Thread Talk from my sewing Machine #1

[Disclaimer: I by no means claim to be the authority on the subject. I consider Diane Gaudynski to be the Absolute Master in my free-motion quilting journey. Her books are invaluable if you are serious about free-motion quilting.]

I am learning just like everyone else, but I thought I would start by sharing with you a little about the threads I consider to be absolutely essential in my FREE-MOTION QUILTING thread box – Aurifil Mako 50 Cotton and YLI silk 100.

[I am including pictures of my various quilts. You only have to click on a particular picture to see more close-up shots of a particular quilt. I am also using the bullet point method in my presentations so that you can easily access the information at a glance.]

About the YLI Silk 100 threads and using them:

1. They have a very nice sheen about them, making your quilting look fanta-bulous, particularly on a wholecloth. Diane Gaudynski talks extensively about these threads in her book. Even if you aren’t ready to do the fancy free-motion quilting, use the silk to do some straight line quilting like the cross-hatching I have done in the quilt below (1/4″ apart). You will really like the effect:

“Ivory Spring” – featured in Quilting & Embroidery (Summer 2008)

“Ivory Spring” – featured in Quilting & Embroidery (Summer 2008)

2. More than likely, you would need to reduce the top tension when you are quilting with YLI Silk 100. For my Bernina 640E, it’s about 3 +/- 0.25.

3. The YLI Silk is perfect for micro-quilting. When I do micro-quilting, I can quilt as close as 1/16″ apart.

“Harrison Urn” – First place Tippecanoe Block Challenge (2008)

4. An example of quilting with YLI Silk 100.

“Cottage Garden” – featured in The Quilter (November 2009)

5. YLI Silk 100 threads handle backtracking extremely well. The threads are so fine that thread build-up is virtually non-existent when you do backtracking.

6. My personal favorite color is 239 – that color is versatile on just about any fabric.

About Aurifil Mako 50 Cotton:

1. The Aurifil Mako 50 Cotton threads are my go-to threads. I piece with them. I quilt with them. I even use them for my everyday craft project and garment sewing. I am getting ready to try them for some hand applique. I just love them!

2. I like using Aurifil threads to mimic longarm quilting using my home machine. They are perfect for quilting that is not so dense, about 1/4″ apart for me.

“Christmas in Ohio” – to be featured in Fons & Porter’s Easy Quilts (2010)

3. An example of quilting with Aurifil Mako 50 Cotton:

“Sweet Picket Fence” – featured in The Quilter (May 2010)

5. With careful handling, the Aurifil handles backtracking well too. These circles have quite a bit of backtracking:

“Spring Blooms” – featured in The Quilter (March 2010)

These are the combinations I have used for my favorite threads (Diane Gaudynski had mentioned the first two in her books):

1. TOP – YLI Silk, BOTTOM – Aurifil — when I want to do some dense quilting on the top, and don’t think that silk on the bottom as well justifies the occasion.

“My Wholecloth Sampler” – featured in The Quilter (March 2008)

2. TOP – YLI Silk, BOTTOM – YLI Silk — when I am working on a show piece.

“Harrison Urn” – First place Tippecanoe Block Chanllenge (2008)

3. TOP – Aurifil, BOTTOM – Aurifil — Any quilting other than the very dense quilting I do with the silk.

“Baskets full of Apples” – featured in Quilter’s World (October 2009)

Stitching Suggestions:

1. If you aren’t satisfied with the look of your free-motion quilting, you might try switching to YLI Silk to start. The threads you use make a huge difference. Fine threads tend to not broadcast mistakes. I always have my students start learning free-motion quilting with quilt threads. Those who came to class with and were frustrated with their pre-quilted samples always marveled at the difference the silk threads made.

2. Don’t worry about quilting motifs if you are just starting. May I suggest you try to focus on the background quilting to make yourself practice on how to move the quilt sandwich? Your boo boos will blend in very nicely in the overall look of your background quilting no matter how many mistakes you make. My Heirloom Pillow project featured in Bernina’s Through the Needle (Issue 28) emphasizes this very concept – the main motif is done by machine embroidery, and the free-motion quilting part makes up the background quilting. Contact your local Bernina dealer for a magazine copy.

“Heirloom Pillow” – featured in Bernina’s Through the Needle (Issue 28)

3. Once you are adept at moving your quilt using silk, you might try quilting with Aurifil. That was the path I took. I started with silk, and then move “up” to Aurifil. Same concept, except Aurifil threads are not as fine as the silk.

“To A Garden Tea Party” – featured in Quilter’s World (June 2010)

4. A tone-on-tone color scheme is ideal for masking any “boo boos” in the overall texture of free-motion quilting. Don’t stop just because you made a boo boo. Keep going – you will find that by the time you finish your project, you will find yourself being awed by the overall quilting!

“Cascade of Leaves” – to be featured in Quilter’s World (October 2010)

5. The best piece of advice I have ever read is from Diane Gaudynski: don’t just practice, make a project. Do visit her site, and be inspired!

6.  An addendum:  In case your local quilt shop doesn’t carry these threads, you might check out  I have been happy with their service in the past.


I hope you have enjoyed these little tidbits. I welcome your comments sharing your experience with free-motion quilting! My non-quilting bloggy friends, I hope that this post hasn’t bored you to tears, and you have at least enjoyed the pictures.

Stay tuned for the next installment in the Thread Talk series. I will be sharing with you some thoughts on batting and books.


30 thoughts on “Thread Talk from my sewing Machine #1

  1. How amazing that the thread would make that much difference. I’ve never used silk or Aurifil before. I do not think our LQS carry either of those threads.

  2. I am in AWE. I’ll have to take a few minutes to digest all these and then say how awesome you are.

    Great job on all the quilting. I may have to give this a try. I may invest in a Bernina in the near future – ’cause I don’t think my Juki would be able to handle this. I have problems using finer threads on that machine.

    Thanks for the great post!

  3. Thanks so much for the great article!! I’m new to quilting on a serious level & your discussion of thread is very informative. I certainly didn’t consider the thread type or weight to be of such significance! I will certainly try out your suggestions. I love your example photos…not only is the workmanship beautiful, but your photo work is great! I certainly enjoy reading your blog. Thanks again.

  4. Not only was this informative, but your quilts are masterpieces. Wendy, I seriously cannot get over how beautiful all of them are. And they are all so different! I enjoyed reading this very much. Thanks for sharing!



  5. Wow — this is so counterintuitive! I would have thought that fine and/or silk threads would be fussier and more difficult to work with, better to start out with “plain” thread for beginners. I printed this post, I’m definitely going to try these threads (already love YLI Elite serger thread), and I ordered Diane Gaudynski’s books from Amazon. Thank you!

  6. Your quilting is so amazing!!
    Fantastic tips! I am with you on the Aurifil and YLI silk threads – love them. I have started using Invisafil (a100wt thread) and love it too. It is easy to work with and much cheaper than silk – great when practicing.

  7. Ohmigosh, I look at your quilting and am so inspired and so intimidated at the same time. LOL! Thanks so much for these thread tips. I’m going to try the silk thread on my next project (my second project, so you know what a FMQ newbie I am).

  8. WOW Wendy – this is a terrific post – I will re-read and re-read. Loads of information there. I nearly missed this post but came over to you this time from Diane Gaudynski. Fabulous post from you- fantastic advice – thank you … and so true – practise is the way to go!

  9. This is great information. Very inspiring. Sure I will be referring back to it often. Look forward to your next Thread Talk.
    Thanks for your encouraging comments on my blog. I try to reply but you always come up as ‘no reply’.

  10. I love your blog, so much information.
    Diane Gaudynski is my heroine also, love the quilts you have done. Very inspireing.
    Thank you for sharing

  11. I too am a Diane Gaudynski “follower”! My local quilt shop said;”What silk thread for machine quilting??Never heard of that!” I said to them, “get with the newest quilting inovations!! You’de better read Diane’s G.’s book! and fast!!”.
    Like so many I lapped up her words like a kitten with a dish of cream. I took the advise in her books and use the YLI silk and Aurifil as well. I refer to her books as my quilting Bible !She is amazing!!!
    But I have to say however, your modesty in saying that you’re not the expert, is very… well modest. You most certainly are an expert!Looking at your wonderful work pictured here and reading this valuable post proves that! Diane is, well is the master who to inspires so many, but you are no slouch my dear!

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  14. I learned alot from Diane’s books and from a workshop given by one of our guild members who had first taken a workshop from Diane, then shared the skills she learned with the rest of us. I love working with silk for dense quilting but only on small projects. Couldn’t afford it for the big quilts I make. I normally use Superior Threads and used to use Masterpiece almost exclusively both for piecing (still do and love it) and for quilting. Lately I find I have more and more problems with thread breakage when I go over seams especially. I note that Masterpiece (a 50 wt. cotton) is not intended for machine quilting, especially at high speeds. Using a 40 wt like King Tut usually solves this problem but sometimes I don’t want to use that heavy of a thread. Do you have issues with thread breaking when you have lots of seams and using 40 wt?

  15. I’m so happy to have found your blog. I’m off to order some silk thread. I’ve been trying small projects and really want to improve my FMQ’ing. I can’t wait to read more. Thanks for offering up your most go to color for silk. I already use Auriful for just about everything else.

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  17. I’m speechless… no that’s impossible. Okay, WOW!!! Wouldn’t it be awesome to have all of your Thread Talks in one compilation. Cuz I could drool on them all day long. Just to look at the beauty of what you can do with thread.. I can’t imagine making my machine do THAT! Anything close to that.. It just goes wherever it wants to go. Did it start that way for you? Did you have to practice hours and hours before yours didn’t look rediculous? I don’t even wanna try, but then again, I wish mine could look wonderful like that. I don’t know HOW to make a beginning. The really should make starter fabric for people who wanna learn.

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