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What color quilting thread should I use for piecing?


I have light and dark colors in my quilt blocks. What thread color do I use? Light or dark thread?


I choose lighter rather than darker quilting thread for piecing patchwork for two main reasons:

  1. To minimize thread shadowing in two different ways.

    • Shadowing in the seam line. The most extreme case would be piecing black patches and white patches together with black thread.

      While black thread matches the black fabric, any place where the seam allowance is pressed to the light or white side, the black thread is encased in white fabric and 'shadows' in the seam allowance. The seam line end up looking 'dirty' or 'grungy'.

    • Shadowing under patches. Ideally, we quilters clip all of our thread tails right as we finish each seam.

      I don't know about you, but once in awhile I get a bit lax and don't clip all my threads at the end of a line of stitching.

      If these thread tails aren't trimmed during the final inspection before layering your quilt sandwich AND if they are darker than your lightest fabric, they can shadow through to the front of your quilt.

      When do you find them?

      Usually after the quilt is quilted and bound. It's not likely you'll want to remove the quilting to fix them, and they will be an annoyance for the life of your quilt. (Ask me how I know!)

  2. To camoflague visible seam threads. Sometimes, no matter how careful we are, our tension adjustments are off a wee bit or there is a lot of stress on a seam line (think bulky paper piecing seams or the centers of eight pointed stars, etc.), and the threads in our seam allowances are noticeable. Of course these 'oops!' are noticed only after the whole quilt top is put together.

    What's a quilter to do?

    If you are unwilling to rip out the offending stitches (and I do understand that), then grab a permanent fabric marker. Since you've used a lighter thread, carefully color the threads to blend into the surrounding fabrics. Use a very light touch. You can always add more color, but you can't remove it. Be sure that the marker is permanent on fabric (Sharpie markers, though permanent are not intended for use on fabric).

So for choosing a thread color for piecing, my rule of thumb is to use the darkest, light neutral thread, that won't shadow. That way the color is closer in 'value' to all the fabrics in the quilt top.

For patchwork piecing with a lot of white fabrics, I'd use a white thread.

Generally for piecing I use a neutral beige or camel color in either Aurifil's 50 wt cotton or Superior Threads Bottom Line, a 60 wt polyester. Both are fine, quality threads that produce minimal lint in the bobbin case. With a 70/10 Microtex Sharp needle and a balanced tension setting there are few, if any, problems during piecing.

Many quilters will also use a neutral gray color as one of their 'go-to' color choices.

Thank you for your question.

Readers, if you have more suggestions to add, please click on 'Click here to add your own comments' just below.

Thank you!


Julie Baird

Comments for What color quilting thread should I use for piecing?

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Threads for Red and White Quilt
by: Mini quilter

Thank you for this useful article. Not only did you answer my question about what color thread I should use for a red/ivory quilt top, but I also found out what threads to use in my bobbin case to cut down on fluff.

Questions about thread color
by: Beginner

If you are piecing together red and black fabric, or a maroon purple color to light pink. What color thread should you use in both instances?

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