A Quilty Kind of Girl

March 16, 2010

Tutorial Tuesday – What is YOUR thread weight?

After spending some time stitching on another machine, I quickly realized that something was different. I took a close look at the thread, which seemed really large. I inspected the thread cone and found the thread was a 35 weight. I normally use a 50 wt thread for piecing, so I was interested to see how the different thread weights would affect my piecing.

I chose one brand, Aurifil, in four different thread weights. I stitched out an identical sample in all four. I used the same fabrics for every sample, and used 50 wt thread in the bobbin. The following pictures document the results of my experiment in thread.( Click on the images to see a larger picture.)

Four samples of Aurifil Thread.

Here are four samples of Aurifil thread. Starting on the left is 50 wt, 40 wt, 28 wt, finishing with 12 wt on the right.

Four cones of Aurifil thread in various weights.

These are four cones of Aurifil thread, same color, different weight.

Sample of 50 wt thread.

The seam allowance of the 50 wt thread measures exactly a quarter inch.

The 50 wt thread sample after pressing.

Perfect! the 50wt thread has delivered exactly the result I want, a size of 3.5 inches.

Sample of 40 wt thread.

The seam allowance of the 40 wt thread measures exactly a quarter inch.

The 40 wt thread sample after pressing.

Hmmmmm. Looks like the 40 wt sample has come up a hair short of 3.5 inches.

Sample of 28 wt thread.

The seam allowance of the 28 wt thread measures exactly a quarter inch.

The 28 wt thread sample after pressing.

The thicker 28 wt thread has finished quite a bit short.


The 12 wt thread sample after pressing.

The thickest thread, 12 wt, has come up the shortest. Almost 1/8 of an inch! It would only take 8 patches for the quilt to finish a FULL inch short.

Sample of 12 wt thread.

The seam allowance of the 12 wt thread measures exactly a quarter inch.

Isn’t it interesting to see how the thread affects the piecing? When I first began sewing and quilting, I would buy my thread from the bargain bin. The cheaper, the better! Looking back now, I laugh at myself, who was willing to spend $16 for a meter of fabric, but only 99 cents for a spool of cheapo thread. I did not learn anything about the weight of thread until I worked in a quilt shop. As I replenished the shelves with tiny little spools, I had plenty of opportunity to examine each and every weight of thread.

Here are some tips for using threads according to their weights:
50 wt – ideal for piecing. Also good to use in the bobbin when quilting with a heavier top thread.
40 wt – beautiful for quilting or top stitching.
28 wt – for quilting when you really want the stitching to show. Also ideal for hand quilting.
12 wt – perfect for hand quilting, applique and top stitching on garments.

Anytime you use a thread heavier than 40 wt on your domestic machine, it is wise to switch to a size 16 top stitching needle. The larger eye on the needle will allow the bulk of the thread to travel without fraying.

Do you have any experiences to share about thread weight? Comment below to share your experience!

Quilty Hugs,


  1. This was a very helpful tutorial for a fairly newbie quilter. Thanks so much!

    Comment by Teresa — March 16, 2010 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

  2. The seam allowance will be 1/4 inch, but when it is pressed to one side, that’s where the difference will be seen. Different weights of thread will take up different amounts of the fabric.

    Comment by Marjorie — March 16, 2010 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  3. Very good explanation–will be linking from My Heritage Fabrics Blog

    Comment by myheritagefabrics — March 16, 2010 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  4. very good post!! once i discovered Aurifil in 50wt… it has been the only thread i use for piecing!

    and it is amazing the difference it makes!!

    Comment by jaybird — March 16, 2010 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  5. WOW Bradie! Thanks! This was really informative. I think I will be paying closer attention to my thread weights in the future!

    Comment by Deb — March 16, 2010 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  6. That is a FANTASTIC tutorial!!

    Comment by Jen — March 16, 2010 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  7. Thanks, that was really helpful! I’ve been sewing for less than a year and know very little about thread weight. Thanks again!

    Comment by Mary — March 16, 2010 @ 11:58 pm | Reply

  8. Thank you very much for the explanation. This has made me realize that I need to check the weight on my threads. I didn’t think the thread could be part of the problem for not getting the quater inch seam allowance.

    Comment by floristic — March 17, 2010 @ 1:34 am | Reply

  9. Amazing Bradie!!! I don’t know what else to say! Amazing! I have shared this with all my quilting friends. I don’t think anyone I know uses 50wt. Everyone, including me, use 40 wt for piecing. And what a great reason to go thread shopping! I will tell my hubby Bradie said…HEHEHE!!!

    Comment by Joy — March 17, 2010 @ 4:56 am | Reply

  10. Thanks for that, its very useful! I have never seen a difference between a thread and a thread.. unless colorvise of course ;O)greetings from Iceland!

    Comment by Alda — March 17, 2010 @ 6:22 am | Reply

  11. All these thready quilt-along posts have me seriously wanting to buy new thread! Do you know of any places to get deals on Aurifil online?

    Comment by Meghan — March 20, 2010 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

  12. Wow! I really never thought of this! Now I’m going to go in my sewing room and look at all of my thread!

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Comment by Busy Little Quilter — March 23, 2010 @ 3:20 pm | Reply

  13. […] additional information and thoughts on thread here(a lot of good information about thread weight)  and here (a lot about quality–with pictures) […]

    Pingback by Thread…who knew? « My Heritage Fabrics's Blog — March 24, 2010 @ 6:45 am | Reply

  14. Bradie – started following your blog last week. I really enjoy it! thanks for the great tutorial on threads. I’ve been really struggling with thread since I got my new machine. I’ve finally found Aurifil and will not go back to any other kind. I’ve been using 50wt and it’s perfect for piecing and machine quilting (for me) The only problem is that I find it difficult to locate in the Edmonton area. There’s one little store but there’s not a huge selection. Can you recommend a store or online for Canadians (I’m in Edmonton too) that sells the 50wt?

    Actually, price wise, I really don’t think it costs any more than say, guterman poly or coats and clark. I got a 1200m spool for 9.99 and a 250m spool of guterman is about 3.00.

    Thanks again…you’re on my google reader list now!

    Comment by Andrea — March 28, 2010 @ 7:32 am | Reply

  15. Hi Bradie, Thank you for the clear tutorial about how thread weights effects the seam allowance & finished block size. I’ve been saying the same thing when I explain the benefits of using the different Aurifil thread weights. I would like to create a link back from my blog to this tutorial. Jenny Scott.

    Comment by alwaysquilting — April 3, 2010 @ 6:19 am | Reply

  16. This is great! I’m waiting for my first two spools of Aurifil 40, but defn going to have to get some 40 now.. I was going crazy when piecing thinking maybe I hadnt cut straight or sewn exact (well that may be the case, but atleast I can eliminate the thread weight as a possible cause!!) love you love your blog. Thanks from NZ. Cheers, Melissa

    Comment by Melissa — July 31, 2010 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

    • .. “defn going to have to get some 50 now..”

      Comment by Melissa — July 31, 2010 @ 4:37 pm | Reply

  17. Hi Brady, I love the thread tutorial… the only thing is… that I rarely use anything over a size 14 needle even with heavy threads… when I am using heavier threads I go to a metalfil needle. That being said once in a while you have to use the 16’s…. When I use 50 weight threads I sew with a size 8/60. Thanks to this tutorial on thread… I alway get a perfect 1/4″ seam with the 8/60 needle and the 50 weight thread.

    Comment by Oh That Paula — February 11, 2011 @ 8:27 pm | Reply

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  22. […] to this discussion. I'm hooked now, off to shop. Wish Joann's carried it since it's coupon time! Tutorial Tuesday ? What is YOUR thread weight? | A Quilty Kind of Girl Debbie and my cat "Kids" Bonnie (18), KayCee (16), Lucky Streak (11), and gods […]

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