Tips for Using the Correct Sewing Thread
From what I have found out, the Cave Men were the first to use string. They would tear thin strips from hides and use them for sewing other hides and furs together. Today our choices are a lot greater. Not only do we have Nylon, Polyester, Cotton and Silk, but we have Glazed Cotton, Mercerized Cotton, Gassed and Cotton Wrapped Polyester thread, just to mention a few varieties. I can’t even phantom how many different colors we have to choose from. So needless to say, when I’m at the Fabric store trying to match colors together for my next project, I also have the decision of what color of thread I want, the type of thread that would be best to use and the thickness that I need. My husband isn’t real thrilled when we are out shopping and I mention stopping by the fabric store to pick up a few things. He knows this might take awhile!
The type of thread that you use should be similar in fiber content to your fabric. If you are sewing on a very thin and delicate fabric that would be used for sheer garments, it’s best to use a fine cotton or silk thread. Silk thread has more give to it, so use it if your fabric has a fair amount of stretch to it. Silk is a strong thread, usually a little more expensive, but it’s great to use on knit fabric as well and because it’s so fine, you won’t have imprints after pressing or holes from stitching.
Nylon thread is flexible and also known for its strength and stretch. Use Nylon thread for light to medium weight synthetics. It’s resistant to sunlight and chemicals, such as chlorine, so it’s great to use on bathing suits and also purses, upholstery and leather goods. Even though you can use Nylon from Leather to bathing suits, it’s important to also use the right type of Nylon. A high quality bonded nylon works best for drapes, upholstery or even plastics, but if you are sewing on spandex or Lycra you might want to invest in a wooly nylon thread. It is has stretch and memory qualities, so you will also like it for knits and curved areas or hems. You can also get an almost transparent nylon which is excellent to use for top stitching quilts, but remember, this type of Nylon doesn’t have a lot of stretch so use it on the proper fabrics.
Polyester or cotton covered polyester is great for a lot of projects. Unlike silk or some nylon threads, Polyester is not very stretchable. It’s known for its strength, low stretch and its durability and is also resistant to sunlight and moisture. A high sheen polyester works well for machine embroidery where cotton covered polyester is excellent for both hand and machine quilting. The cotton covered polyester is usually called an “all purpose” or “dual duty” thread and has the strength of cotton and a little stretch from the polyester.
Cotton, one of our oldest natural fibers, is harvested from the cotton plant and there are thousands of acres of cotton grown worldwide every year. Cotton is great for sewing on light to medium weight fabrics, but not if they have a lot of flexibility to them. Plain cotton thread does not have a lot of give to it, so it will break if you are using it on fabric with to much stretch to it, such as knit fabric. There are multiple types of cotton thread. The cotton covered polyester that we mentioned previously, mercerized cotton or glazed cotton and not to mention a variety of weights. Mercerized cotton, which is cotton thread that has been chemically treated, has a shinier appearance, stronger, resists mildew better than plain cotton and dyes easier and the color will also last longer. Glazed cotton thread is a mercerized cotton thread that has been given another step; it is waxed or treaded with more chemicals to give it a more polished appearance. This makes it a good choice for some hand or machine quilting projects. Because it has a waxed finish, be careful to get a good quality glazed cotton thread so it won’t clog up your sewing machine or needles. Another type of cotton that I had never heard of is Gassed Cotton. This is also another step that can be done to mercerized cotton, where it is quickly exposed to a hot flame to remove some of the excess fuss or lint on the thread and gives it a brighter look. This process also raises the price on mercerized cotton.
I have just touched on a few of the choices when it comes to thread. You not only have to consider the type of thread, but the thickness as well. There are all purpose threads, bobbin, embroidery, heavy duty, lightweight, metallic types of threads and more. When you decide on the type of thread, now you need to consider the color as well. It’s always best to pick a color that is a shade or two darker than your dominate fabric color if you don’t want your stitches to show, lighter colors will stand our more on your finished project. No matter what thread you end up using, always use a good quality thread. If the price sounds too good to be true, you’re probably right and you may be getting what you pay for. Using poor quality thread will not only shorten the length you can enjoy your finished project, but it also can be hard on your sewing machine. If you are having trouble with your machine breaking the thread easily or your tension not being even and you’ve put in a new needle, now you may want to try a different thread before you haul it off to your repairmen. I’m sure you paid a lot of money for your sewing machine, so spend a little more on your thread to help keep it running smooth. Your sewing machine will thank you!