Add Depth to Fabric Art with Double Thread Stitching

Being on set when we taped the most recent Quilting Arts WorkshopTM videos was a real education. Not only did I learn how the videos are taped, but I also picked up lots of tips for quilting and fabric art.

barbara schneider fiber art oak leaf
Dimensional fiber art by Barbara Schneider,
Oak Leaf series.

One of my favorite ideas for enhancing depth and texture comes from Barbara Schneider, who makes gallery-worthy fiber art leaf sculptures. She often uses two threads in her needle at once.

“Using a double thread gives you more definition and ‘oomph’ in the line. It makes a nice contrast to a single thread used for more stitching in the background,” says Barbara.

“Mixing threads breaks up the regularity of the pattern. Most variegated threads have a repetition to the timing that becomes obvious. When I use a solid and a variegated together it breaks up that pattern and gives you a more natural look.”

I asked Barbara to elaborate on her tips for using two threads at once, and she happily agreed.

  • I use related colors in solids, solid and variegated together, similar but different colors together, similar but different variegated together. It all depends on what look I am trying to get. Sometimes I put the solids as a first layer of stitching and then go back over the same area (not the same lines of stitching) with the variegated (look at the large leaves to see samples of this). The whole purpose is to achieve texture and a more natural look to the stitching.
  • I mostly use the rayon threads as they seem to go through the machine the best. Usually, I try to keep the threads the same weight and type, otherwise one or the other might break more often.
  • I have two thread holders on my machine, so I thread them both and then pull both threads through the tensioning process together and thread them together. I have an automatic threader on my Janome 6500. If you don’t have that, then use a small hand threader (like they sell for threading a sewing needle) and use that to put the thread through.
  • I use a large topstitching needle (I like the one from Superior threads the best). It has more room, and the thread seems not to break as often as with other needles.
  • I do not play with tension at all. Just leave well enough alone.

I’ve used different threads in my hand stitching before, but not in machine stitching. I’m looking forward to trying out Barbara’s double-thread tips next time I machine stitch a piece of textile art.

On her Quilting Arts WorkshopTM, “Three-Dimensional Fiber Art: Shape & Texture, Light & Shadow,” Barbara offers many tips and techniques for enhancing your fabric art’s depth and texture. You can now download “Three-Dimensional Fiber Art” and start using her techniques right away. 

P.S. Have you double-threaded your machine needle? Is so, how did that work out? Any advice for the rest of us? Leave your comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Machine Stitching, Quilting Daily Blog

5 thoughts on “Add Depth to Fabric Art with Double Thread Stitching

  1. I’ve used double threads many times with great results. Also have a Janome, the 6600 now, but previously the 8000, and both dealt well with double threads. (Actually started using double threads with my Kenmore back when my daughters were little and wanted to decorate their clothes….they are “middle-aged now!!!! don’t tell them I said that!!!!) I’ve mixed regular “sewing” thread and rayon embroidry thread as well as using two of the same threads. I do stop and let the needle/machine “cool down” occasionally, more necessary with the mixed threads. A large eye needle is a must, either a topstitch or metallic works for me.

  2. Vivika, may I add your editorial comments dated 08/21/12 on “Double Up On Depth” for Double Thread Stitching in our guild’s newsletter for Trails End Quilters’ Guild of Owasso, Oklahoma. I was very interested when I read this and think its a wonderful idea to share with the quilters in our guild. If you will allow me, I will be certain to recognize you as the author for Quilting Daily, and I would be happy to email you a copy of the newsletter in which it would appear as well.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Debbie King, Communications Chair, Trails End Quilters’ Guild of Owasso, OK. Email:

  3. Terry White told me about using 2 threads in one needle and I’ve used it several times. I used it with a Santa panel on his bread and cuffs and collar and it turned out great.

  4. I wanted to have a thicker thread showing on top of my quilt so I took 2 strands of embroidery floss and hand wound them together on a bobbin. I put that bobbin on the spool holder and threaded the machine with the 2-stranded floss. I used a rayon thread in the bobbin below. It worked great for awhile giving me a very noticeable line of stitching. But then it started to skip stitches more and more. I thought of doing bobbin work, but I needed to see the top of the quilt to know where to sew. Any ideas of why it skipped stitches?

  5. I have used two threads at the same time with great success. I have even used three but you have to stitch slowly. My favourite “go to” needle of choice is a metallica needle by Schmetz. It has a long, rectangular eye which accommodates two ,even three threads of the same weight. Schmetz also makes a double eyed needle and I plan to try them as soon as I can remember where I put them in my studio.

    I generally don’t have to mess with the tension too much but I have found that a drop or two of a liquid thread lubricant like “Sew Smooth” makes everything run smoothly. (It is a required supply in my thread painting classes.) A tiny drop in the last thread guide before the needle and a bead of lube along the length of the spool, especially if I am using metallic thread as a blending filament, reduces breakage and shredding and those nasty little thread snot-ups on the underside. Using two or more threads at a time if a good way to blend from one colour/value to the next when thread paint. The middle value of thread acts like a bridge between light and dark values and makes for a smoother transition. It also helps if you don’t have the exact colour to be able to blend two threads to get the look you want
    I have also tried using two and three threads in the bobbin and have had better success using different weights of threads if I hand wind the threads.

    Angela Maves/Pembroke