Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday's thread

One area of the textiles industry I think is a bit on the confusing side (at least to me) is thread. There are a ton of different types, materials, colors, finishes, ect. And when it comes to thread, and they all do different things well, and other things not so well.

Well, I must admit, I really don't know much about thread. So for now, I am dedicating Thursdays to posting about thread. Each week I will take a type/brand of thread and talk about it. Hopefully while educating myself, I can pass a little of the info on.

Before starting off on the different materials and their characteristics, I thought I would begin with the basics of threads.

Thread comes in different thicknesses and plies. The bigger number on the spool (40 or 50 usually) is how thick the individual strands are. The higher that number, the finer the thread.

The second number (usually a 2 or a 3) refers to how many strands are twisted together to make the thread. 2ply thread break very easily, and is not good for constructing a garment. However, for quilting it is ideal because thinner thread will lessen thread buildup, and have less of an affect on your quilt block when piecing.

This thread is 40/3 which is a medium thickness, 3 ply thread. Also you'll notice they even put which needle to use when sewing with this thread, a 90/14

This thread is a 50/3, finer thickness, 3 ply

When shopping for thread you will find the better quality the thread, the more information you are going to find on the spool. So if you are holding a thread that says "dual duty" or "all purpose," with no other info on it, put it down and walk away. Most likely it is very inexpensive and will lint up your machine like none other.

Another thing to pay attention to is the finish of the thread:

Mercerized means the fibers were thread with a chemical that made them swell, better accept the dye, and also increase the strength and luster of the thread.

Silk finish is when the thread is passed through a flame or gas that burns off the excess fibers that cause the thread to appear fuzzy.

Glazed thread is wax treated, this type of thread should NOT be used on your machine. The coating is designed to make hand quilting easier so the thread slides through multiple layers easily and is less likely to tangle.

Also to note, thread is wound on the spool two different ways. American made thread is wound like your bobbin, a build up of going slowly from top to bottom, like so:

European made thread is wound in a zig zag pattern, like so:

Each type of winding, I find, has a particular way it likes to be fed through your machine. If you have the option, I usually feed the American thread from an upright spool pin, and the European thread from a horizontal spool pin. It makes for less skipped stitches, and less breaks in your thread, which is a good thing!

That's all for now, hope this was helpful. Next week I'll begin by posting on Cotton!

Happy sewing,



  1. Wow, good info! I am just learning to sew, so will look forward to further wisdom. :)

  2. Thanks for checking out the blog! I will be posting more tutorials soon, some on blind hemming, sewing welting in pillows, and quilt binding & possible some free motion quilting :)