Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gray Areas

When I studied antique quilts, I learned that many quilters used just black or white thread to piece their quilts. I made black, white, and cream staples of my thread drawer and tried to emulate this efficiency of thread. Not everything is black or white though, and I could not quell my desire to match my thread to my fabric, even though it would never show. Then I remembered about gray.

In dressmaking, particularly fitting bridesmaid dresses, a lot of gray thread is used. Why? Because gray is a color that pulls other colors into itself and blends in. Gray isn’t just the color between black and white, it’s a mediator color that takes on shades of whatever it’s next to. Using gray means the seamstress doesn’t need to stock up on every dye lot of fuchsia and teal thread in the world. This is useful information.

I use a lot of gray thread in my sewing now. It really makes sense, especially when I’m planning a project that uses multiple colors or divergent colors. I stock my thread drawer with pale grays, blue grays, green grays, dark grays, muddy gray browns, and tan-ish grays. I stock up during sales and never have to worry if the thread will match whatever I decide to work on later. I even have a beautiful spool of Charlie Child’s hand dyed logwood (the gorgeous stuff on the wooden spool) which someday, if I can ever bring myself to use it, I will use to tie a quilt. It doesn't matter which quilt, that thread will match anything. It's gray.


  1. Thanks, I had heard that gray was a great color to keep on hand. I've tried using it on some things and didn't feel comfortable doing it. In my mind, it didn't work for me. I love using the variegated thread but it's hard to come by, I feel if forgives not matching. But, your experience speaks for it's self. I will try to use more grays.

  2. I find it particularly useful to keep my bobbins filled with gray thread. Switching back and forth between projects I used to run out of empty bobbins -- now I can just leave the gray in the machine and not worry about it. Sometimes I will still change out the spool thread to a more matchy color. I find this is especially useful if I am piecing a tricky seam that might need to be picked out a couple times -- the bobbin thread (looser, easier to pull) will be gray. :-)


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