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Machine Quilting with Multiple Threads

I want a heavier look to the machine quilting. Can you have 2 threads go through one needle? If not, what kind of thread will give a heavier look to the quilting pattern?


Yes, you can put two threads through the same needle. I would recommend that you use two separate spool pins or holders. When you thread your sewing machine, be sure that both threads are properly seated in your tension disks to minimize problems. In fact, run one thread on each side of the tension disk as you thread your machine. Remember the presser foot is up and your needle is in the upper most position to open the tension disks for threading.

You'll need to use a larger needle than for a single thread. The thread should flow smoothly through the needle eye. A needle's eye should be 50-60% larger than the diameter of the threads.

If both threads are the same color, you'll have a visually heavier quilting line. If you use two different colors of the same thread, you'll have added an interesting "heathered" quilting line to your quilt.

But there's an easier way...

..there are a number of heavier threads to use for machine quilting available in the market.

Aurifil Thread

We quilters use a lot of Aurifil 50 wt 100% cotton in our quilts for piecing. It's also a very nice machine quilting thread.

Aurifil also makes:

  • 28 Wt Mako Cotton Thread
  • 12 wt Mako Cotton Thread
  • 12 wt Lana Wool Thread - this thread has a fuzzy texture
For the 12 and 28 wt thread, move up to the larger 14/90 needle, matching the needle point to the fabric, the needle size to the thread size. Depending on the fabrics and batting used in your quilt, be prepared to move to the 100/16 for the 12 wt thread.

Sulky Thread

Sulky makes a beautiful 40 wt rayon thread with a wonderful sheen. They also make their beautiful rayon threads in a heavier 30 wt which is a 1/3 heavier than the 30 wt.

Rayon is a "princess" thread. It is great for embellishing, but not so good for construction because is it a weaker thread. You wouldn't use it for ditch quilting. For decorative free motion quilting it really adds texture and depth; this thread really shines (no pun intended).

It's readily available. Joann's always has a big display of it. Both weights come in solid and variegated colors. And yes, their rayon thread is colorfast. I have had no problems with fading for either quilting stitches or embroideries on my quilts.

Sulky also makes a matte finish cotton thread (in both 30 wt and a 12 wt) made from the highest quality, long staple, Egyptian cotton.

The cotton also comes in a variegation pattern called "Blendables®". Blendables® are a variegated thread with a random variegation of 2-1/2 to 5 inches. The color changes are subtle and wonderful for background fills.

Sulky recommends a 14/90 needle for use with 30 wt threads and an 80/12 for 40 wt. For their 12 wt threads, start with the 14/90, but be prepared to move to a 100/16 if you have any problems. Remember, the thicker is being pushed through a quilt sandwich, too.

Superior Threads

Superior produces a numbers of high quality heavier weight threads for machine quilting. Unless otherwise indicated, they recommend a Size 90/14 Topstitching needle.

  • Living Colors - 40 wt trilobal polyester with a high gloss finish
  • King Tut - a low lint 40 wt/3 play extra long staple Egyptian cotton
  • Rainbows - a 40 wt trilobal polyester. We've used a lot of the variegated Rainbows in the Generations Quilt Patterns quilt samples in our booth.
  • Perfect Quilter - a 17 wt/3 ply extra-long staple, mercerized cotton. (100/16 Topstitching needle)
  • Lava - a 35 wt polyester
All of Superior Threads' variegated varieties have a one inch color change. Perfect for quilting!

Things to Remember When You Use Heavier Threads

When using a heavier thread in the needle, you need to make more initial tension adjustments. Our sewing machine are designed to use the same mid-weight thread in both the needle and bobbin. Use two different weights of thread and you'll be making adjustments to your sewing machine tension.

When you quilt with thicker threads, your stitches should be a bit longer to show off the thread. With very thick threads (Size 12 for sure) you should plan to knot by hand and bury your thread tails instead of micro-stitching for starting and stopping a line of quilting.

Because you'll want larger stitches, the size of the individual elements you quilt should be bigger so the quilting lines are smooth. A small quarter inch circle or pebble background fill may look "jagged" with a Size 12 thread...just increase the size of the elements.

As always, test your thread combinations on a practice quilt sandwich to determine your needle, tension, and needle and bobbin thread choices. It saves you time in the long run.

I've only listed the mostly commonly available heavier threads. There are more out there. If you have the chance to attend one of the bigger regional quilt shows, keep your eyes peeled. They are fun to work with and can add significant pizazz to your quilts.

Thank you for your question!


Julie Baird

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