Thread Labels: What They're Really Telling You

Posted: 14 November 2014 at 6 a.m.

Superior Thread Labels

Walking down the aisles of a grocery store, I frequently find myself looking at the labels.  Food labels contain so much information and I don’t understand it all, but I do understand that the more sugar, salt, and ingredients which I can’t pronounce that are in a particular food item, the more I should stay away from it (but in reality, it means that it probably tastes really good). Reading the labels helps me understand what specific nutrients, vitamins, and caloric value each product contains and how this will affect my overall diet.  Reading the labels helps me choose what to buy and what to leave on the shelf. (Unless it’s chocolate. Then I pretend I don’t know how to read.)

Similarly, thread labels tell a lot about the quality and reliability of the product.   Here’s some of what you might find on a thread label.

Thickness

In most cases, thread thickness is written as a # sign followed by a number. Sometimes the thickness is referred to as “weight” and can be written with 2 numbers and “wt.”. We could write an entire article on how many different measurements there are to thread thickness (we have, here http://www.superiorthreads.com/education/thread-measurements/) but we are going to generalize here and stick with the # and wt. system. For Quilting and Embroidery thread, the smaller the number (weight and #), the thicker the thread.  The larger the number, the thinner the thread.  #30 is much thicker than #60.

Ply

Ply refers to the number of individual strands twisted together to make the thread.  The number of plies contributes to the strength of a thread.  Most of the threads used for quilting, embroidery, and sewing are either a 2 or 3-ply.

Mercerized

Today, nearly all cotton thread is mercerized.  If a label has mercerized cotton written on it, it is probably because there Is nothing else to brag about. Since nearly all modern cotton sewing thread is mercerized, we don’t put it on our labels. Mercerizing is a process of treating cotton thread with a solution, causing fibers to swell.  This allows the dye to better penetrate fibers and increases luster. 

Glazed

Glazed thread is a type of thread which has been coated with either wax, starch, resin, or other chemicals.  This results in a smooth, glossy thread with a hard finish.  Glazed thread is quite a bit stiffer than unglazed thread and has a wire-like look and feel.  Glazed cotton threads are recommended for hand quilting only.  You do not want the wax coating of a glazed thread running through the tension discs of your sewing machine. Many glazed threads are not usually labeled as such. To check whether or not a cotton thread is glazed or not, unwind a 2-3’ section from the spool and if the thread twists like a telephone cord, it’s glazed.

Gassed

For part of the processing of quality cotton threads, the thread is passed at high rate of speed, over a flame, which burns the excess fuzz to create a higher sheen. Not all threads are gassed, and you can tell by the excessive amount of fuzz or hairs the thread has. Other terms used for gassed cotton is “Polished Cotton” and “Silk Finish Cotton”

Staple

The individual fiber of a cotton boll. We commonly refer to staple in the sense of the length of the individual cotton fiber. The longer the staple, the stronger the thread.  If there is no mention of the staple length, assume it is regular (or short) staple thread.  Long staple is better than short/regular staple and extra-long staple is the best. If a cotton thread is extra-long staple, the label will proudly state that fact.

Superior Labels

This is a whole lot of information to place on a small label!  Not all information will be listed, but this will help you determine if you are getting all that you want, need, and hope for.  Of course, there is a simpler way to know that you’re getting the top-notch quality thread consistently, choose Superior!

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Comments

  • 14. Dottie Macomber (15 August 2016 at 9:19 a.m.)

    I love Superior threads, and I agree with another person who commented: I love when the recommended needle size is included on the thread label! And Superior threads seem to produce much less lint in the bobbin area than other threads.
  • 13. Barb (13 August 2016 at 4:43 p.m.)

    I only use Superior threads and exclusively use Bottom Line pre-wound bobbins for my machine embroidery
  • 12. Myra Ungerman (10 August 2016 at 5:36 p.m.)

    I use only Superior Threads in anything I sew, whether it is a quilt, garment or home décor. I have been an advocate for Superior Threads, also. I teach a beginning quilting class and I stress how much the thread contributes to the quilt, wall hanging, etc. Keep up the good work.
  • 11. Kiti Williams (10 August 2016 at 11:34 a.m.)

    I use King Tut For all my quilts unless another thread is provided. I love the way it looks, feels and sews!
  • 10. Rita (10 August 2016 at 8:47 a.m.)

    Superior Threads are the ONLY threads we use in our long arm quilting room. Excellent quality and the colour range is fantastic! Nice to have access to a SUPERIOR product line. Many thanks!
  • 9. Suzanne (10 August 2016 at 7:46 a.m.)

    I use ONLY Superior Threads. I love all the lines and that there is a chart for needle size and thread compatibility on the web site that I have printed and hung in my quilt studio.
  • 8. Janet (10 August 2016 at 4:56 a.m.)

    I like when the labels have the recommended needle size, I use a lot of King Tut, which gives you the needle size. I wish all threads would have that info.
  • 7. Cherry Hughes (23 July 2016 at 9:42 a.m.)

    Thankyou for your info about threads, very informative .
  • 6. Dolores (04 September 2015 at 7:25 p.m.)

    I have been sewing for 78 of my 86years, always ignoring the thread labels as much as possible! Along came your article and all I can say is, a big thank you for the very helpful explanation of at least some of the data on the label.
  • 5. Celeste @ Superior Threads (19 November 2014 at 1:12 p.m.)

    Geri, King Tut is a very low lint thread. There could be two reasons why you are getting a lot of lint with it. 1. Needle size too small. We recommend cusing a size 90/14 on a home machine or #18/4.0 on a longarm. If you are currently using this size and getting excess lint, please try one size up. 2. Bobbin tension too tight. Please check your bobbin tension by cleaning out beneath your bobbin tensioner and doing a drop test: http://www.superiorthreads.com/education/bobbin-tension/ Please try this and let us know how it works! You can always contact our customer service staff at 800.499.1777 and they would be happy to help answer any questions.
  • 4. Geri (19 November 2014 at 12:46 p.m.)

    I use only Superior threads. I have purchased 4 cones of King Tut and am using it for first time. I am using Black and have an enormous amount of lint in the bobbin area.
  • 3. Sharon (15 November 2014 at 7:53 p.m.)

    i use only Superior threads. They are better than any other out there. Way less lint.
  • 2. Kathy (15 November 2014 at 3:35 p.m.)

    Thank you. I didn't know all that. Something to keep in mind the next time.
  • 1. Crystal (14 November 2014 at 12:10 p.m.)

    Very helpful information! Never looked at labels much before this, but I will from now on!

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