How to choose the perfect thread for your longarm quilting project

May 17, 2022

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Your quilt is loaded onto the frame and you’re ready to quilt – but first you have to choose your thread! There are so many choices – how do you pick?

The first question is to ask if you want your quilting to blend in or stand out. If you’re a new quilter or the quilt is quite busy, a thread that blends might be the ticket. But if you’re confident and there’s some open spaces to really showcase the quilting, go for the contrasting thread.

That begs the question: which threads blend vs contrast? Let’s look at the different aspects of thread and how they contribute to this.


A thread that’s similar in color (or is neutral) to your fabric will blend. Try taupe for warm colors (yellow, orange, red) and grey for cool colors (green, blue, purple). To contrast, pick the opposite color – a warm color on a cool quilt, or a cool color on a warm quilt.


A matte, dull finish (like cotton) will blend, but a shiny bright thread (like trilobal polyester) will stand out more. Superior So Fine is a matte thread; Superior Fantastico and Fil-Tec Glide are shiny threads.

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Value (light vs dark)

A similar value thread will blend into your quilting, and a different value will contrast. But what if the quilt has a range of values from very light to very dark? My preference is to use a light-medium value thread. I find that it’s not too dark on the light fabric and sparkles on the dark fabric. I find that a medium or medium-dark thread will show very starkly on light fabrics.

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A thin thread will blend (100 or 60 weight), but a thick thread (like a 40 or 30 weight) will show. The photo below shows Superior Bottom Line (60 weight), and Aurifil 50, 40 and 28 weight. The smaller the number, the thicker the thread.

The standard 4.0 needle can handle most threads, but you may need to change your needle size to accommodate the different thicknesses of the thread. APQS machines can use a 3.5 needle for thin threads and a 4.5 needle for thick threads without needing to be retimed.

You will probably need to change your tension if you change the thickness of the thread.  It’s so easy to adjust the tension on APQS machines – just a twist of the tension knob and you’re done – tighter (clockwise) for thin threads and looser (counter-clockwise) for thicker threads.

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To audition your thread, spool out a yard or so and pool it on the different fabrics.

Thread is such a joy to play with – grow your collection and play!