Sunday, October 21, 2012

On Thread

 

A week or two ago, I read a fascinating blog post on thread and wanted to share.  Nancy, who blogs over at Owen's Olivia, did an awesome write up about visually understanding thread quality.  She did a comparison of pictures taken under a microscope of various brands of thread and I was totally intrigued.  Seeing the lint (or lack of) and twist close up was so helpful.  I borrowed one of her photos below.  I highly recommend checking out Nancy's blog, btw.  She sews like a pro and writes about her fabulous home decor projects and other various craftiness.  I love a bit of home sewing myself.  Anyway, I was really interested in this particular post on thread because I never really took thread choice seriously before.  I mean, I know the good quality stuff is better, of course.  But I kind of scoffed when a coworker who also sews told me she'd never use anything but Gutermann thread on her projects.  I didn't think it made that much of a difference.  


I've always used Coats and Clark polyester all-purpose thread.  Partly because it's cheap and readily available where I shop.  But mainly because someone gave me a gigantic bag of it when I started sewing three years ago.  I mean gigantic.  The bag must have had about two hundred spools of thread in it.  I've yet to make my way through it and I rarely buy new thread- only when I don't have a particular color.  I started thinking back on some things I've made in the past and how well they've held up.  I even examined a few of my older items closely.  A couple of tops I've made with super cheap knits have holes at every spot the thread hits around the neck binding.  I've always chalked that up to the cheap-o knit, which still could be the case.  Or too big of a needle.  But another top I made out of a woven shirting has started coming apart at the collar and cuffs.  Is that because I clipped my seam allowances too small, or is it because I used cheap poly thread that has worked it's way through the fabric?

So I'm curious, sewing friends-- what sort of thread do you use?  And do you really think that thread quality can affect the short term longevity of something you've sewn?  I say short term because most of the time when I sew, I'm not making something I want to last forever and ever.  I want it to last, but not as an heirloom item or anything.  And does thread quality matter when you are using cheap fabric?  The more I sew, the more expensive the fabric I buy.  But I still sew with cheap stuff now and again.  I'll be honest, I'll probably keep on using my Coats and Clark thread for most things because I have so much already.  Unless y'all tell me otherwise.  But I think I'm going to splurge on some nice thread for the winter coat I'm planning on making here soon.  Maybe I should not take thread choice so lightly.   Also, cotton thread versus poly thread?  Is it necessary to use cotton thread with cotton fabrics and vice versa? I want to know your thoughts on thread.  Do tell!



35 comments:

  1. If you can, pull off ten inches of thread and try to break it. If it breaks easily get rid of it as it is too old or use it only for muslins. If the photo is part of your gifted thread you are probably okay. Coates and Clarke changed over to the new spool not too many years ago.

    Theresa in Tucson

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    1. Oh, that's good to know! The two photos are of the gifted thread. It seems relatively tough. There were a few spools of cotton thread in the same bag of thread and they are not so hardy. They break at the slightest tug so I've always been sort of turned off by cotton thread in general. Maybe it's because it's too old.

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    2. I also had a video on that post that shows you how to test your thread because it supposedly has a shelf life.

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  2. I use Guterman thread here in Canada, and it seems to do the job... but it's obvious by look and feel that the Japanese thread I brought home is WAY superior! Much smoother, less fluff. I wish I could get it here!

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  3. Nothing but Gutterman, sometimes Mettler but never the cheap stuff. The only time I ever used $2 poly was also the only time I had a sudden machine malfuntion that cost me $80 in servicing fees (the fluff/lint off the poly basically gums up anything inside the machine that has oil on it. Which leads to things eventually starting to grate against each other and mess up.. XS).

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  4. I use Coats or Guterman, whichever has the color I need. Usually, that's Coats because they have so many more colors. And I've NEVER had a problem with my machine or with stitches/fabric coming undone due to thread malfunction. Cheap thread is crap, but Coats is not "cheap thread" even if it's usually less expensive.

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    1. Well this is comforting! I never really got the feel of "this is cheap thread" when using C and C. But it IS so much cheaper than some of the other brands that are considered "nice thread." Anyway, if it's good enough for Debbie Cook, it's good enough for me! :)

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    2. I think you have to use whatever your machine and end products like. My old Necchi did great with CC but had such difficult time with Heavy CC. I use Aurifil and currently bought Isacord love them both.

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  5. Hehe, now you know why they gave away that gigantic bag of Coats and Clarks! (joking :D )
    Seriously though, I only use Gutermann's too. I bought a reel of that C&C once and regretted it. It kept fluffing up through my machine, the thread strands partially breaking and bunching up through the works.
    Cotton thread is used for quilting, but polyester is better for dressmaking; far more durable and tough. It won't take a dye though.

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    1. That thought did cross my mind-- why is this person giving away so much thread?! Good to know that poly is better for dressmaking. I've always thought cotton thread seemed less durable but wasn't sure.

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  6. I switch between Gutermann and Coats and Clark. I haven't noticed a huge difference between them in terms of lint production, but the C&C spools fit my machine better.

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  7. I'm a Gutermann's girl too. Maybe have 2 or 3 spools of Coats and Clark left in my collection but 99% of my thread stash is Gutermann. Personally I think if you're going to use more expensive fabric, you should the best notions that you can afford to make the garment. Although I've had that time in my life when I had limited funds and had to be careful about what I bought, I still tried to use the best I could for as inexpensive a price as I could find.

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    1. I agree! I find myself not sewing quite as much in terms of volume as I did before. When I do sew, I prefer to spend more time and use better quality materials. Its makes a difference.

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  8. I use Gutermann these days, as it's the most convenient but still quality thread I can find---I'm sure there's better out there.

    I used to not care---I even used serger thread in a lot of early projects. And, well, there are a lot of broken threads now to show for it. Especially on some of my first pairs of jeans where I had used the freakin' expensive topstitching thread, but then cheap or old thread in the bobbin. >_< Lesson learned. Thanks for the link! :)

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  9. excellent info, thanks for the link to that post. i'll admit i tend to go for the cheap stuff, but i know it can snag the more delicate fabrics. i may have to change my ways...

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  10. For the sewing machine, I use Guterman, but I have been known to use the cheapie stuff in the serger. My coverstitcher likes expensive thread, as I found out by trial and error. I may have to invest in buying some good serger thread online.

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  11. I'm a Guterman girl as well. I do have the remains of one spool of Coats and Clark and I hate it. It frays and breaks in my machine as I'm sewing, which Gutermans never does.

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  12. I always use Guterman. Mostly Guterman's all purpose polyester. Sometimes Guterman's silk thread. Coats and Clarks breaks too often for me. Interesting to visually see why. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Mettler is my favorite, but I like Gutermann as well. 100% poly for me. I use 100% cotton for quilting projects (the idea is that the thread will break before it tears your thread!) Oddly, I have an older machine (Singer 500A from the 60s) in addition to my bernina, and it insists on Coats and Clark! I think it's because it doesn't like the tall spools of the Mettler and Gutterman.

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    1. Fun fact about quilting and cotton thread, thanks! I've never used anything but C and C in my machine, so I'll be interested to see how it handles the spool.

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  14. I also favor Gutermann. I have a lot of Coats&Clark, but I have started using that mainly for muslins or if I am desperate for a color match. I found that while my machine tolerates C&C, it does much better with the Gutermann threads. With C&C I found the thread broke too often and caused all sorts of headaches (and, oddly, some colors were worse than others - like purples. All purples, not just one particular spool. Perhaps due to the dye process?). Anyway, I use mostly 100% poly all-purpose thread, but I have been known to use silk thread, or heavy-duty thread for top stitching as well. Not a super fan of cotton thread - it seems like it is more likely to decay and break after wear and contact with body oils.

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    1. Now that is interesting! I wonder if different colors are affecting by the dye. I have noticed a few spools that seemed thinner than others. Maybe they were purples... can't remember.

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  15. Gutermann all the way! I only use the cheaper Birch brand thread for the overlocker. Actually, I don't think I've ever noticed any other brand of sewing thread. I always just get Gutermann. Never had a problem. I too notice that the more I sew, the better quality and more expensive fabric I use. I don't want to waste my precious time sewing the cheap and nasty...

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  16. I use Guttermann, but I have to be honest. I started using it because it liked the way the skinny spools looked vs. the fatter ones from other threads. I didn't realize it was a better quality. I just liked the way it looked on my shelf.

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  17. It pains me to know end that cheap thread screws up projects....can I not cut corners anywhere? At least now I have something to blame for my failings.....I usually use guterman, except when I don't. And I've never given it too much thought. Though I probably should!

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  18. I use Guttermann. We are not even allow to used Duly Duty thread at my school. The lint from the thread is not good on the machines, we were told.

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  19. Ooh, interesting question! I use Gutermann-- I always figured if it only costs about $1 more, but it means I can wear something for another year or two, why not? I use poly thread because I've heard that cotton thread can shrink and cause puckering, although I've never put this to the test. Anyone know if that's true?

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  20. When I bought my sewing machine, the women at the shop told me I pretty much had to use Gutterman. I didn't question them, being such a beginner! I guess science has proven them right! I use cotton for most projects because I want the option to dye my handmade clothes (which are also made of natural fibers) different colors. (Polyester doesn't absorb dye in the same way.) I usually don't, but somehow I feel better knowing I have the option!

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  21. When I bought my new machine in February, the man in the shop said that if I had thread tension issues, it was most likely bad thread. He even mentioned the box of random spools of thread that most of us have (I have three! They came from my Granny). And, you know what? He was right!! I recently dived into one of my three boxes for some taupe thread, because I had forgotten to buy some - and it was rubbish! It was slightly thicker than normal, and curled a bit when I pulled it through the needle. Also it skipped a few stitches here and there by not picking up the odd stitch from the bobbin. I took great pleasure it throwing it in the bin! Lesson learnt, and it's Guttermann all the way for me! :)

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  22. I am a cotton thread girl all the way. But never C&C. I buy quilting thread, in the larger spools. Was taught when I learned to sew that cotton was always better, especially with cotton or wool fabric (which is all I sew with) as it melds and stretches with the fabric instead of tearing it. Have tried poly occasionally but my prejudices are ingrained and I always find some fault with the poly.

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  23. Eh, I've never had any C&C thread break and ruin a garment (unless I've sewn the seam too tightly and the thread breaks when I stretch it over my head or whatever--not the thread's fault). And I wear clothes for years and years and only started occasionally using Gutterman in the past couple years. That said, the Cleaner's Supply website has Gutterman for so cheap that as long as you don't need a specific color that day it's worth it to buy online. They'll send a color chart for free.

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  24. I've always bought gutterman but, as I don't have a serger, use the same thread for sewing and zigzagging my raw edges. Do other non-serger owners do this, or do you use a lower grade thread for finishing edges and save the good stuff for where it matters?

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  25. I am so happy to find someone else who thinks that thread matters. I mostly use Coats & Clark because that's what's available. About two decades ago a fabric store that I shopped at had Molnlyke polyester thread and I noticed the difference. It's a good, strong thread that doesn't tangle or get knots in it as badly as other threads and it simply looks and feels like higher quality thread. Unfortunately that store stopped carrying that brand and I can't find it anywhere. Another thing about Molnlyke is the spools - the cores of the spools are smaller so you get more thread on a smaller spool. A 300 yard spool of Molnlyke is just barely larger than a 135 yard spool of Coats & Clark. Because of this some people thought that it was more expensive than it actually was.

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  26. Yes the quality of thread is important. I always use gutterman or mettler as a second choice. I only use cheap thread for tailors tacks or basting. Cheap thread can ruin your machine. This can also be an issue with overlockers, so be careful what you use. A rule of thumb is you should use the best you can afford. We don't have coats and clark in Australia so I can't comment on its quality. There was a Threads article a while ago on this subject. You should also use different types of thread for different fabric; polyester is fine for most fashion fabrics but there are times when you should use a different type of thread.

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