Superior's Blog Posts

  • How is thread measured?

    How is thread measured?

    It can be confusing trying to understand thread measurements.  Commonly quilters use weight, embroiderers denier, and seamstresses tex to describe thread thickness.

    We’re here to clear that all up for you!  Well, sort of.

    Weight:  the larger the weight, the thinner the thread

    Tex:  the larger the tex, the thicker the thread.

    Denier:  the larger the denier, the thicker the thread.

    Composition:  the larger the number (#), the thinner the thread.

    Confused yet?  Let’s get an expert’s help.  In this video, Dr. Bob explains how threads are measured.

     

    Long story short?

    You don’t have to know the exact weight or thickness of a thread.  These numbers are ball-park range guesses any way.  Decide if you want the thread to blend or show.  If you want a thread to blend, look for a 50-100 wt thread.  If you’d like the thread to show, look for a 10-40 wt thread.  Remember, like Dr. Bob explained, not all thread types and thicknesses are the same.  Look for a general thread description that will fit your project.

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  • Should I match thread and fabric fiber type?

     Should I match thread and fiber type?

    Have you heard that you should always match fibers?  There are many in the quilting world that feel if you’re using cotton fabrics you should ONLY use cotton threads.

    This is one of the most common myths we hear.  Most likely, this rumor has sprung up from when our mothers and grandmothers only had cotton threads and fabric.   They were taught to sew with cotton and so were we. 

    Let’s think about how many fabric patterns are in our stash.  We wouldn’t want to limit ourselves to only one print or color scheme!  Let’s open the possibilities to all that polyester and silk thread offer.

    Polyester thread comes in a variety of forms.  It can mimic cotton or be smooth and lint free;  high-sheen or matte finish; thick or thin; and is available in hundreds of variegated or solid colors!  Its high strength and longevity make it a great option for quilting.

    Silk is a luxurious thread type to sew with.  The gorgeous sheen adds a special touch to any quilt.

    What type of thread do you like to stitch with?

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  • Why is needle size important?

    Why is needle size important

    It’s tempting when you buy a new machine to use whatever needles are provided.  You put one in and stitch with the first thread you grab out of the stash.  It sews wonderfully!  You are happy with your new machine and the marvelous things you are stitching.

    Then, you switch threads and suddenly everything is going wrong!  Shredding, loads of lint, and thread breakage.  Boo!   This isn’t supposed to happen!

    Part of owning a new machine is simply playing with the tension, feet, and fun stitches.  Making adjustments and experimenting will help you learn your machine and take advantage of all its offerings.  One very small feature that will keep your stitches lovely and your sewing fun is your needle. 

    The needle is meant to protect the thread as it moves through the fabric and creates a stitch.  If the thread is forced through the eye of a needle that is a little too snug, it is like Garfield trying to get through the kitty door.  Not good.  The solution?  Get a bigger door, or in the case of your sewing woes—use a larger needle.

    nEEDLE SIZE INFOGRAPHIC


    Most of Superior’s threads have the needle size recommendation on the label so you won’t need to remember what size to change to.  You may also choose to print and refer to our Home Machine Thread Reference Guide which includes needle size recommendations based on the thread you’re using. 

    Next follow up question:  When is it time to change the needle?

    We recommend changing the needle when you hear a light “thud” when stitching or if you see stitch quality decrease.

    Do you have further questions about needles?  Let us know in the comments.  We are happy to share what we know.


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  • Where can I buy Superior Threads locally?

    Magnifico Thread by Superior Threads

    We know how fun it is to touch fabric before purchasing and the same works with thread.  We’d be happy to help you find a store in your area so you can touch all the luscious colors and find the best color matches.

    Try our Store Locator.

    If you can’t find a store nearby, be sure to visit us at one of the dozens of quilt shows we attend each year.  You can see where we’re headed next on our show schedule

    We make it easy to find perfect color matches.  Get the actual thread samples on one (or more!) of our Color Cards for your favorite thread lines.

    Brick and mortar, online, or at a show—we hope to have your favorite threads easily accessible!


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  • Superior Spotlight: Betty Jo Tatum

    We are excited to show off Betty Jo Tatum’s moving quilt, Drawing Nigh.  This is the second quilt in her series based on the historic role of women who maintain the home while their husbands were at war or away from for long periods of time.

    Drawing Nigh

    Betty Jo explains her creative process: 

     “I made the woman and her daughter appliqué first, drawing the "pattern" in my drawing software and then placing it in the overall pattern and that was fun.  I had a really difficult time getting the sky and the sea to match my vision.  At first the pieced part of the sea and the pictorial water part of the sea did not merge colorwise together well.  So I overdyed it after piecing it together.  I hand painted the sky with fabric ink, and was so unhappy with it I did it four times.  I finally stopped because I couldn't seem to get enough color in the sky.  After about a month, I took out the sky piece I liked best and added more paint for color. 

    Finally I managed to get the top ready, after changing the clipper ship a couple of times and adding trapunto in layers for the clipper ship, the woman and girl, and even the cliffs behind them. When I started quilting it I realized the sky needed to be sculpted with different colors based on the painting to give it an appearance of a stormy, but clearing sky at sunset.  I used well over 30 different colors of thread in the quilting, all but three of which were Superior threads.  I had so much fun quilting this quilt that had given me such a difficult time making the top come out somewhat closer to the vision I had in my head. 

    I learned three things. 

    1) Sometimes you need to step away from a quilt for a little while to get it to work in the end. 

    2) Using a variety of thread colors while quilting can really assist in getting landscapes to come to life. 

    3) Using multiple layers of trapunto can make sails billow, the characters come forward, and cliffs look like rocky cliffs.”

     Drawing Nigh

    We appreciate Betty Jo allowing us to share her quilt.  She’s been a full-time fabric artist for three years and is currently writing a book about applique for art quilters.  You can see more of her beautiful quilts on her blog.

    Images courtesy of Betty Jo Tatum.

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  • Spotlight: Sandi Snow

    Improve on Red

    Today we share Sandi Snow’s modern quit, Improv on Red.  She explains a little about her quilting process:

    “When Kit Robinson, editor of Machine Quilting Unlimited, asked me to write an article featuring my interlocking-circle quilting, I made Improv on Red using that quilting style.  I do not have a longarm machine so it was important for me to design a quilting layout that did not look like it was done on a longarm machine.  These large circles were my way of differentiating my domestic sewing machine from a longarm.

    Improv on Red

    Just as you would disperse color across a quilt, I repeat quilting patterns within the various circles allowing the pattern to be on top in some circles and slide under other circles. I also leave room for some free-motion designs. I find Cindy Needham's Ultimate Backgrounds stencils extremely helpful because the packet provides the same stencil design in several sizes. 

    Improv on Red

    I first sew around all the design elements and appliqués that make up the quilt top. I use Superior’s clear MonoPoly and a size #60/8 needle so the stitching does not add anything to the visual impact of the quilt. The next step is to sew the large circles moving around the quilt evenly. I use Superior’s So Fine! #50 thread in a color close to the background fabric. Although quilting is a major design factor, I do not use a thicker thread because I frequently sew over my stitching and do not want the thread build up to show. As best I can, I try to reduce the number of starts and stops to minimize areas with locking stitches. I know I should pull my thread ends to the back, knot them and bury the tails but I am just not to that point in my quilting.”

    Have you tried sewing a large quilt on a home sewing machine?

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  • Determining Tension Problems

    Determining Sewing Tension Issues

    Sewing frustrations are the worst.  We don’t like it.  That’s why we use the best thread.  To avoid the frustration caused by using lower-quality threads.  Using quality thread should solve half the battle with a sewing machine and yet, we all experience moments and days when things just don’t go right.  What’s the most common culprit?  Tension.   Let’s talk about a few common issues that can be tension related.

    Issue:  The top thread frays.

    Probable cause:  When is the last time you changed your needle?  Old needles often cause fraying due to worn surfaces.  If you’re using a new needle which is the right size (see our Home Machine Thread Guide) and you see fraying, the bobbin may be too tight or the top too loose.


    Issue:  The bobbin thread shows through on the top.

    Probable cause:  The bobbin tension may be too loose or the top tension too tight.  If you have a metal bobbin case, there could be dust or lint trapped under the bobbin tension spring.

     

    Issue:  The bobbin thread does not show on the bottom

    Probable cause:  The bobbin tension may be too tight or the top tension too lose.


    Issue:  The top thread snaps and leaves a small hook at the point of the break

    Probable cause:  The top tension may be too tight.


    Issue:  The thread gathers under the needle plate

    Probable cause:  There are a few reasons why thread gathers under the needle plate.  The top tension is too loose or your machine is threaded incorrectly, bypassing the take-up lever. 


    Issue:  Thread loops

    Probable cause:  What side are you seeing loops?  This side is winning the tension tug-of-war.  Loosen the tension on the loopy side and/or tighten the tension of the opposite side.


    Have you been experiencing tension issues?  Let us know if the comments below—we’d love to help answer your questions!

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  • Thread Trivia

    Thread Trivia FUN

    The other day we had lunch at a quaint diner that had fun trivia facts on the table—which we thoroughly enjoyed!  Today we thought we would spread the fun and share some thread trivia!


    1. Kevlar thread is fire-resistant and used to stitch suits for firefighters and motor racing drivers

    2. One dye machine can dye about 6.6 tons of thread each day; this equals 66 million yards of thread; enough to circle the equator five times!

    3. Mercerizing is a process of treating cotton with an alkali solution.  This allows dies to better penetrate the fibers and increases the luster and strength of cotton thread.

    4. Most rayon threads are not colorfast

    5. The best Metallic threads have a layer of rice paper pasted over the nylon core.  This adheres the nylon core to the metal, resulting in stronger thread.

    6. Prewound bobbins have 30-50% more thread content and a tighter, more even wind than winding bobbins yourself.

    7. Egypt is 1.4 times larger than Texas, but produces less than a tenth of the amount of cotton

    8. Tinkertoys were invented when Charles Pajeau was watching some kids play with pencils, sticks, and empty spools of thread.

    9. There are only three basic types of thread:  animal, plant, or synthetic.

    10. Most thread (other than monofilament thread) consists of 2+ tightly twisted strands.

    11. Egyptians were one of the first to use berries and plants to create colorful and long lasting dyes for threads

    12. Tex is a standard for measuring threads using 1,000 meters of thread.  If 1,000 meters of thread weights one gram, it is Tex 1.  If 1,000 meters of thread weighs 25 grams, it is Tex 25.

    13. Most digitized designs are created for a 40 weight thread.  If a 30 weight thread is used, the increased diameter of the thread can present a lumpy appearance.  To prevent this, reduce the field density by one-third or increase the design size to 125% of the original.

    14. We have threads that glow under a black light!  Why do they glow?  A black light gives off ultraviolet light that the human eye can't see.  Threads dyed with fluorescent pigments or which are bright white will absorb the black light and reflect it back in a wonderful glowing sheen.

    15. Sewing thread is designed by engineers called seam engineers.


    We bet you know some trivia not listed here—share your fun pieces of knowledge in the comments below!


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  • Topstitch Needles

    Why use Topstitch Needles

    Our Topstitch needles are the best, most coveted sewing tool.  We use them exclusively for all piecing, quilting, embroidery, applique, and free motion quilting.  What makes these needles so special?  Stay tuned and we’ll tell you.

    FIRST:  The elongated eye.  Superior’s Topstitch needles have an eye twice as long as a Universal needle.  For those of us who still hand thread our needles—awesome!  It’s so much easier to thread.  The elongated eye reduces friction on the thread which means less fraying and breaking and happier stitching.


    Topsttich VS Universal Needle 

    SECOND:  The short eye-to-point length (see photo above).  Again, this means less friction on the thread and needle.  Will this shorter distance and larger eye weaken the needle?  Nope.  We just stitched through layers of denim with a Topstitch needle this past weekend while hemming jeans—it was a dream!

    THIRD:  The titanium-nitride coating.  A thin layer of titanium-nitride is plated on the needle in the final manufacturing step.  This coating doesn’t make the needle stronger, in terms of tensile strength; it keeps the point sharper, longer.  This tough coating has excellent abrasion resistance.  We love being able to stitch for hours without changing the needle!

    Titanium Coated Topstitch Needles

    FOURTH:  While there are several styles of needles that work for your home sewing machine such as: topstitch, embroidery, universal, leather, double eye, sharp, ball, etc. the topstitch needle can be used for quilting, sewing, and embroidery since it encompasses the best traits of the other needle styles into one!

    Now for the most exciting news:  our Titanium-coated Topstitch Needles fit ALL home machines.  Woohoo!  So what are you waiting for?  If you haven’t been converted to Superior’s Topstitch Needles, try them today!


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  • Keep Track of Your Stash

    Track your Thread Stash with the Superior App

    Having a hard time remembering if you have a certain color?  Happens to us too.  We have two helpful tools to keep your threads in order.

    First, for our tech-savy friends we created the Superior Threads Inventory App for Apple and Android.  

    Superior Inventory App

    This app is device specific, so please use it on the technological tool that you’d like to always access your stash with.

    Second, for those who love having a paper copy of their inventory, we have thread inventory lists online for you to print.  We find it helpful to laminate or keep them in sheet protectors and use dry-erase markers to keep numbers current.

    By using these tools you’ll never again have to wonder if you have the thread color you need.

    Next, hopefully we will design something that will make it easier to actually locate the thread in your stash! 

    Do you have a method that works really well to keep your thread stash organized?  Please let us know in the comments.

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  • Our Newest Thread: Sew Complete

    Sew Complete Completes my Sewing Dreams

    We are excited to announce our newest thread line, Sew Complete! We have received countless requests from our customers and friends to create a strong, smooth, lightweight sewing thread for crafting, general sewing, and home decor. Sew Complete is a 50 wt. (standard sewing weight) poly-wrapped poly core thread available in 25 functional colors wound on 300 yd. spools. Sewing with Sew Complete will solve many frustrations that exist with other, low-quality all purpose threads. It provides smooth stitches with consistent tension and due to its strength, minimizes thread breaks.

    We know what your next question is:  What’s the difference between Sew Complete and So Fine! #50?  Sew Complete is a great all-purpose sewing and crafting thread and because of its fiber composition, is slightly stronger than So Fine! #50.  With 300 yds per spool, Sew Complete is more economically priced.  Both are great threads and serve their own purpose. We invite you to sew with our newest thread line in the Superior family.


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  • Advice for Newbies

    Quilting advice from the experts

    Recently, we asked our friends on Facebook, “what’s the best advice to give a new sewist?” We really loved what they had to say and are passing along a few of their awesome tips to you!


    Kathy M – Relax and realize, like with anything else, you get better with the more experience you get.  If it doesn't turn out right it means nothing in the grand scheme of things.  Chalk it up as learning.

    Peg A - Use Superior Titanium-coated Topstitch needles in your sewing machine. If you have thread breaking or tension issues, change your needle to one of those, remove thread, re-thread the machine, and change out your bobbin. You will probably fix what is wrong. Those machine needles last twice as long as a regular machine needle (or more).

    Alexi G - There's nothing in quilting that can't be undone and fixed. Might take some effort and a new piece of fabric, but all mistakes are reversible. So it's okay to mess up.

    Nancy C - Find a good mentor who will guide but not JUDGE. Always use the best supplies you can afford. Have patience, you didn't come out of the womb knowing how to sew.

    Liz S - Sewing with a group is really helpful when you're learning, in either a class or guild group. You will find lots of support and learn lots of tricks that making sewing easier.

    Tina T - Never give up, if it is not working the way you thought it would, take a step back so you can look at it from a different angle.

    Kay S - You are doing this because you want to. Have fun, enjoy the fabric and don't stress about "perfect".  You will get better and better as you go along.

    Jeannie - Keep your sense of humor and enjoy the process. If you do mess up, and you can live with it, then you have added an artistic touch.

    Gerri G - Don't make the first mistakes I made! Start out right with Superior’s thread and needles!!

    Angela P - Always use bobbins specifically made for your machine to avoid many tension issues.

    Betty M - Watch your fingers when the needles moving.

    Doreen D – Patience and buy the best you can afford.

    Judith B – Start with an easy project.

    Ellena G – Don’t get discouraged.  There is always a way to “make it work”.

    Jacki S – Take your time to know your machine.

    Diana – Buy chocolate.  Buy LOTS of chocolate.

    Barbara H - The seam ripper is your new best friend. Never give up.

    What advice would you give a new sewist?

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  • Troubleshooting Sewing Frustrations

    Help!  Thread is breaking, shredding, or misbehaving!  What do you do? 

    We recommend taking a deep breath, perhaps walk away from the machine, and then return with a determination to follow these troubleshooting steps. 

    Click on the image to see a larger version PDF.


    Troubleshooting guide for home machines


    Sounds simple enough, right?

    By following these steps, you will be able to solve most of your sewing frustrations.  Keep this on hand by printing it here.  Need help with adjusting your top tension or determining if you’re using the right needle size?  Print out a copy of our Thread Reference Guide for Home Machines.

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  • Quilting Myths: What's true and what's not!

    Quilting Myths:  What's true and what's not

    There are so many myths regarding thread. Some are propagated purposely due to a financial motivation, others by misinformed professionals including store sales staff and repair technicians, and most by innocent people just passing on what they have heard.

    Myth 1 - Polyester will tear my quilt fabric.
    Not true. If you have attended one of Bob’s seminars, you have seen hands-on proof that this is a myth. (If you haven't, please watch his Thread Therapy DVD) Thread tearing into a fabric has nothing to do with the thread fiber type but with the strength of the fibers (both in the thread and in the fabric). Some cotton thread (such as glazed cotton) can be stronger and more abrasive than polyester.

    Myth 2 - My machine repair person said that I must use only ____ thread.  (Fill in the blank with a brand name or cotton or poly, etc.)
    Some have been told to use only cotton thread.  Others have been told to use only polyester thread. I’m sure the person who says this means well. He/She probably just finished cleaning a machine full of horrible lint or other problems and intended to advise the owner to use a better thread. The advice may be spoken out of frustration or misinterpreted. Imagine a car company saying you must use only Shell gasoline because other brands will damage your car. It does not make sense. Quality is the key, not the type. Your machine is made to accommodate many types and sizes of threads. With the proper needle and tension adjustments, your machine should run any high quality thread. Don’t be stuck on one channel.

    Myth 3 - Using prewound bobbins will void my warranty.

    Not true. Similar reasons as #2 above. I personally checked with machine companies and using prewound bobbins will not void any warranty.  Most machine companies sell prewound bobbins. They are a wonderful convenience. Choose quality bobbin thread.

    Myth 4 - You must always use a 3-ply thread.
    Not true. In most cases a 3-ply thread is stronger than a 2-ply thread. However, if the 3-ply thread is a lower quality product, it is possible than an excellent quality 2-ply thread is stronger and preferred for particular uses.  The number of plies is not the critical point. The quality of the raw material and the processing techniques together determine how good a thread is.  For example, consider piecing thread. The goal when piecing is to make a smooth seam without bulkiness. A thread with occasional slubs (clumps of excess thread or lint wound into the thread) will not create a smooth seam. A heavier-than-necessary thread will make a bulky seam. If you have a top quality smooth, slub-free, and adequately strong 2-ply cotton, the seams will lie flat, the points will meet, and there will be no bulkiness in the seams. Quality is more important than the number of plies.

    Myth 5 - Titanium-needles are so strong, that instead of the needle breaking when under force, it will break your machine.
    Not true. If using a Titanium-coated needle posed a risk to a sewing machine, the majority of factories around the world which sew any garment, upholstery, quilt, or textile wouldn't use this modern marvel. Titanium needles are not made from Titanium, they are made from high-strength steel and coated with a thin layer of Titanium-nitride. This layer is almost like a ceramic substance and only 3-5 microns thick on a sewing machine needle. It doesn't add any breaking/tensile strength, but does increase the life of the needle several times due to advanced abrasion resistance.


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  • Glitter Thread Tutorial

     

    Glitter is a gorgeous thread that can add sparkle to any quilting project!  What makes this thread different from Metallic?  The extra bling!

    In this video, educator Cindy Needham explains how to use Glitter:

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