Posted on 34 Comments

Working with Silk Thread

applique centerOur annual shop hop “Quilters’ Quest” is coming soon and I have been diligently working on our quilt. Everyone who comes to our shop during the Quest will get a free pattern for this quilt.

If you have been taking part in my Block of the Month classes on Craftsy, you know that I have been enjoying doing a lot of applique lately. I am now working on the applique portion of the Quest quilt and wanted to share with you a few tips.

First and foremost, I love the Apliquick tools for getting the edges turned under neatly and efficiently.

Second, my favorite thread for applique is silk. When silk thread is used the stitches are virtually invisible. There are few things to keep in mind, however.

silk thread blog
You can see the difference between the 50-wt. thread and the silk which seems to just sink into your fabric and disappear.

Since silk thread is so fine, it comes un-threaded very easily. There are a couple of solutions. One is to be sure to hold the tail of the thread as you pull the needle up through the fabric. The second is to actually tie the thread to the eye of the needle. The photos here show the knot that can be used. (We’ve used a very large needle and thick thread to make it easier for you to see.) Don’t worry about the knot having trouble going through the fabric. Silk is so fine that you won’t even notice it.

Thread your needle and with the short end of the thread wrap it once around your finger holding tight to the thread end.
Thread your needle and with the short end of the thread. Wrap it once around your finger holding tight to the thread end.
Now take your needle and feed it between your finger nail and the thread going from your finger toward the tip of your nail (this way you are not likely to poke your finger).
Still holding the end of that thread, draw the needle through
which will create a knot.
Draw it up tight to the eye of the needle. Tie a knot in the other end of your thread and you are ready to stitch without worrying about your thread coming out of the eye.

Another problem that you can have with silk thread is that it seems to fray more easily and eventually breaks. I discovered that the thimble makes all the difference.  One of my favorite thimbles is an antique Dorcas that is silver with a steel core. It is quite strong and durable, but this ended up being a problem, because the fraying of the thread occurred right where my thimble touched the eye of the needle causing the thread to actually be “cut”. When I switched to my Tommie Jane Lane all sterling thimble there was much less fraying. Some people also use a leather thimble which also is more gentle on the silk thread.

The other thing that I do is bring the tail of the thread almost all the way down to the fabric. Then each time I pull the needle through, I let the tail slip through the eye just a little. When the tail is short, then I bring it back down to my work and continue the process. In this way, one portion of the thread is not always between my thimble and the eye of the needle.

The color of thread does not have to exactly match the fabric. I like to select a thread that is slightly darker or that blends with one of the darker colors in the print. These are the six colors I am using for the seven fabrics in the applique motif. I’m using black on the dark purple, since the purple fabric has black lines in it. I selected a bronze for the orange fabric, a burgundy to use for both the fuchsia and the darker red, a gold for the gold fabric, red for the bright red and dark tealish green for the green print.

silk threadIf you have never used silk thread for applique, give it a try. I’m sure you will love it as much as I do.

34 thoughts on “Working with Silk Thread

  1. I have just started using silk thread for soft edge piecing and love the results!

  2. Very Informative, Jinny

    Thank you

  3. I long ago was exposed to working with silk. Your way of stablelizing thread is different but I like it better. Easier to do instead of splitting thread. The eyes age as we do. I always am stunned with your use of color. Brilliant and always new. Thanks for sharing. Fran R

  4. Have you used silk thread in your machine. I usually use the blanket stitch on my machine to do appliqué.

    1. Yes, you can use silk thread in the machine. None of us here in the Studio have done any machine applique with it. Give it a try and tell us what you think. It is also amazing when doing machine quilting. Check out the work of Diane Gudynski.

  5. Liked the infor on silk thread. I too do alot of applique. So would like more infor on it.. does it fray much once on the quilt? What’s the cost and yardsge of thread? Where do you get s leather thimble and do you sell the items? Thank you

    1. Silk thread is surprisingly strong and we’ve had no problem with fraying. A 200 meter spool costs $6. We sell individual spools in the shop but only a 5-pack online which coordinates with the Block of the Month quilt. We will be adding more 5-packs soon. We do not sell leather thimbles but they are easy to find online and in many craft stores.

  6. I have been using silk thread for several years for hand applique. I read some place that to prevent your silk thread coming unthreaded while sewing, loop the thread through the eye twice. It works great

    I was delighted to visit your shop this week while in Washington DC. Lovely and lots of fun and beautiful things


  7. I have just started using the silk thread and it is wonderful. It slips through the fabric like a knife on soft buttrer. I just finished a silk jacket and the silk thread matched exactly and it looked lovely and it was a dream to work with — thanks for all of your ideas and sharing your many talents.

  8. I am afraid it will not hold up in the wear of the finished quilt or project especially through laundering . Do you have long enough experience with this to know?
    Thank you I have all your books and love your methods. Have so many of you border prints and love using them in fussy cut , hand pieced [lesson from you] , kaleidoscope blocks .

    1. We haven’t had any problems with the silk thread nor have any been reported to us and we have been using them for quite a while.

  9. I would like to see a demonstration on how to knot the silk thread during the quilter quest visit to your shop.

    1. We will pass that along to the staffers doing the demos.

  10. Hi,

    Would love to know if I can get silk thread from you and what brand do you recommend? Also, do you have your shop hop pattern available? I am not able to make it to your shop for the Hop but love the applique pattern and would love to purchase if possible.

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Jennifer

      Yes, we do sell silk thread. Right now we sell individual spools in the Studio and online a 5-pack which coordinates with the Block of the Month project. We will be adding more 5-packs in the future. As far as the shop hop pattern, we will not be selling that version online since it uses the the fabric collected on the Quest but will have a Studio version available at some time in the winter.

      1. Jinny I need this set pictured on another page, with a lot of colors (pastels). I live in rural Oklahoma so get most of my embroidery, quilting, applique, crochet etc.. from the internet. SILK is the type and brand name I am looking for. I used some of a friends on my first project and had to give it back and am ready to start a new project. Can anybody help me find some I can buy? Thank you

      2. Hi Julie,
        Please send us a picture of what you are looking for to and we will gladly try to help you out.

  11. Do you use silk thread when you are binding a quilt also?

    1. No, we use a stronger weight thread. Most of us use 50 weight and one of us even uses YLI hand quilting thread, 40 weight, because it doesn’t knot.

  12. Thanks for the info I use silk also but your knot is a lot easier than mine looking forward to next Craftsy block
    Glad you had a great holiday

  13. I also love using YLI 100wt silk thread fir applique work. I do use it doubled which avoids losing the needle. Because the thread is so fine the stitches are still (almost) invisible. Of course twice as much thread is used but a reel of thread goes a very long way.

  14. Dear Jinny and staff members,

    Silk really makes the diference with applique. You are fully right when you say the thread disappears in the fabric. I love working with silk for applique, which I learnes from my Dutch teacher Joop Smits.

    Thanks for your very good instructions. I always read them; I admire your explanations and video demo’s and really look forward to your newsletter.

    Thanks so much.

    Trijntje Yntema

  15. Hi,
    I recently began using silk threat and love it! What weight of silk thread do you prefer?
    Thanks for all your useful tips.

    1. We use 100 wt. silk.

  16. I am going to try the silk thread. Enjoyed the tips

  17. I always use silk thread when I appliqué. Absolutely love it. I think that Superior Thread’s Kimono Silk is the absolute best. I have tried YLI silk thread and it doesn’t seem to be as thin as the Kimono Silk. I have every color of Superior’s Kimono Silk thread that they make and highly recommend it.

  18. I love your monthly letter, and look forward to reading it serveral times throughout the month.
    I have especially enjoyed the tip on knotting silk thread. I always use it in my applique, however
    I did not like to constantly rethread.

    This is a great help.
    Thank you again for very interesting and useful information.

  19. Thank you for the clear pics of how to tie the thread to prevent it from slipping out of the eye. I also prefer to use silk when I appliqué but have had all the issues you mentioned above…hopefully I will be able to sew with less problematic thread now! I’m enrolled in the Craftsy BOM and though I’m a bit behind, enjoying all of your lessons. I was able to purchase the kit too. Thank you for all that you have shared, I really appreciate it. Cheers!

  20. I have been using silk thread for appliqué for some time now. I love it also. It does sink into the fabric and becomes invisible.

  21. I started to use silk thread on my first project and was quite impressed with how it looked and how easy it was to sew up. I did notice the fraying and made the thread length shorter, and the knot bigger so that it wouldn’t pull out.

    I did like the silk threads. Did find the cost a bit expensive, but a hand quilt will always have a greater value.

  22. I use only silk thread for my hand appliqué. It flows through the fabric with no resistance at all. It does tend to fray & ravel so I use a product the called “Thread Heaven” which is a conditioner & protectant. It is widely available at around $3.50 and lasts a long time.
    My copy of your book “Quiltmaking by Hand” is well worn.
    Visiting your studio is on my bucket list, someday hopefully.

  23. Hi, interesting post! You should check out “thimble lady”‘s, Liuxin Newman’s way of securing the tail. I have used it many times and although it took me some trials to master I can really recommend it. She is showing it in ep 310 of the Quilt Show.

    Best regards, Brit

  24. Thanks for the ‘easy’ way to put a knot in the eye of the needle. Great!

  25. I knot the needle when I use bottom line or wonderful 80 weight thread. No problem getting through the fabric

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