The Free Motion Quilting Project: Thread Color Conundrum

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thread Color Conundrum

Just as I predicted, almost everyone had a different opinion as to what thread color would work best for this sawtooth star block.

free motion quilting | Leah Day Here's a list of all the thread color suggestions mentioned in Question Thursday #5:
  • red
  • periwinkle blue
  • blue
  • blue variegated
  • light gray
  • gray
  • medium gray
  • beige
  • black
  • purple
  • light green
  • green
  • dark green
  • variegated blue, red, green
  • medium red
Obviously my quilting the block with white thread was nearly a social faux pas as no one suggested that color. I guess I'm safe since the quilt was obviously quilted to teach and illustrate technique, not to be an epitome of quilting design and color sense.
We even had a wonderful comment from Troy55, who reminds us all how simple these choices can be:


Note: I seriously think this was a mistake of caps lock and not Troy55 yelling about thread color. LOL!

The answer here is that there IS NO ANSWER!
(I am honestly shouting this here).

EVERYONE has a different opinion about thread color and what works best on a quilt.
You can use one color of thread on your quilts.
Or you can use hundreds of colors.
You can quilt exclusively in variegated threads.
Or you can stick with only solid colors.
You can change color within a block if you like.
Or you can quilt each block fully before changing color for the next block.
Are you starting to see just HOW MANY choices you have when it comes to thread on your quilts?
If you hate struggling with this whole thing, pick one color and buy it in bulk so you don't have to question what to use. If anyone asks, tell them you inherited all of it and must use up all 300 spools before you die. That usually makes people walk away slowly and stop asking questions.
It also seems that many quilters assume that threads that match, or at least blend in, will hide mistakes. For the most part, this is the truth: Some thread colors will hide mistakes better than others.

The point here is that thread color is always going to be an opinion / design driven thing and you shouldn't worry excessively about it
There is no RIGHT color or WRONG color to quilt your quilts - it's just COLOR!
I once heard a story about a woman who painted her house a different wild shade every year. When asked about her choice to do this, and the potential risk of getting a bad color, she responded with "What's the big deal, it's just paint!?"

So what's the big deal, it's just THREAD?!

Just in case you're still worried about the idea of picking the "wrong" color for a particular quilt, here's this same sawtooth star block covered in stippling in each of the colors suggested:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
From the top left hand corner we have: red, periwinkle blue, blue, blue variegated.
Row 2 - Light gray, gray, medium gray, beige
Row 3 - Black, purple, light green, green,
Row 4 - Dark green, variegated blue/red/green, medium red, and white

As you can see, some look better than others, but you really can't from a digital drawing, can you?

The best way to know if the thread you picked is the right color is to...

Shut up and go quilt it!

Leah Day


  1. Have you ever used Mustard by Signature on your dark quilts? or Christmas themed or patriotic quilts too?

    If you haven't try it once... It is gorgeous!!

  2. My favorites are the medium gray and the green! Of course, without seeing it live and touching it, it's hard to tell. The black is definitely the least noticeable.

  3. Is it weird that I think all the different quilting colors put together just like that would make a really pretty quilt?

  4. Wow, the photoshop images really help! I would never have chosen green, but looking at the images, it's my clear favorite. Amazing!

    I received some good advice one time on thread. "If you just can't figure out something good, go with olive green." At the time I though it was crazy, but as it turns out, it's pretty good advice. It blends well with a lot of colors nicely and is good for hiding mistakes, which is always good for me.

  5. Fascinating how different they all look. Already since starting to follow your Quilt Along, I'm beginning to realise just how many choices there are, even if I keep to the simplest of stitches. I was about to cover a quilt in stippling in a neutral colour - now I'm thinking about different scales of stippling, outlining, filling the blocks, thread colours - and that's only week 5! Thankyou for all the great ideas and confidence building that this is providing.

  6. I rarely use variegated threads because the colors look choppy in my quilting, but I actually like the multi- color in the bottom row of your sample! Tips to remember are that matching threads will blend in more, so detailed designs may not show up. High contrasting colors mean the thread will stand out more. I am using several of your ideas on a quilt now, I hope to finish and take pictures this weekend. Thanks for sharing and Happy Quilting!

  7. I think the color of thread can also be influenced on how dense the quilting is going to be... the denser the quilting the more most threads will impact the block....

  8. Whatever program you are using to show all the thread suggestions, What a handy-dandy to have! I still like the red the best, but my second choice has changed to variegated blue!

  9. call me crazy, but I prefer to use contrasting threads when I quilt- because if I do all that work I want to be able to see it. I have abandoned the notion of trying to hide my mistakes as I am embracing the journey of learning to FMQ and the small mistakes here or there are a reminder of my progress. As each quilt gets better it is like a record of my journey. I am about to quilt a quilt with lots of gray solid areas and I am planning on using a variety of bright poppy colors to quilt those areas so they really stand out and add design to the solid areas- no blending for me thank you. I guess you are right though, it is all personal taste.

  10. I am having a major problem with tension... I HAVE

    started with new needle
    tried different threads
    re threaded needle and bobbin
    practiced practiced and practiced some more

    FMQ on practice piece okay but when I went to my project the tension was off..same batting on a panel/ baby size quilt.

    The top thread tended to lay on top and had bobbin loop on top. Re-threaded okay for a short time then reoccurred. Tried different threads on top and in bobbin.... currently have bobbin 60wt/ three ply ... using various colors of thread on top different weights as I try to match the color to the fabric... using all brands of thread... Does not matter which brand is in the machine ... funky tension happens with them all.... Readjusted tensions several times.

    Any ideas would be helpful.. plan to take it in for servicing but it sew fine when I do piecing or other types of sewing.

    Also tried with BSR on then off... feed dogs up then down... this seems to make little difference.

    Sorry if you have covered this information I plan to re read your post in the AM but at 1am .. not the time to absorb any info.....




    1. If you're pulling up bobbin thread then your upper tension is too tight. It almost sounds like something is coming out of place... like the take up lever. Do yourself a favor and thread the top and the bottom with the same thread... same weight. That will eliminate one variable. If you are sewing with a spool that has a slit in the end (ahem coats and clark) make sure that the thread is not getting caught in the slit or in any other way as the thread pulls off the spool... this is probably the real culprit. Sometimes thread can come off and get stuck on a spool cap or the spindle. It definitely sounds like something is getting in your way. Also make sure you are going thru the tension disks properly. And if none of that works, double check to make sure you are threading your bobbin thru all the correct bottom tensions. If all else fails, take it in!

      I have had issues with differing weights of thread from bobbin to spool throwing off my tension... so for troubleshooting be sure you are using the same thread.

      But to me it really sounds like the top thread is catching on something, not coming off the spool right, or you could haave missed a tension guide in the bobbin.

      Probably has nothing to do with your needle.

  11. Thanks for showing us how different thread colour would look. I am usually uninspired and stick to off white!! I might have to venture out and try some other colour!

  12. Andi said the varigated threads previously used on personal quilts look chopy. I learned from a friend (longarmer) that there are differences in color changes in different varigated threads. Some change colors every inch and some change over several inches, maybe 3 inches or so. I think the latter gives a more gentle look. She also taught me to uncoil some thread over my quilt top to audition it. Sometimes several inches, some times a few feet of thread before I truely get an idea of how it will look...especially with varigated threads.
    Thanks for all of your shared knowledge and encouragement.

  13. I *love* how the quilt looks with "all of the above" thread colors in the top!!!

  14. Hey Leah,
    I REALLY want to know what computer program you did use to make the mockups of the same block using different thread. I'd like also to know if you have tried other programs and like this the best or just used this because it's what you had etc. Can you please do a blog post on the computer program aspect? Thanks!!

  15. I'm a large fan of the red and green threads for this block. Apparently, I need to get some quilting patterns going in a transparent image file to try this out, looks like an incredible help to get off the fence about an idea!


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