Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The thread

I am really glad I wrote that post about thread and, wow, so many responses! And most of you felt like I do about all that fancy, expensive thread. That was really heartening. Sometimes, even though my gut says there is something fishy going on, I feel like the clod who doesn't get what all the cool quilters are using and loving. I have to remind myself that, as Kristen said, it is more than an art form, it is a competitive market and we are the suckers customers. But I find myself frequently a little out of step with the cool quilters anyway, so it's nothing new.

I do need to mention, regarding the comments, that I know nothing about long-arm quilting machines and what their thread requirements are. I am just talking about those of us who are slaving away at our little Berninas and Janomes and such. And for the commenter who said that spools of the expensive thread go farther than spools of cheaper thread, so are therefore not really so much more expensive, I was comparing cost by yards of thread, not spools, so I'm not buying your theory.

Mary asked about my favorite threads. OK. Here they are.


I have always really liked Star thread. It is all long staple cotton and comes on these nice big (1200 yd.) spools. I used to buy it in a million different colors at Oregon Tailor Supply and it was really cheap. Oregon Tailor Supply went out of business and Star was purchased by Coats and Clark. It is now much harder to find and when I do I usually find only a small selection of colors and it is more expensive than it used to be, but I still like it and buy it when I can find it.

Guterman and Mettler both come on these skinny spools. I used to sell the Mettler in my shop years ago and it was considered a premium thread at the time. I buy Guterman at Joannes when it is on sale. They seem very similar to me.

Coats and Clark is not a favorite, not because it doesn't work well in my sewing machine, but because it seems the most tangly for hand-sewing. But it is ubiquitous and comes in a million colors and works fine, IMO. I think it gets an undeserved bad rap. I especially like the design of their new spools (the two frontmost spools) They have a nice groove around each end that the thread end can easily be secured in. Much better than the sharp little notch in the old spools.

Sulky 12 weight topstitch thread is my gourmet indulgence. It is a thicker thread and I like it for the wild and crazy decorative stitching I do on some of my pieces. It is expensive by my standards, but much less than a yard of fabric! It has the same kind of spool, with the nifty place to secure the thread end, as the Coats and Clark thread.

This is the oldest spool of thread in my thread drawers. It could be 50 years old or more and is on a wooden spool. The brand is Talon. Do they even make thread anymore? Can you see the price? Twenty nine cents—now you're talkin'! I wouldn't actually use it. You can snap it very easily. But I like having it roll around with my other threads.

Today I ordered some thread from Connecting Threads. It is their own brand—Essential Thread. I have heard good and not-so-good reviews, but the colors look great, the folks who like it really like it and the price is really good. I will let you know if it is OK.

One more comment on the comments. One commenter said that maybe the people who were experiencing lint problems with their thread just weren't cleaning their machines often enough. Bam! Exactly right. I sweep out all the lint—and it isn't that much unless I am sewing an extra linty fabric—every time I change my bobbin. That little lint brush lives right next to my sewing machine.

And, if this thread discussion hasn't already shown you what a bargain shopper I am, look at these—

I found these irresistible bright red ceramic flower pots at the Dollar Store. Perfect for markers, scissors, pencils and cutting tools.

For my non-sewing readers, I can only imagine how geeky two whole blog posts about thread must seem...

19 comments:

  1. Love that you show us all your thread choices :) I love trying to see what kind of thread is in peoples machines on their blogs.:) So this was fun for me.

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  2. I've been reading this thread discussion with interest. Lint has never been an issue for me and I don't get why it is for others...it's a fact of sewing life.

    I buy and use and like the Essential thread from Connecting Threads. Lots of lovely colors are hanging on my thread rack. I also know people who put their nose up at it.

    Ah it's a funny funny world, this sewing/quilting one we that we enjoy. Thanks for the great discussion.

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    1. Terri, thanks for the comment about the Essential Thread. Now I am really looking forward to getting mine! The color selection is wonderful.

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  3. Wow - a friendly comment from a long-time follower gets a snarky comeback? And about the lint, too - I clean my machines very regularly and there is a marked difference between the amount of lint from Coats & Clark and lint from either Aurifil or Guterman. Maybe fancy Berninas don't produce as much lint from the cheaper threads as lower-end machines? My poor cheap Singer sure does experience a difference.

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    1. Sorry if that sounded "snarky"—I really was looking at costs based on the yards of thread on a spool, since they all seem to be different and so comparing spool costs wasn't very illuminating. My Bernina is more than 30 years old and not fancy. I also use a 10 year old Janome, which is a little fancier. But, like Terri Stegmiller said, I find that lint is sort of a fact of life of sewing, so I just deal with it. And I wonder how one tells if lint is coming from thread or fabric or batting. It's all linty.

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  4. I've been thinking more, because my experience is different from yours and the commenter you mention. I wonder if the difference in lint rises from the thread *weight* more than the "quality"?

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  5. You must NOT call yourself a clod or put yourself down. You are an artist who is mature enough to use good sense, knows what works for you and what is reasonable. It's refreshing to me to hear your voice about thread. It's an important subject for sewers and quilters and I agree with you whole-heartedly. I also use Star thread and, lucky for me, I still have a lot of it. It will be interesting to hear what you think of the Essential brand.

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  6. As a newer sewer I rather enjoyed the thread posts. I mainly use Coats and Clark because I can buy at the local Wal-mart and, as I said, I'm new at this, so it would seem silly to buy expensive thread for something I still need to master. Love those flower pots, too. So cute.

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  7. Thanks for answering my question. I have my mom's old thread box filled with threads on wooden spools. I use it when I make special things for my sister and our daughters. I'm going to take a look at Connecting Threads. I have bought fabric from them in the past.
    Thanks for having such a great blog. I visit often.
    Hugs from Mary

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  8. Hey Terry, I always thought of you as one of the 'cool' quilters! I agree with you about thread. I used all of them when I was writing my book on Thread and really didn't see any difference in the 'designer' threads and the rest of the normal threads.My go to thread is Star. www.artisticaritfacts.com usually has it in stock. I use a lot of C&C as well. Love their dual duty fine!

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  9. Have really enjoyed these 2 posts re: thread. I think you were just saying what is on the mind of so many of us. And I loved seeing your thread selection....looks just like mine with the exception of the sulky 12 weight. And TALON? I just, in the past 2 days, used up a spool of Talon from the late 60's/early 70's. It passed my "snap test" and so I used it up. Cost on that one? 29cents. Made me feel like a kid again. :)

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  10. Great post on Threads... I did an informal survey among my quilt-y friends and to the ONE they agreed with you. It seems to me you have created a VIRTUAL guild meeting here, and a topic that needs to be aired out once in awhile.
    Comments regarding HOW the thread is used were most interesting to me... it pays to know what you are using and what it's intended purpose. Once you understand how thread is made, what it is made from, you will understand how you can use it successfully.
    I choose thread based on past experience, Mettler works well in my old Bernina and comes in a wide range of colors. What I really want is to have a thread that will be consistently strong and available in neutral colors.
    When I hand quilt I use Gutterman Quilting thread.
    I use SILK thread for sewing down binding, it is stronger than cotton so I can pull it tight and the thread snuggles down into the fabric.
    Now what about Machine Needles,Rotary Blades or Scissors?

    Linda

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  11. I'm a bargain hunter too. As far as lint, because of the speed the thread goes through the needle and bobbin area in the longarm, lint builds up and causes tension problems. Tension is the biggest headache of a longarm machine. I've used Essential threads too. It is a bit lintier than others but has good colors. I use anything and everything in my domestic machines.

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  12. I've been feeling guilty for using C&C, but I'm comfortable with it and usually have whatever color I need already in the stash. I have lots of fancy threads, but mostly for decorative purposes. I'm more concerned with shredding/breakage than with lint. Was in a workshop with a well-known quilter once who wanted to borrow my machine to finish something she was working on, but refused to use my C&C black thread. When we went to lunch, she bought me a spool of expensive black, and it's been the worst spool I've ever used. Shreds constantly. Have you ever oiled your thread? Sharon Schamber had us dip our spools in mineral oil in a workshop and I was shocked at how well it worked. No residue on the fabric and keeps the cotton from drying out and breaking. Oh yeah, the machine likes it too.

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  13. I had to go down to the quilting room to see what brand of thread I like using--STAR. I think I would buy a spool whenever I saw a good utility color in a quilt shop. Black, tan, white, beige. I may even have a spool of gray. Lasts such a long time. This has been fun! Do another one!!!

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  14. Maybe the Essentials thread has been improved since it came out several years ago when I bought mine. I finally gave up on it and threw it away because it broke so easily. I did like it's price, the size of the spools and all those glorious colors though!

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  15. I use a long arm and love star thread. They have a huge selection of really great verigated colors. It does lint but isn't that why we brush out the machine every bobbin change.
    maggie

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  16. Wow this was very informative, and helped me a lot, .. I just bought a vivo singer and a singer essential kit. I plan ahead on my money at all times and went to find thread that I could use to replace those in the kit and ran along an annoying fact. my kit comes with 20 medium(25 yrd) and 20 large (150) spools. this kit only cost 20 bucks...But while looking at walmart.com and other site for 1 spool at 150 yrds I would be paying about 7 dollars... so seriously thank you.

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  17. I greatly appreciate all the information you guys have shared. I just started sewing this week, And was annoyed to find that when the starter kit I bought for 20 dollars runs out of thread it would take me ten dollars per spool... it came with 20 150 yd. and 20 25 yd. ... With the info in this blog I have been able to make a better decision and better buy. Thank you very much

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