Sulky’s Tips for Thread Success, Giveaway Part 4

Quiltmaker is happy to partner with Sulky for the fourth in a five-part thread giveaway. After reading Patti’s tips, please leave a comment for your chance to win.

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Sulky’s Tips for Thread Success

Part 2

By Patti Lee, Vice President of Consumer Relations, Sulky of America

logo Sulkys Tips for Thread Success, Giveaway Part 4

See Part 1 of Patti’s thread article here.

Part 2

9. What about sewing machine needles? Oh, so important! No matter what your sewing application is, there is a specific needle that will give you better results than any other needle.

needles Sulkys Tips for Thread Success, Giveaway Part 4

10. Most of the problems that occur with a quality thread are caused by using the wrong type or size of needle and/or unsuitable top tension. The thread needs room to pass without abrasion through the needle eye, and it needs appropriate top tension for its type and weight.

Try a different size needle

11.  Here’s a generality: Any 90/14 needle will work better with a metallic thread than an 80/12 (even an 80/12 metallic needle). However, many machines prefer a 90/14 topstitch, metallic or embroidery needle because those needles have both a longer eye and a longer groove to protect the thread.

Buy quality needles

12. Always buy top quality machine needles. If you are experiencing fraying or breaking threads, skipped stitches, puckering or stitch quality issues, change the needle (try one recommended above). Then, lower your top tension if necessary.

Adjust the top tension

13.  What if you’re working with heavier threads, like a 30-weight rayon, or a 12-weight cotton such as Sulky Cotton Blendables? Lower the top tension. It’s a movable dial for a reason!

 Sulkys Tips for Thread Success, Giveaway Part 4

Sulky Cotton Blendables



14.  Occasionally a particular machine likes a tighter top tension with heavier threads.  Truly, the dial is there for a reason.

PFAFF 150 expression Sulkys Tips for Thread Success, Giveaway Part 4

15.  Today we doing much more than sewing seams and mending. We’re embellishing, embroidering, quilting, stitching decoratively, free-motion stitching and more.  Machines are incredibly sophisticated, but you’re still in charge of the tension and the spool pin position. A machine that senses all of this is probably not far off, but in the meantime, we need to adjust that dial ourselves.

Many times people have said to me, “Oh, but my machine doesn’t like metallic (rayon, heavy, light, etc.) thread.” And then every person has learned what their machine was really asking them for: a different thread placement, an appropriate needle or a simple tension adjustment.

Those of us who sew know that machines have personalities, but from the least to the most expensive, every one of them should be able to handle specialty threads with these minor adjustments.

If you have thread questions, I’ll be glad to help you. Contact

This post marks Part 4 of a five-part giveaway. Leave a comment below for your chance to win some luscious Sulky threads by midnight Sunday, May 20. We’ll announce winners here.

Congratulations to our four winners whose comments were randomly chosen from all the great comments, #117 Laura G, #298 Kathleen Graas, #60 Carol Hydeman and #56 Janet F.

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email:
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380 Responses to Sulky’s Tips for Thread Success, Giveaway Part 4

  1. Leslie says:

    OF course…we were always trained NEVER touch the bobbin tension…

  2. Marilee Hawkins says:

    I love using specialty threads and embellishing special projects for friends. Thanks for all your helpful information on using these great threads.

  3. Amy Bouchard says:

    Thanks for the wonderful helpful information. I always love to learn more about thread and to have so many choices!

  4. Iona Murphy says:

    I learned this the hard way a year ago, it is so true. Not only that but don’t use old thread.

  5. Sher Stiles says:

    Thank you so much for all the information you are sharing with us. I’m still learning my machine and what types of thread and needles go together. Your information is extremely helpful. I love your blendable threads, they work so well with my quilts. I’ve used the metallic thread on my 4th of July quilt and loved the effect of my fireworks exploding with the metallic thread. Impressive!!

  6. Donna Taylor says:

    Thread, tension and needle choices have long been the bain of my quilting. I love metallics, blended, rayon, all the beautiful Maderia threads yet I never seem to get the Thread-Tension-Needle combination correct. I have printed this information to keep close to my sewing machine.

  7. Elizabeth Tornblom says:

    Once again, an article worth saving for the valuable information it provides. Thank you for this continuing series and for the Sulky giveaway associated with it.

  8. Linda says:

    Thanks for this needle and tension instruction. As a self-taught quilter, I often don’t know some of the most basic things.

  9. Sue Fry says:

    Thanks for the information, I often get confused on what type of thread goes with what needles. Love using your threads esp. the varigated!

  10. Terry Mathieu says:

    Thanks so much for the information.

  11. Trying to summon courage to begin quilting (quilt as you go) project. Some days my machine works like a charm and others I have to walk away and let it think about how badly it stitches! Should read & reread these tips. :)

  12. Nancy Green says:

    It’s nice, even for those of us who’ve sewn for many years, to have a “refresher.” Sometimes I get stuck in a “rut” and need the inspiration to break out and try new things.

  13. mary ann Johnson says:

    I just got a new machine and this information will be very helpful

  14. Idonna says:

    Thank you for your great information. I have a less than a year new machine and am having great difficulty setting the tension for meander quilting. Maybe I need to change the needle, too, and certainly will give that a try. Thanks for the opportunity to enter this wonderful contest as Sulky Threads are the best!!!!

  15. Tammy Hempel says:

    I am learning a lot from the information that is given. Thank you I am going to try some metallic threads and I am glad to have the heads up on it. Keep up the good work.

  16. Laura J. says:

    Thanks for the information. I’ll be braver!

  17. Henriellen S. Kibler says:

    I am an old wart hog who has been sewing since 1948 and I keep forgetting about tension because I keep thinking all threads are the same weight. Thank you for reminding me that threads and needles are not all the same, so tension is not all the same. Thank you. I think Sulky has some of the most beautiful shades of colors. Thank you for giving me more choices although sometimes making up my mind which is the one I want is awfully hard and I wish I didn’t have so many choices. Henri grandmother of 11 and great grandmother of 10 in Sept.

  18. Linda Wong says:

    Great info. I will copy it over to my notes so that I will remember which threads goes with which needles for perfect stitches.

  19. Sherril M says:

    This is valuable information for a quilter and/or sewer. Thanks!

  20. Dee says:

    I appreciate the needle information as well as the okey dokey to mess with the top tension. Thank you for the informative article.

  21. Denise J. says:

    Thanks for the info and the chance to win the thread.

  22. Judy says:

    The information on needle size is helpful! I have learned to remember that the eye and shaft size differences are some of the first things to check behind trouble shooting! Thank you for the give-away!

  23. Verda says:

    Being a beginner quilter I appreciate the insight into using the proper needle with the thread that is chosen. Thanks for your expertise.

  24. Carol Hamilton says:

    I have had problems in the past, with metallic threads. I will try your needle recommendations and give it another try.

  25. Diane says:

    This informative lesson is just in time. I am getting ready to quilt a large quilt with, what else?, Sulky thread. I’m already ahead of the game with Sulky!!!

  26. Diane says:

    This informative lesson is just in time. I am getting ready to

  27. Roberta Parker says:

    Thanks for all the tips–all these will come in handy.

  28. BrendaMay says:

    You always have good reliable information. I have learned over the years that changing my needle or thread can often make a frustrating, non so great sewing experience, turn into a rewarding smmoth sailing task. I would love to be the lucky winner of the thread as I do a lot of sewing for my grandchildren.

  29. Kathy P. says:

    I am a new quilter and information I read about thread and tension usage was so informative to me. Thank you for a chance to win Sulky thread! I have so little thread that winning would certainly help me in my new quilting ventures!

  30. Charlotte Ellison says:

    I did not realize that the size of the thread, the type of the thread, and the size of the needle would have anything to do with the actual sewing. I use Sulky thread on my serger but I do not know why I do not use it on my sewing machine, but will buy some for topstitching. Is the strength of the Sulky thread as strong as cotton or other threads? Can Sulky be used to quilt on machines. Thanks for the helpful tips

  31. Susie Meier says:

    Great info and so true that the right needle makes all the difference. Thanks for chance to win Sulky thread -

  32. Darla Biederman says:

    I’ve never thought to try a different size needle when using different types of thread. Great advice ! Thanks !

  33. Sandra says:

    Problem solved ;-)

    I’m making my first big quilt and I would love to use some luxury thread.

    Thank you very much for the tips!

    Greetings from The Netherlands

  34. TxGal says:

    Thanks for the very good info !
    I’ve used Sulky rayons for numerous projects, but not metallics … time to try some again … Thanks for the chance to win !

  35. Margaret McArthur says:

    Thanks for reminding us the tension button is ment to be used. I just purchased a new machine and we are getting to know each other.

  36. Kelli says:

    I’m new at quilting so this is a great read for me…….Thank You

  37. Deborah says:

    Great information. I use Sulky thread for all my decorative stitiching.

  38. Rhonda Hensley says:

    I need all the help i can get on tension and different threads. Thank you so much for helping me in these areas.

  39. Jeannie McCormick says:

    I enjoy learning more and more about threads and needles and the how and why and what to try. Making machine adjustments can be quite intimidating. You make it appear to be a natural thing to do.
    Thanks for the encouragement.


  40. Gail says:

    I’m trying to break out into other thread types, besides cotton. Years ago I had a machine that could/would not maintain tension and it has scarred me for life. My latest challenge was my machine not taking invisible thread even after the repair guy said nothing was wrong.

  41. Carolyn says:

    I always enjoy using the true colors and dependable quality of the sulky line

  42. Sharon Gallegos says:

    I have always had a love affair with fabric. Over the past 2-3 years I began a love affair with thread. The possibilites are endless with the wide variety of threads on the market today. Of course, the correct needle can make all the difference in the world!

  43. Sandra Aiken says:

    Thanks for the great tip. I was afraid to turn the tension dial and also didn’t know that the needles made that big of a difference in your sewing. My machine didn’t like black polyester thread and I just thought it was strange, so I stuck to sewing with cotton only thread. Now I am glad to know that it was the tension and possibly the needle. Also glad to know what kind of needle to use for metallics and what to do about tension.

  44. Cynthia Wood says:

    I’m now ready to take this info to my Tin Lizzie and try different needles to see what I can do with metalics on it, I have wanted to do this for a long time and just couldn’t get the tensions right, maybe it wasn’t me – but the needles.

  45. Rosemary Caldwell says:

    Thanks for the information. Sure helps when you know what needles to use.

  46. Jane Kluchka says:

    I love the look of the different types of threads but never had the courage to try them. I think I’m going to stock up on some different needles and give it a whirl. Thanks for the chance to win some thread!

  47. Mishia O'Dell says:

    New thread and needles is just what I need to add new inspiration to my stash!! Have a lovely day everyone. God Bless.

  48. Nancy says:

    With a new machine, and new needles- some new thread would be wonderful to win!

  49. Linda Pawlak says:

    Thanks for the info on adjusting the tension when using different types of thread! As a beginning sewist/quilter I would have assumed that my machine was broken had any issues arisen when using different types of threads! Thank you for saving me a lot of headache and a lot of MONEY! Thanks also for the chance to win some Sulky thread. As a newbie I don’t have much of a stash, so the chance to win is something I really appreciate.

  50. loura says:

    good tips!

  51. Susan A. says:

    So true about different machines having different personalities. Experiment and play to see what your machine likes!

  52. Nancy B says:

    Thanks for this information on needles and thread. It is very helpful. Thanks, also, for the give a way!

  53. Wendy Gross says:

    Thanks for the tip, I’ve wanted to try thread painting and maybe this is the push I needed! At least I always use quality needles, now just need to play. Thanks

  54. monica schwartz says:

    I have used Sulky thread for years and love it my granddaughter likes to embroider with it too. The info you provided was very interesting. thank you

  55. Louisa Lawson says:

    Great information, I would love to try the sulky thread. Am practicing my FAQ to get better -a little every day!!

  56. Alice Holscher says:

    Thank you for the tips and information. I have some metallic thread but have been afraid to use it but now am anxious to try.

  57. Nancy says:

    Hoping to be declared a winner in your contest! Many thanks for all the great information!

  58. Carrie P. says:

    thanks for the tips. I have learned the hard way that using the right needle makes a difference.

  59. Rita Erickson says:

    I think of sewing machine problems like I do computer problems: First trouble-shooting solution is reboot (change the needle)!

  60. MoeWest says:

    Thanks for the helpful information. I would love to win some Sulky thread :-)

  61. Lynne R says:

    I have been sewing for years and have just learned about using different needles for different applications. You CAN teach an old woman a new trick!

  62. Kathy Upton says:

    Thanks for the great information….just the one tip about lowering top tension when using Blendables will help me so much.

  63. Velma says:

    Thanks for the info. My problem is learning which way to turn for looser or tighter tension.

  64. Amanda says:

    Thanks for the great article on needles, thread and tension. Having the right setup can make all the difference in how something turns out.

  65. Teri Merriman says:

    There is nothing that teams together better than the right needle and thread for a project. Thank you for the insight on this matter.

  66. Diane says:

    I am going to try the lower tension for some 12wt thread I have been having some trouble with, great information Thank you.

  67. Jeanne Ragan says:

    So much wonderful information. Thanks a thousand times!!

  68. Cheryl says:

    Great information! I can always count on this site to learn something! Thanks for the giveaway!

  69. Dorene Morris says:

    Learning with every one of your blogs…Thank you!

  70. Bonni Feltz says:

    I’m relatively new to sewing and quilting and hadn’t thought about the size of needle could affect the thread breakage. Thanks for sharing the information and I am looking forward to learning more.

  71. Connie C says:

    Wow! It’s great to see someone finally sharing this information with the public! I’ve been suggesting to my sewing friends that they experiment with different threads and needles for a very long time. If possible I even teach them a technique I developed as a high-end sewing machine salesperson.

  72. Kathy Dunn says:

    I believe there are never too many reminders regarding thread size, needles and tension. Thank you.

  73. Jo Stires says:

    I’ve been machine embroidering even before embroidery machines came out. I still hate to use metallic thread in my embroidery machine; I think this information will give me the information I need to try it again.

  74. trillium says:

    I generally use a size 14 needle. I’m assuming that the bottom tension screw on the bobbin should never be touched???

    There’s no Sulky thread around here close to my home, so I hope to win as I really need some quality thread.

    trilliumcreates AT gmail DOT com

  75. Very good, useful tips–many of which were introduced to me in a class and have made a world of difference.
    Shirley Jensen

  76. Margaret says:

    I really enjoy all the useful information I get from your site. Thanks for teaching this old dog some new tricks.

  77. Marylou Nicodemus says:

    I love Sulky threads! Over the years I have learned that matching the needle to the thread type is the best way to avoid problems and frustration. This short tutorial is a wonderful refresher for me. Thanks!

  78. Pamela says:

    Thanks for the information on threads and needles. I have a variety of needles as I do a variety of sewing. My embroidery alone has many types and now I am gathering the quilting needles too. Yep, trying them all. Can always tell when needle wearing out as the thread starts to break. :) Hope the opportunity to enter this contest will come my way. heehee. Happy day

  79. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It was totally informative and interesting throughout. Thank you for this opportunity to win and try some Sulky Thread. I have never tried it so would be delighted.

  80. lee says:

    I appreciate all the information!!

  81. Roxanne Hartwig says:

    Needle choice has always been a confusing thing for me. You have cleared that up! Thank you! Thanks also for giving us a chance to win some beautiful threads.

  82. Deanna says:

    The thread has become nearly as sophisticated as the machines. So much to learn. Thank you for the information.

  83. Pam says:

    I knew that there were needles for different fabrics. But until I started quilting last year I did not realize that different types of thread made that much difference. Thanks for the info.

  84. Laura G says:

    I need to take a class about my machine that includes thread tension and what the different needles do as I learn best from seeing it happen!

  85. SewLindaAnn says:

    I have just finished a small thread painted swap where I used a few of Sulky’s metallic threads that I’ve had for many years. I had been so afraid of using them, how insane right! I used the 90/14 needle and it worked like a charm. The thread is so lush and beautiful.

  86. Allison Church Bird says:

    Lots of great information! Thanks!

  87. KdB says:

    More great information about threads. Thank you! It really is true a quilter can never have enough beautiful thread to play with, so bring it on Sulky! :)

  88. Wilma S. says:

    Sulky threads are the best! I love to experiment and try out new techniques.
    Winning these threads would be awesome! I do change machine needles often.
    My problems always seem to involve tension. Thanks for the tips.

  89. Denise S. says:

    Thank you so much for the information, I recently have started threadpainting and could use all the helpful information I can gather!

  90. DebbieKL says:

    Thanks for the needle and thread tips! I realize how much I need to learn about my machine and sewing!

  91. Kris says:

    I normally use cotton or cotton/poly blend thread. I am leery of trying new threads and different needles. I would enjoy winning the threads and giving them a try.

  92. Joan M says:

    Thank you for the information and the chance at some specialty thread!

  93. Thank you for this great information. When I bought my machine my Aunt told me to buy all the different needles that went with it. It was great advice! Yes, I do have a place I keep them and when I sew with a new weight of fabric or thread, I look on my chart that came with the machine and use the right needle. I even have one little box with a mixed variety of needles I only used to take a tuck and kept it for the next time. I have enjoyed these post from Sulky very much.

  94. TX JennyWren says:

    Thank you for these tips about thread tensions and needles. I am going to try this.

  95. VickiT says:

    Great info for all of us to learn and/or remember. My machine has a sewing advisor so I can tell it which type fabrics I’m using and it will adjust the tension based on that. Sadly, I don’t always remember to do that and secondly, it doesn’t always take into account the fact I may be using a stabilizer or specialty thread so it’s not always correct. Those are things I need to remember and learn to adjust those tensions on my own and that’s something I still do need to learn more about so this helped. Thank you.

  96. DianeH says:

    Thanks so much for such an informative post. I’m currently exploring all the features of my sewing machine and trying each one out so this is very helpful.

  97. Cecilia says:

    Thank you for the great information.

  98. Kati R. says:

    Thanks for all the useful information! Never worked with metallics before, but maybe should give them a try!

  99. Claudia says:

    I love embelishing with special threads. Thanks for the tips.

  100. Karen A says:

    More great information. Things I know but sometimes forget to practice. Thanks for the reminder.

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