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Happy 4th of July! We enjoyed grilling out and setting off sparklers and a few smoke bombs.  I spent some of the day researching thread for free motion quilting. 

My Beginner Choices

I ran out of thread the day before, and the store that carries my typically quilting thread was not open for the holiday. I am glad they were not open, because I gained a deeper appreciation for the importance of using certain types of thread for free motion quilting.

When I first begin machine quilting, I bought Coats & Clark mercerized Egyptian cotton thread. As a 30wt thread, you can use this quilting thread with good results. I made several quilts with this thread both piecing and quilting. At the time, I did not know a difference existed in weights, ply, or fiber (cotton, polyester, rayon, etc.) for quilting; which relates to design and strength specific to quilting.

Choices Can Get Confusing

Fast forward about 6 or 7 years and quilting full time I am realizing a plethora of different threads exists from various companies in a range of weights, ply, and colors for machine and hand quilting. Just as I do with fabric, I begin to experiment with various threads on the market. I do a lot of appliqué, so I first tried a 12wt thread from superior threads. The smaller the thread weight number, the larger the thread! So, a 12wt thread is larger in diameter than a 40wt (weight) thread.

The smaller the thread weight number, the larger the thread! So, a 12wt thread is larger in diameter than a 40wt (weight) thread.

Two things I begin to realize about thread is varying weights, ply, and fiber. The extent of my experience with different colors of thread had more to do with DMC embroidery thread. Trying Superior Thread’s “Sew Sassy” needless to say, open up the world of thread for me! A heavier thread, such as the 12 weight is meant for quilting or appliqué you can use on your machine as long as you use the right needle size. For a 12 wt thread, you want to use a 100/16 size needle.

Superior Sew Sassy Thread

Superior Threads, Sew Sassy thread is a 3-ply polyester thread with a tighter weave to prevent lint buildup and provide strength (a 2-ply can be strong enough for quilting, but not as strong as a 3-ply). The needle required for using this thread has a larger hole and a groove that accommodates smoother entrance through all the layers of fabric and batting.

After purchasing about 15 different colors, I made the choice to only use this type of thread for specialty quilting. One reason, quilting larger quilts can take a considerable amount of thread. Sew Sassy 12wt thread comes in larger spools than the one’s I initially purchased, but still not enough to complete machine quilting for larger quilts; which seems to be the size of quilts I typically make. If you take the plunge and use Sew Sassy for your quilting needs, make sure to use a smaller weight thread in your bobbin!

Average Quilters Choice for Quilting Thread

Superior Thread's Bottom LineBecause I was unable to get to my usual thread today and exploring my choices at my local craft store caused me frustration and to wonder; “So, what thread is an average best thread for machine quilting”?

Across the board, most professional quilters (those who are use to winning awards for their quilting skills) suggest using a 40 or mostly 50 weight thread for machine quilting.

The one thing to remember about the varying weights of thread are mostly that the greater thread weight, the less likely stitches show. Ask Sue Dailey, Superior Thread’s “Bottom Line” (a 60 wt. 2-ply polyester) is perfect for English paper piecing because stitches are hidden better.

Threads That I Know Work Well

Two (2) threads I vow are great for machine quilting and have amazing value is Superior Thread’s King Tut and Fantastico.

King Tut cotton thread is a 40 wt 3-ply that is tightly, tightly woven to cut down on lint. If you quilt larger quilts as I do, you can appreciate a low lint thread! With too much lint build up in your machine, you could experience problems until you open up your bobbin case and fish out all that lint! King Tut is the choice for when you want your quilting stitches to show. Fantastico is a 40wt, 2-ply high tenacity polyester. Tenacity means the “force divided by linear density” yielding a higher tensile (tension) performance; although not cotton.




Gutterman variegated thread is a 50wt, 100% natural cotton. So the sheen in Fantastico comes from being a polyester thread. Gutterman also offers a 50wt polyester 2-ply, which professional quilters say 50wt cotton is ideal a for high end quilting because it reduces the amount of bulk in seams. Most people prefer to use polyester thread for machine embroidery instead of quilting.

If you can find a thread such as Aurifil Mako, 50wt 2-ply long staple Egyptian cotton, you are probably doing well.  I have not personally used Aurifil, and I went today to buy some; however, the quilt shop was having a sale and I could barely get in the door so I left. I will be trying Aurifil in the near future because I heard so much about it!

An Egyptian long strand cotton thread gives you all the advantages of a quilting thread; plus Superior Thread’s King Tut thread comes in a variety of variegated colors. If you can believe me, I actually use to avoid variegated thread; yet, I decided to give it a go and absolutely love watching the thread change colors as I sew, not to mention the performance of King Tut thread!

Not A Showoff?

In short, use a 50 wt cotton thread if you want to keep your stitches hidden, and go with a thicker cotton thread for stitches you want to show up on your quilt! A 3-ply is better than a 2-ply; or if you can find a long staple Egyptian cotton thread is just as good.

Well, now that I have completed confused you, I am going to end this article here. Just remember, it is up to you what thread you want to use in machine quilting. If you want your stitches to show up use a lower weight thread, but when you want to conceal your stitches use a higher weight thread, such as a 60 weight. To keep up with a professional look, make sure to use a cotton thread all the way! So, I leave you with one final choice for  a potentially great thread of choice for machine quilting.


Superior Thread’s Masterpiece thread is a 50 wt. 3-ply Egyptian-grown extra-long staple cotton thread. Designed for piecing, quilting, and sewing. It is certified Egyptian-grown, extra-long staple cotton and designed to create perfectly pieced seams. With the finest spinning, twisting, dyeing, and finishing techniques, MasterPiece has extremely low lint. You and your machine will love the sewing experience. Available in 79 solid colors! I am going to go get some first thing tomorrow! I will be able to share with you the differences between King Tut, Fantastico, Magnifico (did not mention in article), and Masterpiece. Stay tuned!


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