By Alison Dea Bolt
Quilters have always had a love affair with fabric. We easily succumb to its lush colors and infinite patterns, but thread? Not so much. For ages we kept it in the background; reliable cotton in basic colors, working hard, totally unnoticed—like Cinderella serving indifferent step-sisters. Not once did it demand attention or say, “Hey, without me, you’d be securing your quilt sandwich with Gorilla Glue!” Well, look around. Suddenly, we have a dizzying number of brands, fibers, and vibrant colors to prod our creativity, and we’re seeing thread in a whole new light (and sometimes in the dark). The last time I visited Keepsake, I counted more than 40 shades of blue cotton in one display, not to mention lustrous blues in rayon, silk, poly, and nylon that caught my eye. Looks like Cinderella’s finally the belle of the ball!
The rub is that, while thread options abound, they also confound, giving me even more things to remember! Don’t use a vacuum to pick up metallics. Not finding the right tension greatly increases your own tension. Never lick cut thread ends. (So why am I buying organic thread if I can’t put it in my mouth?!) I’ve even resorted to mnemonics to keep things straight: CAKE (Cut And Knot End before threading); and, “The crow feeds off the top” (CROssWound thread must “feed off the top” of the spool). Adding to the confusion is the need to mate your thread with the perfect needle, which would be a whole lot easier if I could actually see my needle! And, yes, I know size matters, but what genius decided that high numbers should designate fat needles and thin thread? Probably the same male who decides where the paper goods are placed in women’s restrooms…
Nevertheless, all that’s a small price to pay for the design adrenaline these irresistible new threads afford. Besides, there are a ton of new gadgets to make thread skirmishes easier, and I’m a gadget groupie. How can I resist Bobbin Buddies, Deelybobs, and Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers? Last Christmas, when my husband asked for gift ideas, I suggested a zippy little bobbin winder and a sculpted metal thread holder. He replied, “Doesn’t that expensive machine of yours do that for free?” Ouch! This year I’ll be smarter and ask for KQ’s Super Satchel storage system. It protects 864 spools from light and dust, keeps the threads from tangling like a new perm after the first washing, and can be wheeled around my studio. Even he knows my Bernina can’t do that!
It’ll take some combat shopping to fill my new thread palace, but I’m a veteran and up to the challenge. Whenever I go to KQ, just like with Jell-O, there’s always room in my tote for a few spools I can’t live without—use to be determined later. (Sound familiar?) I must confess though, I don’t always use the “right” thread for my projects. If I’m blown away by the color, I follow Tim Gunn’s advice and “just make it work”! That’s how I justify using bright orange thread instead of dark grey to piece my latest quilt. I couldn’t help myself, I just got carried away by a beautiful pumpkin—and I know Cinderella would approve of that!
Alison Bolt lives in Littleton, New Hampshire