Sweater quilt: finding the right quilting thread

There was no question in my mind that my sweater quilt should be hand quilted. The challenge would be finding an appropriate thread to do the job. Regular hand quilting thread (30-weight cotton) would not bear up under the weight of the quilt, so I dug through my drawer of needlepoint and cross stitch supplies and found two sizes of perle cotton:

Size 3 is on top. Size 5 is on the bottom.

Size 3 is on top. Size 5 is on the bottom.

I decided to use #5 perle cotton in a medium gray or pale blue/gray color. The only question was where to get it? The big box retailers had some, but color selection was limited plus they only carried one brand: DMC. Another national chain carried a brand I had never heard of, so I was skeptical about using it.

I needed choices. Lots of choices.

One quilting friend who has done a lot of redwork suggested a little shop about 25 miles south of where we live, so I made the trek down there. After looking through every drawer of perle cotton,

Now we're talkin'!

Now we’re talkin’!

I un-enthusiastically purchased one skein of this gray:


Turns out, my instincts about the color were correct. John thought it looked too silvery, and I agreed, so it was back to square one. I located a needlepoint shop three miles beyond the one I’d been to the week before, so I added some more miles to the car because when you’re on a mission, you’re on a mission.

My jaw dropped when I stepped inside the door. Skeins, spools and cards of fibers exploded from wall-mounted pegboards, racks and inside drawers. Complete immersion. I was on my own little Treasure Island; if I couldn’t find something here, it didn’t exist.

One rack of about 10 or 15!

One rack of about 10 or 15!

It took one hour and 45 minutes to comb through the inventory of fibers carried by this fabulous small business: cotton, wool, silk, rayon, linen, flax, cotton/wool, cotton/silk, cotton/rayon, wool/silk, solids, variegateds, overdyeds, metallics—boom! Yeah, that was my brain exploding. 

This shop carried two brands of perle cotton in four sizes: #3, #5, #8 and #12. I finally settled on this medium gray, size #5, from Anchor.

seven skeins

Annlee recommended a darning needle for quilting.

darning needles

The eye would be large enough to pass the perle cotton through without damaging it, while the shaft would be strong enough to ply through the bulk and long enough to load more than a couple stitches at a time.


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