What thread should I use? How do I decide?

It’s all so confusing.  How do you decide what thread to choose?

“All Purpose Thread” implies that it’s good for ALL purposes, right?  Wrong.  There really is no one size fits all thread. All Purpose Thread may be OK for a wider range of purposes than other (specialty threads)–or maybe not.


Real quilters only use cotton thread, right? Wrong!  Historically…20, 30, 40+ years ago, women primarily used cotton threads for quilt making because that was the best product available at the time.  The very early (old) poly threads were not very good quality (same with most old polyester fabrics).  Those old poly threads either did not hold up over time or they were so “hard” they might damage the quilt.  Therefore cotton was the best (only good) choice at that time.  But fast forward 20 – 40 years and look at what technology has given us!  Just look at the gorgeous poly fabrics that are available now.  There are so many that are very high quality and simply gorgeous.  The same goes for poly threads.  It is perfectly fine to use poly threads as long as you choose a good quality thread that is appropriate to the task you are performing.

To determine what thread to use in your project, you need to ask yourself some questions:
  • What sort of project are you sewing?
  • Piecing a quilt top?
  • Heirloom sewing?
  • Applique?
  • Garment construction?
  • Craft or home dec projects?
  • Quilting?
  • Surface embellishment?

Quilt Top Piecing

Personally, I use and recommend a good quality 60wt or 50wt cotton thread for quilt piecing.  I like 50wt Presencia, 60wt Presencia and 50wt Masterpiece.

I prefer cotton over polyester because I don’t have to concern myself with checking my iron temperature every time I press. I like nice flat, crisp seams when I piece so use a HOT iron.  When the fabric content and the thread content are the same, they can withstand the same heat.

If you like using polyester for piecing (like 60wt Bottom Line or 50wt So Fine), that’s perfectly fine.  HOWEVER, if you choose to use polyester for piecing you MUST BE CAREFUL when applying direct heat to the seam.  An iron set at high heat (Cotton) can melt right through polyester.

Heirloom Sewing

I recommend 60wt Presencia.

Appliqué by Hand or Machine

I like  50wt Presencia, 60wt Presencia or 60wt Bottom Line.
For folk style applique where you hand blanket-stitch around the outside edge, I recommend taking a look at Perle Cotton. The weight of perle cotton you choose will depend upon how you want your finished project to look.  If you want a “heavier” thread look, choose the “lower” number weight (i.e., a size 8 perle cotton is heavier than size 16 perle cotton).

Garment, Craft & Home Dec Construction

Here, you must carefully consider the fabric content and weight and about the function/stress put on the seams of the item.

For example, if you are sewing denim or fleece that will be worn or the seams may experience stress from pulling or wear, you probably do NOT want to use a light weight cotton or poly thread.  The thicker the fabric, the heavier thread you will want to use.  For denims and fleece I like So Fine.  If you are surface embellishing denim or fleece, you can use just about any thread you choose that will provide the look you want.

For construction of garments and projects using light weight fabrics, I generally use  50wt Presencia, 60wt Presencia or 60wt Bottom Line.

Quilting and Surface Embellishment

For quilting, you may choose whatever thread you wish based upon your own personal preferences and the look you wish to achieve.

Using “invisible” threads such as Monopoly keeps the focus away from the thread and puts it strictly on the design itself.  Sew Art is a nylon and there are known cautions about using nylon (may yellow, become brittle, etc.) but I know many people who have used it successfully for years.  Monopoly is polyester and does not have these issues, but it is shiny and catches the light. So you must consider the qualities of the thread with regard to your project needs and then decide which product you prefer.

A fine (light weight) thread like 60wt Presencia or 60wt Bottom Line will tend to “blend” into the background placing the emphasis on the quilting design (rather than the thread used to create the design).

Using heavier threads such as King Tut, Art Studio Colors, Living Colors and LAVA will change the focus to the “threads” used to create the design.

Embellishment thread such as Razzle Dazzle is not meant to go through your machine needle.  Please do not attempt to use Razzle Dazzle in the top.  Razzle Dazzle is gorgeous when couched on to the surface of your project.  Or, use it in your machine bobbin.

HELPFUL HINT: BEFORE you start your project, always test your “selected” thread on a sample swatch of the same fabric you are going to use in your project.  This will help you identify any potential issues or special considerations before you are invested in having to make that thread work no matter what.

Sewing with Slippery Threads…tip

When sewing with slippery/decorative threads have you ever experienced the thread sliding off the spool and winding around your spindle?  Do you know how it feels to be stitching merrily along…everything looks great…then all of a sudden the tension seems to be going out of whack and then the next thing you know you end up breaking a needle?  “What the *@#^^ is going on!?!”, you mutter to yourself.

Threads like Glitter, metallics and many of the trilobal polyesters often present this challenge.

Here’s a tip: 
Use a mesh thread net (also known as thread sock).  If you’re using a smaller spool (rather than the large cone) and your thread net is too long, simply cut the length to fit. 

The light tension/support of the thread net will make your life a lot less stressful when using slippery, tricky threads!

Travel Tissue packaging changes and solutions!

Have you noticed that travel-size facial tissue packaging has changed?

Ever since I can remember they’ve always had a slit opening, but apparently manufacturers have changed the packaging so that the opening is along the long/narrow side.

So, folks are asking, how do you use your travel tissue holders that open in the center with these newfangled packages?

I came up with these two easy, peasy ideas:

  • Take an exacto knife and make your slit right where you need it, place in your cover. OR;
  • Remove the tissues from the plastic packaging and place directly inside your pretty cover.
      • If giving as a gift, place the unopened travel tissue pack inside the cover with a little note explaining that the recipient should remove the plastic & slide the tissues back in the cover.

These two ideas solve the problem and keep your pretty travel tissue covers in use.

A 3rd alternative…try making my new travel tissue holder pattern (to be released soon!).

Paper or Fabric? Napkins, that is.

Photos, images & text ©Tracy L. Chapman & Sew Thankful Inc. January 2008. All rights reserved.
Permission to copy and distribute this complimentary pattern at no charge to others, for personal or NON-PROFIT use, for guild and group projects or for making small quantities to sell at craft fairs and such is granted provided all copyright information and references to Sew Thankful are kept in tact on each and every copy printed/distributed. The above permissions do NOT include or permit the re-packaging or sale of this pattern itself.


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Which do you prefer?


Isn’t it time to treat yourself to better quality?  Pretty fabric napkins add a special element to your table.

Using fabric napkins instead of paper is great stewardship of your resources.  You save money, you keep some paper out of the landfills and it doesn’t really cost anything extra to throw the napkins in with a load of clothes you’re going to wash every week anyway.

One of the best reasons…if you actually use some of that fabric stash, you’ll be able to buy more fabric!  Making fast & easy fabric napkins from your already existing stash, you can have a BUNCH for next to nothing.

Note:  There are many ways to make fabric napkins, to include using rolled hems and serged edges.  This pattern/project is meant to offer my simple, preferred finish for casual fabric napkins.

This project is PERFECT for beginning sew-ers and requires no special sewing machine feet or tools.

Click here for a printable PDF file

NOTE:  You must have a *recent* version of Adobe Acrobat Reader available for free from www.adobe.com — sorry, we are unable to provide tech support for adobe software products

Please read entire project carefully all the way through before beginning

Yummy…Snowball Cookies…buttery pecan delicious!

These cookies have been a family favorite EVERY Christmas since before I was born!  I started making them before I turned 10 and have been making them about every year since, tweaking and perfecting the recipe along the way. Try ’em and they’re sure to be among your family’s favorites too.

Click here for the printable PDF file — — this file requires a RECENT version of Adobe Acrobat Reader, available for FREE at adobe.com.

Tracy‘s old-fashioned, family favorite:

Snowball Cookies

Simply delicious buttery pecan cookies!


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (real) vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 2 cups powdered sugar set aside – to be used
    for rolling cookies after they come out of the oven


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cream butter and powdered sugar.
  • Add vanilla, nuts & flour. Mix well.
  • Shape dough into 1″ – 1 1/2″ balls and place on cookie sheet.
  • Chill in refrigerator for approximately 1 hour.
  • Remove from refrigerator and bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • While balls are still hot, gently roll in powdered sugar. Place on a plate to cool.
  • Store in a tightly sealed container.
Click here for the printable PDF file — — this file requires a RECENT version of Adobe Acrobat Reader, available for FREE at adobe.com.

These cookies taste
best at least one day AFTER baking.

Click here for the printable PDF file — — this file requires a RECENT version of Adobe Acrobat Reader, available for FREE at adobe.com.