble on the third finger of my top hand. I don't have anything on my other hand, and never seem to end up with callouses. 

I use Clover hera markers and my quilting ruler to mark my quilting lines (or sometimes a chalk pencil).

I use John James Chenille needles number 24 because they have big eyes to accommodate the thick threads, and very sharp points.  I use them for all the threads above because I'm used to them and like them.

I usually have 4 needles threaded at once so I can quilt an area before I have to move my hoop to a new area. 

I have a large round, wooden quilting hoop, and I always use it when I'm hand quilting.  It keeps my tension nice and even. My hoop is 18" diameter, and I wouldn't recommend going any larger unless you have very long forearms.  

I hope that covers everything.  If not, leave me a question below and I'll try to answer your question next time.  


OPQuilt said...

I enjoyed the previous post about hand quilting, and now this one, too. I have quite a collection of threads, largely because of our collaboration on Oh Christmas Tree, and quite like the Valdani 12 and the DMC 8, but in some places I can only push through one stitch at a time, instead of two or three on the needle (like you can with regular thread). I use a 14" hoop that I've had for ages, and sometimes the edge hoop (has a half-circle shape with a piece of fabric along the straight edge so you can pin the edge of your quilt to it, with no flopping; also had it for ages).
Thanks so much for this great post!

Unknown said...

Very good info on your different threads and how to use them. Love your work! Love your Mothers work too!

Paula J

Aliceart said...

Thank you! Lots of good information here.

Kiwiquilter said...

Thanks for the in-depth thread info here, very useful.

Paige said...

Great info, thanks!

Judy said...

Thank you so much!! I will try to find the needles online. Aurifil thread I love. I have 12 boxes of 50 wt. a little 40, and 28. It's a great excuse to visit the Fat Quarter shop and buy some 12 wt boxes!! I'm so happy! Just need to get some small pieces to put together to practice. I think you are a special lady to help!

margaret said...

what a lovely selection of threads I too love the perle also had quite a few DMC flower threads that I bought very cheaply once they were discontinued. Oliver Twist threads are also good to use will be stocking up with more when I go to the big quilt show here in the UK in august

Julie said...

Thanks Wendy - very informative and I like the thread comparisons.

Susan said...

Thanks for the very comprehensive post Wendy! The comparison of threads is very useful!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Thank you so much for the thread comparison. I admit to looking at threads and not knowing how they will perform, I leave them in the store due to the cost of buying a thread that might not fit the bill. I would have to order most on line and when you add shipping it can be cost prohibitive. So far, I love hand quilting.
xx, Carol

Julie said...

Thank you for going through each sections and reviewing it. That's helpful for me as was your tip on marking the numbers/info inside the rolls for when the tags drop out. Btw, I kept hearing other people rave about Valdani, but it's expensive here in the US too. I have been using Prescencia, and it's my own favorite so far.

The other thing I was looking at was the nifty way you store your threads. So many sizes, and there's nothing worse than tangle threads. I've tried several options, but may have to break down and find some clear storage units like you use. Thanks again.


Linda @ kokaquilts said...

Wonderful post! I hadn't realised there was so much to choose from! So is the price of Aurifil comparable? I've used the perle 8 quite a bit, but am tempted to try the Aurifil 12wt

Kyle said...

Thanks for the wonderful comparison of threads. I've used all of those but I think I have to agree that my favorite is the Aurifil as well.

Gisele said...

Excellent post Wendy, love the thread comparisons. I've used perle 8 DMC, Valdani & Prescencia in the past but would not purchase more Valdani as it shreds more readily than the other two.

Kath said...

Thankyou for such a helpful post, the link was in my FB group for EPP. I am inspired to do some hand quilting again after many years of battling with machine quilting, which I don't enjoy, but I love to hand sew! I have subscribed to your blog.Nice to meet you Wendy! Kath in England.

Unknown said...

I also learned hand quilting by watching Sarah Fielke. She made me believe I could tackle this and with practice get good at it. Thank you for your explanations of threads and I will use the J J Chenille needles. Again, thank you! Love big stitch hand quilting and your collections of such beautiful threads!

Granny Maud's Girl said...

I use the same thimble for quilting and many of the same types and weights of threads. I got carried away a week ago and tried 3 or 5 weight perle cotton for some decorative embellishments - too fat! Popping those knots through almost did my head in!

Unknown said...

Thanks you very much! I learned a lot about threads and I will do more handquilting in the future! And also, I will try to work with a frame and hope,my stitches will be more similar on the frontside and the back.

G-MA said...

Please send me information on your blog tips to Thank you

Mandey said...

What brand hoop do you use? I'm about to venture into the world of hand quilting for the first time soon.

FlourishingPalms said...

Hi Wendy! I can't thank you enough for this review! I'm needing to purchase thread for big stitch quilting a project, and was at a loss to know what size of Aurifil to try. I have used DMC #8 in the past, but am looking to branch out a little. Thank you so much for this timely post. I'll bookmark it to refer to again and again. You're the best! Hugs, Linda

BronnyB said...

Thank you very much for such a comprehensive and legible explanation of threads. I've been an embroiderer for 40 years, a patchworker for 8 years and have been machine quilting (in the ditch) for the past 5 years. I now have a quilt that is speaking to me to hand quilt, and I had no idea that I would need to use anything different from sewing machine thread. My eyes are opened and I am inspired.