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Polyester Thread by Superior Threads

What are the differences between spun, filament, and trilobal polyester?

Imagine a product so versatile that it is in plastic soft drink and water bottles, clothing, carpets, curtains, sheets, wall coverings, upholstery, hoses, power belts, ropes, thread, tire cord, sails, floppy disk liners, filling for pillows and furniture, and it is also used to replace or reinforce damaged body tissue. Such is the convenience of polyester.

Polyester can be in the form of plastics and fibers. 'Polyesters' are the polymers that make the shatterproof plastic bottles that hold bottled water and soft drinks. And you know those fancy balloons with the cute messages imprinted on them? They are also made of polyester, more specifically, a sandwich composed of Mylar and aluminum foil. Our Glitter thread is similar to this.

The most common polyester for fiber purposes is ethylene terephthalate, or simply PET. (This is also the same substance used for many soft drink bottles.) Polyester fibers are created by extrusion, a process of forcing a thick, sticky liquid (about the consistency of cold honey) through the tiny holes of a spinneret, a device that looks like a shower head, to form continuous filaments of semi-solid polymer. Depending on the number of holes, monofilaments (one hole) or multifilaments (several holes) are produced. These fibers can be extruded in different cross-sectional shapes (round, Trilobal, pentagonal, octagonal, and others), resulting in different types of threads. View our article on Fiber Shapes.

Main types of Polyester

1. Spun polyester threads are made by spinning or twisting together shorter lengths of polyester fibers. This is similar to the way cotton threads are made. These short fibers  are then twisted together to produce a thread of the desired size. Spun polyester threads give the look of a cotton thread, but provide superior strength and durability. Our Superior Spun Poly is a spun polyester thread.

2. Core Spun Poly threads are a combination of a filament polyester core thread wrapped in spun polyester. It is also known as 'Poly-core spun-poly', "P/P", and "PC/SP" thread. The benefit of using a core spun polyester thread like OMNI, is the added strength that the filament core adds. OMNI is fantastic for apparel applications whether sewn or serged as the thread 'catches' the fabric and creates fine seams. There is less puckering on fabric as well. OMNI is also a nice quilting thread with a matte finish.

3. Filament poly is a continuous fiber thread. Some hear the word filament and incorrectly assume it is monofilament. Monofilament, which looks like fishing line, is just one type of filament thread. It is a single (mono) strand thread. MonoPoly is an example of a monofilament thread. Other filament threads are multiple filaments, which consist of two or three strands twisted together. This is the largest category of filament polyester. Multi-filament strands are smooth and lint free but are not transparent. The advantage of a lint-free thread is a cleaner machine and less maintenance. The Bottom Line, and So Fine! #50 are examples of this filament polyester thread.

4. Trilobal poly is a multiple filament, twisted, high-sheen continuous fiber thread. It has the bright appearance of rayon or silk, but the advantages of polyester. Triangular shaped fibers reflect more light and give an attractive sparkle to textiles. Our MagnificoRainbowsNature Colors, Super Brights, and Living Colors threads are this type of polyester. See quilted and embroidered samples of trilobal polyester.

5. Bonded Polyester is a strong polyester thread used for upholstery applications. Since polyester has fantastic UV resistance, bonded polyester is commonly used for outdoor furnishings and automotive upholstery. Solar Guard thread is available in several thicknesses and offers high-strength with excellent UV and mold/mildew resistance.

Polyester fibers recover quickly after extension and absorb very little moisture. Polyester is heat resistant (dryer and iron safe), with a melting temperature of about 480º F  (in comparison, nylon starts to yellow at 350º F and melts at about 415º F). Polyester is colorfast, resistant to chemicals, and can be washed or dry-cleaned with most common cleaning solvents.

The most common question regarding the use of Polyester thread when quilting:

Q. Is it OK to use polyester thread in a quilt? Will it tear my quilt?
A. We have all heard the myth about polyester thread cutting the fabric of a prized quilt. The stories we hear are mostly myths handed down from earlier generations. Back in Grandma's time, most of the available thread was cotton and the quilting was usually done along the pieced seams, or "stitch in the ditch." Times have changed and machine quilting has opened up a new world of applications and techniques. No longer is quilting done only along the seams. Machine stitching can enhance the beauty of the quilt by adding intricate and complementary designs throughout the entire quilt. Machine quilting does not add stress to the quilt. The stress points remain in the piecing. Some say that polyester thread is too strong and will tear the fabric. If the fabric ever tears as a result of heavy use, most likely it will tear at the seams. The seams are the true stress points of a quilt, not the machine quilted areas. You can not base strength off of fiber alone. A thin, weak polyester is not comparable to a thick, strong cotton thread.

We use and recommend MasterPiece for piecing. Piecing with cotton also makes it safer to use irons on high heat. We then use other threads such as metallics, polyesters, silks, and cotton to decorate and enhance the quilt by creative quilting. If a polyester thread is used in decorative quilting, it will not tear the fabric under normal or even heavy use because there is minimal stress away from the seams. Here's the rule: Piece with cotton and quilt with any thread,(as long as it's Superior Threads :).

Characteristics of Polyester Thread:

Resistant to stretching and shrinking
Resistant to most chemicals
Quick drying
Crisp and resilient when wet or dry
Wrinkle resistant
Mildew resistant
Abrasion resistant
Retains heat-set pleats and crease
Easily washed

The effects of bleach on Rayon & Polyester Threads

Rayon Bleached polyester thread bleached
Glitter Hologram Bleached
 (Photo credit: Anita Zobens, The Cottonmill Threadworks - Superior Educator for Canada)
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By: Bob Purcell