A Quilty Kind of Girl

March 18, 2010

An update on thread weights and seam allowance

Thanks to all of you who took time to comment and contact me regarding thread weights and piecing! It seems that quilters have many ways of making their own piecing successful. I heard so many ideas and suggestions, I just had to post again and share some of them with everyone.

Anne Walker pointed out that she uses a straight stitch plate when piecing.


This type of sewing machine plate is exclusively for sewing straight lines.


This plate could be used for straight stitch or zig zag, due to the rectangular shaped opening for the needle.

Anne had an excellent point about moving the needle position. When using a straight stitch plate, the needle must make it’s descent into a small hole. Therefore one must be very cautious about moving the needle position. If the needle were moved to much, it would impact with the needle plate, causing the needle to break and potentially injure you. As you can see from the second picture of a needle plate, it has a wider opening, to allow the needle to move right or left when stitching a zig zag, or other decorative stitch. So if you need to adjust your needle position quite a bit, you would be wise to stick with the second type of needle plate.

Now that you have the low down on needle plate safety, I want to share an idea for using 40 wt thread for piecing. One quilter mention that she prefers to use 40 wt as it is a very sturdy thread. If you find that 40 wt is the thread you love and have the most of in your stash, then try adjusting your needle position to allow more room for the thicker thread within the seam allowance. Sew out some sample seams, press them open and measure the fabric to make sure the thread doesn’t steal valuable space within the seam. Adjust your needle and gauge your presser foot accordingly to come out with an accurate 1/4 inch each and every time you are using a different weight thread for piecing. Make a note of the adjustments you need to make for all your favorite threads. This is a handy trick for quilters that like to match their thread color to the fabric they are piecing. After all, who’s only got one kind of thread in their stash? Not me!

Also remember that accurate pressing helps your measurements stay on track. If you haven’t pressed the fold in the fabric entirely open, then you will certainly see a shortage in your measurements.

Have you seen today’s prompt on Quilter’s Daily? How do you plan to celebrate National Quilting Day? This Saturday, my friend Christine and her family will be joining us for a BBQ! Although as I peek out the window, I’m hoping the snow that’s falling will quickly melt before Saturday! If not, we’ll just have to find another way to grill those steaks! I’m fairly certain I’ll get some stitching time in, as I have two quilts with deadlines on my agenda. One is pretty easy, the other… not so much! LOL But a challenge is always a good thing. I hope you enjoy your National Quilting Day, whether you are stitching or shopping, either sounds like great fun to me!

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Quilty Hugs,

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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,

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