This post is for the monthly Aurifil Artisan Challenges. For April the challenge is "Your Favorite Thread Weight" and while I love them all my most frequently used thread is 50wt and I'll even show you how I organize my stash as well...
"Wait...you embroidered this with....cotton? Can you even...do that?" Her dark eyes sparkled as she held my project in her hands. All I could do was laugh out loud
"Girl! I felt the same way! But you can and it's easy!" Her furrowed brow tells me she does not believe me but it's okay, I'm used to it. Some form of this conversation has taken place in so many of my classes and I totally get it.
When starting out with machine embroidery you will hear that you gotta use polyester thread.
When you look up "embroidery thread" it's ALWAYS polyester.
When I started sewing I learned a steadfast rule: You only use cotton threads for quilts and things that will go in the microwave (like bowl cozies) and you ALWAYS use the polyester "Embroidery Thread" for machine embroidery.
I still remember the first time I heard about using cotton thread for embroidery. I felt like it was a such a specialty application, like something you'd obviously need a certain set of skills to do. I was the one with the sparkling eyes and the head spinning with ideas. Which is hilarious now that I use cotton thread in 99.9% of my embroidery projects and I realize....it's just not that complicated.
The title of this blog is a flat out lie.
There is no demystifying to do.
This blog post is gonna be fairly uneventful, overall.
But! I still get shocked reactions and furrowed brows when I tell people I embroider almost exclusively with cotton. This post to encourage you to dive in and use your beautiful Aurifil stash for embroidery too; that gorgeous array of colors you already have can do quadruple duty for you! I love utilizing things to their fullest potential.
And yes, to start, Aurifil is the key to my success. I have only tried one other cotton thread brand for embroidery but it didn't go well at the time and I can honestly say I haven't had any issues in my time using Aurifil for machine embroidery. While Aurifil 50 wt is my favorite, I have used many other thread weights in embroidery with great success and I will even use 40wt interchangably with my 50wt. We will go over other weights a little in this post but I will largely be focused on my Aurifil 50wt thread because I also LOVE the idea of my thread doing double duty for me: I use it for my piecing, quilting, sewing, serging AND embroidery.
I haven't encountered any difference in what stabilizers or needles I need to use with cotton vs polyester, you still choose those based on the project, thread and fabric. Don't worry! I will be hosting several workshops covering that in the Tough Kitten Crafts Facebook Group. For 50wt cotton thread I most often use 75/11 Gold Embroidery Needle. It's my go to and I adjust from there. If you want a quick rundown of the stabilizers I reccomend you start out with you can download my Getting Started with Machine Embroidery Cheat Sheet here. I will say here that ya want a fusible woven, it's definitely my most used stabilizer.
I find it kinda funny that bobbin thread is the number one thing I get asked about when people find out I use almost exclusively cotton thread for embroidery. I'm not sure why this seems to be one of the first, if not THE first, thing people ask me about. More often than not I used a 50 wt white or black bobbin that I just happen to have wound already, then I adjust my machine if necessary to make sure the tension is right. I have started using Aurifil 80 wt in the bobbin and I am IN LOVE with it; having such a light weight bobbin thread ensures that my top thread wraps to the back and I never see my bobbin up top. It's a bonus that with my BERNINA jumbo bobbin and my super lightweight thread I can fit a TON of thread on my bobbin, meaning WAYYYYYY less thread changes.
So let's get to it...HOW do you embroider with Aurifil 50 wt thread?
Wind a matching 50wt bobbin (or an 80 wt bobbin of a neutral color)
Get your 75/11 gold needle (or whatever needle you need for your project)
Hoop your project with the appropriate stabilizer (I am here to help you choose)
Choose your design
Thread your machine
THAT TRULY IS IT!
I have embroidered very stitch heavy, dense designs to linework.
I have embroidered toilet paper to home dec and denim.
I have embroidered at the fastest speed my machine will embroider (1,000 stitches per minute) and I have stitched painfully slow.
I have also stitched with 80wt, 50wt, 40wt, 28wt AND 12wt! And though I have needed more experimenting and adjusting when working with anything outside of 40wt and 50wt, it's still easy, possible, fun and most importantly it creates a great project! You may need to stitch slower, use different size needles or change your bobbin weight, just don't be afraid to experiment and ALWAYS practice on scraps before working on your final project.
You can do it.
Little specialty work required, if any.
Here's a quick little project to help you dive in....
(I turned it into a little banner for my sewing room but once you have it embroidered you can make a pillow, using for a garment you're making, add it to a quilt, whatver you like!)
Two 8.5 x 9.5 in pieces of black linen fabric
One 3.5 x 9 in piece of black linen fabric
Embroidery hoop that is at least 6 X 5 in.
Aurifil 80 wt in any color (I chose black)
Aurifil 50wt in the following colors (Or whatever fits your style!)
Fill a bobbin with your 80 wt thread and put it in the machine
Fuse fusible woven to one 8.5 x 9.5 in piece of black linen fabric
Mark center of fabric ( I like to do this by creasing my fabric with my iron)
Hoop two layers of cutaway stabilizer
Spray cutaway stabilizer with spray baste
Secure your stabilized fabric to the cutaway stabilzer, fabric side up.
Center your design with the marked center of the fabric
Double check everything looks great
Stitch out a basting box
Finish stitching out your design.
Cutaway your excess stabilizer to the edge of your fabric.
Fold the short edges back twice, a 1/2in each time, on your 3.5 x 9 in piece of black linen fabric (now measures 3.5 x 8 in.). Press.
Fold this piece in half longways, press (Now meaures 1.75" x 8in)
Center this strip of fabric on top of your embroidered square, raw edges together.
Place your other black linen square on top of the whole thing, aligning the edge to make a sandwhich.
,Sew aroung the entire rectangle, leave a 4" opening at the bottom.
Turn right side out and press with your OESD press cloth
Sew up the opening
Topstitch around the outside using any Aurifil thread
Finito! You just need to insert a dowl or rod into the casing you made to affix your banner however you'd like.
Just look at these gorgeous stitches. I turned around and saw the way the sunlight was hitting them and had to get a picture.
Now that you'll be growing your thread stash, I can show you my easy method for organizing my thread so I always have a list of what I have, what I need and what I want? You can check out the post and the video here.
If you're ready to dive into machine embroidery I have a free download for a Getting Started with Machine Embroidery Cheat Sheet that can help you dive right into your first project.
And as always I want to see the work you are doing!