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Let's Talk About Thread

The higher the quality of the thread, the less special handling will be required. Poor quality thread has much lint and breaks easily and can take the joy out of any sewing project. Each type of thread has specific characteristics and will behave differently on sewing machines. Threads are either made of a natural fiber (cotton, wool, silk, linen) or synthetic fibers (rayon, polyester, nylon).  

Thread Construction Methods

Spun thread Cotton or polyester staple fibers are spun into single yarns and then twisted together.
Core thread Spun cotton or polyester staple fibers are wrapped around polyester fibers.
Textured thread Polyester or nylon that has been mechanically textured to make the thread fuzzy and stretchy and woollie-like. Texturing is a procedure used to increase the volume and the elasticity of a filament yarn. The essential properties of textured yarns and the products made from them are softness, fullness, a high degree of elasticity, thermal insulation and moisture-transporting properties.
Filament shiny thread made of strands of polyester, rayon, or nylon.
Monofilament A single nylon or polyester filament. Polyester is highly preferred.
Bonded A strength-enhancing resin is coated on the outside of the thread. This increases the tensile strength and helps reduce friction. Bonded threads are usually meant for upholstery and heavy duty sewing applications. 

Thread Types

Rayon Produced by pressing cellulose acetate through small holes and solidifying it in the form of filaments. (Sound like fun!)
Advantages

  •  high sheen
  •  soft
  •  relatively heat resistant
  •  inexpensive

Disadvantages

  •  often not colorfast
  •  not as strong as polyester
  •  less durable than polyester

Polyester Synthetically produced from polymer resins. There are three types of polyester thread:
* Spun poly: fiber staples spun together. Looks like cotton.
* Filament poly: continuous fiber , medium sheen
* Trilobal poly: high-sheen continuous fiber. Looks like rayon or silk.
Advantages

  •  Durable. Designed for heavy duty use
  •  Strength. More tensile strength than rayon or cotton.
  •  Colorfast
  •  Retains shape
  •  Recovers stretch
  •  Can be made with a matte finish to look like cotton, with a medium sheen, or high-sheen finish to look like rayon or silk
  •  Trilobal poly is a higher quality polyester with a sheen equal to rayon and is lint free.

Nylon A synthetic thread often used in the form of a monofilament clear thread or as a textured fuzzy (woollie-like) thread. The negatives far outweigh the positives of nylon. Not recommended. Similar threads in polyester are available. (The only type of Nylon thread we use and recommend is Bonded Nylon for upholstery and heavy-duty sewing. Bonded Nylon is made from a different type of material than nylon sewing thread. We don't use nylon for quilting or embroidery.)

Advantage

  • Strength

Disadvantages

  •  Low melting temperature. Not heat resistant.
  •  Not colorfast. Will yellow over time.
  •  Becomes brittle through laundering and exposure

Cotton The only 100% natural fiber thread made for high speed machines.
Cotton has various finishes, each providing specific results:

*Mercerized
The thread is treated in a solution, causing the fibers to swell. This allows the dye to better penetrate the fibers and increases the luster of the thread. It also increases the strength of the thread.
*Gassed The thread is passed through a flame at high speed to reduce the fuzz. Also called silk finish or polished.
*Glazed or Glace' The thread is treated with waxes or starches and then polished to create a higher luster. Although the result is a glossy, hard finish which protects the thread, the glaze does rub off and can gum up the needle and machine. OK for hand quilting but not recommended for machine use.
*Cotton-wrapped poly Most cotton-wrapped poly threads are approximately two-thirds poly and one-third cotton and will therefore resemble the characteristics of poly more than cotton. A mixed-fiber thread is not necessary. If cotton is too weak, use poly.

Advantages of cotton

  •  soft
  •  durable
  •  easily adjusts to changes in the fabric
  •  available in various thread weights
  •  easy care

Disadvantages

  •  low sheen
  •  not as strong as polyester (generally)
  •  low-quality cotton is linty

Metallics The quality of metallic thread ranges from very high to very low. A good metallic thread does not require a lubricant.
Quality metallic thread has the following components:
*Nylon core A nylon core offers the most strength and resists tangling. Polyester and rayon cores are inferior.
*Rice paper construction This adds strength and cohesiveness and makes the thread more soft and supple, reducing the wiry feel. It also reduces tangling.
*Outer coating Lower-quality Metallics have no outer coating. This means the metal foil rubs against the needle, creating friction and heat, resulting in discoloring and shredding. A good metallic has an outer coating which reduces friction and acts as a protective layer.

Laminate or Flat thread Produced by bonding layers of polyester together and slicing to a desired width. Available in either 2-ply (weak) or 4-ply (strong) construction.
Characteristics

  •  Colorfast
  •  Brilliant, reflective, colors. Can be produced in a hologram effect.
  •  Heat resistant. Can be ironed on low/medium heat

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By: Bob Purcell