I recently read an article about Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's. The most influential person in his life was his grandmother and one of her favorite sayings was, "Do it right. Don't cut corners." When Dave started his hamburger restaurant, he remembered this advice and decided to not cut corners. That is why Wendy's hamburgers are square.
The consumer rarely sees the entire manufacturing process. We judge the quality of an item by how well it performs. Unknown to most are the many steps along the way that determine the final quality. Competition is intense and the pressure and temptation to cut corners is real.
Here are the two main factors that determine the quality of thread:
1. Quality of raw material. If the thread is cotton, is it short staple, long staple, or extra-long staple? If the label does not specify, assume it is short staple. The quality of polyester is not as easy to determine but there is a difference. Cheap, poor quality polyester is oily and not as soft and pliable as a quality polyester. A polyester thread might be made up of three strands or filaments twisted together (a 3-ply thread). Each of those 3-ply strands are made up of smaller micro-strands. A top quality polyester thread has as many as 48 micro strands in each strand. A poor quality polyester may have only six micro-strands.
2. Processing. You can start with an excellent grade raw material and still end up with a low quality product if you cut corners in the processing stage. Some cotton threads may state that it is extra-long staple cotton, but the quality just is not there. Run your fingers down a length of cotton. If you see or feel any lumps or slubs, corners were cut in the processing. If the twist is not tight and smooth, corners were cut. If there is a lot of lint, corners were cut. If the color is not even or consistent, corners were cut.
Don't rely solely on what the label says. The only real way to determine the quality of a thread is to use it. You and your machine will both be able to tell the difference. Don't cut corners.