Saturday, April 30, 2011

threads, needles, and pins...and a surprise for us.

Hi, I'm Cindy from Live a Colorful Life, and I'm thrilled to be here, talking about
threads, needles and pins. 
I've been a quilter for over fifteen years, after going through many other creative phases. While I tired of the other phases after a while, quilting continues to inspire me, as it constantly changes and evolves. I started out as more of a traditional quilter, but now I would consider myself a modern quilter who likes to put a spin on some of the traditional blocks.

While my fabric choices and design ideas have changed into something entirely different from what I started doing as a beginning quilter, a few things have remained the same, and that is the high quality tools I use. This may not be the most exciting topic to read about but it's an important one: thread, needles and pins.
Volumes could be written about thread: types, brands, colors. As a beginning quilter, it is not necessary to have a multitude of thread colors. It IS important to have good quality thread.

These are spools of thread I inherited from my grandmother's sewing kit. I love them, the wooden spools and the colors. However, I would not use a single spool of this thread when piecing a quilt top. It's old, it could be brittle, and I just wouldn't trust it.
These are from Connecting Threads. They carry good quality thread at a very reasonable price.
What I recommend is a good 50-weight cotton in a couple of neutral colors, because they are subtle and blend well. I have a "wardrobe" of neutral colors, ranging from white to black. Start with a couple of neutral colors, and add more colors as your budget allows.
The numbers on thread label can be a little confusing. The lower the number, the heavier the thread. In other words, if it takes 50 kilometers of thread to to weigh one kilogram, it will be labeled 50 wt., if it takes 40 kilometers of thread to weight one kilogram, it will be labeled 40 wt. If your brain isn't used to the metric system, never fear. Just remember that a 50 wt. is a good standard thread to use when piecing.

There is often a number after the weight, either a 2 or a 3. This refers to the number of plies. Connecting Threads is a size 50/3 (50 weight, 3 ply), while Superior is 50/2 (50 weight, 2 ply). Both are excellent threads for piecing your quilt top together. Other brands to consider are Aurifil and Gutermann.

While I'm on the topic of thread, it is actually a myth that using polyester thread will tear your fabric. Fabric tearing due to thread has nothing to do with the thread fiber type but rather with the strength of the fibers--both the thread and the fabric. Whichever is the strongest is going to win the battle. However, remember that cotton thread is still a better choice for piecing because it is more heat tolerant and iron-safe. You don't want to be pressing those seams and risk having your thread melt!

If you want to learn more about thread (and I do admit to being a bit of a thread nerd), Superior Threads has a lot of "threadology" information and an excellent chart with guidelines on matching up bobbin thread, needle size, etc.

The bottom line is that a high-quality cotton thread will make the best seam, which just helps everything to match up better.
Now that you have your thread, what kind of needles are you going to use in your machine?

Here again, it's a numbers game. When it comes to needles, the higher the number, the stronger the needle and the heavier thread it can handle. And it's confusing because, again, there is a two-number system. The higher number is a metric measurement of the needle shaft diameter, and the smaller number is the U.S. equivalent of the needle shaft diameter. So a 80/12 would be a finer needle than a 90/14. I started out using a Universal 75/11 but now I am using either a microtex sharp 80/12 or a topstitch 80/12. You don't want to use a ball point needle, which was designed for polyester fabrics, but rather a sharp needle designed for woven fabrics. AND CHANGE THAT NEEDLE EVERY TIME YOU START A NEW PROJECT!
On to pins. My favorite pins are #5004 IBC Fine Silk Pins by Clotilde (or #5003 IBC if you like a pin with a glass head). You want a pin that is strong, long, thin, and very sharp.
As you start learning more quilting techniques and read about how other quilters do things, you will find that some people pin and some don't. I tend to pin a lot and find that the little extra time it takes is definitely worthwhile. First I determine whether I'm going to press the seams to the side or press the seams open. When I first started quilting I always pressed to the side. Now, with very few exceptions, I press my seams open because I feel that it makes the block less bumpy.

Either way, with the seams pressed open or to the side, first line up the seam:
Then place your pin about 1/8" away from the seam.
The back of your block will look like the one on the left if you have pressed your seams to the side, or like the one on the right if you have pressed them open.
Either way, the block intersection will look great!
Thanks for having me, Rebecca! Have a great time in Quilt Class, and I hope you all will stop by to see me at Live a Colorful Life.

Oh Thank you Cindy! She is a wealth of knowledge, provides tons of inspiration and has become a close bloggy friend. Thank you for visiting today... 
Cindy also has a surprise for us... Have you seen these...
 Gorgeous Selvage Pincushions!!
She made one for our Class!!
Pop on over to her blog to win it!
She custom designed this pressie for me....
and I was so excited when it arrived in the mail yesterday..

  and if you don't win... she can custom design one for
Thank you sooo much Cindy xx I just LOVE it!


  1. Very interesting post. I always use Rasant thread for piecing and I pin a lot too!

  2. Thank you for a great post. I love the Fons and porters pins. Very Strong. I use Rasant, Superior (Kind Tut, MasterPiece, So Fine, Omni), Signature threads for long arm and sewing machine. Polyester or Cotton are both great. Poly won't fluff as much as cotton. Using the correct needle is very important but adjusting the tension, storing your threads in a cool dry place, speed and stitch length also help. I am an open seams kind of girl but when it comes to doing in the ditch for a long arm quilter having the seams pressed to one side is much easier for us to guide the foot along.

  3. Thank you. I always get a little confused by the numbers. This was helpful.

  4. This post mentions that a hugher number means a finer needle, but that's the wrong way around - and the later text would appear to contradict the earlier statement. Certainly for machine needles, the higher the number, the thicker the needle. A 70 is much finer than a 100.

  5. I've had absolutely terrible luck with the connecting threads cotton thread. It simply comes apart. It will do stretches where it breaks every inch of stitching and then it will be fine for a few yards and then it breaks every few inches again. I'm about ready to toss it all. I don't have this problem with any other thread I've EVER used. I've replaced the needle, I've completely rethreaded the the machine and bobbin, the thread just keeps breaking. As soon as I switch thread no problems.

  6. I never thought to pin an 1/8" over from the intersection of the two seams. I have always pinned through the seams. I will have to try it.

  7. I was lucky enough to win one of Cindy's pincushions - and I love it!!

  8. Thanks for this - interesting reading. I was recommended masterpiece for piecing a long time ago, and it's so good I've stuck with it!

  9. Very nice post, covered a lot I did not know, little thread weight. Also I always have pieced with polyester and quilted with cotton, but will not try all cotton.
    Love the selvage pincushions! What a great idea, should try it myself one of these days. Thanks for the informative post!

  10. What a great post. Some things I am still learning even though I've been sewing for a long time. I've never had anyone really teach me though so it's all I've been able to just kinda figure out on my own. BUT, I am now learning more about thread and needles because that info I never learned on my own. I just grabbed a regular needle, stuck it into my old machine and sewed something for my boys when they were little. Now, however I have a fancy machine that does embroidery so it's a whole new game for me. And I'm learning about quilting now too so.....another, even more different 'game' so to speak.

    I'm very confused on part of the post above however and I re-read it at least six times and am still confused. Could it be clarified somehow?
    This is what is confusing to me as it appears to contradict itself. HELP?
    "When it comes to needles, the higher the number, the finer the needle. And it's confusing because, again, there is a two-number system. The higher number is a metric measurement of the needle shaft diameter, and the smaller number is the U.S. equivalent of the needle shaft diameter. So a 80/12 would be a finer needle than a 90/14. "
    That says the higher the number, the finer the needle, but then it goes on to say the 80/12 would be finer than the 90/14 which is where I got lost because 90 is a higher number. Why is that not the finer one than 80? Am I being super dense here? LOL

  11. Yes, it's great to see info on all three things in one post but I am confused about the needle size on the example too.

    Those pincushions are a great idea! I'm too lazy to save my selveges!:)

  12. Hi Girls, Yes your right about the needles.. Cindy and I confused ourselves... I just went back and changed it so it should all be right now!! xx Thanks for proof reading for us!! xx and ironing out the kinks..! xxx

  13. Hello! I found your blog on Sew Happiness. I have bookmarked your Quilt Class to check out later. I belong to a Quilt Club that makes quilts to hand out to various people around the world (seriously or term. ill, abused children, ect). Although I do sew, I don't make the quilts, I help tie them.

    I've added your button to My Button Collection page. Please stop by, look around and say "Hi".

    Have a great day,


  14. Thanks for the info on thread! It's great to learn of an online shop that carries great thread (since I am considering giving up on my local "big-box" retailer). I do like to support my LQS's but they don't always have everything that I need.

  15. Isn't Cindy fantastic! A very informative post. Thanks XO

  16. This is an excellent article! And if you don't have one of CIndy's need one! They are lovely, unique and useful. I love her blog, too. Miss Luella (

  17. Thank you Rebecca for allowing Cindy to guest post on your blog - a very interesting read! (Now I'm going over to her blog to take a peek)

  18. well, well, well ... i have never *met* anyone who also used connecting thread thread ... it's awesome and the colors and thread quality rival anything on the market today ... their fabric is nice, too .... i ordered some and it arrived today, a kit and separate yardage; it's quilt weight at, at lease, half the price of the *usual suspects* ..... darlene


Thank you so much for leaving a comment!! xx I LOVE hearing from you xx


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