In my decades long infatuation with fabric I seem to have overlooked something even more basic to quilting – the thread that holds everything together. For years I’ve bought a few neutrals to piece with and 40 weight black, white and cream thread to quilt. Yet thread is beginning to insinuate itself into my quilting life. Thick thread, variegated thread, metallic thread, holographic thread, thread that snarls up my sewing machine, thread I apply by hand.
And with the discovery of thread comes a new passion on which to lavish money. How can I resist the Kinetic Kelly or Molten Mocha holographic thread offered on one website? The website claims this thread is “Perfect for cross stitch, needlepoint, crochet, knitting, bead knitting, bead crochet, fly fishing, crafting, embroidery, quilting, crazy quilting, and any creative technique.” Fly fishing?
Like many quilters I’ve taken it as an article of faith that the only kind of thread to use is cotton; maybe silk for fancy handwork. Yet longarm quilters have adopted polyester thread with enthusiasm, and other pros in the quilting world are also espousing polyester thread. I gather it has to do with lint creation (or the lack of lint) when sewing at high speeds for long periods of time. Poly advocates says it’s also thinner and stronger. Here’s a video from Superior Threads about the differences between cotton and polyester thread. According to the video, poly thread is NOT stronger than cotton thread, and will NOT cause a quilt to shred. So, what’s a quilter to do?
I guess it’s time for some thread myth busting. (Say that 3 times, fast.) And time to learn new terminology like high tenacity trilobal and textured polyester. Here’s an explanation of how thread tension works from Superior Thread’s website. Its solutions are pretty basic, but it does offer some tips. Now I know to use a poly bobbin thread when I have metallic thread on top. I have tried Bottom Line, a 60 weight polyester thread, in my bobbin to fit more thread on the bobbin. Next, I’ll try cotton bobbin thread with polyester on top. Supposedly it “grips” the poly thread better.
From now on I’ll need to pay more attention to my tension settings as I try different threads. While I knew to loosen the tension with metallic and holographic threads, I should also be loosening it with a bunch of other threads according to this table from Superior Threads.
The only downside to thread love is that all these tempting varieties are simply not very available where I live. The local JoAnn’s carries Guterman (which feels like rope after sewing with Aurifil), Sulky rayon and some other decorative thread, and Coats and Clarks. A local sewing machine center sells a few lines of Superior Thread but really focuses on machine embroiderers’ needs. The internet is great for thread shopping, but you can’t pool some thread on your fabric to see how it’s going to look. It looks like I’ll just have to attend more national quilt shows to shop for thread in person. What a sacrifice that will be.