11.15.2011

Back to Basics - Thread

So, threads. Where do I begin? There are so many styles and choices! That's why I'm here - I'm going to try and sort out the differences of each type as well as give you some pros and cons on each!

So...to begin I'm going to start with the threads you would use in everyday piecing and quilting:

Cotton Thread - In quilting we use cotton fabrics, so cotton threads are a natural choice. The most popular weights of thread are 30-60 (the bigger the number the smaller the size of the thread) but I use a 40 weight most often. I use this type of thread for most purposes including piecing, quilting, and applique.
* Pro - Cotton threads will wear the same as the cotton fabrics over time, giving a pleasing appearance as well as feel.
* Con - Plain threads may lint a bit more during the piecing process, but with regular cleaning of your machine (blow out the bobbin case and other workings of the machine with canned air for example) this shouldn't be much of an issue.

Silk Finish Cotton Thread - Silk Finish threads are shinier than a plain cotton thread, but possess the benefits of regular cotton thread too.
* Pro - With the Silk Finish, top stitching has a much cleaner appearance and this style over regular cotton has less lint overall.
* Con - The cost of Silk Finish is slightly higher than regular Cotton thread.

Poly Thread - Made of polyester, Poly Threads are very similar to the Cotton threads above. They come in several colors and weights, but tend to have a look similar to Silk Finish threads. Since they are made from polyester, the threads may wear differently than the cotton fabrics resulting in  uneven wear over time (especially with a quilt that is intended to be used and abused), but with recent technological developments, poly threads are much better than they used to be.
* Pro - the smaller weights of threads are prefect for applique or binding where your stitches need to disappear (you can usually find these sold in small bobbin sizes in a variety of colors) and they also can enhance quilting designs with heavy quilting without taking away from the overall effect (since you're not looking at only threads)
* Con - These threads can be a bit more expensive than cotton and wear differently than cotton over time.

Glazed Quilting Thread (Hand Quilting Thread) - To my knowledge this thread usually only comes in one weight and is intended only for hand quilting. There are several colors this thread comes in so you can match the colors with any project you're working on - it's not just white or off-white anymore (yay!). The glaze or coating on the threads helps aid to protect the thread as it's pulled through the multiple layers several times during quilting.
* Pro - the glaze helps protect the thread, but also gives the thread some body which might take some time to get used to, but this also prevents knotting and unnecessary wear and tear.
* Con - You cannot use this in any machine (I repeat DO NOT use this in a machine!) and the colors seem limited compared to other styles, so the perfect color match might not be available (instead of 200+ colors to pick from you might only have 50).

Lastly, here some additional tips for the threads listed above that may come in handy :]
* Some older threads may still be good enough to use (even if they come from your Hubbin's Grandma's stash :] ). To test, cut off a piece about a foot long. Grab each end of the thread and pull with some force. If the thread holds, it should be good to go. If the thread breaks easily, toss it out or only use it as a decoration...

* You CAN use a cotton or silk finish thread to hand quilt. Best advice I have is to use smaller pieces of thread (around 18" long) and to treat the thread prior to stitching with a product like thread heaven or wax.
* If you're like me and tend to use a LOT of thread, I suggest getting a cone of thread. A typical spool of thread has about 500 yards on it. A cone has around 3000 yards giving you about 6 times the thread at about roughly triple the cost of a spool. It's a great deal if you make a ton of projects.
* For piecing I recommend using neutral color threads like off-white through gray or tan. If you're making something with lighter colors, use a lighter thread, or darker colors, use a gray or tan. Piecing stitches aren't supposed to show, but from time to time it happens. If you match the thread tone closer with the fabrics used and the stitches show, you won't have a white thread peeking out from behind a black fabric. This doesn't make the thread as noticeable...
* If you're having trouble with your sewing machine, try changing your thread. Sometimes machines are finicky and like a particular brand of thread more than another. Each machine is different so don't think (insert here) brand of sewing machine only works with (insert here) brand of thread. Sometimes to solve your tension, thread breaking, etc. issues it's as simple as trying a different brand of thread! I don't honestly know why it makes that much of a difference, but it does!

So, I think that's enough information for this session, don't you think? I'll be back soon with decorative threads and some other topics. I've been on an embroidery kick lately (like with these) and I'll show small tutorials on different embroidery stitches too!

I hope you're enjoying these topics as much as I've enjoyed gathering the information to share. Keep those ideas coming on what else you would like to learn and I'll be more than happy to feature that in an upcoming session.

1 comment:

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