Lets talk thread people. :)
While this may seem like a trivial topic you would be surprised at how many quilters can debate thread choice...and will. Cheap v. expensive, Poly v. Cotton, matching v. contrasting, the list goes on and on. So, hopefully I can demystify it for you before you begin your first quilt.
To start off with you will need a couple of different kinds of thread. You will need a piecing/All Purpose thread...this will be what you "piece" (aka sew) your fabric into blocks with. You will also need a quilting thread. There are two different types of quilting thread: Machine & Hand. All quilting threads are 100% cotton. If you will be using your machine to quilt with then you will need to make sure you are buying a spool of "MACHINE QUILTING" thread. (Please ask the store you're visiting for help if you feel lost in the thread section.) If you plan to hand quilt then you need to choose either a spool of "HAND QUILTING" thread or some "Pearl Cotton" with appropriate hand quilting needle sizes for whichever weight/type of hand quilting thread you choose to work with...I'd also invest in some thimbles...OUCH! ;) I do mostly machine quilting, and do a primitive hand quilting stitch on some things FWIW.
So now onto how to decide on your thread.
Let's start with Cheap v. Expensive:
Buy what you can afford. That's really the bottom line. I have made many a quilt with cheap thread, and some with more expensive threads. Currently you can not tell the difference, but I'm sure over time you will be able to. With that said...cheaper thread will not always work best with your machine, especially when quilting, and you may find yourself cursing under your breath (or really loudly...depending on how long you've been frustrated) due to your thread breaking frequently. Your machine actually does have a preference for a brand of thread and is set to handle that thread brand...did you know that? So, find out what thread your machine likes...call your dealer, or dig around on the internet. Better thread...longer lasting and nicer end results.
Polyester v. Cotton:
This deserves 2 categories.
1) Quilting Thread - You MUST use machine quilting thread or hand quilting thread. They are made with special weights that are different from All Purpose thread in order to handle the quilting process. These are always 100% cotton.
2) Piecing Thread - I'm going to put an Ol' Wives Tale to rest right now. Many people will tell you that you MUST use 100% cotton sewing thread to piece your quilt top together. This is FALSE!!!! It is thought by many that Polyester thread is too strong and will eventually cut through the fibers of your fabrics over time leaving your top falling apart and frayed. I'm here to tell you that is NOT the case. Cotton thread is actually a tougher/sturdier thread than poly. Seriously...break apart a piece of poly thread with your hands, and then do cotton. Which was easier to break? Poly. So if anything...this would make it seem that poly would be the safer choice, right?
It honestly doesn't matter. If I have tons of poly sitting around in a color I need...that's what I use to piece. If I have an all purpose 100% cotton thread sitting around in the color I need, I use that. And not a soul could tell you which quilts I've pieced together with poly or cotton. The biggest rule is DO NOT USE a Machine or Hand Quilting thread for your piecing, use an all purpose poly or an all purpose 100% cotton.
Matching v. Contrasting:
1) Piecing Thread - For piecing your quilt top together you really want to choose something that will blend with the majority of your fabrics so it pretty much disappears to the eye. This is usually a soft white or cream for lighter fabrics, or a grey is a good choice for darker fabrics. You don't need to buy multiple colors though. Just choose one to use throughout the entire piecing process.
2) Quilting Thread - If you are machine quilting choose something that will blend in well with the back of your quilt. The reason for this is that if you choose to free motion quilt for the first time ever...you will have some mistakes and choosing a matching color will help those mistakes to blend in. Some quilt stores may try to talk you into using a different color for the top than for the back. DON'T DO IT! Plug your ears, hum quietly to yourself, and walk away. If you choose to free motion quilt you will most likely get something on the back of your quilt called "eyelashing". This is when the tension is off usually due to moving too fast or slowly and it pulls the top thread through to the back. I'll take pictures of that to show you before we begin quilting. But, if you have a contrasting color for the top thread that doesn't blend with the backing fabric...your quilt will scream "HELLO, MISTAKE OVER HERE!!!" You don't want that. So, choose one color for the front and back.
If you decide to hand quilt, choose whatever pretty coordinating color you like! :) Just make sure it's hand quilting thread or a pearl cotton thread.
Hopefully that demystifies things a bit for you. Didn't know thread could be so complicated did you? If I were to create a cheat sheet for you, you need the following:
1-2 spools of poly. or 100% cotton thread (all purpose) in a blending color
1-2 spools of 100% cotton Machine Quilting thread in a color that blends with your backing, OR
1-2 spools of 100% cotton Hand Quilting thread or Pearl Cotton thread in a coordinating color.
Can't wait to get started!!!
Sew long for now!