Quilting with 12wt Thread Tips

I used 12wt Aurifil thread to do some straight line quilting on my Juki TL-2200QVP Mini (think TL-2010) this week, and I wanted to share a few tips today.

First and foremost, I started with a new needle. I used an 80/12 needle and my needle threader worked just fine. If you are having to thread it yourself or your needle threader is having difficulty, going with a larger needle might be a good choice for you.

Then I wound a bobbin of the same thread color but in 50wt (I’ll talk more about that in a bit) and created a quilt sandwich of the same fabric that I was going to be quilting to test my stitches.

12wt Aurifil Thread and Quilting Sample

12wt Aurifil Thread and Test Quilt Sandwich

This is the top of my test quilt sandwich. The top fabric is a Cotton + Steel / Rifle Paper Co. Wonderland canvas (Magic Forest), the batting is Quilter’s Dream Dream Green, and the backing fabric is a Cotton + Steel / Rifle Paper Co. Wonderland cotton lawn (City Toile). As you can hopefully see I tried out different stitch lengths and settled on using 3 for my stitch length. From the top, all looks well.

12wt Aurifil Thread and Test Quilt Sandwich - Backing

12wt Aurifil Thread and Test Quilt Sandwich – Backing

The back tells a different story, to say the least! It was obvious from the first stitches that my default tension settings were not going to work. Just look at all that 12wt thread pulled through and made into a rat’s nest on the back!

12wt Aurifil Thread and Test Quilt Sandwich - Backing

12wt Aurifil Thread and Test Quilt Sandwich – Backing

I slowly increased the tension setting for my top thread and stitched a little bit. As you can see at the bottom in the image above, things quickly got better. I kept dialing up the top tension until I was satisfied. For me, that meant a top tension setting of about 2.75.

Even if you have my exact machine, you will likely find a different tension setting for your combination of fabric and batting.

As you can see in the detail photos of the quilted panels, taking the time to work out the settings before hand was worthwhile! I typically like to use the same thread (weight and color) on the top and in the bobbin, but for 12wt thread, I have found it easier to balance the tension with the thicker thread when it is on only one side. That’s not to say you couldn’t try it on top AND in the bobbin – but be sure to test out what you plan to do in advance!

Also, my older machine would not quilt or sew or stitch with anything other than 50wt on top. For that machine, I was able to successfully quilt with 12wt thread in the bobbin and 50wt on top. It’s called “bobbin work” and I just quilted upside down (the quilt backing facing up). So don’t be discouraged if your machine is finicky and doesn’t like a heavy weight thread on top – give it a try in the bobbin!

Quilted Weekender Bag Panels

Quilted Weekender Bag Panels

So just what the heck was I up to? I made a set of quilted panels and shipped them off to my friend Renee from Quilts of a Feather, and she is going to turn these quilted panels into a Weekender bag to gift to our friend Afton from Quilting Mod as a diaper bag.

Quilted Weekender Bag Panels

Quilted Weekender Bag Panels

This isn’t a surprise: Afton gave us the fabric to use, so that means I didn’t have to treat it as secret sewing!

Main Bag Panel Detail

Main Bag Panel Detail

I quilted the main bag panels with a 1″ spaced crosshatch so as not to take away too much from the fun print.

Bottom Bag Panel Detail

Bottom Bag Panel Detail

The bottom bag panel was quilted with a 1/2″ grid, the top panel with a 1″ grid that was then filled in with one angled/diagonal set of lines, and the pocket panels were all near matchstick quilted horizontally (somewhere between 1/4- and 1/8-inch spaced apart lines).

Quilted Weekender Bag Panels - Backings

Quilted Weekender Bag Panels – Backings

And just to round everything out, here is what the back of the panels look like. The pockets are all backed in cotton lawn, and the main bag panels, top, and bottom are backed in more canvas.

Quilted Weekender Bag Panels - Backings

Quilted Weekender Bag Panels – Backings

Have you ever quilted with 12wt thread? Do you have any questions that I did not address here?

**Post update** When I woke up this morning, I wanted to mention that I did have more lint accumulation than I normally experience with Aurifil thread. The issue honestly could have been needle size (going up one size larger might have greatly reduced this for me), and over all it wasn’t a problem that lead to thread breakage or difficulty… I would just highly recommend a thorough cleaning with each bobbin change. Between quilting (dust from the batting) and the thread, it was definitely worth the few extra moments to clean out my bobbin area and up top by my needle fairly frequently.

I have even free motion quilted with 12wt Aurifil and am enjoying experimenting with the different thread weights and how they look on different substrates (like canvas).

I will be linking up with Tips and Tutorials Tuesday (the link up opens on Tuesday, July 18th).

17 thoughts on “Quilting with 12wt Thread Tips

  1. patty says:

    I’ve never used anything but a 50wt in my machine. Maybe I’ll try a practice pieces just to see what the texture is like.

  2. Cindy says:

    It can be a balancing act getting different weight threads to behave. You were definitely successful!

  3. Alison says:

    This is so helpful, Yvonne! I have a bunch of 12 wt that came with my Island Batik Ambassador box and I just don’t know what to do with it so this is a great jumping off point!

  4. Yes, I’ve used Sulky 12 wt quite often, not as much in recent years, but both my old Elna and my Bernina sitch it up beautifully, using it on top. I used it on table centres and on bags and garments. The Blendables by Sulky is just gorgeous thread. Gorgeous too are the fabrics Afton chose, and having your and Renée’s hand in them makes them super special.

  5. cauchy09 says:

    Thanks for the experiment, Y! I’ve been waiting to use a cone of 12wt on my machine b/c i was unsure. Will follow your lead and try it out.

  6. Kim says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips. I have enjoyed following you and I appreciate your insights and experience. You are part of an ever widening group of generous quilters.

  7. nan says:

    thank you for the advice, especially about the tensions. I never understood when they say dial up or down the tension. You helped out a lot by putting the number of how far you went on your machine.

  8. You are such a fountain of information! Thank you.

  9. Kathy h says:

    Thanks for these tips. I was just going to try a project using the 12 wt thread on my machine.

  10. Great information. One of these days I’ll get brave enough to put all these tips into practice.

  11. Kaja says:

    This was interesting and thought-provoking for me. I like to use 12wt for hand quilting but hadn’t thought about trying it in a machine.

  12. Helen says:

    As I start to do some quilting, I must change my needle and clean the bobbin bit . I never thought of bigger needles , I think mine are all standard

  13. Such fantastitc tips, Yvonne! I just adore 12wt thread and look forward to giving this a try!

    Oh, and your panels look fantastic. Those kitties are the cutest and that light blue and gold panel is so eye catching. Well done!

  14. Thanks for sharing! Your tips are very clear and easy to understand. The panels for the bag look great! I love the texture from the straight line quilting.

  15. This is a great post. It’s interesting to hear what has worked for you on different machines. I can’t wait to see the finished diaper bag!

  16. I’ve never used 12 wt thread before and I always use the same thread in the top and the bobbin, it’s something I’ve never experimented with and I’m not confident to change or know about the advantages or disadvantages of. Since I got my new machine I have had to go up a needle size, from 70 to 80 with aurifil 50 due to thread breaks. I’ve not changed the tension before, I tend to use it at the factory settings but I’m having problems with the quilting stitches. I would be really interested in more of your stitching tips Yvonne, this is so informative. Thank you.

  17. Jen Shaffer says:

    Great tips! I would never have thought to quilt wrong side up.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)