I'll talk a little about thread below - but I also want to state my opinion about making things - it is very important to make something you like in a way that you like to make it. I don't believe that there is a right or wrong way. Personally I feel that it is the enjoyment of creating something that is important. It is important to stay open to learn new things - be open to new ideas too - be open to change the way you do something - be open to allow your way of thinking to change as your creative journey continues.
When you start exploring the world of free motion quilting it is important to use a thread that you AND your machine like. Choose a color that makes you happy and that you think is pretty. I found that when I was starting the bright Coats & Clark multipurpose threads I found at JoAnn's worked really well (I hear a collective gasp of horror!) It really doesn't matter what the thread is - what you are practicing is to relax enough to enjoy the process (this was the hardest thing I found to do) and how to repeat the same movement over and over again - worrying about what sort of thread you are using is pretty low on the spectrum at the beginning of your FMQ journey.
As you advance and get better - when you feel more confident with your designs you can begin to think about thread a little bit more - some threads will aid or interfere with the free motion designs you are working with.
Consider what fabric you are quilting on.
Quilting can be hard to see on top of busy fabrics - consider this when selected your quilting thread - do you want the quilting to blend in and the fabric to remain the focus? or if you want the quilting to stand out?
Beginner Tip: Using a busy fabric will help hide any whoopsies. Disguising whoopsies helps build your confidence. Solid fabrics will show every move you make while quilting - right or wrong!
This was some nice flower & leafy quilting I need but you can not see the detail in the quilting as the fabric is very busy.
What is in your bobbin?
Make your life easy at this stage and put the same or similar color thread in your bobbin. You will get more on your bobbin and have to change/wind bobbins less if your bobbin thread is of a finer weight.
Beginner Tip: Think about what color your bobbin thread is when you select your backing fabric. If your backing fabric and your bobbin thread blend beautifully - your whoopsies will be hard to spot. Disguising whoopsies helps build your confidence.
Using an all-over-design with no backtracking?
If you are using an all over design that meanders with no backtracking - I think I can stand by my 'anything goes' or 'choose any thread that you like the look of and enjoy it' approach.
Backtracking in your quilting design?
Using a finer thread (like Superiors So Fine #50) can minimize visible thread build up. For example - minimizing thread building up can transform the way your heirloom feathers and other designs can look. However if you are looking for a chunky pebble look you might want some thread build up around your pebbles. Choose the look you want and own it!
Variegated threads look gorgeous on the spool right? On solid fabrics variegated threads can look bold and very pretty. They can also blend beautifully on patterned fabrics. But be careful - they have a sneaky deceptive side too and can play a (in my opinion) a strange game of peek-a-boo on a quilt top - popping out too much in some areas and impossible to see in other areas. Always test variegated threads first. I have recently read that you should avoid using variegated threads that contain colors that match your fabric too closely - perhaps I need to experiment with them again.
I was disappointed with how the variegated thread looked/stood out on this quilt (above).
Yet on the quilt below the variegated threads blended beautifully and looked heavenly. Those variegated threads are tricky!!
Consider using a cotton thread in a contrasting color if you want your quilting to stand out - cotton thread tends to be thicker and will stand out a little more from the quilt top fabric. Aurifil have some heavier cotton threads you could consider if you want things to really stand out. You can also play with sheen - use a high gloss poly or silk thread on mat cotton or a mat cotton thread on silk.
Want to be invisible?
I loved invisible thread when I first started. It makes whoopsies hard to see, it builds confidence and saves you lots of $'s as you can use it on any fabric. Aurifil and Superior both make great invisible threads in clear & smoke. Clear can be used on light to medium color fabrics - use the smoke on darker colors.
Mix your threads? Go for it.
Nothing wrong (in my unwritten book that is) with mixing threads - use decorative threads to highlight areas and your 'safe' thread for the majority of the quilt. I've also used all sorts of different threads in bobbins and on the top thread. Remember there are no rules in creativity!!
You want a little sparkle?
If you want to use a metallic thread I would recommend Yenmet or Glisten by Fil-Tec - both are strong and will not break every 10 stitches.
Beginner Tip: Lessen the tension a smidge when using metallic threads.
I invested a little bit of $ in color charts. I feel like in the long run these charts have helped me select threads with no mistaken purchases. I use the color charts and search for the best price online (sorry local quilt shops.)
Ready to quilt? ALWAYS test your tension & thread on a scrap sandwich first. I say this sincerely, firmly and from wretched experience. Tension problems are the worst and most frustrating thing I have found. Spend an extra 20 minutes of testing tension before you start to quilt will save you hours and hours of time in the long run. You can read more about thread tension mid way down in my January post here.
Snip Threads? Yes you can snip if you want to - but once you start start spending money on expensive threads - and long hours quilting - trying burying your threads instead - I for one haven't looked back.
And finally - what needle should you use with your thread?
I'm terribly lazy about my needles with my domestic machine (a bit more fussy - but not much - on the longarm.) I do change my needle regularly. I think a sharp needle does make a difference. I tend to use a universal needle 80/12 on my domestic machine with practically everything. With the longarm I look at what the thread cone suggests. If you want to play with needles you can - but in the beginning (a lot like with the 'anything goes as long as it works' theory) while gaining control and learning how to enjoy it leave worrying about needles for later. (I think Leah Day also goes by this mantra too - in case you are hitting the off button on your computer now!) If you want to go crazy and experiment - try a 80 topstitch or an 80 microtex and go from there. It is all an experiment because a) we all see things differently b) we all have different machines and c) we all use different materials.
Some of my favorite threads:
Glisten (FilTec) beautiful metallic thread that won't break on you and add just a little bit of sparkle. Having said all this - I have gone to the dark side with thread and I now spend a lot of time thinking about it and looking at them. My favorite at the moment would be Superior. Gorgeous threads - though I have found their Rainbow line to be very problematic with with the longarm - they seem much happier in Bernie my 430 Bernina. I'm also looking forward to playing with Aurifil's thicker cottons in the year to come - experiment with thread really standing out as opposed to blending perfectly.
In this months giveaway I will be sending a lucky someone a selection of Superior Threads for you to play with.
To win this giveaway - please let me know what color and brand of thread you like to use. Or what terrifies you about thread - any comment about your own thread experience in fact.
Leave your comment by February 23rd - don't forget to leave some link/information that will enable me to contact you somehow.
(Please note: Giveaway will only be shipped within the US.)