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OK, ladies, I'm going to give you my lecture on threads to be used for applique and why I use them. First of all, the 'issue' generally becomes whether to use silk (which glides through the cotton fabric beautifully and is easily hidden) or cotton, then which weight of cotton? So, the silk worm extrudes miles and miles of silk filament, which is reeled off through boiling hot water because that's when it's at its strongest...when it's wet. And its *very* strong. Now take cotton thread. It's short, the cotton staple at best being 3/4" long. It's very fragile and weakest when its wet. So now take your applique quilt in 100 years (and we do love those antique quilts). If silk has been used, it's cut through the cotton fabric and the thread people (who sell silk thread) will tell you that it's so strong it's still fine. Ya, it's fine, but the quilt isn't! So now cotton: Cotton will, in fact, become one with the cotton fabric it's stitched onto. This will have a better chance, In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) of surviving intact. Most curators will tell you the same thing.
So I opt for cotton thread on cotton fabric for that reason. I do use silk thread, but only on silk fabric. I prefer Mettler 60/2 wt cotton. It's one ply less than the normal 50/3 wt. and therefore is fine enough that you can hide it in your fabric, if you come out on the fold of the applique fabric and give it a slight tug to tighten it. I have tried DMC 50 wt. and it's very nice, though a little 'hairier' than the cotton. My guess is that it hasn't been 'gassed", that is pulled quickly through a gas flame to burn off the little fuzzies. But it's still a good product. If all else fails and I can't find the right colour in either of these two brands, then I use Gutermann cotton, 50 wt. It's just fine. So if you have Mettler 60/2 or DMC 50/3 available locally, buy them. If you only have Gutermann, then use Gutermann...as long as it isn't the poly thread, which is a whole other issue .
So there you have my little lecture on thread. This comes to you from 29 years of weaving/spinning experience. I hope I've helped you make an informed decision about whether you want to use silk or cotton. In the end, it's your decision and your quilt
Happy Stitching!

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Replies to This Discussion

I've now tried my spool of Mettler 60 (100) with green printing, having used my "natural" color on a dark green applique, and am totally sold! If it didn't "bury" itself into the fabric like the silk does, it would have shown up like a sore thumb, and you can NOT see it at all! Thanks Annette! I would never have given it a try if you hadn't suggested it!! I love it.
Thanks Annette for the info. I, two, never thought of silk in that way; cutting thru the fabric when old. Will definitely look into those threads u mentioned, especially, in my future pieces, as I have a few vintage quilts I am inspired two do.

I agree about using cotton to stitch cotton onto cotton. I used whatever I had on my first quilt years ago and used Dacron batting. Some of the 100% cotton fabrics wore out, and the polyester thread cut through them. A few years ago, I took it apart and rebuilt it from what was left, adding new background and backing, and cotton batting, and some new blocks. I like Connecting Threads thread for hand appliqué. I use clip-on magnifiers to see the threads of the fabric and make my stitches as tiny as I can. If people can see the stitches, they'll know it wasn't fused. Having said that, I think everyone should use the methods they like best and the materials they prefer. 

Hi, I'm new here. Love, love, love doing applique. My thread of choice is the DMC machine embroidery cotton. It comes in every color you can imagine. I often go to the neutrals if I don't have the right color. I heard wonderful things about silk--tried it. My experience was it sparkled when it should have been silent.

I am doing Hawaiian quilt blocks at the moment and I use Connecting Thread's cotton thread - which is 100% cotton, 50/3. (I also use it for quilting on my sewing machine.) I run it through bee's wax so as to keep it from fraying and twisting so much.  When I started Hawaiian quilting years ago, I used Coats & Clark polyster-wrapped cotton, and it was fine, 35 years later, the wall hanging I made is still looking new.  When I took a needle-turn applique class the instructor told us to not use embroidery thread (oops, this was after I made 32 blocks of appliqued butterfly for a child's quilt), although I didn't catch her reason why not to. So that was almost 15 years ago, the quilt is now faded from washing and being used as a tent and picnic blanket, but the appliques have not torn apart nor did the thread cut into the background fabric.

I do agree that the choice is ours to make which thread to use.


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