Adventures in Dressmaking: Sewing Circle: What kinds of thread are best?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sewing Circle: What kinds of thread are best?

Welcome to Sewing Circle!

I take your questions by email and respond as best I can, and you all fill in the rest!  This time, Julie asked...


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.
What about you?  I would love to hear some testimonials or experiences about how you've found your machine to run on different threads.  Can you see a difference?  What have you read about thread quality?

18 comments:

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  1. Great piece of advice! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

    http://mycurrenthobby.blogspot.com/

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  2. Wow! That was seriously informative. Thanks!

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  3. I was using a gutermann 100% polyester to sew some cotton jersey with a zig zag stitch. The thread then ran out and I started using a different brand cotton thread because the colour was a better match. The machine ended up skipping loads of stitchs. Instead of being a nice zig zag it is interspersed with loads of straight stitches. I think I blame the thread!

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  4. I to am a newbie at sewing & enjoyed this very much! Thanks!!

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  5. I've noticed problems with cheap thread on past projects. Thanks for the great information! :)

    ~Kim

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Had to alter my comment, because I'm a nitwit!

    I am a Gütermann girl now, but clearly, when I wrote a post about cotton last year on my blog I was not .. http://cottonrose.blogspot.com/2009/02/small-pleasures-small-pleasures.html

    It is important to use a decent thread, especially with a sewing machine, but I do buy some cheapie stuff from the supermarket (I'm in the UK, so no idea if you can do the same there). Most weeks I'll throw a neutral coloured one in the shopping trolley. It's rubbish, but it's fine for small tasks. I quite enjoy a jaunt to the haberdashery to buy a stash of decent thread in different colours.

    I see that back then I was all about the Coats cotton, but I have to say that I have not bought any since, when I want decent thread, it's always Gütermann. I would say that there isn't any real reason for that, I haven't head anything bad about Coats thread here.

    Loving your blog :o)

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  8. when I was first getting into sewing I was given an inexpensive Janome machine. My Mother told me," It doesn't matter if your machine is old or new, cheap or expensive, ALWAYS USE GOOD THREAD, and it will keep on working hard for you." I think that has held true. the main reason for her advice is nearly the same as yours. It has to do with fibers, strength, etc. I have always, and will probably forever more use Gutermanns. Like Mother like Daughter...

    PS love your blog. thank you for reminding me that I can make it myself!

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  9. great blog! I just quilted a bag with sulky variegated thread and it kept getting shredded up in my machine. I thought it was a good brand but apparently either I got a bad spool, my tension is WAY off, or it's just not good thread. I don't know that I'll be buying it again and it was PRICEY- $8 for the spool (w/o coupon- and of course I used a 50% coupon on it!)

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  10. This is a really great article. Thanks so much.
    Anna

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  11. Oh man! I had a Husqvarna machine that would basically not run without a minimum of Gutterman thread or better. My mother, who also sews thought I was making it up... Until she tried to sew with C&C herself. Many services later, I opted for a Pfaff 4.0. Guess what? Still have issues with the C&C (no matter which version). So, I just stock up and don't look at the bill when I have to buy new thread at our sewing shoppe.
    My new Pfaff serger also performs SIGNIFICANTLY better when I use the twice the price mettler etc...
    Anyways, love the post!
    Allie
    Alliemakes.blogspot.com

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  12. Mettler can be purchased at most Bernina dealers. It has the least amount of lint followed by Gutterman. Also whenever using a stacked thread (like C&C) make sure you have it on a vertical spool pin. I never recommend using C&C. It is a cheap, weak, linty thread.
    If thread is getting shredded in the needle area you might be using the wrong needle for your application. There are different sizes and types of needles and the needles can make a huge difference in your stitch quality. http://www.schmetzneedles.com/shop/?shop=1&121785&cat=20
    Schmetz makes great needle and most stores that sell them have their little ABC of needles books for free. If you cant find one at your locally owned (not big box - never shop there) sewing store you can get them from Schmetz directly at the website above.

    Thank you for such an awesome educational blog

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  13. Also, small spools of mettler are around $3.00

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  14. *just discovered this post!*

    I use what I have, which is a combination of $1 serger spools from the fabric outlet warehouse, some Gutterman from JoAnn's, and some that I've just always had around (destashed from my mom or grandma, or "borrowed" from the high school costume loft).

    When I do buy thread, I always look for a cotton/poly blend. Here's why:
    Cotton is a natural fiber. It's naturally strong. Since it's a natural fiber, it's dyed after it's created, and therefore, doesn't always hold color that well.
    Polyester is a synthetic fiber. It can withstand heat, UV light, stretching, and finicky machines better than most fibers. It is dyes as a liquid, and cannot lose its color.
    Typically, a cotton/poly thread is "spun." That means that short lengths of cotton and short lengths of polyester are brought together and spun into thread. That way, you get the best of both worlds.

    I might have to do a blog post about this, too!

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  15. Well, a couple of years ago I would have agreed with you (and some of the commenters too). I used to swear by Gutterman and Mettler (too hard to find these days), and they are both fine, amazing threads. But, this year I tried a few spools of the "new" Coats and Clark, and even compared a strand with the other two pricier brands under a magnifying glass. The CC is a bit thicker than the other two, but the lint is nearly identical. Mettler is the best (or least linty). But I couldn't tell a difference between the CC and the Gutterman.

    I sew on a Bernina most of the time and it doesn't have any problems at all with the new CC, but had loads of problems with the old CC. So, I no longer hesitate to buy or recommend the new CC. It's a great thread and should definitely be tried. I think alot of people don't realize there are two versions (very different quality) out there! (For example, the fabric store nearest me doesn't carry the new yet because they still have loads of the old.)

    Another incredible thread to try is Madeira 80 wt tanne cotton. (Or "cotona"). Seriously the finest, smoothest thread I've ever sewn with. I use it exclusively for very fine batistes and handkerchief linens. You'll be very spoiled if you try it. :)

    By the way, love your blog. I've enjoyed catching up with your sewing exploits!

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  16. Thank you for the information, I too learnt that the quality of thread is important. There is also another way to check for quality. Take a piece of thread (about 12 inches, wrap the thread around each forefinger and then measure how much you have (from finger to finger), then gently tug at each end three to four times. Now re-measure, if the thread measures more than when you started you know it is of poor quality.

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  17. Whatever they sell at Superior Threads http://www.superiorthreads.com/ seems to be good stuff. Their So Fine filament polyester thread is lint free.

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