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13. Threads, Literally keep everything together

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Hi there. I’m Nicole Gilbert and you’ve joined the Stop Scrolling, Start Sewing podcast. Are you new to sewing and want to start quilting, but have no idea where to begin? Each Wednesday, Join me as I share the ins and outs of that quily life. If you don’t have a sewing machine, have no idea how much fabric you need, or you’re just trying to figure out where the heck to stick that bobbin. This is the podcast for you.

On today’s episode, we’re going to chat about thread, the unsung hero, the thread that keeps the whole thing together. Literally, we’re going to chat about all the different types, some of the big brands and what you should look for and so much more. But first a quick word.

I’ve decided that I want to start doing listener shout outs in every episode of my podcast. This podcast would be nothing without its listeners. I’ve been reading your reviews and I gotta say, you guys are so supportive. I’m so happy you guys are in my sewing circle. If you want to be a part of the listener shout out, leave me a review. Hopefully five stars, wherever you listen to podcasts, and you just might be featured on an upcoming episode.

Okay, guys, let’s get sewing.

So before we dive into all of the different types of threads out there, let’s chat quality and what we’re looking for in a thread.

So first and foremost, we want it tightly wound. So a tight, smooth finish. Um, a good way to think of that is you want no loose hairs. If you’re looking at your spool of thread and it’s got like a peach fuzz to it. Nope, that’s a no go do not use that thread. Um, another way to think about it is like, okay. So a good way to describe it is the reason why it’s bad is that all of those little fuzzies are actually little stray pieces of your thread that are fraying. Now, when you wind your thread through your sewing machine, um, it rubs, you know, you’ve got your uptake lever, you’ve got your gears. It’s hooking up with your bobbin. It’s under the needle, play it like it’s getting around in your machine and all of those loose threads as they rub against the different parts of your machine fall off.

And so they start to gum up your machine. And have you ever gotten that warning, especially if you have like a, one of the newer, more sensitive machines that are computerized, you get like a warning, like thread under the needle plate or dust off, uh, your needle thread or check the thread tension. A lot of that stuff comes from using thread that is leaving these tracer threads. Now a good way to think of what it looks like on the individual piece of thread is like, remember that the old school Pantene commercials where they had like the cartoon, uh, or drawing of the, a strand of hair and it would have like a magnifying glass over it. And it would show like the hair cuticle standing up on end. That’s what the thread looks like when it’s not in good shape. Um, unfortunately that can happen Yeah. Over time to even the best quality threads. So you really want to pay attention, especially if you’re digging deep down into your old thread stash times thread dries out, and that’s what happens. And you just, you really shouldn’t use it. Same goes for those big bargain bins at, um, some of your favorite retailers of those bargain bins that are a bargain for a reason. It couldn’t be a bigger headache in the long run. And when you’re talking about saving one or two bucks, my sanity is worth one or two bucks. So I would definitely avoid those threads. Now there are some great bargain threads in the bargain bin, but just keep an eye out for that like peach fuzz or fray, because that will be a bummer. So that is of like a basic quality check.

Now, next thing we’re going to look for is the weight of the thread. Now, first of all, I want you to know that a basic 40 or 50 weight, all purpose thread will pretty much do everything you need. So keep that in mind now to look at the weight, it is written in a fraction and the lower, the number, the thicker, the thread, kind of like those gauge earrings that were like a thing like very emo. So the lower, the number, the thicker, the thread and written in a fraction, the top number in the fraction is the actual weight. So you’ll often see 40, 50, 60. Um, those are the weights. The bottom is the ply, which means how many number what’s number of strands wound together to create the weight. So often you’ll see things like 50 over five. So it’s a 50 weight and there are five strands wound together to create the thread. So just think of it that way.

Um, now next I want to talk about what your thread is actually made of the bigger players. There’s a lot out there, but the big three are cotton, polyester and silk. Uh, spoiler alert, cotton. That’s it just, just, just cotton, but here you go. So cotton is great because it is soft and it is strong. Um, it’s ideal for quilting because it typically doesn’t lose its shape. Um, and it holds up well under heat, which is good for machine quilting. Especially if you are a fast sewer, you know, you’ve got, you’ve got it working, which means that thread is flying through your machine. Lots of friction means lots of heat. So cotton holds up better.

now polyester, some people use polyester. I find I have nothing but issues with polyester thread. So I don’t recommend polyester thread. Polyester thread is however fantastic if you are sewing clothes. So if it’s wearables, polyester, go for it, it gives it stretches. It’s smooth. Like I get the virtues of it. It’s just not my cup of tea for quilting. So that’s my, my 2 cents on polyester.

And now we’re onto last, but not least is silk. Silk is gorgeous. Oh my gosh, it’s so shiny and smooth oh my goodness. And it is strong. Um, you will see a lot of embroidery threads come in. Silk comes in a bajillion weights. Like everything comes in a lot of weights, but silk, I feel like comes in more variations of weights. A lot of that again is because of embroidery. Different, um, patterns difference overall looks that you’re trying to accomplish with your embroidery are going to require different weights. Um, it’s really, really, really pretty. I love silk thread. Um, but again, I will say for quilting, we’re going to want to use cotton.

All right. So let’s start talking about the actual types of thread. I’m sure you’ve seen them all out there. You’ve been a little confused. I’m going to help you.

So first and foremost, all purpose, I use all purpose thread, 99.999% of the time. Um, you, don’t got to get all fancy. You don’t gotta get all specialized. All purpose thread will do the job fantastically. Um, all purpose thread comes in either polyester or cotton wrapped polyester. Um, you will also find a hundred percent cotton, all purpose thread, um, kind of depends on the brands. So more your more premium brands. And I’ll get to the brands a little bit later in this episode and Oh, don’t worry. All of this stuff is going to be over at in the show notes. So I’ve got you covered. Um, if you want to kind of have a reference guide to this, but anyway, back to all purpose, so your more premium brands. We’ll have all purpose cotton, but, um, and some of your basic ones that are be just cotton wrapped polyester, um, but you can definitely find a a hundred percent kind cause that’s what I use. Um, it’s super strong. It’s got a bit of give, um, and it is suitable for both machine and hand sewing projects. So you can, it really is. I mean, it’s called all purpose for a reason.

So next up is just your basic cotton thread. Um, it’s strong, it’s got less give, um, and it has a silky finish. It is also suitable for basic machine and hand sewing projects. Um, I wouldn’t sew knit with cotton, um, because of its lack of give and then knit is super stretchy. So it’s like not, it’s just, it’s a mismatch. So I would not do that. Um, so I would definitely go with cotton on that one. Um, so no cotton for sewing knits, polyester. Alright, so now you’re going to see quilting thread and you’re gonna have to do a little bit of research. And so if you find a new thread brand and you love it and you see all purpose and then you see something called quilting, go with the all-purpose until you’ve done your research because not all quilting thread is actually for quilting.

I know. So here’s how it breaks down. Some companies refer to their quilting thread as just quilting thread. And when they say quilting thread, they actually mean hand quilting thread. And so you would want to get the all purpose instead of the quilting. So the reason why it’s really important to know what the hand quilting is, is that hand quilting thread usually has some sort of conditioner or wax on the thread that makes it slide beautifully through fabric and it makes hand quilting a lot easier. Um, but if you ever put hand quilting thread on your machine and I’m telling you from personal experience, it’s gross, um, you will be humming right along, Oh, look how pretty everything is. Everything’s great. And then your machine will get gunked up and gross and you gotta take it apart and clean off your gears and clean up your uptake lever and open up your needle plate. I mean, you gotta clean it all. It’s gross everywhere that thread touches will have a gummy gross residue on it. So we don’t want to use hand quilting thread, other thread lines though, will delineate machine quilting thread, hand quilting thread. So if it just says quilting thread, make sure you know what they mean by that. Um, I personally, if it doesn’t say machine quilting, I stay away because I am just going to at this point because I’ve been burned before, just assume, unless I know for a fact, just assume that it is hand quilting thread because it will come up your machine and it will be a total bummer.

Now hand quilting thread is made of a hundred percent natural Mercer prized cotton. Um, it has a super strong silk like luster. Um, and like I said, it is coated so that it will slide easily through the layers of fabric and machine quilting thread is basically exactly the same as hand quilting thread, except it does not have that coating and we want to avoid that coating Um, but because it is super strong, it’s great for long arm machine quilting. So kind of keep that in mind, if you are a long arm quilter, kudos to you and also machine quilting thread is where it’s at.

now, you will actually see silk as a type. I know we talked about one of the materials, but you can also think of it as a specific type because it does have its own properties. And thus it has, um, certain projects that you’re going to want to use it for. So it is ideal. I mean, this seems common sense. It’s ideal for sewing silk wool and basting your fabric. It doesn’t leave holes. It is such a smooth operator that when it slides through your fabric, you will not be able to tell aware the thread punched through. So that’s pretty flipping cool. So if you are sewing anything that is going to, you’re going to really see your seam line or, you know, you’re looking for certain garments or just really any product project that you’re just using a really discerning eye with. I’d go with silk, it’s a good choice.

Um, and then you also have your heavy duty upholstery. Um, and some I’ve even heard called strong outdoor. I don’t, I mean, it seems excessive, but that’s what it’s called. Um, and that’s a hundred percent polyester. Um, it’s really good for sewing, your upholstery, your leather, your corduroy, your denim, any of your heavyweight fabrics. Um, it also uses, um, a strong outdoor thread that is UV resistant. Um, so that, that way it doesn’t fade or crack, um, sitting outside. So if you’re making like patio furniture, cushions, like this is the thread you want to use.

now, jeans, I know I mentioned, you know corduroy all that heavy duty in the previous threads, but jeans or top stitch thread also great, um, for really heavy stitches, decorative stitches, um, they’re real strong. Um, but I would want you to, and I mean, this is, I know we’ve talked about this previously, um, episode 11, so, where I broke down needles.

Um, make sure you switch to a top stitching or jeans needle to accommodate the thicker thread. Um, not only will it accommodate the thicker thread, but it also will, um, hold up to the actual project itself. If you’re actually using a heavyweight, um, material. I want you to use the heavier needle just for strength because we don’t want needles shrapnel. Um, now there is also button in carpet thread, which is coated, um, it’s super strong, it’s super heavy duty, and then it’s coated because you would typically use that for hand sewing projects, buttons and carpets, um, and again, machine embroidery. So this is a little different than a hand embroidery where I said, we want to use silk because it’s just so pretty. Um, with machine embroidery thread, um, it’s typically made of either rayon or polyester. Um, it’s really, really good with the shine. Oh my gosh. So pretty and very smooth. Um, don’t use it for like sewing clothes still. It’s not really, it’s not going to get the job done. It’s not going to also be sturdy enough. You’ll notice sometimes if you ever like, just sit and really check out an embroidery, um, pattern that thread goes over itself quite a few times, and that’s what gives it its strength and structure. It’s going over itself quite a few times. You don’t do that with garments. And so you’re not gonna have the same level of strength. So I really don’t want you to use embroidery thread for your garments. If you’re sewing garments, I, again, am not a garment sower. I’m also not an embroiderer. So I I’m, I know I’m going through all this list and I, but I want to say it again. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, 40 or 50 weight cotton, all purpose thread is all you need if you’re going to be quilting. Um, and then also there is invisible transparent thread. Um,


When you don’t want your thread thread to get noticed, I feel like that’s kind of common sense. I think it’s kind of more trouble than it’s worth. I’d find a really nice thread that blends seamlessly with my fabrics then use an invisible or transparent thread. Um, they can get brittle and dry out and crack. I’ve seen them break. Um, when you’re, especially if you’re like washing and drying your quilt, like I would never use it on a quilt. They had to use like, you know, I’m have quilts that are for the hockey rink. Um, I have quilts that are for the park. Yeah. Those are not quilts that are getting invisible thread for sure. Um, but they’re pretty and they do blend in really nicely. Oh. And they’re also kind of a pain in the butt to work with. So, I mean, I gotta say I just listed a lot of downsides to invisible threat.

Um, but I’m sure if any of you out there like love invisible thread or you’ve got some hacks for invisible thread, let me know, hit me up over at the modern quilter circle Facebook page, or send me an email at, um, Um, I want to know, so coming towards the end here, we also have metallic threads which are really for decorative stitches and embroidery. Um, you can use them by hand or in a machine. Um, they tend to break a little bit more easily than most. Um, yeah, so again, I don’t use a lot of these types of threads. I’m a hundred percent cotton, all purpose, kind of a gal. Um, so please, if you’ve got like awesome things to use these, these different types of threads on, let me know, I want to know. Um, and then of course there’s also elastic thread, which is great for sharing and smoking.

Um, it’s obviously got stretch in it because it’s got elastic in it. Um, they’re great for the face masks, um, because they will let you kind of like, let the mask move a little bit more on your face because most masks are made in like three or four very basic sizes, but obviously we all have very different faces. So elastic thread will help you a little bit there. Okay. Whew. That’s a lot of different types of threads guys. So now let’s talk about brands of threads. Now I’m going to talk about what you can get at Joanne’s and then I’m going to talk about some nicer brands. Um, and not that Joanne’s doesn’t have nice threads. Some of their threads are very nice threats, so let’s start, let’s start there and then move on. So at Joanne’s the three biggest thread brands you’re going to see our coats and Clark, uh, Gutterman and sulky, um, coats and Clark is fantastic thread.

Don’t get it twisted, even though it is very inexpensive thread. Um, it is a quality brand and it’s been around forever. There is a reason why everybody has heard of coats and clerks and that’s because they’re good. So if that’s all you can afford, please use coats and Clark. It’s great. Um, the more, what I would refer to as the high end thread that Joe ans sells is going to be the Gutterman. Um, I feel like you can always tell when something is at least marketed to be higher end thread or higher end, anything in that the packaging is smaller and you get less, but it’s the same exact price. So if you go and you look at the coats and Clark rack and you look at the glutamine rack, the price is exactly the same, but then you pick it up. And the Gutterman school is about a quarter of the amount of thread.

It’s a lot more expensive. Um, but it is really good, strong quality thread. So I definitely suggest it. I use it, but I will say if I find the exact same color in coats and Clarks, and I usually get the coats and Clark said it, um, now third is sulky and I love sulky. I love Soki so, so, so much. Um, mostly because it’s pretty, it’s super shiny. Obviously. I think the name sulky refers to how silky the thread is. It is a hundred percent cotton thread. I mean, they make all of the different types, but mostly you will see the a hundred percent cotton thread at Joanne’s. Um, you’ll also see the polyester cotton blend at Joanne’s. Um, but it’s just beautiful. It’s so shiny. It’s so pretty. And the colors are so vibrant. Um, I was on a silky kick. Like I went through a phase where I was like, okay, I’m only using silky cause it’s just so pretty.

Um, and that’s really the only brand that’s like that in their a hundred percent cotton and their rayon polyester, um, where they’ve got that kind of sheen to it. Um, especially at that price point. So that’s something to kind of keep in mind now to other brands that I love. I love Orofill and you will know Orofill by its orange spool that it’s on. Uh, it’s an Italian brand. The thread is just such high quality. I have had Orofill spools that have lasted me years and years and years. Um, and never, so some of your older threads, like an old spool of coats and Clark, if you really look at it, it’s going to have those little hairs that we were talking about earlier. They don’t last over the long run, but if you know that it’s something that you’re going to be making ASAP use coats and Clark, if this is like a heirloom thread, it’s such a silly term, but I refer to things as heirloom threads that are, um, you know, it’s a beautiful thread.

You’re going to use it, but you know that it’s probably, you’re not going to use it the whole spool. And so, you know, you’ll use it again, but you might not use it again for a long time or a fill will hold up. Um, it’s really nice. It’s really pretty. Um, the last, and there are so many threads, I say the last thread brand, that’s just like, these are the thread bands that you’re going to see over and over again. Um, either at your Joanne’s or at your local quilt or fabric shop. Um, these are like the big guys, um, but there’s so many brands of threads out there. If you’ve got a brand of thread that you love again, please share it with me. I love hearing about what you guys are using. Um, so please, please, please let me know. Um, the last one I will say though, is Mettler.

Um, and what is really cool about Mettler is their long strand method. So they use like super, super, super long strands. So all the other ones, you know, we talked about PLI and how you can have three or five or however many threads or strands tightly spun together in order to create the thread. Now over the length of the spool of thread, it’s good. You’re going to threads S uh, strands are gonna stop and new strands are going to get mixed in there to continue the thread length, um, and with Mettler they use the longest one. And what that means is in the end, you’ve got a lot less weak points or a lot less breakage. So it’s actually really, really cool. It’s like, like when I think just like quality, like all of these other threads are great and they’ve all got like a thing going for them or a Phil holds up the longest, um, sulky has that beautiful shine coats and Clark’s is just a solid, inexpensive, like they all have a good feature to them.

Mettler is well made thread period. So if you have it in your budget to, um, afford Mettler, by all means, please do. You will not be disappointed. It’s just fantastically made threat. Okay, guys, there, you have it. I just rambled on a lot about thread. If you want to learn about all of these things, head on over to the modern quilter, I have got, um, all of this stuff kinda neatly listed out for you so that you can have a reference point. Um, and you can also head over to the modern quilter to catch up on all of our previous episodes. So you can catch that sewing. You don’t want to refer to it’s in there. Um, and congratulations, you have just finished another episode of the stop scrolling start sewing podcast. Thanks for hanging out with me and make sure you never miss an episode by hitting subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Now, stop scrolling and start sewing

Quilt Love

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and...

Noelani T.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Noelani T.

I worked with Nicole in a one on one environment on a large quilt. I have limited sewing experience and Nicole’s expertise was invaluable for this large project. Nicole is very patient and explained the different steps and their purposes clearly. She improved my original idea to better accomplish my overall goal. I highly recommend Nicole as an instructor and would personally have another session in a heartbeat!

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked...

Michelle L.

The Modern Quilters Circle

Michelle L.

I seriously didn’t even know the names of parts of my sewing machine before I worked with Nicole. She walked me through everything step by step. And it was amazing. She taught me the ins and outs of my machine and how to add each basic concept together. It was invaluable, because now I can figure things out and get creative without fearing the dreaded unravel!
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