15 July 2010

Sewing 101 with Suzannah, Choosing thread

Hi there, readers at Pickup Some Creativity!  I'm so glad to be posting here as part of Chris's fantastic Sewing 101 series!

I'm Suzannah from Adventures in Dressmaking.  I share my sewing, crafty, and home decor projects on my blog pretty much daily and I love reusing old fabrics and clothes, and refashioning or recycling into something new.  I have been making a lot of summer sundresses this month, and I also love doing quick home dec projects to freshen up my apartment.  Here are a few of my faves!

I also do a LOT of tee and sweater refashions!

Anyway, one of the things Chris thought I could talk about is choosing the right thread to sew with.  She's had so many great posts about sewing tools, and basic techniques!  I have a feature on my blog called Sewing Circle where I respond to readers' questions about any sewing issue, and other readers can comment and lend a hand, too, and one of the recent questions I received was about thread choice.  It seems it's a seldom-thought of issue, which is too bad, since the type of thread you use can really affect your sewing!

I want to share with you the response and research I put together for my readers.  Do check out my post on this Sewing Circle to see other followers' advice, too!

Sewing 101: Sewing Circle: What kinds of thread are best?

Q: What type of thread do you sew with? Do you keep a stash of different colors of thread around for your various projects? Or do you buy matching thread when you are planning to sew something? I am a beginning sewer and have started with Coats & Clark all purpose thread, but I've read some negative things about it. I would love some advice on the best type of thread to use for general apparel sewing and how to keep a good stash of sewing thread.

A: I have a rainbow of thread colors that I keep around, and almost never buy thread for one project in particular anymore. When I moved out of my parents’ house I stocked up on thread colors I knew I would use—I have a couple shades of navy, a bright yellow, some pinks… pretty colors that I know I like. I have a huge spool of white Gutterman. I have a mix of Coats & Clark and Gutterman, since I too have heard bad things about Coats & Clark since I bought several spools of it, so I’m using it up and won’t buy it again. It’s harder on the machine than a higher quality thread (Gutterman is not the best, but it’s a good value and you can find it at JoAnn’s). At the Memorial Day Sale, and at other bigger sales, JoAnn’s makes it half off, so I just bought several new colors recently!

If you’d like some more scientific info, here’s a really cool article on About.com about thread types, including up-close photos of the fibers. There's another good article on this quilting site. I don't want to restate everything they've said, The cheaper brands are harder on your machine, so often if you’re having trouble with something, the sewing machine repair guys will ask you what thread you use—it could be the thread, not the machine!

I will say this as taken from the About.com article (October 21, 2000).

"As thread is guided through the sewing machine it passes through many eye openings and through tension disks. All the places that the thread travels have a purpose in maintaining the sewing machine's tension.... Below you will find views of various thread as seen through a microscope at 60X. As you view the various types of thread, think about how the thread passes through fabric and how the loose fibers, being stuck in the fabric, will weaken what is left of the thread."

Here's a sample from a bargain bin thread, Excell 100% Polyester.  Lots of loose fibers that will wear on the machine and make it not run as smoothly.

Here's a piece of thread from a cone of serger thread labeled Talon Superlock 100% Spun Polyester.  Also cheap and fray-ey.

Here's a piece of Coats & Clark Dual Duty All-Purpose (although, I should point out that this article is from 2000 when Coats & Clark used a poly/cotton blend for their all-purpose thread, and unfortunately they have now switched to 100% polyester, which does not feel as nice and is thicker and bouncier, although stronger.  I don't have a picture of it up-close, but I imagine a lot of you have the older stuff at home, too!  The labels and spools are clearly different).  Anyway, this is very loopy compared to...

Gutterman poly thread.  A little more expensive than Coats & Clark, but seems to go on sale more often!  Much smoother, better weave, with a few loose fibers.

If you really want to go easy on your machine, there's a brand called Mettler that makes "Metrosene Plus 100% Polyester" that has very few fibers.  Not sure where to buy it but it is more expensive than any of the others.

Here's a pic of my thread stash, as well as the Coats & Clark difference I was talking about, and a pic of some Guttermans.

Thanks so much for reading, Pickup readers!!  Hope you had fun and learned something!

To see more of my tips and projects, check out Adventures in Dressmaking!


Thank you, Suzannah.  What a comprehensive explanation on thread!  Run over and check out all the lovely things Suzannah is sewing up.  

3 happy thoughts:

The Paisley Abbey said...

Thank you for the detailed information. When I first bought my Janome I thought the machine was messed up because the thread always broke and the tension was never right. Luckily, my dealer asked what thread I was using before I took it in for repair. I said Coats and Clark and was quickly told to NEVER use the in my machine for the reasons you talked about. I started using Sulky and Gutterman. I have never had a problem since then.


Julie @ sew girly studio said...

Your 101 series is great :) I would LOVE to see tips/trick for sewing knit fabrics on a regular sewing machine(not an overlock/serger). Thanks!

chris said...

There are some great posts out there for sewing on knits with a regular machine. I'm posting a round up of great stuff on Saturday. I'll be sure to include those. Thanks for the comment.

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