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.