Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shopping for Quilt Supplies -- How Much Thread?

Like most people, I never knew how much thread to buy for any given quilt project. Because I do more quilting than I do piecing, and a good deal of that is done on other people's quilts, I always had to have a pretty good supply on hand. Either that, or be willing to drive to the quilt store (which, when I first started my machine quilting business, was an hour round trip IF I didn't talk to anybody!). Even after quilting quite a few quilts, though, I still didn't really have an accurate idea about how much thread I needed to buy. I always had a couple of spools left over -- usually in a color I wouldn't ever buy for myself -- or I ran out on Saturday night and the quilt shop was closed until Tuesday!

I finally solved the problem by talking to a couple of the wholesale companies that I normally bought quilting supplies from, such as markers and needles, to see what I could find out about buying thread in quantity. My solution was to buy the thread fixtures at right, which are on one wall of my sewing room. The fixture on the left is Sulky 40 wt. rayon, 850 yard spools, in 231 colors. The one on the left is filled with Mettler Silk Finish, 100% cotton, which is a 50 wt. thread.

That solved the supply side of the equation, but I still had to do something about the demand side -- in other words, how much did I actually need for each project.

I am a big fan of Bob and Heather Purcell, the owners of Superior Threads, located in St. George, UT. I'm using their threads more and more in my quilting and LOVE their Vanish Extra water soluble thread for trapunto work. You'll see Bob and Heather travelling around the country, selling their threads at various quilt shows. Bob also teaches classes about threads and, if you see that he will be in your area with one of his lectures or with Alex Anderson, Ricky Timms and Libby Lehman at a SuperSeminar, by all means make sure not to miss Bob's presentation. I think that I am fairly knowledgeable about threads, needles, tensions, etc., but it's my humble opinion that Bob has forgotten more than I'll ever know.

A few years ago, Bob started an on-line newsletter that you can subscribe to by going to Click on "Newsletter" and enter your e-mail address; the newsletter arrives in your in box approximately every other month. It starts out with a "Wise Word from Mother Superior", which is some sort of sewing tip or trick, then goes into the education section, then into new things about their threads (one thing I do have to say here is that I use their threads a lot and none of my machines have problems with them). At the end of the newsletter is one of Bob's Superior Jokes, which are actually archived under "Other" on the website in case you feel that you must have more of them!

One of these newsletters contained the solution to my thread quantity problem. I was so impressed with it that I called Bob and asked if I could copy and distribute this to all of my machine quilting students; he said yes and I have been using it as a handout to my Intro to Machine Quilting classes as well as my Free Motion and Trapunto workshop attendees. And here it is for you, too:

Education: How Much Thread do I Need for This Project

We often are asked how much thread it takes to quilt a quilt. It depends on the size of the quilt and the type of quilting to be done. The most thread I’ve seen used in a quilt is 20,000 yds. (10,000 yds. of MonoPoly invisible thread in the bobbin and 10,000 yds. of Nature Colors and Living Colors on top). This quilt is a beautiful thread painting entitled Precious Water by Hollis Chatelain and won Best of Show in Houston in 2004. Everyone’s technique is different so the following yardage numbers are only averages. Of course it is possible to use much more or much less thread. These numbers are for the top thread only. Double them if you use the same thread for the bobbin. The three sets of numbers following the quilt size represent Light Quilting/Medium Quilting/Heavy Quilting.

Crib size: 200 yds./400 yds./600 yds.

Twin size: 400 yds./800 yds./1,200 yds.

Queen size: 600 yds./1,100 yds./1,600 yds.

King size: 700 yds./1,300 yds./2,000 yds.

Reprinted with permission from
Bob Purcell, Superior Threads

Also, while you are on the website, you can sign up for Mother Superior's blog; it's fun and educational, too!

1 comment:

  1. I love Superior Threads too, but can't imagine using Vanish Extra water soluble thread for trapunto. Is this something that you'd consider writing a tutorial on? I'm struggline iwth the "water soluble" thread when making trapunto. I've never pursued anything like this and would like to learn how you do it.



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