THREAD & FABRIC – SHOULD THEY MATCH?

Clip art -  thread and needle

Should the thread and fabric match? I have been asked this so many times, especially by beginning quilters.  We were taught in a sewing class taken back in the dark ages that the thread and fabric should match. And honestly, if I am sewing clothing, I want the thread to match. However, we are talking quilting here.

Should the fabric and thread colors match? Does it really matter? I decided years ago that it was more important to me to cut and sew accurately, then be concerned about matching thread color for piecing the pattern.

Here’s my take on matching threads to fabric (and remember this is simply my opinion) – it depends on what part of the quilting process I am working on.…

If I am piecing, I do not care what color of thread that is being used.  Oh, the scandal!!  Every time I changed fabric colors, I would have to change the thread and bobbin. In my mind that is such a waste of time, and I would rather be happily sewing.

Container with many spools of different colors of thread.
Partial spools of beautifully colored threads

Your quilt is about you, and only you can decide what steps in the quilt making process are priority to you.  You will need too decide what you are willing or not to do. I know I am in the minority on the subject, and I am comfortable with that.  I really notice this each fall when a group of us get together every September in Maine to quilt for several days – I am the only one who does not spend time matching the thread to the fabric.  Clearly it is not a priority for me, but a high one for the others.

However, when I am piecing a planned top with purchased fabric for that project, I try to find some neutral color and use that for the entire top. 

Right now, I am trying to clean out my scrap bins – how would I even begin to match the fabrics and threads?  I already feel my head starting to hurt. When I am piecing with scraps, I use it as an excuse to use up all those partial spools and bobbins of odd colors. 

Plastic tub of 2.5" scrap strips of fabric
2.5″ strips all cut and ready to sew
Plastic tub of 3" fabric squares.
3″ squares cut and ready to sew

This is the biggest reason I rarely use white as a background fabric – combined with the use of many different colors of thread, there are all the loose hanging threads. I just make sure they are at the back when I am sewing those seams. (See other post: https://indianaquilter40.com/to-clip-those-loose-threads-or-not/)

Other quilters’ thoughts about this issue:

https://www.generations-quilt-patterns.com/what-color-quilting-thread-should-i-use-for-piecing.html

https://www.quiltersworld.com/basics.php#Thread

This is a good time to address sewing thread – buy the best you can afford.  My own mistakes showed me a long time ago that usually the store brand is not quality which lead to frustration as I sewed (knots and shredding) and it did not hold up to use. The other issue was that some of the color was not set right, and it bled through the quilt top after the first washing.

I do match the thread if I am doing applique, or a binding. Why? Because I want to see the design, not obvious stitches.  For both applique and bindings, I usually like to use a thread that matches the background because it seems to blend in better. This is also how I end up with partial spools and bobbins of various colors.

I personally use Coats & Clark machine thread because the color range is fantastic, and it holds up well for both hand and machine sewing.

There is also the budget issue, after all I have spent money on quality thread, and I can’t see letting it just sit in a cupboard unused.  My goal is to use the fabric up until it is gone (those glorious scraps need a home, right?) so I personally want to have the same attitude about the thread.  

Now I am going to really be controversial (!!) with the next comment.  Once I discovered thread adapters (I bought mine at JoAnn’s) I went to using neutral serger threads for much of my sewing. I still buy quality, but the cost is so much less than buying the same amount of thread on regular spools. My grandma told me that the only thread colors I would ever need were black, gray, light brown, white, and navy and those are the colors I buy in serger threads because they really are versatile and neutral.  Only you can decide if this option works for you, but I have done it for well over 30 years with very satisfactory results.

Thread adapter with 4 spools of serger thread.
Thread adapter and serger thread
Four spools of serger thread.

Only you can decide if matching threads for piecing is a stress or a joy to you. 

Remember that quilting should make you happy.  If you are distracted or stressed by some part of the quilting process that does not matter once the quilt is finished, then maybe it just is not worth it. My grandma would say “don’t stress the small stuff”.

Quilt block with saying "Decide for yourself what matters to you and what doesn't"
Source: Quiltville

Quilting folks, please comment – do you match your fabrics and thread?

Author: IndianaQuilter40

Made first quilt by myself in mid teens. Addicted to quilting. Love using simple quilt patterns and giving them a twist so they are my own....Live in central Indiana. Raised in Montana. Have traveled and worked all over US and in Germany. Certified medical coder, HIM manager, and medical record auditor. Married for 30+ years to a wonderful guy who likes my quilts. We have grown children and starting on grand-kids.

5 thoughts on “THREAD & FABRIC – SHOULD THEY MATCH?”

  1. Too funny!!! I have done the same thing for years and ladies at the guild can’t believe I don’t match thread. Thought I was the only one in the world who didn’t. Thanks so much for this post.

    I am using COVID-19 as an excuse to clean out all the partial spools of color thread. Well, yeah, the scraps too. Having a great time just sewing.

    1. Hello,

      I am not really sure why it is so important to other folks to match the thread to the fabric for seams that will never show, but it is!! I get the comments from other quilters too. It’s ok, we will just continue to quilt along and have a great time.

      Happy Stitching.

  2. I match thread sometimes, and other times I just sew with whatever is in the machine at the time. Not a big interest to me in quilt stuff.

    1. Hey Ells,

      Thanks for chiming in. Guess we will have to stick together on this topic because we are really in the minority from what I hear when talking to other quilters 🙂

      Happy Stitching.

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