Ask the Longarmer – Thread Color

I want dark green thread on the top of my quilt, and white on the back. Why can’t you do this?

Actually, while this can be done, I usually advise against using two different colors of thread as you might not be very happy with the outcome. With a longarm quilting machine, we are moving the machine around in all directions over the quilt sandwich at a high rate of speed. As we change direction, the thread tension often changes slightly as well. Ideally the portion of a stitch where the top and bobbin thread meet will lock exactly in the center layer of the batting, but this is not always the case. Then you end up with what we longarmers call ‘pokies’ – little dots of the top thread showing on the backing, or bobbin thread showing on the top of the quilt sandwich. When you use two threads that differ widely in color or value, these ‘pokies’ are very pronounced.

Here is a design stitched with green thread on white fabric – pretty, isn’t it? (Panto is Holly Panto 3 by Donna Kleinke of One Song Needle Arts.)

Image

The contrast of green thread on white fabric really lets this lovely quilting design show.

What happens when we use a contrasting thread in the bobbin? Now the back of the quilt is not very attractive, right?

    Using white thread in the bobbin allows 'pokies' of the top thread to show if the tension isn't perfectly balanced.

Using contrasting white thread in the bobbin allows ‘pokies’ of the top thread to show on the back of the quilt if the tension isn’t perfectly balanced.

(Sometimes we can minimize the effect by using a thinner thread, or a high loft batting. So if you have your heart set on contrasting thread colors, choose a loftier batting.)

Normally when I explain this to a client, and show them a sample of what can happen, they agree with me to use the same color thread on top and in the bobbin. After all, if you were hand quilting your quilt, and using white thread on top, what color would you use on the back???????

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