Frequently Asked Questions!

There are so many questions I hear over and over again, so on this page I will try and answer them. Please feel free to e-mail me with your questions too.


Q: I notice you quilt with #100 silk thread - is it difficult to work with? Will it last? What do you use in the bobbin?

A: I do quilt primarily with silk thread. It takes a little getting used to, but I have found it gives me so much freedom in my free motion work, especially in traditional designs, that it is worth the extra expense. I am able to quilt over previously quilted lines and use them to "get to the next line" or area. This back-tracking or double-stitching is something I do all the time, especially in feathers done the traditional way without a space between each one. The doubled line of stitching is almost undetectable.

Silk thread doesn't "take over" the quilt and make it look thready. This is not for you if you want the thread work to be part of the design or embellishment. I like it for my traditional designs as it gives me the same freedom and "look" that invisibile nylon monofilament did, but you can see the tiny stitches and they have a subtle, elegant lustre that I really like. I have started playing with colors more now too, and don't try to perfectly match the thread to the fabric.

The top tension may need to be lowered a bit - do some sample quilting and see. My machines all love this thread and hum away happily when I use it.

It is a natural fiber, but unlike the silk fabrics from 100 years ago used in dresses that were treated with lead and consequently deteriorated in quilts, this silk is strong and probably just as durable as any of the other natural fibers used in quiltmaking. I use a fine weight bobbin thread, #50 Aurifil Cotton or Bottom Line poly by Superior.

Below are some tips for using silk in machine quilting. Watch for it in new bigger spools from YLI for us machine quilters soon.

  • You may need to loosen the top tension a bit to get a nice stitch. Do some sample quilting first on exactly the same layers as are in the quilt.

  • You may use the same thread in the bobbin, but a very fine cotton or poly bobbin thread that is similar to the silk in weight works fine too. The texture of the cotton "grabs" the silk and keeps tension more even.

  • A fine, Sharp® needle works best - #70 or #60.

  • More stitches per inch look better than larger stitches.

  • Space the quilting closer because the thread is so fine.

  • For walking foot quilting such as an all-over grid, use a smaller stitch length and keep the grid lines closer together - every 1" or so.

  • Clean the bobbin area of lint and build-up of waxy debris every time you fill the bobbin and oil the entire area frequently so the machine runs smoothly and does not sound unduly noisy.

  • Also clean the take-up lever, tension disks, and thread guides on the top frequently. Run some thicker cotton thread through, and use a small brush to remove any waxy lint build-up.

  • Use a cone thread holder for the best thread set-up and even tension

  • Vary the colors of silk to create depth and texture.

  • Try a slightly lighter or deeper thread rather than matching exactly - you might prefer this look.

  • Silk thread quilts up differently from the way it looks when held to the fabric swatch, so be sure and do some test quilting before you buy enough thread for an entire project.

©Diane Gaudynski 2005