T is for Thread

T is for ThreadWithout thread, there would be no embroidery!

The majority of people use a polyester thread for machine embroidery. If you stitch on a BERNINA embroidery machine, you more than likely have a big stash of Isacord thread. If you’ve ever attended a Floriani event at your local machine dealer, chances are you have a big stash of Floriani thread.

My favorite thread for machine embroidered appliqué is AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread. It’s a beautiful thread with a gorgeous sheen (not as strong as a polyester shine) – but because it’s cotton, people don’t associate it with machine embroidery.

What I love about AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread:

  • It comes in 270 colors (this number keeps getting bigger!) so it’s easy to find the perfect match.

Here’s something fun to try: Sometimes I look at the AURIfil Cotton Mako color card and wonder why there are, say, 4 different shades of off-white, which to all intents and purposes look more or less exactly the same when you have the spools of thread standing side by side in a line. When you put the spools onto a piece of off-white colored fabric, all of a sudden the thread colors come to life and the “true match” becomes really clear. Next time you’re in a store that sells AURIfil Cotton Mako, try putting these colors onto a piece of off-white fabric and see what happens: 2000, 2310, 2311 and 2026.

AURIfil Cotton Mako Off White

AURIfil Cotton Mako Off White

Another fun color to play with is the pinks: 1100, 2535, 4020 and 2588

AURIfil Cotton Mako

AURIfil Cotton Mako
1100 – 2535 – 4020 – 2588

If you put pink fabrics on the left and these 4 spools of pink thread on the right, how many times can you get a great match the first time? Sometimes it’s as if the thread changes its color when you put it onto fabric!

  • I can use if for all of my machine embroidery, piecing and quilting.
  • It has 3 sister weights.
    • 50 weight is the finest (the higher the number, the lighter the thread). It’s perfect for piecing – it more or less disappears into your seam. It’s perfect for quilting when you want the focus to be on the texture rather than the thread. I love it for machine embroidery appliqué because it creates beautiful results. For piecing and quilting, use the same color of 50 weight AURIfil Cotton Mako in the bobbin. Use an 80/12 Superior Titanium Top Stitch needle.
    • 40 weight is a little heavier – but not a lot. It’s great for quilting when you want the thread to stand out just a little bit more. Some people say that 40 weight thread is the best for machine embroidery. The way I look at it, there’s 1000m of 40 weight thread on a large spool and there’s 1300m of 50 weight thread on a spool. 50 weight gives you more stitches for the same price – and the difference is so subtle it’s hardly noticeable. Use the same color of either 40 weight or 50 weight AURIfil Cotton Mako in the bobbin. Use an 80/12 Superior Titanium Top Stitch needle.
    • 28 weight is almost twice as thick as 50 weight. It’s great for quilting when you really want to make the quilting design stand out. It’s also great for machine appliqué when you’re doing a blanket stitch around the appliqué shape. Put the same color of 50 weight thread in the bobbin. Use a 90/14 Superior Titanium Top Stitch needle.
    • 12 weight is 4 times heavier than 50 weight. You can really see this thread! Make sure you’re using a longer stitch length. This weight is perfect for hand work – appliqué or embroidery. If you’re using it on a machine, pair it with 50 weight or 40 weight in the bobbin and use a 100/16 Superior Titanium Top Stitch needle. I have also used 12 weight AURIfil Cotton Mako for tatting – when I visit my Mum and Dad I usually take some sort of handwork to work on: knitting, crocheting and one year I relearned how to tat! The little piece below is about 4″ across and has seed beads included along the thread.
AURIfil Cotton Mako 12 weight thread

Tatting with AURIfil Cotton Mako 12 weight thread

I can’t leave a discussion on thread and machine embroidered appliqué without mentioning what I put in the bobbin. The answer is: Superior Bottom Line, color #619 Tan. Bottom Line is a 60 weight thread designed for use in the bobbin – but it can also be used in the needle (70/10 Superior Titanium Top Stitch needle). Why color #619 Tan? It works with just about all colors that I’m going to be using in the needle. The exceptions would be:

  • White thread on white fabric – in which case I would use white thread in the bobbin
  • Black thread on black fabric – in which case I would use black thread in the bobbin

If you’re seeing bobbin thread up on top, either your top tension is too tight (it’s pulling the bobbin thread up) or your bobbin tension is too loose (it’s not pulling the top thread down). To remedy this situation:

  • Make sure that your machine is clean and lint free in the bobbin area and underneath the stitch plate. Add a drop of oil if needed for your machine.
  • Make sure that the bobbin has been correctly threaded for embroidery. Different machines have different ways of being threaded. Click here to check out a blog for details on 3 different types of BERNINA bobbins.
  • Make sure that your top thread has been threaded correctly. Also make sure that the top thread isn’t getting caught on anything – it should be able to flow freely off the spool. If you’re using a cross wound spool, make sure you’re using some sort of thread stand (if there isn’t one built onto your machine) so that the thread comes up and over an arm before it goes into your machine. If you’re using a stack wound spool, make sure that the spool can spin freely. My preference is to use cross wound spools wherever possible.
  • Make sure there isn’t any thread stuck in the thread path. This can play havoc with tension – and it can be hard to find the offending piece of thread!
  • Make sure there isn’t any thread caught in the thread cutter if your machine has one.

Daily Deal

From 12:01am on July 12, 2017 until 11:59pm on July 14, 2017, enjoy 20% off the Transformation Quilting Collection

Use promo code “A2Z-T” at the checkout

Add to CartTransformation Quilting Collection $60.00
(Delivered as a digital download. Optional CD available at the checkout)

Daily Deal Extra!

In case you missed the K for Kit Daily Deal Extra, I’m super happy to tell you that Donna from Follow That Thread (my go-to source for AURIfil thread) is partnering with me again to give you a great deal on some AURIfil thread kits. In addition to my kits, Donna has added some of AURIfil’s Home collections and a couple of the bigger kits. If you haven’t see “The Full Selection,” which Donna refers to as the Treasure Chest, be sure to click here and check it out – it contains a small spool of each of the 270 colors in the weight of your choice. And… she has it available for an unbeatable price, only for participants of the A to Z.

Click here to check out the AURIfil Treasure Chest (aka The Full Selection)

Donna is offering 20% off MSRP for all the (12 spool) kits in the T is for Thread Daily Deal Extra. What does that mean in hard cash? Instead of paying $140 for a kit, you’ll pay $112.

Click here to stock up on AURIfil thread with 20% off MSRP!


What I love about this collection… The Transformation Quilting Collection was my first “quilting in the hoop” only collection. It really opens up the possibilities of what you can create with your embroidery machine, especially if you own one of the bigger hoops (8″ x 8″ or larger). Now anyone with an embroidery machine can add gorgeous quilting to their projects.

I love to see what people do with this collection of quilting in the hoop designs.

Janice used the designs to quilt the setting squares (and triangles) of this beautiful Lone Star quilt:

Transformation by Janice

Ariel used the designs to quilt the corners and sides of the center of her GO! Bloom quilt (which just goes to prove that these designs don’t need to be used in blocks with boundaries on all 4 sides!)

GO! Bloom by Ariel

GO! Bloom by Ariel

Edy used the designs to quilt her Splash of Color quilt:

Edy Splash of Color

Edy’s Splash of Color

I see Transformation Quilting Collection in the blue setting triangles, in the red squares, in the green borders and in the green skinny blocks!

What’s even more amazing is that Edy made 2 Splash of Color Quilts!!!

Edy Splash of Color 2

Edy’s Splash of Color quilt, v2

The designs from the Transformation Quilting Collection are also gorgeous in small pieces as framed artwork:

Transformation Quilting Collection

Stitched on a BERNINA 880
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread


  1. Great tips. I am going to try the Aurifil 50 on my next embroidery project.

  2. I love looking every day at your page with all the helpful hints and information. I hadn’t realised Aurifil Mako had so many colours, they are beautiful. Our local shop here in the UK carries just a few colours and I have used it for quilting and I am so pleased with it. Thank you.

  3. Great Ideas i finished my splash of colour quilt and am not good at quilting so my be i can try and use the transformation designs i brought a while ago. A to Z information each day is great thanks

  4. Paula Ann Brackman

    I love the look of Aurifil 50 when I am embroidering Christening Gowns. When working on light weight batiste I reduce the dencity of my designs by 20% Most of my designs have a lot of satin stich in them.

  5. Great tips again today. I did not save some of the earlier ones so was hoping that we may be able to get them again if that is possible. Am going to look for some aurifil cotton for my next project.

  6. Question: How does one get perfect placement with the quilting in the hoop for a particular block ? Do you have the backing, batting and top sandwiched and quilt it all in the hoop? Or do you use your perfect placement technique (which was very ver helpful) and place the back after the quilting is finished ? If you place the back after the quilting is finished – how do you place your back? I also tat – It’s a wonderful hobby for hands in small places. Thanks again .

  7. I normally use poly thread for embroidery, but will now give Aurifil cotton a try! Thank you!

  8. Love my Transformation Collection. I’ve always used Rayon 40 weight thread for my embroidery…..that is, until you introduced me to Aurifil 50 weight Mako Cotton thread for machine embroidered applique. Have been using Aurifil for all my other sewing for a long time. It is the best!

  9. Great thread tips. Thanks!

  10. Love these tips! Will you think about compiling them into an ebook?
    If so I’ll be the first to purchase. Thanks so much for all the great info.

  11. I’d like to echo the question posed by Kathy Lyman earlier – when using your designs for a quilt, esp the Transformation group – I’d like to quilt the entire ‘sandwich’. Is that possible in a hoop or too bulky? Must you do the Transformation designs only on the top and then add the back? How do you then quilt the three layers together? Thanks.

  12. Thanks for the tips! They are great. I’ve never tried embroidering with cotton thread, but will definitely be purchasing some to try!

  13. I love the Transformation Design Collection. I used your instructions to make a simple tote bag and used this collection. Then I embroidered a big solid color design on the front and back and get compliments every time I use it. Thanks for all the information you give us—made lining designs up super easy.

  14. Aurifil 50 weight also comes in large spools

  15. Many thank yous for the tips on the various weights and the ideas for what might be causing tension issues.
    Any cotton thread I tried kept breaking. People seem to have a love/hate relationship with Aurifil. What seems to work for me are Isacord, Wonderfil and Magnifico. Definitely Bottom Line in the bobbin.

  16. I will give AURIfil a try! All of your designs are truly works of art!

  17. Just starting to switch to cotton from poly. Can’t wait to get a Aurofil color chart and try all their lucious colors. Thank you for all your advice.

  18. I love these designs. I am going to use some of them in a quilt I am working on right now.

  19. Thank you for the tips today. So loved the art work framed, it has given me an idea going to try it

  20. Fabulous thread tips . I purchased Aurifil thread a while back but have not tried it yet… guess I better get busy. The embroidered quilting is beautiful.

  21. Again I have learned from you. I have a me Bernina 770 qe and I am wanting to make the most of its capabilities. Until I started quilting a few months ago I didn’t know there were so much to know about thread. You have been very helpful. Thanks.

  22. I’m currently working with the Transformations designs, to create a wallhanging as a b/d gift for a friend. It was inspired by Angela Walters “Drawings” fabric collection by Robert Kaufman. She did hers free-motion, but my skills aren’t great, so I felt I could do the fabric overlay with your Transformation Collection. Love the tips! I MUST give the Cotton Mako thread a try.

  23. I have the transformation designs. I am hoping I will find the unfinished projects one of these days. With moving and computers crashing things could be anywhere. I am anxious to get my machines going again. Thanks for all the tips. I hope you do put them in an ebook.

  24. Thanks for the tips on cotton thread

  25. I have never understood the different weights of thread. Thanks for the tutorial.

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