Threads for Sewing and Quilting

Lynne asked me to talk a little bit about thread. And, ah, the poor woman has no idea what she’s getting herself into. She said she walks into shops. Quilt and sewing supply stores. And sees all the displays of threads, and she doesn’t even know where to start. And so, she asked me if I had anything to say. Well, I do. I am a total threadaholic. Now, most quilters are fabric collectors, and they call themselves “fabric-aholics”. Not me. I am a thread-aholic. I keep them sorted by cotton’s verses rayons. Which, rayons are a little bit more of a shiny finish, and very decorative. I use those when I’m using the decorative stitches on my sewing machine.
and very decorative. I use those when I’m using the decorative stitches on my sewing machine. Although I will use the cottons too. You know, just depends on what works for that quilt. But you can see I’ve got a lot of bins of threads. And I teach quilting. So,every time I teach I bring thread with me, and my goal is not to convince anybody about what thread to use and what not to use. My goal is to show people the differences in the threads. And to impart one thing that I’ve learned in many many years of quilting and teaching. And that is that some threads work in some machines better than others. I can’t explain it. I don’t know anybody that can explain it. If you can explain it, please post a video response. When I teach machine quilting, I have the ladies, I bring a lot of thread, and I have the ladies try different spools of threads in their machines, until they find something that they’re very happy with. And by very happy I mean: doesn’t break a lot, isn’t causing them problems with their machine. Now, I’m going to tell you my attitude about thread, and that’s this: I’m not a threat elitist. I am not “Only cotton fabric has to have cotton thread.” That’s not my game. I’m a “use what works” girl. And, I don’t care what it is. Metallics, cottons, rayons, polyester-wrapped cottons, straight polyesters. I don’t care what it is. My goal is to make a quilt right now. Not, the la de da, you know, show quilts. You know, “it has to be this way or that way”. Rules are not for me. So, that being said, I’m going tell you what I know about thread. I’m not an expert. I am not an expert. If you want the expert opinion now, I really trust Harriet Hargrave. She’s got quite a few books out, and one of them talks strictly to fabrics and threads. And I think she’s got a lot of good things to say. So if you are looking for the expert, go talk to Harriet. What I can tell you is what I’ve learned over the years and how I use threads. So let’s take a look at some of the things I bring with me when I’m teaching, Okay, just by the number of bobbins I’ve got in these rings, which I love, you can see that I have quite a bit, quite a bit of thread. I’ve got a lot of bobbins that match my threads. And that’s because I love matching my colors. So, top and bobbin, especially when I’m decorative stitching, I like to have the same color, if not the same exact thread. And “exact” meaning off the same spool. Sometimes I’ll match a rayon on the top with a similar color cotton in the bobbin. That helps secure the stitch a little bit more.
Sometimes I’ll match a rayon on the top with a similar color cotton in the bobbin. That helps secure the stitch a little bit more. If you’ve ever had a rayon in the bobbin, you know that sometimes the top and bobbin threads won’t secure tightly just by themselves. Rayon is a very slippery thread. It’s gorgeous and shiny and pretty, But doesn’t –that means it doesn’t adhere to itself very well. So you can either hand-knot them, do some back-tacking, back stitching with your machine, before you start your decorative stitch, or use a cotton in the bobbin, and a rayon on the top. So, that’s it. A rayon thread. When I’m buying thread I want to know how much I’m getting. That’s a big deal to me. So this spool of thread … let’s find one that’s got thread… oh here is a empty – full. Not quite full, I’ve been using some of this. oh, and let’s do this. Here, empty and full. So lots and lots of yardage on a spool like this one. And to me that’s important to know. This may be the threat I choose to use, I just need to buy a lot of it for the project working on. Whenever I take thread to a class, to teach, the goal is: I pass the spools around to everybody in the class, and I tell them “break it”. “Break that thread. I want you to understand how that thread works.” Because 100 percent cotton thread let’s find … this is 100 percent cotton thread … is going to break and feel a lot more differently
[sound of thread snapping-breaking] than a cotton-wrapped polyester. That’s what this thread is. This cotton-wrapped polyester is actually going to stretch. And that’s what I want them to feel. Let me see if I can get that on the camera. This thread stretches. Alright, I’m pulling, pulling my fingers apart here, and that thread is stretching. alright, and it takes a lot, I’m going to hurt my fingest doing this, and that’s what I tell the gals in the class too, don’t cut yourself while you’re doing this, okay. So, stretching and … [sound of thread snapping] Ah. Finally. Breaking. That’s the difference between a cotton and a polyester. Now this is very fuzzy. See that? Very fuzzy. Looks good on the quilt, but it’s got polyester at the core, and it’s wrapped – the reason it’s fuzzy – is it’s wrapped with cotton. Now the reason I like that is I like the cotton look but, the stretchy part, the polyester core, is a very forgiving. So if you are brand new at machine quilting, this is a really good thread to use. Cotton wrapped polyester. And sometimes you can tell, there’s a sticker on the inside of these cones, they’re not all the same so you’ve got to take a look and see. What does this one say? Cotton wrapped poly core. Cotton Wrap Poly Core. Love it. I believe it was actually supposed to be for sergers. Try and use this on your home sewing machine and your going to say “Well where do I put this?” it doesn’t exactly fit on any other the thread guides-thread holders. So that where that coffee cup comes in handy. Is you want to rig something for your machine where this comes up, off the top. You don’t want it to be ,pulling sideways that won’t work. Okay sooner or later it’ll get held up. You have to do it where, up at the top. So, I love this thread though for so very many different things. Here’s another … we already broke that cotton one … This one I can ever remember if it’s a cotton-wrapped poly or if it’s straight cotton but I bet I can tell ya, by how it breaks.
[sound of thread snapping] Cotton. Alright, and rayon, even more delicate than a cotton. It really breaks easy.
Pull some off of this spool here. And, really easy to break. So, of course, easy to break means easy to break in your machine. And if you are tired of having thread breakage issues while you are trying to quilt, get yourself a polyester thread. Especially if you’re a beginner. It’s forgiving and you will have far less thread breakage issues, if you give yourself that little head start. Also if you’re using metallics, or any of the clear threads, check out this item called “Sewer’s Aide”. I put it on my spools of thread, my daughter even puts it on rayons, to help it glide smoothly through the machine. We’ve been doing this for 15 years. We have not ruined a machine yet. It’s not going to gum up your machine or anything else. Its made for this purpose, of helping your thread glide through the metal guides your machine. So, here’s one thing I am particular about: and that is clear threads. Now, this spool right here is polyester. When I say that “this is cotton-wrapped polyester” this is the polyester that inside – here. I just doesn’t have the cotton on it. It stretches. It’s wonderful. It doesn’t show up very much on you quilt. I kind of buries itself right into the quilt fabrics. I love this and this polyester clear, not nylon, polyester, is my absolute favorite for doing stitch-in-the-ditch or things like that. Anything where I don’t want my thread to show. And this is the opposite. This is nylon. It does not stretch – well, alright it’s got a little bit of a stretch. It breaks very easily. Did you see that? Let’s do it again. Don’t like it. Don’t like it all. Now this I didn’t try and break. Let’s be fair. Okay it breaks too. Not as easy as the nylon. And I like the way it goes to my machine. But again, I will use some Sewer’s Aide every once in a while if I feel like it. If I feel like there’s too much tension, it’s not flowing smoothly through machine, and anytime anytime I use a metallic thread, I always use Sewer’s Aide because its metal thread going through metal guides on my sewing machine. I have to lubricate. It’s the same reason you put oil in your car. Metal against metal does not work. This is the lubricant that will make it work well. One last word about threads. Now, they come in different weights and it depends, too, sometimes, on the manufacturer and the country of origin, whether the number is higher means means a thinner thread, or whether the higher number means a thicker thread. In general, just in general, the higher the number, is the thinner the thread. So, a lot of quilters like a 50 for piecing, and that’s fine. Sometimes you can find the numbers on that label on the inside, or you can find it on the bottom label. You can find it on this label on the end of the spool. Here you can find it on the end of the spool. This fall this is a 12 weight, and this is a 40 weight. Let’s take a look. A thin thread, and a very thick thread. Okay, one last word about thread. This is fairly new. This is a bobbin thread, specifically made for use in the bobbin. I think it’s sixty weight but I could be wrong. It is so thin, and the material (is) polyester. It’s got a stretch to it. And it’s actually fairly strong.
It is so thin, and the material (is) polyester. It’s got a stretch to it. And it’s actually fairly strong. I’ve been thinking about trying it on the top. And I might just do that. I’ll let you know how that works. The reason its called a bobbin thread is because when you wind this onto a bobbin, you can wind three times as much as say, this type of thread, which is so much thicker. Let’s get a closeup of that too so we’ve got the goldenrod, and that sort of a shimmery, silvery, white. And you can see the difference in the thickness there. Isn’t that incredible? Now, anybody who’s sewing for a while will tell you that or you’ll find out for yourself, you have to stop and wind bobbins or wind a bunch of bobbins before you start your project. It’s a pain in the neck. So if you just have a few with these I have, I keep about 5 of them, as standbys. And they last a nice long time, and I love piecing with them. Just love them. I use this in the bobbin. The bobbin thread in the bobbin, and I’ll use this on the top, and I can go forever. I just love that. Lynne, thanks so much for asking about thread my favorite subject. Probably more than you wanted to know. Thanks so much for watching. I’ll see you again soon.