Monday, November 30, 2015

Thread for quilters

I was talking with a friend who has been a seamstress/sewer her entire life, but is new to quilting. She asked about using old cotton thread that was inherited from an estate, and this evolved into a much longer conversation about all types of thread and what you should use in a quilt.  Threads have come a long ways baby since our childhood.

USE QUALITY THREAD.  If you're a quilter and you spend one or more years making your "labor of love" quilt, you really do need to buy quality thread and quality fabric.  Purists demand long fiber cotton threads and I have used them for many years.  My favorite manufacturers are Gutermann , Mettler, and Aurifil.  All of these are 50# thread and are readily available where quality quilting fabric is sold.  I have stocked up in many colors, preferring to buy spools of thread when there is a sale.  If you sew a lot of quilts, like me, it's more cost effective to buy the larger spools and stock up in neutral colors.  A new trend in threads is a set of threads that coordinate with a well known celebrity quilter or fabric designer.

Good quality cotton thread
MATCH THE THREAD TO THE QUILT.  The type of thread you use depends on the purpose and use of the quilt.  If your quilt is going to be an heirloom bed quilt, for sure you should use cotton thread.  Many quilts are made for children and will be washed a lot and may be threadbare after 10 years.  It's OK to use polyester thread, or even your old thread for these quilts.  I would still opt for quality thread, though.  That's because the inexpensive brands are often thicker and create a ton of lint in your machine.  Are you an art quilter?  Well, then the sky is the limit.  You can use heavy, thick, thin, silk, cotton, polyester, rayon, or anything else you can get through the needle or bobbin of your machine.  You can use anything because your quilts won't ever be washed.

SUPER FINE THREADS.  Quilters who make hand applique quilts like to have fine threads that match their fabrics.  They often use a 100# silk thread and have a collection of colors in their sewing kit.  I have threads from YLI, Tire (which is now sold by Superior in 50#), and Kimono Silk Thread from Superior. People who do machine applique often use a fine invisible thread.  My current favorite is Superior Threads Mono Poly reduced sheen.  All of these threads tend to sink into the fabric, making the applique look fabulous.

Silk threads

HEAVY THREADS.  Threads that are heavier weight, such as 30# to 8# or even thicker, are fun to use to embellish quilts, or add an element on an art quilt.  I use them to machine quilt as well.  Some of the brands that I have are made by YLI, Sulky, and Madeira.  You may have a ton of 40# thread in your collection if you have been sewing clothing.  It's OK to use this in your quilts too, but it is heavier than the 50# thread, and can distort your blocks by making your seams a scant larger than 1/4".

Heavier threads

OLD THREAD.  Well, what can I say about  old thread.  We all love the old wooden spools and the cotton threads that we inherited from our Mothers and Grandmothers.  I recommend doing a quick test before using these threads in a quilt.  Unwrap the first layer of threads.  Has the color brightened?  If it has, that means that the thread has seen too much natural light and has started to degrade.  Take a length of thread and break it.  Does it break easily, or is it still strong?  If it breaks easily, it has become too degraded to use in a quilt.  Is the old thread of low quality or polyester?  Don't use it for piecing a quilt; you'll be disappointed.  Can you use the thread for something else than piecing a quilt?  The basting process uses a lot of thread and it gets thrown away after the quilting is done.  Perfect.  Is the quilt going be loved, used, and tossed after a short period of time?  Go ahead and use the thread if it passes the color and strength test.  Just remember that this old thread is usually a heavier weight than what current quilters prefer.

TAKE A THREAD CLASS.  Superior Threads has a fantastic thread class that they put on at the regional quilt shows.  They also have a great newsletter that you can subscribe to.  Many of the other thread manufacturers have tons of information and color charts on line or that you can purchase.   National and local teachers have strong thread preferences and will often discuss threads and sell them to you in classes.

Finally, remember to store your thread in dark, cool places.  I have a drawer for some of my thread, and boxes that I keep in the closet with the bulk of my collection. Here is a box that I keep my silk threads in.

I admit that I probably have too many threads.   But I'm a quilter, and the quilter with the largest stash wins!  Right?

1 comment:

  1. For me, thread is as important as fabric in my stash! I have a bunch of thread too and I keep trying different kinds because I might find a type I like better for a specific job! Great post today!--Terry