Q. What are the best types of threads to use for general quilting and embroidery?
A. Cottons and polyesters. We don't recommend or sell Rayon because it is not always colorfast. Nylon has a lower melting point than Polyester and over time, Nylon will discolor. Silk is gorgeous, but expensive. Hand dyed threads are often not colorfast.
Q. When should I use a fine thread and when should I use a heavier thread?
A. Fine threads will blend because there's not much bulk to it. Fine threads are great for invisible quilting, stippling, and times when you want to focus more on the fabric background than the quilting. Heavier threads will show and are nice to use when you want to see bold quilting. If you like variegated colors, choose a medium or heavier weight thread because a fine thread will not show. There is no reason to have a fine-weight variegated thread, since the colors will not be bold enough to stand out against the color of your fabric.
Q. Is it OK to use polyester in my quilt?
A: Absolutely! There is an unfortunate and untrue myth that exists in the quilting world, that Polyester thread is so strong, it will tear through your quilt fabric. Thread will not tear through a fabric solely due to its fiber content. If a thread ever tears through a fabric, it is because it won the strength contest, regardless if it is cotton or polyester. Some cotton thread is stronger and more wiry than polyester. We use Polyester all the time in our personal quilts.
Q. Can I quilt with the cheap serger thread available at my local store?
A. Yes, but why would you? Most serger thread on the market is the cheapest type of spun polyester thread. When used on a serger, multiple strands of this thread are over locked, resulting in a strong and secure stitch. However, if used as a single thread for quilting, it is weak and fluffy. It doesn't make sense to put two dollars worth of thread onto a $300 quilt. Inexpensive serger thread has a loose twist, is not very smooth, has a lot of lint, and is not intended for single-strand use.
Q. Why are some variegated threads dyed in precision short color change increments and others are random longer color change increments?
A. It depends on the technology used in the dyeing process. Dyeing thread in precise, short color change increments requires special, high-tech machines which are not widely available. The advantage of precision dyeing in short color change increments is the end result. For embroiderers, it won't give the striped look. For quilters, it gives a beautiful and consistent color flow instead a patchy look.
Q. What are the main causes of thread breakage?
A. 50% is the quality of the thread.
20% is the needle: either the wrong size, the wrong type, or both.
20% is the tension setting. A too tight tension causes breakage.
5% is the condition of the machine: lint buildup, timing, burrs.
5% is the thread delivery system. The machine may be mis-threaded, or the thread is coming off the spool wrong. Thread on cones should come off over the top of the cone. Thread on spools may need to come off straight (not over one end) so the spool rotates as the thread unwinds. This usually requires the spool to be positioned on the vertical pin spool holder.
Q. What type of thread should I use for general sewing and clothing construction?
A. Polyester! Here's a true story: One day I was looking at a package of Hanes cotton t-shirts that stated it was made from 100% cotton. Being a thread guy, I phoned Hanes customer service and asked the person on the other line what fiber the thread is that makes up these 100% cotton shirts. He didn't have an answer for me and placed me on hold. I went up the chain of service representatives until I spoke with a division manager. After convincing her that I was not a corporate spy, but a guy who likes thread and is interested in fibers, she told me that they use polyester thread to sew their cotton shirts together.
Spun polyester like our Superior Spun Poly, is a common fiber to use for general sewing and apparel. Poly-wrapped Poly-core like our OMNI, offers greater strength than spun poly and is commonly used for jeans, slacks, and heavier clothing. Our So Fine! #50 is a premium sewing thread which is great for any general sewing needs.
Q. What's the best needle to use?
A. We use and recommend the Topstitch needle style. The Topstitch needle has several factors which make this needle superior to use for embroidery, sewing, and quilting. A wide and deep groove protects the thread and reduces drag and friction applied to the thread. An elongated eye which is almost twice as long as an eye on a universal needle allows the thread much more room to move around in. A rounded sharp point allows ease-of-separation for the fibers on the fabric which you're sewing. Once you try this needle, you'll probably never use a Universal, Quilting, or Embroidery needle again. View our article on the Anatomy of a Topstitch Needle
Q. Does the top thread need to match the bottom thread in size and fiber content?
A. No. It is OK to mix fiber types (for example, cotton on top and poly in the bobbin). It is also OK to use different weights in the top and bobbin. The upper tension adjustment makes this possible. All machines have an upper tension setting adjustment to accommodate differences in thread types and sizes. That's what it is there for. By learning to adjust it, your machine will do things you never thought possible.
Q. My machine has an automatic tension setting. Is that adequate?
A. No. The best thing you can learn in order to sew with all types of threads is how to override the automatic tension setting. Most decorative threads require loosening the upper tension. The factory-set tension is often too tight for many threads. On a scale of zero to ten, factory preset tensions average a five. Decorative and sensitive threads may require loosening the upper tension all the way down to a one (for metallics) or two (for other decorative threads).
Q. Is it ever necessary to adjust the bobbin tension?
A. Sometimes. Adjustments should be made by turning tension screw in your bobbin case in increments equal to a clock. A one-hour position equals one increment. Remember "righty-tighty and lefty-loosey." A fine, smooth thread may require a tighter tension setting to prevent spooling off or backlash and a heavier decorative bobbin thread may require a looser tension to allow the thread to pass through the tensioner.
Q. Are all threads round?
A. All threads which are made to be used in a sewing machine are twisted and round after processing. However, not all individual fibers of thread are round in the start. Trilobal polyester, for example, is triangular, while filament polyester, appears round. View our article on Fiber Shapes
Q. I like the color compatibility charts which cross reference colors across your numerous thread lines. Do you have them to compare your colors with other brands?
A. We really don’t look at other brands’ colors and even if we did, our colors would not be an exact match to their colors. Our goal is to offer a wide variety in what we think are the best colors for today and tomorrow. We do have a Pantone comparison of our Magnifico line, so if you're looking for a match, we have 200 colors available in Magnifico.
Q. If I use a larger or smaller needle than your Reference Guide recommends, is that a problem?
A. No. We recommend using the smallest needle possible to accommodate your sewing technique and skill level. The needle size recommended in our Thread Reference Guide is the most common size for that particular thread but some prefer a smaller size and others prefer a larger size. Fabric type, batting thickness, speed, and tension settings also affect the stitch and required needle size.
Q. Why don't more local stores carry your products?
A. We wish they would. We have heard hundreds of times, "We have no room to add another thread line" or "We already have enough thread." Please continue to encourage your local stores to carry our products. They will listen to you more than they listen to us.
Q. What needle do I need for this thread?
A. Please refer to the Reference Guides for Home Machines and for Longarm Machines.
Q. Do I have to use the same thread on top and in the bobbin?
A. No. Machines are made to accommodate different weights and types of thread on the top and bottom. Whether different fiber types or different thread weights, your machine is made to handle different threads on the top and bottom. Tension adjustments help facilitate making a perfect stitch with two different threads. You can use a 40 wt. cotton on top and a 50 wt. polyester in the bottom and it won't cause your machine to explode.
Q. In a 10 inch length of sewing do you use more thread using 10 stitches per inch or 8 stitches per inch, or is it the same?
A. You will use more thread with 10 stitches per inch because more stitches are being formed.
Q. Why are there so many different standards for thread measurement? What's the difference between a 50 wt., #50 and tex 50 thread?
A. As consumers, we would like all thread with a 50 on it to be similar in size. Likewise for a 40, 30, and so on. However, the density of cotton, polyester, rayon, and metallic are all different so a 40 wt. cotton will not be the same as a 40 wt. poly. Some companies use the wt. standard, others use the tex standard, and others use the number standard. It is all mixed up and will never be coordinated. Therefore, our advice is to not rely on the printed info. Choose your threads by using your fingers your eyes and you will always choose the correct size. Fine threads to blend, medium and heavier threads to show. View our article on the Tex Measurement system.
Q. Is there a difference between embroidery thread and quilting thread?
A. Not really. It is a matter of personal preference. Traditionally, embroidery thread has been rayon that fits a specific denier measurement (120d/2). However, rayon is fairly weak and is not always colorfast. As technology capacity increases, we will see new threads which will change old descriptions. The newer high-sheen Trilobal polyester threads are a better choice because they are stronger and colorfast. We want a thread that looks beautiful, is adequately strong for the task, and is colorfast.
Q.(I get this question a lot) "How did you get involved in the thread business?"
A. My kids are sometimes embarrassed to tell their friends, "My dad sells thread." So I changed my job description from "selling thread" to "Petrochemical (that's polyester) and agricultural (that's cotton) product distribution." That sounds a lot more impressive. My lovely wife Heather (also known as Mother Superior) is a self-acknowledged fabric-holic (she's completely taken over three rooms so far) and quilt addict. We had to find a way to support her habit. We lived in Japan for 10 years and made good contacts with the world's best thread producers. We personally design each new thread type and every color pattern.