Thread: a guide to sewing thread! for hand and machine sewing!
Have you ever stood in front of the six thread racks at your local ‘Fabricland’ and wondered what the difference was? Now-a-day there is more to it then just trying to match the thread color to your fabric.
Thread should be selected according to what you’re intending on sewing, on the kind of fiber, the weight of the material and also on the purpose of the item being built.
It’s quite obvious that you won’t want to hem or patch the heavy-duty work cover-alls with a silk, a rayon or even a metallic deco thread. Neither will you want to sew the new sheer curtains for the bathroom with a thick top stitching twist. It comes right down to that saying from the past ‘for each job there is a proper tool’. (Thread is what holds sewn items together therefore it should be considered a tool)
Please remember when shopping for thread those cheap 3/$1.00 spools are not worth much. They might work for a Halloween-costume that your little one will only wear once or maybe for basting things together. Other than that they're not worth your time or effort. Let's face it if you’re going through the trouble of sewing you should invest in high-quality products especially thread. (After all bending over in your new pants and the butt seam disintegrates when you're first wearing them, could be embarrassing.)
Just some of the most famous name brands are Guterman, Mettler, Coats, Molnycke.
All of these are all of great quality.
I like Molnycke the best (just a personal preference) it appears to be that hair slice finer and smoother then the others and maybe just that little bit stronger but unfortunately in my neck of the woods not that easy to find.
Guterman and Mettler are the ones I have the most of on my thread rack. Easy to find, with great variety of colour choices too.
Thread is formed by multiple thin strands of the material (cotton, polyester, silk etc) being twisted together for strength. Before we get into the types of thread available on the market lets figure out what makes a good thread:50 weight/3 ply
- The most obvious would be colour. A large array of colours to match every hue of the fabrics on the shelves which has to be colourfast under any circumstance.
- For nice even seams the thread has to be smooth and even. Therefore a good quality thread is made of long fibers which will avoid snagging, knotting, and breaking. No lumpy fuzzy knots at all.
- Again for thread to run smoothly through the sewing machine and or serger it has to be twist balanced and shouldn't be over-twisted. (this will cause the thread to twist, tangle and knott on itself and cause knots which will not go through the needle of the sewing machine even if there is a slightest slack)
- On the same hand if the thread is under twisted it loses some of it's strength and will not be able to handle the tension of the sewing machine without breaking. It also will seem thicker and not as fine as good thread.
- Thread should be fine but strong.
- Good quality thread (no matter what it's made of cotton, rayon etc.) is not allowed to shrink. This prevents puckering after washing and steam pressing .
With other words thread used for any type of sewing should have outstanding durability (for the long life of the project), colorfastness (to assure the project can be cleaned or washed with out the danger of the colour bleeding through) , and low lint (for the health of the sewing machine and serger).
One more little bit of information and you will be super thread-wise.
There are little numbers on thread spools. Numbers like 50/3, 40/3 or 60/2 etc. Well, the first number refers to the size of the thread - the higher
the number the finer, thinner the thread. The second number tells you the number of
plys of that size thread which have been twisted together. The more plys, the
stronger and thicker the thread. 2 ply thread is not suitable for garment making and generally used for serging and decorative purposes only.
Three ply thread is what's commonly used for garment
construction and quilting etc.
Let me list some of the most common choices.
- Cotton wrapped polyester–Most common all purpose thread has a continuous polyester filament core that is covered in cotton. It provides strength, flexibility and durability can be used for hand and machine sewing alike. Okay to use on wovens, knits, synthetics, and natural fibers. This is also the type of thread that has the widest color range.
- 100% Mercerized Cotton–General purpose thread that has very little stretch. Use on natural woven fibres. Do not use on knits or synthetics because it just doesn’t have enough strength or flexibility. It comes in size or gage 50 for light to light medium fabrics. Size 40 is suitable for heavier material.
- 100% Polyester–Good strength and flex best to use on knit fabrics.
- 100% Silk thread–Great quality makes for nice resilient stitching. Best to use on fine silk and wool. It’s mostly available in a size 50.
- Top stitching and Buttonhole Twist–was made for decorative top stitching on suits etc providing a bold showing, also as cording for machine or hand-made buttonhole.
- Hand Quilting–is strong will not tangle, untwist or knot when used for hand sewing through the multi layers of fabric and padding.
- Carpet or Upholstery drapery, luggage and more –thread is available in many colors and can be used for hand sewing and on some medium to heavy-duty domestic sewing machines. Most featherweights will not sew properly, but try it on yours, you just never know…This thread works well to sew buttons onto coats as it’s really strong. (when sewing a lot with it pull on a finger protector for your pinkie as it likes to bite right in the finger creases.) It is usually made of a bonded nylon, the recommended machine needle size is 16, 18, 20. It is resistant to chemicals, abrasion and sunlight.
- Serger Thread- made strictly for overcasting seams. As sergers work with either 3 or 4 or 5 threads, this thread is not too strong and neither does it come in all the nuances of the rainbow. Usually it is made from a polyester so that it can be used for a variety of fabrics.
- Wooly nylon thread- is a stretchy thread used for seams of swimwear, knits, etc. and is perfect for serging, upper and lower loopers. Very few domestic machine can work with this type of thread. (my 30 something old Kenmore sewed just perfect with this thread)
It's kind of useful to know that there are also different sized spools of regular sewing thread that are available in the stores for domestic sewing. (obviously the different thickness or sized thread will have more or less on the spools)
- The small spool hold usually about 120 yds or 110 meters. In most cases if you fill one bobbin full from this small spool you will run out of thread top and bottom at approximately the same time. Available in every shade and hue of color.
- The medium sized spools hold approximately 274 yds or 250 meters of thread. This size is usually enough thread to sew a pair of men's pants (with all the back, side pockets etc.) Available in every shade and hue of color.
- Then there is the 550 yds or 500 meter spools of thread. This is the size that is most economical for basic coloured thread. Actually the basic colour array is what is available in this size of spools only.
- The largest size available which domestic sewing machines can handle is the 1095 yds or 1000 meter spools. This size mainly just comes in white and black. (really great sewing notions stores might carry this size in more colours but I've only seen it in one in Toronto and in a couple in the New York fashion district)
- The industrial sewing threads come in cones and range from 1650yds or 1500 meters to 5475 yds or 5000 meters (after that size it goes by weight, can you imagine a spool of thread that weighs in at 10 kg or 22.5 lbs) but unless you have a special stand set up on your sewing machine table with guides etc these sizes of thread spools will not work with a domestic machine. (The reason for this is that the regular spool of thread turns around as the thread is fed off the side just as it was 'rolled' or cross-spun onto the spool. With a large industrial cone the thread is threaded from an 'antenna' which is located right above the cone and the thread peels off without the cone moving.)
Tip: 1) Always
buy thread a fraction darker then your fabric. That way it can blend in
better. Thread always appears lighter when its sewn.
So now you're as thread wise as you need to be to start on the merry way of becoming an accomplished sewer.
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