When I first started quilting on my longarm back in 2001, I thought I knew everything there was to know about thread. After all I had been a hand quilter for some 10 years. As it turns out I knew very little, in fact, the truth is I knew that waxed cotton thread hand quilted through a good wool batting like butter. When I started breaking threads and wanting to take a sledge hammer to my machine I thought it was time to educate myself, and so I did. I would like to share some of what I have learned about thread over the years in hopes that it will make your quilting and sewing journey less stressful and fun again. Last September my partner Jon and I had a few down days, so we hoped on his Harley and rode down to South Carolina to visit the YLI factory. We couldn't bring ourselves to jump back in the truck or hop on a plane, the bike ride turned the long hall into an awesome vacation rather then another business trip. And we enjoyed the wind in our hair and the sun on our skin and even found time to stop and take in some of the sights along the way.
We stopped for coffee and little boot adjustment along the way
And took in the awesome sights and tourist spots every chance we got
It was totally breath taking and when Jon suggested we take a walk down to get a closer look I wasn't thinking... walking all the way down... no problem, walking all the way back up... not as easy...
When we reached the bottom we took a few second to take in all the beauty around us.. but before I knew it... It was time for the long hall back up the stairs. Jon thought it would be fun to count the steps on way up, out loud, 1,2,3... the first 50 or so were easy.. 51,52,53...
98,99,100...almost there... or so I thought
176,177 and finally 178 step!!! I made it to the top!!
Jon celebrated the journey by going in to check out the welcome center while I found a nice soft place on the grass to catch my breath. I always find it funny how everywhere we go, with out planning it, we end up surrounded by quilts!
As the sun went down we called it a night. I could hardly sleep knowing we where soooo close to visiting a wonderland of thread!! We would spend two whole days visiting the factory where all my favorite threads would be row on row, stacked floor to ceiling, in all it's beauty!!! To my dismay, they never thought we'd arrive so quickly. I guess they thought the trip from Ontario Canada to South Carolina was really far so when we arrived... there was NO coffee waiting for us. Jim of course fixed that right away and our day of learning the art of spinning thread began.
Our first day was spent learning about all the 100's of products that YLI offers, from silk ribbon, to braided cording, every type of thread known to man kind, even shoe laces and fishing line. There was no end to the array of machines and products. We watched all different types of thread as they were being spoon onto dozens of different size cones and spools and met all the wonderful staff that work behind the scenes to make sure that the product we get is perfect.
We had a full day of fun and a full day of learning
HOW IS THREAD MADE?
All sewing threads begin as simple yarns. Twisting together short fibers or continuous filaments produces these yarns. This process known as “singling twist” is responsible for the strength and flexibility, which is essential in any good sewing thread. When two or more yarns are combined to make the thread, a “reverse twist” is applied to add balance. Without a reverse twist, the thread cannot be controlled during sewing. The individual yarns or plies would separate as they pass through the needle and the tensions discs of the sewing machine.
Twist is simply the number of turns per cm or inch put in the thread. A thread with too little twist may fray and break, one with too much twist can cause snarling, looping and knotting. Balance is the key and a good sewing thread has it.
As threads pass through a sewing machine some additional twist may be added. For this reason the direction in which the thread is twisted becomes important. A thread with a Z-twist, or left twist, is engineered specifically for the sewing machine. The action of the sewing process tends to increase the twist of a Z-twisted thread, but can actually untwist a thread with S-twist, or right twist.
The number of component yarns that are twisted together to produce a thread is the ply. Two-ply threads, therefore, are simply two yarns which have been twisted together.
After construction, the thread is finished to enhance its suitability for various sewing uses.
• SOFT - No further processing to change its physical characteristics. It is only dyed and lubricated.
“S” twist for single strand yarn“Z” twist for ply yarn
• MERCERIZED - In this process cotton thread is treated in a caustic solution under controlled tension. This causes the fibers to swell, resulting in a greater affinity for dyeing. Mercerization also increases the luster and adds some strength.
• GASSED - Passing cotton thread through a flame at high speed to reduce the fuzz is known as gassing. This process also produces a higher sheen.
• GLAZED - This is a process in which cotton threads are treated with starches and special chemicals under controlled heat and then polished to a high luster. The glazed process results in a thread with a hard finish that protects the thread from abrasion and enhances ply security.
• BONDED - Treating continuous filament nylon or polyester with a special resin that encapsulates the filaments is called bonding. The result is a tough smooth coating that adds significantly to the thread's ability to resist abrasion and greatly enhances ply security.
Throughout most of the twentieth century, cotton thread was the standard sewing thread both industrially and in the home. When synthetics were developed, it was only natural to attempt to emulate the sewing characteristics of cotton. Spun polyester thread, made from polyester fibers cut to the same length as cotton staple, was introduced as a substitute for cotton. All spun threads are made up from staple fibers that are spun into single yarns and then plied to make a sewing thread. Mettler’s all-purpose polyester, Maxi-Lock®, Elite Premium Serger Thread®, Gutterman® and all cotton threads are examples of spun thread. Twisting together yarns made from short fibers, as we learned earlier, produces all spun threads. However the staple lengths of the fibers utilized can have an important effect on the quality, strength, and performance of the thread produced. As a general rule of thumb, the longer the staple length of the fibers, the better the quality of thread produced. YLI Quilting threads and Mettler's cotton threads are examples of cotton threads produced with long staple cotton. The highest quality spun polyester, such as Mettler® and Gutterman® are produced from longer staple fibers. Spun threads will have a more “fuzzy” surface, which gives them a soft hand and good lubricity characteristics. They offer excellent sewing performance, but lack the strength of continuous filament threads.
Core Spun Threads
This process seeks to achieve the strength of continuous filament threads with the sewing performance of spun thread. Core spun thread features a continuous filament polyester core covered with cotton or polyester fibers. Two or more of these composite yarns are then twisted to form the thread. The most common examples are Dual Duty® and Signature®.
Continuous Filament Threads
This process begins by extruding individual filaments of synthetic material. A singling twist is applied to these unbroken, continuous fibers. They are then brought together and a finishing twist is applied. The result is a strong, consistent sewing thread. The most common examples are most rayon and polyester embroidery threads and YLI’s Ultrasheen®.
This process adds texture to the parallel continuous filaments of synthetic yarns, creating softness and bulk. The textured filaments are then twisted slightly and heat set. These threads provide excellent coverage for seams and rolled edges. Textured threads are typically used in the loopers of a serger or over locker. Woolly Nylon® is the best example of textured thread.
This is a single synthetic filament extruded to a specific diameter. They are available in a number of sizes, .004 and .005 being the most popular for the home sewer. Wonder Invisible Thread® and Sulky’s® invisible thread are good examples.
WOW that's a lot of info for one blog, so I'll end it here and feature so more thread info and tips and trick for thread in a later post....
For more info on YLI Threads and where you can purchase it visit the website